William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

What's the difference between Sautille and Spiccato, and other bow strokes?

How to master two of the most important violin bow strokes

In this video, William shows you the difference between two commonly-confused bow strokes which are actually quite different! He also tackles other common bow strokes used in the violin repertoire.

Released on January 1, 2014

Share this page!
Post a Comment   |   Video problems? Contact Us!
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 Virtual Sheet Music.com's Meet the Expert. My name is William Fitzpatrick, and I am professor of violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music at Chapman University in Orange, California. I am, as well, director of MusiShare in Irvine. Well, why don't I show you two different kinds of strokes. I'm going to move closer so that you can really see this. The first is sautille, and the second is spiccato.

Now, sautille French word, and "saut" means to jump. The difference between sautille and spiccato, is that in sautille, it's the bow that bounces or jumps. In spiccato, it's the hair that's bouncing on the string.

So you see, in a sautille stroke, it would mean that the bow, the hair, rather, is staying on the string and the bow is bouncing up and down. In spiccato, it literally is bouncing. For example, there is a Mozart-Kreisler piece, which is called Rondo. In this piece, it goes very quickly.

This stroke is sautille. Again, the hair is not leaving the string, but the bow itself, the wood, is bouncing, and that allows us to go very quickly. If it's spiccato, well, we cannot go as quickly. So these are two specific strokes that are used with the bow. All of this begs, in my opinion, a little further discovery. For example, well then, how do you, with your bow grip, allow a sautille or a spiccato to be?

Well, I remember in France speaking with a Russian colleague, and we had a long discussion about this because, in fact, with a bow there are certain pressure points which are very, very important to producing the bow strokes that we use. For example, if I use my index and my third finger as a pressure point and no squeezing, just a pressure point, this produces, and you'll see some Slavs, in fact, who play this way, with that finger extended. It produces a martele, or a staccato.

You'll never see a lot of people with their finger pulled away, but that contact here and that contact there will happen even though the fingers are all down. And this allows us to do that martele, or staccatos going up, staccatos going down.

Well, what about legatos? Well, for legatos we use the middle two fingers. Those two fingers produce that legato sound. Again, all the fingers are down, but the pressure point, shall we say, is with finger two, finger three, and we end up with a very smooth sound.

Now let's go back to sautille and spiccato. How then do we make them happen? Well, they follow, curiously enough, they fall under the legato stroke with pressure points. In other words, from the first finger, third finger, the bow starts to bounce when I use those two fingers. So when I'm doing the sautille, my pressure point is towards those two fingers.

If I'm doing any kind of a "marcato" stroke, I use one and three. Again, any kind of a legato, two and three; or any kind of sautille or spiccato, two and three.

So do have a good day, and if you have any questions, comments, or special requests, please feel free to post them on the comments section. Take care and see you next time.
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login  or  
Otherwise, fill the form below to post your comment:
Add your name below:

Add your email below: (to receive replies, will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Paul G on April 3, 2021 @8:49 pm PST
I have a bad habit of locking my wrist in the violin bow hand. Are there any bow excercises to get out of this bad habit? Also seems like my fingers grio the violin bow to tightly my pinky finger seems to be double jointed and my pinky finger would bend and not be straight unless it is firmly placed on the violin bow.
Dr. Fitzpatrick
Julia Bushkova on December 5, 2017 @5:43 pm PST
Hello, I am Julia Bushkova, Professor of Violin at the College of Music at the University of North Texas. All of my training took place in Moscow Conservatory before 1985, so I am the Franco-Belgian/modern Russian in approach if you will.

"Sautille" is a French word and "spiccato" is an Italian word for the same stroke meaning "a bouncing" bow.
The custom has it that in English, as in many other languages, we (pretty much arbitrarily) use these words to indicate different strokes. Sautille is a faster one, and spiccato is a slower one, as Prof. F. here says as well.
Sautille starts on string and it is not a 'controlled' bowing. There is an excellent video by Prof. Sassmannshaus on the beginning of sautille I highly recommend it.

