William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Exploring ways to get to the string

Learn advanced approaches of putting the bow on the strings

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick explores different ways to "prepare" and put the bow on the strings with unique and useful musical outcomes.

Released on June 1, 2016

  
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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

I once watched a very famous violinist, whose name I won't mention, playing the last movement of Sibelius, and he did this. You see, before he played his bow, it was here. And then, when he started, it was there. When I saw this I thought, "Oh my, what a showoff." We're violinists are totally ego-less, n'est pas? Well, this violinist was a friend of mine, but I sincerely could not understand why he would fall to such a low level. Why did he need to show off that badly?

And then suddenly it hit me. Suppose he was doing it on purpose. Suppose this was somehow helping him, helping him to recreate the music that was in his head, helping him to recreate the music that was in his ears. Well, it was then that I noticed that the bow speed going to the string was equal to the speed that his bow was going when it moved on the string. You see, the speed continued.

It was then that I realized that the manner in which he approached the string was tied to the character of what he was going to play. This impressed me so much that I decided to try it myself. You see, I used to cue like this. Well now, I would try this new way of approaching to the string. And you know what? To my utter astonishment, it worked brilliantly. In other words, I didn't do it like this, I did it like this.

So, halfway through the rehearsal, I asked the other members of the quartet if they noticed anything in my cueing that was different. And they said, "No." Okay, so that was it. I had realized that I was on the right path. I learned how to communicate with the others in my quartet through how I approached the string, not by how I bobbed around, giving the cue. So, this way of going to the string or this new way, at least to me, of going to the string begs a question. How many ways can one go to the string? Off the cuff, I think as many ways as you can imagine.

Let's see. You could make a half circle like this, or you to come from the bottom half of the circle like this. You could even go beyond and come back. Here's something clever that a student of mine came up with using tempo to establish both speed like this, one, two, three, four, one. You see, I'm using the upbeat to establish my bow speed. One, two, three, four, one or one, two, three, one. But careful -- as I said before, what is critical is the speed, as it will link up with the bow speed used in the music to be played. There is a relationship between the music you are trying to express, and this gesture.

So, why don't we put this approach into action. Let's look at different pieces of music, and see what kind of an impact this approach could have on it. Let's have a look at the first movement of Brahms Third Sonata. This movement has in my vision of things, a smoother start. So, I would come to the string perhaps this way. Oh, oh, yes, I should explain that when one arrives to the string, the longer one waits before starting, the heavier the accent.

So, with the Brahms starting almost immediately when the bow touches the string is probably the best idea to realize the kind of a start that I wanted. Let's see. I'm going to wait. I get more of an accent. I'm going to start. Just as I touch, I get less than of an accent. So now, suppose you want to greater your start. Well, as I said, you would wait longer.

Tell you what, let's look at Grieg's Third Sonata, the first movement. Well, so far, all of these start on that down bow. But what about an up bow, does this present another challenge, perhaps a more difficult challenge? Does your bow shake when you start an up bow? Or should I say, does it have the potential of shaking when you place the bow at the tip?

Let's try this. Put the bow at the tip, wait, release, and then go. Now, to do this, it requires a good bit of timing, but it does work at keeping that bow from shaking. Okay, so why don't we look at Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen? There are so many ways you could start this. What about a smooth start? What about a rougher start? Or let's see. What about Ravel's Tzigane? So, as you can see, all of this presents challenges of timing, understanding of trajectories, those kinds of things, But my hope is that by exploring all of this, it will help you to an even better understanding, conceptualization, to ways that you can create even better performances.

My name is William Fitzpatrick, and I am the Henri Temianka Professor of Violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the campus of Chapman University. I am as well, Director of the Musician Young Artists program. Take care, ciao.
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Seun Akin-Ajayi on June 3, 2016 @12:02 pm PST
Thanks for giving us the complete video.
paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on June 1, 2016 @2:18 pm PST
I don't know why, but the video is only 5:12 long, and stops after "the heavier the accent". How can we get it all, please ?
reply
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on June 1, 2016 @4:14 pm PST
Good catch Paul! The video was cut form some unknown reason, we have just replaced it with the correct one. Thank you very much for letting us know about this. Appreciated!
paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on June 2, 2016 @1:52 pm PST
That's ok, I could watch the 2nd part now !
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on June 2, 2016 @3:03 pm PST
Sure thing! Please, let us know if you see anything else not working properly, unfortunately there is so much to keep under control here... your feedback is always very much appreciated! Thanks again.
Oluwaseun Collins on June 1, 2016 @7:35 am PST
Thanks for sharing this, really helpful.
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William - host, on June 1, 2016 @10:20 am PST
You are very welcome!
Stephanie Newboult on June 1, 2016 @4:09 am PST
I recently took the first violin roll in a quartet. I'd never done it before and my quartet playing is limited. My question is how, during a performance, do you deal with a section speeding up and getting ahead? I tried emphasising the first best of the bar but it didn't work. Stephanie Newboult
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William - host, on June 1, 2016 @10:24 am PST
In my opinion its all about discovering the character and then locking in on it! Trying to zoom in on the "tempo" or trying to be a metronome in my opinion leads down a gloomy path! But this question intrigues me! Will do a video on this! Thanks!
Chuck Weber * VSM MEMBER * on June 2, 2016 @5:19 am PST
In my experience, I’m most likely to “outrun” other players when I haven’t finished learning the piece if that ever really happens. I guess I subconsciously tend to rush through the more demanding parts, to get to those where I have more confidence. That’s particularly true when it happens repeatedly in the same sections of the piece – a pretty good index of where I need to focus my practice time.
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