Basic Bowing on the Cello

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 34,036
    Diana from the International School of Music demonstrates some examples of basic bowing on a cello.
    My name is Diana and I am here at the International School of Music in Bethesda Maryland. In this clip, we will be covering some of the bowing basics. In the previous clip you learned how to hold the bow and so now we are going to be applying that to the string.

    So once you have the flexibility and motion in your arm, one thing that you can do are some big arm circles and basically just circle your arm in the air and land on the string. Don't even attempt to actually make any sound in the beginning, just try landing on either separate strings or two strings at a time and finding the balance between those strings, so that you feel the contact under the bow hair.

    And then after this, one thing that you can do that's really helpful is to just do some bow rocks. So starting on the C string and rocking up and if you notice the height of your elbow changes depending on which string you are going, which string you will be playing on.

    So starting at the frog, which is this part of the bow, that's one place to try these bow rocks then you can move to the middle. Again place the bow, here is your contact point, adjust your arm accordingly and then rock. The contact point changes under each of the strings and then out at the tip, this is where your arm moves the most.

    So, it's sometimes helpful to keep the left hand on there to keep reminder of where your contact point is of the bow with the string. So after you are acquainted with that and just explore the range of flexibility in your arm, you can start by playing some notes or open strings.

    Generally, you will be looking to play between the bridge and the end of the finger board. So in the beginning, it might be wise, you can start about halfway through, this affects the sound -- basically the dynamic level and different sound effects or qualities.

    So you can always experiment with where, specifically you want to play between the end of the fingerboard and the bridge. But we'll start there in the middle. And when you draw the bow, you want to draw it parallel to the bridge. So this is the bridge, as opposed to going like this. You want to have a parallel motion to the bridge.

    So, a really good way to start is actually doing double stops or two notes at a time. So you can start by doing the arm circles, then on the string. Yield to the string; let the string support the bow as opposed to pressing down or anything like that. So as soon as you land, the string supports the bow and then with one motion, with one motion of the arm you want to move from frog to tip.

    So as you are doing this, you can listen to the evenness and the balance of the sound between both the notes. You might find that one of the notes speaks more than the other and then you can make an adjustment in your arm and your elbow level, so that both of them speak easily and equally.

    So the D and the G are the easiest ones to start with, then you can rock over or move your arm over and land on the A and the D and do four of each string and then also try the C and the G.

    So as you are doing this, afterwards you can try doing it on single strings. There is a little bit more flexibility. And this is all a motion called down-bow, which means that you are starting at the frog and moving towards the tip. The opposite of that is an up-bow which stars either at the tip or somewhere in the middle of the bow and move towards the frog.

    So in the beginning, since the balance of the bow is unequally distributed, it's sometimes helpful to land on the string and support it with the left hand, or even just doing the upper motion.

    This helps your right arm find the path of the bow without worrying so much about the weight. And then eventually you can find that in the right arm itself without the aid of the left hand.

    So, all of these exercises are an excellent way with open strings, just to acquaint yourself with the bow. And then when you feel ready, you can put the hands together and play the song that we learned earlier, etcetera.

    Once you've master -- you want to first master this with pizzicato, because the left hand is what changes the pitch in the note. So you always want to lead with the left hand.

    And then be aware of the push and pull of the bow on the string. So when you're doing a down-bow motion, what produces the sound is that you are creating friction and pulling the string this way to your right. And when you are doing an up-bow, the friction is applied to the right of the string in the left direction and is more of a pushing motion. So pull, push and that's what produces the sound.

    So in the last clip we will be covering basic care and maintenance of the instrument.