Open Strings

The practice of open strings is an important exercise in creating good tone – for a focus on this, see the previous posting on tone production. Besides this, other exercises for dynamics and articulation in bow use can be done with the open string as well – a look at any of the major etudes/studies will provide a great list of bowing possibilities. The following is a basic form of open string exercises .

1. “Touch and go.” Create a clear open string sound with no extras. I find the best way to do this is to allow one brief moment for the bow to touch the string and then, move the bow.
Skills: Allow the extra pressure you have in your bowgrip to release onto the string when the bow touches down. If you have a “crunch” at the beginning of the note, check that
a) you aren’t waiting too long on the string,
b) there isn’t any extra pressure on the string
c) that the bow moves immediately – and not starting off too slowly.

2. “With bite.” Start with the bow on the string, with some pressure. Gives a bright, powerful sound with a little “bite” or “kapow!” if you prefer comic-book vocabulary. Common in the traditional Russian and Eastern European inclinations.

3. Off the string. This may provide a “freer” sort of sound when “with bite” sounds too rough-edged.
Skills: How “free” or bright this sound of course depends on various factors, which you can experiment with, if problems arise:
a) speed at which the bow hits the string
b) that the bowgrip is flexible enough to act as “suspension” for the bow
c) angle at which the bow hits the string (the balance between the vertical and the horizontal)

4. Off the string – with an accent. See notes above.

5. With a crescendo. Skills: Try this both with down and up bows and try to make the same sound both ways – in this case, down bows may be more difficult.

6. With a decrescendo. Logically, up bows then may be more difficult in this one.

7. Crescendo-Decrescendo. Somehow I feel like using “diminuendo” here instead of “decrescendo”. Skills: In one bow, remaining in the same part of the string. Make sure the increase and decrease of the sound is even and balanced.

8.Decrescendo-Crescendo. Much tougher. Skills: Start loud, get soft, get back to loud. Keep it balanced.

9. Crescendo-Decrescendo Extra. Move closer to the bridge during the crescendo, and away during the decrescendo.

10. Decrescendo-Crescendo Extra. Start loud and near the bridge, get softer as you go away from the bridge, and get louder moving near the bridge again.


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