The violin bow wants to bounce. As an anxiety and former panic attack sufferer, this quality has always presented a challenge for me. However, it is this property that provides violin playing with such a wide range of tone qualities, styles and dynamic levels via the way tones are articulated and their duration.
As long as there isn’t uncontrolled shaking due to anxiety or other health conditions, a violinist will use force and release the way an artist uses a paint brush to create depth and subtly. A violinist’s life’s work is an exploration of the bow’s various personalities, territories and aerodynamic attributes. The violinist exploits these aspects to “paint” their desired sound.
Since the bow naturally wants to bounce, force is used to keep the bow on the string to produce the violin’s beautiful long tones. We do this with a combination of actual force but mostly by using arm weight which gives us depth without a lot of surface sound. Violinists are constantly working with bow weight and speed to produce a seamless sound.
To master bouncing strokes such as ricochet and spiccato, the violinist needs to have a well developed sense of bow distribution and enough self control to allow the bow to bounce. For instance, the spiccato stroke takes place below the midpoint of the bow. Ironically, along with not actively trying to bounce the bow, any force used needs to be in a downward vector, directing the bow hair into the string.
The Inspiration for Violinists card deck
This “Force vs. release” card is part of a 50 card deck. Every card has a unique image and text inspiring musicianship, mindfulness and spirituality.