William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

How to Play Colle' on the Violin

Learn how to play an important bow technique

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick explains colle' and how to approach it on the violin.

Released on March 4, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to VirtualSheetMusic.com's Meet the Expert. My name is William Fitzpatrick, and I am a Temianka professor of violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music which is located on the campus of Chapman University in Orange, California. I am as well Director of MusiShare in Irvine, California.

So let's talk about colle. Colle is in the right hand, with the fingers. But the trick is to use that gesture as a model because if you actually do it with the fingers it could cause tension in those fingers. You see, the traditional colle uses fingers like this. But this activity, this gesture could cause a bit of tension in those fingers. Might we find another way to deal with that? Well, suppose we used the elbow. By initiating from the elbow we free the muscles in the hand and the wrist.

It does look the same as when you initiate from the fingers, but no tension. Let's have a look at down bow colle. Now let's have a look at an up bow colle. Now what does that sound like? Here, up bow, down bow, et cetera, et cetera [plays] Why don't we try doing an up bow colle with the scale or a down bow colle with the scale? [plays] Again, being sure that we initiate this with the elbow or down bow. What if we were trying to go up the bow with the scale? And I'm going higher, and higher, until I get to the tip. Or we could do the same thing with a down bow colle. [plays] Again, all the way to the tip.

Do be careful. Place your bow first. We could even do the colle down up. [plays] Down up, going back to the bow. [plays]The ways you can practice colle are endless. It's truly up to your imagination. But remember, initiate colle from the elbow. If you use the fingers, only do so to help understand what is going on, sort of like a model.

That's it for this video. If you have a comment, or question, or special request, please feel free to post it below. Practice well, and I look forward to hearing from you.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Ali on December 31, 2015 @5:05 pm PST
Hi Prof. Fitzpatrick.

I've been practicing colle' for a while, it's easy and I don't have any problem with the technique itself. But when I want to add it to my spiccato bows, I'm having trouble understanding how it is possible to do that because if I want to place the bow on the string and do the colle' like you have stressed here, then that's not going to be spiccato and besides it's not going to be fast enough; if I start the colle' in the air, then that's not what you recommended here. Could you clarify that for us?
David Humid on April 23, 2015 @7:13 am PST
My fingers eventually slip off the frog when I Colle. I do have a slight habit of using my fingers, but less now & my elbow a lot more.

Why do my fingers slip when I Colle?
William on April 24, 2015 @12:47 pm PST
Hi! Check where you put your little finger. If it's on top this could be the reason. It needs to be on the side (it's an octagonal shape and needs to be on the last one before the top). Hope this helps!
David Humid on April 25, 2015 @11:07 am PST
This helped me out a lot, thank you very much William Fitzpatrick (:
Patricia on March 6, 2015 @7:55 am PST
You are right; it does help to use the elbow/arm instead of only your fingers.

By the way, because I do not have full control of the bow it is easy for me to play colle using the lower part to get a more broader colle. I hope someday I will do better.

Actually in my case, it is the only way I can play this kind of pizzicato with my bow and produce a different sound than when I pluck with my finger. As the famous master, Professor Ivan Galamian mentioned in his precious book âPrinciples of Violin Playing and Teachingâ Page 74 and exactly written as follows: â¦...It is in action, though not in sound, not unlike the plunking of the string, making, as it were, a pizzicato with the bow.

Thanks Professor and Fabrizio.

Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on March 6, 2015 @11:04 am PST
Dear Patricia, you are very welcome!
William on March 7, 2015 @11:44 am PST
I as well thank you for the comment!
Leo Mayer * VSM MEMBER * on March 4, 2015 @5:53 am PST
Thank you very much, very helpful. Could you give a specific music example where a colle stroke would be most appropriate? Thank you.
William on March 7, 2015 @11:44 am PST
I think of Colle as an enabler as it helps to show or explain the movement of the fingers (from the elbow) and so isn't necessarily used per se in pieces. That said, off the top of my head, if you look at the Prokofiev concerto no.1 in D major, the 4th bar of no.6 one can see a possible usage of the stroke.
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