Every spiccato note also must start on the string, first in a much slower tempo, and end off the string. It is a very controlled bowing, at least at the beginning of learning it. (A good example of slower spiccato is Mozart's Concerto No. 4, m. 3 of the violin solo - if it is done closer to the frog, rather than at the tip, in a form of a martele.)
The more crisp the beginning of spiccato, the better the outcome.
(In faster tempo spiccato gets closer to what Prof. F. is demonstrating. However, for the cleanliness and precision of spiccato, I would not ever start teaching/learning it away from the string).
Also, I would not designate fingers 1 and 3 as "pressure points" for both martele and the staccato. The third finger, by pressing, works on the other side of the fulcrum (=the thumb) and, therefore, aids to lifting the bow's weight (as the 4th finger is supposed to do in the demonstrated bow-hold.) By applying any pressure by both 1st and 3d, the result - in essence- is more or less either a mutual cancellation of the effort or a rather pressed quality of sound (if the 1st finger "wins."Winky Face
In the modern-day Russian schooling (I mean roughly 1940-1990s), the 3d finger was not considered to be an active positive player by most teachers (and, therefore, players.)
William - host, on December 7, 2017 @9:12 am PST
Hi Julia! Thanks so much for posting this! I believe very much in having open discussions as what we do has so so many possibilities... its great to explore and see differences! What I presented was in fact shown to me by a Russian colleague(s) while I lived, taught and played in France for roughy 15 years before "immigrating" back to the US. I agree that there are so so many videos by Prof. Sassmannshaus (who comes to SoCal and gives master classes for my MSYAP program) ... So again thank you for your thoughts and observations! Hope to meet you one day!
Daniel on July 19, 2016 @12:31 pm PST
How learn Richochet bowing that has "twenty" notes in it, as in Paganini Nel Cor. I have trouble after about 6 of them. Can't get the rest in, especially as get towards the upper half of the bow. Thanks, Professor.
Mohammad on September 15, 2015 @11:48 am PST
Thanks Prof.Fitzpatrick
My english isn't perfect and i didn't understand the final explanation
Any kind of legato 2&3 fingers pressure required. And for techniques such as sautille or staccato 1-3 or 2-3?
Ali on June 24, 2015 @9:18 am PST
Hi William, you really inspire me. I've learned more from you than some of my teachers. The videos on shifting and the rotation of arm were fantastic.

I have one important question: there is a great contradiction regarding vibrato amongst teachers about the direction of your impulses and its natural rebound. Half of the teachers say the impulse is away from you and the rebound will come naturally towards you, the other half say you should do the impulse towards yourself and the rebound will go away from you. Could you clarify this for us?

Thanks in advance.
William - host, on June 27, 2015 @11:08 am PST
Hi and great idea for a video! But till then ... towards the scroll! Thanks!
Peter Farnbank on May 26, 2015 @8:44 am PST
Hi William,
I watched with interest your demonstration of the spiccato volante on Youtube. This is the mainstay of G Dinicu's Hora staccato. I think you explained beautifully the difference between sautille and staccato.

The spiccato volante (especially downbow stroke) must be the most difficult stroke for advanced players and it's one I'm trying to perfect, and I do use the left forefinger "tremour" than the right hand rolling motion. Can I ask...?
(1) Does a lot depend on the bow itself? Its springiness? And hence how tense or new the hair should be? And also the quality of the bow? Or should a good player be able to use any bow of any quality to produce this stroke?
(2) In the Jascha Heifetz example (Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mag2mc5Vva0 ) I notice that on the downward stroke he twists his right hand into a reverse attitude, as if to give his forefinger more leverage. Is this practice you would encourage? (Heifetz as you know has a right hand attitude where the fingers are almost straight and pointing way away from him. So when he executed this stroke, the reverse attitude is very apparent).
Any comments/views would be greatly appreciated.

William - host, on May 28, 2015 @8:14 am PST
Hi and thanks for the comment! I think its to long to post here so I will do a video that I hope answers your questions! Thanks so very much!
seamas on July 30, 2014 @7:58 am PST
This is fascinating. Have you ever discussed the comparison of articulation and expressive techniques with a wind player? I am a recorder player seeking to extend my technique onward in time from the baroque by using ( in part) the violin 1 lines from Mozart symphonies starting at #1 and going 'on' from there. I would appreciate any comment you may care to make. Kind regards seamas.
popi * VSM MEMBER * on April 2, 2014 @4:24 am PST
I think this light sautille is applicable for all of Beethoven sonatas..?As far as I played..ex the Rondo final of the G Major sonate..is sautille the bov stroke...isn't it?
Regarding Romantic sonates, such as faure n1 in A M, for the scherzo mouvement I use sautille but not as you show here..my bow leaves the string but very little..Others I regarded use even spiccato I think..but is very fast for a spiccato...!
Thank you for the video Professor
William on April 3, 2014 @11:14 am PST
Thanks for your support!
Dennis Bogden * VSM MEMBER * on February 28, 2014 @11:30 am PST
How to finger and practice flight of the bumblebee
William on April 3, 2014 @11:14 am PST
As there are many chromatics it would be too wordy to say this here but will put it on my list of videos to make...
Diler on February 15, 2014 @3:33 am PST
Hi professor,
Just would like to thanks you very much for those grate demonstration about bowing technics and using 2&3 also 1&3 finger presure to improve bowing scale but I would like to know how do we need to use a Pinky finger and what mostly we used it for or whet is it major duty! Is just likeostly balancing also who's about the bow angels position on the strings when need to play ff or pp!
Thanks again and that's the best bowing lesson I have ever watched, sorry if my massage is too long. Hope also it make sense
Thanks so much and wish you have a grate day,
William on February 27, 2014 @2:47 pm PST
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.
Norton Shopping Guarantee Seal