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Violin Lessons: Basic Spiccato

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Spiccato is a very vital and
very useful bow technique.
You'll find it through all the solos, all
the orchestral excerpts and
many of the etudes.
However, it is something that can take a
little time to learn.
And it doesn't always progress in a
regular fashion.
You can work at it and work at it,
experiment and
then seem to be going nowhere and then one
day out of the blue it just happens.
So, I'll share my story of how it happened
for me and
I'll give you some tips as to how to up
your chances of improving.
Spiccato happens most comfortable at a
bounce point.
I refer to a bounce point a lot in these
Each bow and each person has a different
bounce point.
This seems to be my comfortable
bounce point for this bow, anyway.
Right about in the middle.
Some may be higher,
or even lower.
Now you can hear how the sound changes on
this bow when I do it higher and when I do
it lower.
Higher is useful for very fast and very
short notes.
Lower, more useful for
very heavy articulation.
Now, when you're just getting
started with the spiccato, simply get used
to dropping the bow from off the string.
See how it bounces naturally.
That back and forth,
in a controlled way, is what we call
if you drop the bow from a height of
several inches,
let it bounce, and then drop it again in
the other direction.
That's a slow spiccato.
My thumb and
my fingers are completely neutral here.
I'm just letting the bow drop.
The thumb and the fingers are only here to
hold on to the bow so
that it doesn't go flying off.
If I drop from a lower height.
And let it rebound to a lower height.
The spiccato is faster.
Many people are able to build up a
Spiccato that way by dropping the bow and
letting it rebound to a smaller and
smaller height.
Now, once you get a spiccato, the height
of the spiccato changes the type of sound.
You can see I'm changing
the height without changing the speed.
The amount of bow determines the dynamic.
And it generally doesn't change the type
of spiccato.
So, if I have a high spiccato and
I want it louder,
I use more bow.
Not always a very useful stroke in music.
More useful would be, a more normal speed
a lower bounce
When I want this louder, I use more bow.
The type of sound stays the same,
but the dynamic changes.
Some people find it easier to control
spiccato with a little tilt in the bow.
You lose a little articulation, but you
get a little more cushion.
So you may want to consider tilting the
Away from you for this spiccato.
Now through all of these I am not making
the stroke happen with my hand and
my finger.
Any motion hat you see there is natural
flexibility that i am
allowing in the stroke.
I don't want to grip the bow for this
really, really tightly.
But the fingers and thumb are allowed to
be flexible,
simply to react to the contact with the
When it hits the string, [SOUND] the
fingers are going to flex.
When it comes off they're going to return.
But I feel my entire arm, hand, wrist, and
fingers moving as one unit for the
The image that really did it for me when I
was finally able to get spiccato after
weeks and weeks, or months, I forget how
long, was the image of the bouncing ball.
My old teacher Daniel Mason had me imagine
bouncing a basketball.
As a vertical motion I could feel the ball
coming up into my hand,
of course I had a basketball around all
the time so I was able to try this myself.
I could feel the ball coming up into the
hand and then releasing it.
It was a very vertical motion.
And somehow feeling the hand and the arm
working together,
reacting, not bouncing the ball with the
hand, but simply reacting.
That was the image that was able to get it
for me.
You may try that and
see what mileage you get out of it.
The next step with spiccato is to be able
to start it from the string,
because that's the kind of controlled
spiccato you need, especially for
the orchestral excerpts.
The only difference is that now you're not
dropping it from above,
you're setting the string with the same
amount of pressure as a drop.
It, it makes sense once you try it for
Instead of dropping
you set and release.
You can also, if you're interested find
your balance point and put a little mark
on your bow,
either with a piece, a small piece of
masking tape or a chalk mark.
When you start doing spiccato, you'll see
that mark move as the bow,
as that point on the bow moves.
It'll blur and become a shape, and
the shape you wanna see is a simple u, a
downward curve like that.
If you get an upward curve or a figure
then you're bow is not moving totally
efficiently for the spiccato.
So that may interest you as well.
Now, when you send me a video of your
I'd like you demonstrate a simple
spiccato, could be any speed.
If you're able to differentiate the height
and the speed, even better, so
that you can show me a variety of them.
And then I want you to show me changing
the dynamic by changing the amount of bow
that you're using.
And once I see all that I'll know that
you're well on your way to a great