…continuing our discussion about playing musically and how bow distribution assists our violin playing, the first article is here, and the second is here:

Next in the hierarchy of playing musically is control over the character or the “tone color” you want to achieve….and that’s not always a big complicated thing….when playing a Baroque piece, simply use a generic “Baroque” color. (light bow strokes with nice decay at the end of each stroke, primarily in the upper half of the bow) When playing a Mozart piece, simply use a “classical” color. (light bow strokes, often bounced, more in the middle of the bow than the tip)
Beyond those generic defaults, ALWAYS be on the look-out for “SPECIAL” moments in each piece of music where you do something unique with bow distribution, tone color, vibrato speed, or dynamics.

Learn to describe the character, mood, or color you want to convey in special moments of each piece of music.
Happy, sad, introspective, noble, jovial, dignified, warm, cold, ANY words you can use to describe the wanted effect will help you to achieve it.
Then, experiment with bow distribution as pertains to your desired effect. Keep in mind it’s not always desirable to use a whole bow. It’s sometimes preferable to stay in the upper half of the bow, if you want a more of a brisk, sweeping character, or a more transparent, ethereal tone color. Sometimes, it’s obviously best to stay at the FROG, like for short, pecky colle’ strokes.

Decide what part of the bow best conveys what you are trying to express. Making this choice improves with practice, experience, learning from others, playing in orchestras, and asking questions of your teachers or other violin friends.

So keep asking the questions, but remember that it is a TOTALITY OF EXPERIENCE that eventually gives you the answers, and over time, the instinct for bow distribution.

But bow distribution alone is not enough when trying to express various moods and characters on violin. We must learn to utilize the “primary colors” on violin which give us infinite shades of expression. Those colors are bow weight, bow speed, and bow placement. And that is the topic of the next post in this series.

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