Am I the only one who has a bow with a mind of its own?  My bow does whatever it wants.  Unless I give it some attention.  I think that as adult beginners we focus so much on the left hand that we just let the bow go on its merry way.  After all, we do need to play the right notes and the left hand has that job.   What it has taken me many years to learn is that the music comes from the right hand.  Yes, it does.  Don’t bow, just use your left hand and how lovely is that sound?  Oh, right.  What sound?  There is no sound without the strings in motion and that is the job of the bow.   I think that’s why my teacher stresses playing open strings with the bow as a warm up every day.   It makes it more interesting to play on different parts of the string (i.e., near the fingerboard, then near the bridge), using more or less arm weight,  and varying the speed.  After all, these are some of the factors that change the sound.  You need to do this to experiment with your bow to see and hear the various sounds that your bow makes.   Have you read “Rosindust” by Cornelia Watkins?  Great book for cellists.  She talks about “developing a palette of sounds” using various bowing techniques.   So forget the notes for a while and actually listen to the different sounds your bow can create.  By practicing these techniques they will incorporate themselves into your music.  Don’t forget to listen and pay attention to the different sounds and moods that you can create.

4 thoughts on “It’s All About the Bow

  1. David B Teague says:

    My bow has a mind of its own indeed.
    I have to work out the bowing in a piece almost before I can begin learning it. And then I have to be very careful that I still have the bowing right later in the piece.
    I’m returning to the first Bach Cello Suite for the first time since I switched to 5ths tuning and lost all my solo literature. That’s a long story.
    Nancy, do you have an edition of the cello suites you particularly like? Please respond here and by FB messenger. Thank you.

  2. David, the Cello Suites are so difficult to me. I also have about 5 different editions, all with very different bowings. The one I use most often is titled “J.S. Bach- Six Suites for Violoncello Solo” edited by Barbara Mueser and Martha Gerschefski. They write a large preface explaining their editing, including interpretations of the slurs, the meter, metric displacements, the left hand, chords, and expression. It’s quite comprehensive.

  3. David B Teague says:

    How do you play the chords? I’m thinking about the Sarabande in Suite I.
    I thought that I needed to play all chords down bow, but some of the editions I have don’t make that a rule, so I have relaxed that idea. Also, I roll chords bottom up. I sometimes roll the bottom one or two notes then sound the top two notes together. That depends on how the sound strikes my ear.

  4. First, I am far from adept at the Suites, but I have played and have lots of notes written on my Sarabande. My first note for first note is “don’t roll”. Realize that the B in the first chord leads to the G in the second chord. Another note I have is “no accent on chords”. The chords are often played as 2 notes, with the bottom 2 first, then the top note. Listen to the Misha Maisky version on YouTube:
    What does your teacher recommend?

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