Solfège

Learning the Violoncello

Slurs and Hooked Bowing

At my lesson today we talked about slurs and hooked bowing.

On cello (and I assume other stringed instruments) a slur indicates that the notes should all be played with a single movement of the bow. As my teacher put it, changing bow direction creates a consonant, it cuts off the sound however briefly. A slur, or notes played with a single continuous bow movement create a vowel sound. The two techniques combined allow the cello to articulate music.

Hooked bowing is really a convenience technique, it allows the cellist to produce the proper musical sound with a minimum of bow movement. The notation is a slur that ends with a dot over the note. The bowing pattern for hooked bowing goes like this:

Up - Down - Down - Up - Up

With one slur connecting the two down bow notes and a second slur connecting the two up bow notes. Frequently these notes involve a string change as well, making this a complicated pattern to learn.

My assignment for the next week is to practice my scales using hooked bowing to learn the mechanics of the pattern, to developed the muscle memory necessary to make playing this way automatic. Additionally I am to practice slurs by replaying the first line of a couple of earlier pieces using slurs in place of individual notes.

My difficulties with note durations continues. I tend to cut off half notes and dotted half notes. Verbalizing the rhythm pattern helps, but not always. I need to develop a better sense of pulse so that I intuitively know how long notes should be played in relation to other notes in the piece and in time with the tempo.

Having not played for 10 days while we were traveling did have an impact on my sound. I’m a bit rougher and more hesitant this week than I was the week prior to being gone. I know the smoothness will return quickly, but it was interesting to observe the fragility of this skill. It is perishable, if not maintained it will be lost.

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