How to play controlled, smooth and seamless melodic lines

Nils Mönkemeyer  Professor of viola at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich, Germany

 

Nils Mönkemeyer
Professor of viola at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich, Germany

The following is an extract from our Technique article in The Strad’s February issue. To read in full, click here to subscribe and login. The February 2021 digital magazine and print edition are on sale now.

The following exercises break down how to play melodic string-crossings and can be applied to all bowed stringed instruments. The aim is to create smooth lines without accents or breaks, by keeping the arm moving in a small, continuous wave, without interruptions or corners. Big, angular or fast movements will create unwanted accents, as will pressing your fingers down on the bow when you change string. Begin with exercise 1:

Bow change exercises

  • To find a well-balanced position for your bow arm, play the two strings as a double-stop
  • Now play the string-crossing, without changing the level of your elbow or the speed of your stroke
  • At the frog, pull from the elbow and cross strings using your wrist and fingers. From the tip, use your wrist, fingers and lower arm

 

Read: Technique: Melodic string-crossings

Read: Technique: Ricochet

Read: Technique: Memory and mental practice

 

In exercise 2, focus in slow motion on each stage of the string-crossing. Keep your sound, colour and bow speed consistent across both strings:

  • Bow the lower string. Slowly introduce the second string as a double-stop
  • Gently come away from the lower string, with as little change to your position as possible
  • Practise on all adjacent strings, to find the most efficient elbow level for each string combination