Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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!



Anonymous said...

Thanks Alison and Heather
Will print out extremely helpful notes to make it easier to absorb - especially the vertical and horizontal parts!!!!
(twenty years your senior and those meanings are still not well ingrained)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Heather for the youtube video -
And thanks Alison for the very helful notes - have printed them off to better digest it all.
Re vertical and horiztal - being 20 years your senior, still takes some brain work for me to figure them out.