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The Bow Arm, Part II: On-the-String Strokes by Heidi Castleman

Definitions and Characteristics of On-the-String Strokes

I. Staccato (generic use of term: all strokes starting with a “K” sound and ending with silence)

Collé refers to hand motion as well as name of stroke
* hand motion
– hand moves bow from side to side, fingers follow
– best learned by placing tip to ceiling and allowing hand and fingers to lower and raise,
– controls inflection (speed of initiation) in all strokes
* stroke
– set bow weight in string, use hand motion as start of stroke with “K” sound,
– stroke length comes primarily from hand motion not arm motion, end of stroke lifts off string producing ring

Martelé
– set bow weight in string, start stroke with “K” sound, follow through by relaxing and allowing the weight to stay in the string,
– all martelé strokes will end by stopping the bow,
– the shape of the martele (amount of decay) depends on musical context,
– to inflect sound use cone motion with arm motion giving speed to the stroke initiation

Staccato (specific use of term)
– successive strokes started with ”K” sound and ending with stops, usually of short length, taken all down-bow or all up-bow,
– at end of stroke, relax wrist back into original starting position,
– as you go faster, feel how the thumb lightly opposes a specific finger (e.g., 4th at frog and 1st at tip),
– also at faster speeds use very little bow and catch only the first notes, allowing the others to happen from the reflex of a flexible wrist

II. Connected Strokes
Whole Bow Legato
– connected strokes using whole bows, weight released as you start stroke (therefore no hard consonant sounds),
– to keep bow tracked go “out” at tip and “in” at frog as needed

Detaché
– separate strokes for each note, strokes connected (no stops at end), weight released by group (specific grouping a function of tempo and musical context),
– detaché may be done anywhere in bow although on viola starting at balance point often produces the clearest sound (be sure to rely on open-close motion from elbow!), (biceps and triceps should take turns and never compete),
– there are many varieties of detache resulting from degree of hand and finger involvement (collé motion), the most explosive form being accented detache

III. Other Strokes
Lancé
Lancé is a variation of the detache bow stroke. A slightly separated bow stroke is used to gently articulate the notes with an unaccented, distinct break between each note

Louré
Louré strokes are a short series of gently pulsed legato notes executed in one bow stroke (it is also known as portato). A slight swelling at the beginning of the note should be applied, followed by a gradual lightening of the sound. Strokes are distinctly separate, yet unaccented, and the expressive swell is produced by applying pressure and speed to the bow at the beginning of the note. Although a slur and horizontal dashes are generally used to indicate this effect, dots with slurs are occasionally used

Mixed Bowings
The mixed bowing rule: find the amount of bow appropriate for the separate stroke and fit the multiple notes of the slur into that amount of bow.


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