Excercise For Students: Slowing Bowing

Cello Upbow by Jenny Serpa

String players of all levels can benefit from this exercise at its most basic level, but it has a range of complications for players of any level.

With the help of your bff (the metronome), practice slower and slower bows.
Each full bow takes one second longer than the last one did.

Slowing Bowing

  • Put your bff the metronome on 60 (that means each beat takes one second).

  • On your top string, use your entire bow (down-bow) in one beat.

  • Then, slow the next bow (up-bow) so that it takes two beats.
    [Or not two beats, that is the question.]

  • Then, the next bow takes three beats. Then four. Etc.
    The first few days you try this, don’t expect to get farther than 10.

  • See how far you get: your number for the day is whenever your smooth, beautiful sound wavers or stops, even just a little a bit.

  • Repeat on the next string. Start it up-bow this time.

Choose-Your-Own Complications:

  • Focus on a straight bow:
    Remember, it doesn’t come from your concentrating on the bow itself - it comes from the concentrating on your bowarm technique.

  • Focus on bowing distribution:
    Being exactly 1/5 of the bow in after the first beat in a count to 5.
    Try it with slow to fast or fast to slow in one bow.

  • Focus on different dynamics:
    Try it f, mf, mp, and p.
    Try it with changing dynamics (f to p in one bow, p to f in one bow).

  • Focus on your contact point:
    Try it sul tasto (above the fingerboard) and sul ponticello (next to the bridge).
    Try it with changing contact points (sul tasto to ord, ord to sul pont).

  • Focus on timbre:
    Try to change the amount of resonance and core in your sound.

  • Focus on subdividing the beat:
    eighth notes | triplets.
    two-against-three | three-against-two.
    sixteenth notes | three-against-four | four-against-three.
    quintuplets | two-against-five | five-against-two.
    three-against-five | five-against-three.
    four-against-five | five-against-four.

Secret skills developed for beginners:

  • Awareness of how to play with your new bff, the metronome.

  • Use of the metronome in a friendly context.

  • Preliminary counting (1, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4).

Still looking for your new bff? Consider hanging out with my buddy Pitchronome for iOS.