Hooked Bowing

April 12, 2010

About a week ago I purchased The Art of Cello Playing by Louis Potter Jr. It is a fabulous book, filled with exercises, pictures, and well written explanations. One section in particular has already improved my understanding of a technique and consequently my ability to play using that technique.

In chapter 22, The "Link" or "Hooked" Bowing and the Staccato, Mr. Potter describes hooked bowing like this:

Unless the tempo is slow, and a very broad (pesante) style of playing is employed, the best execution of this bowing is usually in the middle of the bow, starting with the down bow at the balance point. The eighth note is played, then stopped abruptly (as in a martelé bow-stroke). The sixteenth note is then played with a much smaller amount of bow (by the hand, from the wrist) in the same bow direction, and goes directly into the following eighth note. Thus the only stopping of the bow is after the eighth note, but not after the sixteenth note, even though it has a staccato dot placed above or below it. The reason for this is to avoid the clumsy effect, at least in any kind of rapid tempo, of trying to stop the bow again after such a quick note as the sixteenth. Moreover, the articulation achieved by stopping the bow only after the eighth note is actually the desired musical effect for practically all such passages. Hence in effect the sixteenth note goes directly into the following eighth note "legato," though quickly.
After reading, and rereading that passage of the book a light when on for me, and I was able to play hooked bowing fluently and smoothly. I have been practicing the eighth note-pause-sixteenth note-eighth note-pause... pattern each day now, on open strings, crossing open strings, and through various scales and it is starting to feel natural. Stopping my right arm after the eighth note, and then using my wrist to continue the bow movement (after a pause) for the sixteenth note before rebounding in the opposite direction for the next eighth note just makes sense now.

Below is my attempt to make a picture of this circular (to my way of thinking) motion. The image helps me as the pauses are at opposite ends of the bow; the entire pattern is nicely circular (symmetrical) but the pauses are offset by the length (in terms of bow used) of the eighth notes.

hooked bowing

That one paragraph in chapter 22 of The Art of Cello Playing alone, was worth the purchase price.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.