Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Deborah recommends this version of the pieces we're practicing... check it out!

Mislaid music

Hilary Cass believes that she left her music after practice last week (February 16). It was in a yellow folder. Did anyone find it?

Conductor's Notes from Feb. 23

Hello there Tenacious Stringers,

Good practice last night! Bravo to you hardy souls who braved the uninspiring weather out there to come and play.

Right, here goes, my first commentary on the blog. Technique!

Last night we worked a lot on spicatto. Firstly, always think of spicatto as coming FROM the string, as opposed to from ABOVE the string. Keep your bow at the bounce point, that spot near the grip where your bow is equally balanced on both sides. This means that when the bow bounces, it will stay balanced and not want to tip one way or the other. Keep your arm relaxed and use the natural buoyancy in the bow to 'let' the bow lift off the string. Experiment! Remember that there are two directions at work - vertical: that is, how much downward momentum you use in the stroke, and horizontal: how much bow back-and-forth you use. Imagine that with these two directions you are creating a 'bowl' shape in the air; is it a wide shallow bowl, or narrower and deeper? It depends on the sound you want to produce. For the spicatto in the 'Wedding Dance', I would go for a shallower bowl shape so use more bow and less downward force.

Another point to think about is the equality between up and down bows. Because of gravity and the fact that the frog is heavier than the tip, the tendency is for the downbow to be overly dominant, leading to an imbalance. When practicing, imaging that you are accenting the upbows, which will help correct that imbalance.

Again, keep your arm relaxed! Always think of using arm weight instead of muscular force. This way you can react to the natural bounce of the bow instead of interfering with it. Sooo... relaxed arm motion... lead with the wrist... use your fingers as springs to absorb the friction of the bowstroke... shallow bowl shape. Oh, and make sure to keep your bow straight on the string. Tally ho and good luck!

When practicing 'Wedding Dance', work on keeping the tempo steady when going back and forth between the OFF the string and ON the string stokes. Be careful not to use too much bow for the ON the string strokes. As I said in my last missive, the spicatto stroke for this piece uses more bow than with other spicattos, but Katrin is right in her comment to be careful with how much bow you use there too - tailor the amount of bow so that you can switch back and forth easily without interruption to the tempo.

Also, try varying the dynamics while your practicing your strokes; practice on and off the string, vary between piano and forte, always keeping the same tempo.

For awkward string crossing 16th passages, try playing the bow patterns on open strings, without the notes. Ha! Now there's a brain teaser.

Give me a shout with any questions!

Next week we'll do a little bit of Smetena, and lots of Capriol, including the next two movements 'Tordion' and 'Bransles'. See you then!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Score with bowings for Schubert's "Round Dance"

Alison has gone over the bowings for the "Round Dance" and says:

"I'm sending out the scores, so that you can see what everyone else is doing too! The lines from the top down are: first violins, second violins, violas, cellos and bass (wish we had one!)

Let me know if you have any questions about reading the score.

The correct bowings are the big ones clearly in pencil, sometimes written over previous bowings. Try them out, and we'll have some fun discussing why I made certain choices, and what does or doesn't make sense to you with those choices. Enjoy!"

To print the pages, click on each one to bring it to full size - it might be bigger than your screen, and that's OK! Then Print from your browser.

Page 1
Round Dance, page 1: click to enlarge

Page 2
Round Dance, page 2: click to enlarge

Page 3
Round Dance, page 3: click to enlarge

Page 4
Round Dance, page 4: click to enlarge

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TSO practice Feb 16, info for first violinists

First of all, no worries about bowings for now, Alison will decide on bowings for each section within the next little while.

We practiced mainly the Country Wedding from "The Moldau", as technique practice we focused on spiccato bowing. For spiccato just remember to stay in the balanced part of the bow and to keep the length of the bowing relatively short and of course come off the string to get the spiccato sound ;-) (shallow bowl motion instead of straight motion for regular bowing on string). For the country wedding the important aspects are the dynamics (really loud forte and really low piano) and that the 1/16th notes that are not spiccato are played seamless (for example in bar 6). Important theme to work on is the one appearing in bar 9 and again in bar 17 and bar 33, big difference between sfz and piano! However, there is no decision made yet on how we will bow that part.

We also looked at the Schubert for a bit, thing to remember here is that at C the tempo is slower (poco meno mosso) and then goes back to the original tempo at G.

I assume everybody has the bowings for the Mozart "Ave verum corpus" and the Basse-Danse from the Capriol. If not, let me know and I will post those.

That's it for this week,