William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Making Sound With The Bow

Learn all the basics about the bow on the violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick explains how to work with your bow and how you can improve your sound with a few basic concepts.

Released on February 5, 2020

    
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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

So why don't we explore how sound is made on the violin using the bow? There are three primary elements. Can you guess what they are? Amount of hair used? The tilting of the bow. How much rosin pressing with the index finger? Pulling in a lot? Whether or not the bow is parallel to the bridge? Well these things do affect the sound. Some in a good way, some in a bad, but let's try to be more specific. Here, let me show you what I mean.

There are three main areas that are used to affect sound on the violin with the bow. Here they are. One of the elements is called point of contact. This refers to where the bow touches the string. As you can see, we can touch here, there, there. So you see that this point of contact is not stationary. If it were, it would be called sounding point, or point of resonance, or resonance point which seeks to find the optimal sounding point on the string. When I was teaching younger kids in France, I would ask them what their three favorite colors were. I would then divide the area between the fingerboard and the bridge into three parts and assign a color to each representing piano, mezzo forte, and forte. Like this the students understood that it was not by pressing harder or softer that you obtain these qualities of sound. Another element is speed. This refers to how quickly the bow travels on the string.

Have you ever noticed that when you speed your bow up towards the tip, you must have the same speed that you end with to begin the next bow? In other words if you're going down bow slowly, I have to up bow slowly. Or if I go down bow quickly, it has to be the same. If I don't do this, I end up with say if it were fast, slow. Fast, slow. Or suppose I would have speed up.

In other words, it isn't smooth. Finally we have pressure or as I prefer to call it weight. To explain weight to young kids, I used to use balloons. Here let me show you what I used to do. First I would outline a balloon and tell them that I was using their three favorite colors to make polka dots on the balloon. I would then attach an imaginary string to the balloon and I would attach it here. Let me put my violin down. I would then attach the imaginary balloon to their wrist and their elbow with an invisible string. I would tell them that I had inflated the balloon with hydrogen, so it was holding up their arm and not me. Even though my hand was underneath their arm.

Finally, I would remove it, my hand, and just start talking to the parents until they became very awkward because they're wondering, what is he doing? I would then take imaginary scissors and cut the string. Almost certainly they would not move their arm. I would say, but I cut the string. We have to start all over again. So I would put it up again. I would cut and they would catch on and drop their arm.

I would then say that this is the weight we need to pull the bow. To pull the bow. Like that. You see these elements work together to determine the quality of our production of sound on the violin. For example, if my bow is traveling at this speed and I want a fuller sound, I move my point of contact. If I want even more, I move it again. I can also stay in the middle. Move it, but if I put too much weight or pressure. So I need to speed up my now and that weight is accepted. So with careful manipulation of a bow, using these elements clearly allows us to be able to create beautiful sounds on the violin. To help bring more clearly into focus what we have in our heads what we have imagined.
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