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Bowing in the Allegro

In this clip, Nick looks at bowing the Allegro.

Follow these links to look at Ruth's and Helen's exploration of bowing, which will also help with your interpretation of both the Largo and the Allegro.

Using a modern bow

Modern bows are very good at sustaining and producing an even 'singing' tone through the whole stick. When performing in a historically informed baroque style, however, we are aiming to make the bow 'speak' (i.e. imitate the inflection of the spoken voice) rather than 'sing'. This requires a more articulated way of playing, where we allow sounds to phrase off in the way our voices do when we speak.

To get used to playing in this style with a modern bow, try some of the following:

  • Practise playing some relatively short down-bow strokes on open strings, using the lower half of the bow. Then introduce some up-beats on up-bows, using the up-bow to bring you back to the heel for the next down-bow. Helen demonstrates this on the violin in the following clip:

  • Practise semi-quaver passages in all parts of the bow, keeping the bow on the string rather than throwing it.
  • Add inequality to semi-quaver passagese.g. ta ra ra ra, ta ra ra ra, or ta ra ta ra ta ra, (emphasising the ta)
  • Practise changing between a really smooth fluid semiquaver (or quaver) stroke useful for phrases of conjunct (scalic) notes, to a more articulated, but not thrown, stroke useful for notes a 3rd or more apart.
  • Practise a long 'messa di voce' where you swell to the middle of the note and die away again. Try on up- and down-bows.
  • If all this feels unwieldy at first you can re-create the feel of a lighter baroque bow by holding your modern bow a few inches up the stick rather than at the heel. Work your way back to the frog as it becomes more comfortable.
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