Bowing technique (relaxing the fingers and wrist)
The topic of study will be on how we can relax our fingers and wrist and make them more flexible to optimize conserving energy and affectively playing at faster tempos without mistakes or fatigue.
Starting off simple!
The best thing to do when approaching improving a technique and building a muscle memory is to take it very slowly and break it down in to several categories so it does not appear as overwhelming to the musician.
1.) Bring it down to the basics.
Often times musicians find it difficult to improve on a skill because they are spreading themselves too thin and practicing too much of a variety of things in one practice session, rather than focusing and hone in on a certain study and skill that you can improve on. Even starting with the most simple exercise can prove the best way to understand and practice the fundamentals that are required for a certain skill
Steps to start the basics
- Take a pen or pencil and hold it like you would hold your Violin bow and hold it vertically rather than horizontally.
- Take your left hand and hold onto your right wrist not tight but firmly.
- Allow your fingers to curl and drop over the pencil firmly but comfortably.
- Let the fingers curl and drop moving the pencil down without moving the wrist significantly
- Drop the pencil and bring the pencil back up with the movement of your fingers! (practice a few times vertical alone)
- Once more comfortable with the fingers and grip on the pencil move the pencil horizontally. This may prove to be more difficult at first than moving it vertically. That is to be expected just make sure the hand is relaxed and fingers still have a grip on the pencil.
2.) Applying it to the actual bow
- First address the type of bow you will be working with on this technique. Carbon Fiber or Wooden cam both execute this technique if done right. Some bows may weight more than others so it is imperative to see if the bow is best fit to the hand.
- Once acquainted with the bow and the feel start again practicing the bow technique from a vertical position and having it drop with the fingers relaxed and griped onto the bow. Practice the same idea that was done with the pencil. It will be more weight so the fingers will need to gradually adjust to the weight difference form the pencil to a bow. (Remember to check in on your fingers with the bow to make sure if they are hanging over the frog and the pinky is curled. Also remember to check in on your arm and shoulder to make sure they are relaxed and not tense.)
3.) Approaching the instrument with the bow
- Once comfortable with movement of fingers on the bow it is time to move it to the instrument.
- Start by having the bow on the instrument very close to the frog
- Pronate the fingers on the bow in order to move the bow across all four strings on the instrument without bringing the bow hair across the string. This is for applying the finger flexibility and fluent smooth string crossings.
- Once feeling consistent with pronation of the fingers on the bow and smoothness of cross the strings start to use open strings on the instrument and moderately bring your bow across the string. Practice each string separately and then crossing the strings more frequently. Get the sense of how both the movement of the arm and wrist are with the fingers but also a separate function by themselves.
3.) Application of the technique to real music in repertoire
- Below is Partita Number 3 Preludio by Johan Sebastian Bach for Violin. This piece alone encages thoroughly bow and finger and wrist technique almost throughout the entire piece.
- Start off by figuring out the chord structures in the prelude in the section where the sequence revolves around the progression of I chord IV chord and V7 chord. (Figure position for double stops on Bach is an entirely another topic)
- Remember to practice with open strings to focus on just the right hand when trying to reinforce the methods developed for the fingers and wrist.
- Practice crossing between the A string, the E string and D string to fill the full chord in the sequence in the Preludio.
- Use a metronome to start off slowly and gradually increase the speed by a few beats every two or three times going through the sequence at a speed it can be played clean and steady at. (Remember to stay near the frog but not too close to the frog)
4.) Evaluate your progress with the basics
- It is never a bad idea to go back to the basics! Revaluate your progress by doing the pencil exercise. See how it feels to you then how easier it is. Continue to practice the exercise it will reinforce the good muscle memory that is there.
5.) Looking at he bigger picture an applying it to other music
- Continue to study the Bach and look at other passages in the Preludio especially the runs at the bottom of the first page and third page. It should come easier to apply this finger flexibility and wrist movement in a smooth fashion because there are less frequent string crossings in other examples.
- Apply it to ensemble music and see how this technique can also improve stamina and accuracy in other playing. 16th note runs in Orchestra ensemble music can also would be examples as to what other repertoire would be effectively played when this technique is improved upon.