William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Understanding Up & Down Bow Staccatos

Learn the basics of staccato on the violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick talks about up and down bow staccatos with deep details that will answer many of your questions.

Released on April 3, 2013

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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 I wanted to have a up-bow staccato, you know, up-bow staccato. Renegade as I truly was and still am, I went around my teacher and asked a few members of the Nashville Symphony, which is where I grew up, how they did their up-bow staccatos. Well, let's see, I was told to turn the grip towards me, towards me this way so that that would do it. I was as well told to turn the grip away from me, this way. Well, neither of them worked for me. And so after hearing quite a few other suggestions I finally just gave up and decided to figure it out on my own. With that decision, I took the road of exploration of just how to do an up or down-bow staccato.

Welcome to virtualsheetmusic.com's meet the expert. 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 in Orange, California. I am as well, director of MusiShare and the MusiShare Young Artist Program in Irvine, California.

My first question to myself was simple. What exactly is a staccato? My answer, why it's a legato that's stopped. A legato and it's stopped. And a staccato up or down would then be a succession of stopped legatos. My next question was again simple, how then do I stop the bow? Do I use my bicep? My next question was again simple, how then do I stop the bow? Do I use my bicep or another muscle? Well I wasn't convinced as the amount of tension seemingly required to using that muscle outweighed the benefit gained from doing the staccato that way, so I moved on. To better see this, have a look at my very special bow. This bow has all kinds of points on it. I have to tell you, I copied this idea from my dear friend Kurt Sassmannshaus. He has a smaller bow but it's the same concept. You see, my bow is divided into eight segments and I simply put different colors in each one to help my visual perception of what was going on. The red one is in the middle, that one. The blue divides it another way, the silver divides it into quarters.

You see, what I started to understand is that speed can be considered distance and vise versa. So when preparing to do an up-bow staccato, I need to know how many notes there are in the passage and then divide them with my bow distribution. Then I simply stop at each point. Here, let me show you. If I wanted to do four, I would simply go [music] the distance will divide the bow. If I wanted to do eight [music] or the other way [music]. So you see if my bow speed is the same... let's do this legato [music] or [music] and I want to do eight [music] I'm simply following my points and stopping my bow. I'm not thinking about how fast.

Well, you could say, what if you wanted to do it faster? All right. Why don't I say I'm going to do eight in half the bow. Let's see what that would do. As a legato [music] as a staccato [music]. You see I'm using distance to get it faster, speed it up. I'm not thinking play it faster. To control the sound I play an open string to get the kind of sound that I want, then I transfer this to my bow distribution model, how many notes. I do mean, I'm using the same speed, the same weight and the same point of contact. If I'm going to go [music] and let's say four [music] same bow speed, same point of contact, same weight. Et voila! I have an up-bow staccato or a down-bow staccato. [music]

You see, when we do the down-bow, we have to overcome so many prejudices about the difficulty of a down-bow staccato, you know, that you really have to convince yourself, you have to learn to believe that it's only a question of distance. It's only a question of doing the legato and stopping the bow. Nothing more. I can go as fast as I want, it's equally the same. How am I going to practice doing this? Why don't we go back to our favorite little thing, a scale. Now if you remember, I do bowings for the scales, 2 notes to a bow, 3, 4, 6, 12 and 24. Well you can then do the same thing, except you're going to stop, divide the bow into two parts and stop there. [music] I'm going to do it now for three [music], four [music] etc., etc., until I get to 24 [music], then we would keep gong that way. By doing this, I can prove to myself that the down-bow can work.

So with this little discussion, I hope that I've opened the door to a deeper discussion about staccatos. I mean, do I do this with my fingers? No. Do I use my wrist? No. I'm simply moving everything from my elbow, leaving everything free and it seems to... maybe, I don't know, it must look like that to you. If you have a comment or a question or a special request please post it below. I look forward to hearing from you about this topic in the very near future. Take care.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Rty Euzch on May 7, 2019 @4:07 pm PST
Dear William,

I want to know what the motion is. Is it just regular legato, but separated in to pieces?
And how does one do it quickly, as in the piece, Hora Staccato?
William - host, on May 8, 2019 @4:01 pm PST
Hi! Thanks for the question(s) ... So to get a better idea I would suggest looking at my video "Creating and Using Bow Strokes" which is found at https://violinconnections.selz.com/item/violin-connections-bow-strokes
fabian * VSM MEMBER * on July 1, 2015 @1:05 pm PST
Dear William,
You've announced a theme about up/down staccato, but the real matter of your exposition was bow divisions. However, you were speaking about spiccato.

Well, your classes are always interesting, but I'm looking forward that one about up/down staccato (off and on the strings!)

William - host, on July 1, 2015 @8:12 pm PST
Hi! Sorry for the confusion? My point is that down and up bow staccatos are about bow division, more than anything else? And they are on the string? Again sorry if this was confusing? Just trying to be clear as possible! Thanks!
fabian * VSM MEMBER * on July 22, 2015 @9:11 am PST
I wouldn't say confusing, but philosophic. Please note I'm not being ironic, as you were.
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