Re: How do rests affect bowing?

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Posted by Rich Laird on September 28, 2000 at 14:41:06:

In Reply to: Re: How do rests affect bowing? posted by Ed on March 13, 2000 at 13:21:37:

: : I will be taking double lessons next in college, but there are some questions that have been puzzling me lately about bowing technique. First of all,none of my notions have an intellingent basis. But from watching string players on television, it seems to me that one changes bowing direction from note to note. For example, if there are four consecutive quarter notes, it seems that they bow to the right on the first note, to the left on the next, to the right on the third, and to the left on the last note.( That's another question. Which direction to start bowing in, to the left or right?)And if I am right about that, what happens when rests occur? Do you treat them like actual notes? For example, if you have a quarter followed by a quarter rest and then another quarter note, would you bow to the right on the first note, imaging that the rest is a note that is bowed to the left, then bow to the right on the next note? Or would you bow to the right on the first note, diregard the rest, and bow to the left on the last note? I hope I am making sense with this "bow to the right terminololgy." Also how would you bow slurs. Would you just continue in bowing in one direction without changing or lifting the bow, like one continous stream of air? I really do hope I am making sense to someone out there?

: : Thank you.

: Don, stop beating yer head against the bricks and help this poor man.
: Wil, calm yerself. One of the reasons you will be taking double bass lessons is to learn how to play. You don't have to figure it all out before you get in.
: HOWEVER, your observation is somewhat fallacious. The times you have seen bassists change bowing by quarter note are just cause it happened that way that time.The times that they played three quarter notes with an up bow so that they would be in a position to play the syncopated 16th note run with a single down bow somehow went unnoticed. Bow phrasing kinda depends on your instrument and what you are playing. You use more bow near the fingerboard, less bow near the bridge, more bow to get louder, less bow, for softer passages ALL DEPENGING ON HOW MUCH BOW YOU NEED TO GET THE SOUND OUT OF YOUR BASS. Some basses are louder than others. But you will get to all this. Relax. Calm, placid blue ocean....

Agreed: There's lots of variables to consider...and classical string players like to argure about bowing even more than jazz players argue about time. (They're just more polite about it!) But a couple of fundamentals might help here...

First, right-to-left and left-to-right?? I would have to know whether you are speaking from the player's perspective or the audience. (I think you mean the player's). But that doesn't matter because the terms we use are "down-bow" and "up-bow". Down-bow simply means going from the frog end (the "frog" is that piece of ebony that holds the horsehair) to the tip. Up-bow is going tip-to-frog. GENERALLY, stronger notes (maybe your familiar with "agogic accents") are played with a down bow. The guys on TV were probably playing down bow on the first and third beats and up-bow on the second and fourth beats. The first note was probably on beat 1, so it got a down-bow, beat 2 got an up-bow, etc. The down-bow stroke is a little stronger, so there's a sort of natural emphasis that comes from putting stronger notes on a down bow. (Part of really good bowing is being able to overcome the natural tendancy to put a stress on the down-bow. But why not use it to your advantage when you can?)

In answer to your question as to how do you know which way to start, you would GENERALLY start down-bow if the first note fell on a strong beat and up-bow if the first note was on weak beat. Think of playing "My Country 'tis of Thee". The first note is on beat 1 - so you would likely start with a down-bow. If you were playing "Oh Come All 'Ye Faithful", the first note is on beat 4 - so you would probably start it with an up-bow. Then, the first down-beat ends up on a down-bow. As a general rule, that also might say something about how you would handle rests.

You asked about slurs - you're on the right track in that you would likely put two-three-four (maybe more) notes on a single bow stroke, to get a legato effect. A little more advanced technique is putting non-slurred notes on a single bow. You do that when you want a certain effect (check out the cellos and basses in the beginning of Mahler's Fourth sometime) or just because you need to sort of "distribute" how much bow you're going to use on certain notes. But that's getting a little more advanced.

One of the little controversies in all this is whether everybody is supposed to bow the same way all the time. At one time, there was a conductor (I think it was Stokowski, who was considered to be kind of a nut-case anyway), who advocated "free-bowing" - at least under some circumstances. But almost always, violins, viola, and 'cello sections are expected to bow together. (I've actually seen it mentioned in concert reviews when a couple of players got out of sync.) Somehow, bass sections often escape that scrutiny. It's not always that important, but I personally think that even bass players should bow together - at least most of the time.

I hope that helps.

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