Technique: Sautillé

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Tips to help you master a bow stroke vital for making a good impression at any orchestral audition

Over the past ten years, more and more people have come to me for coaching to help them prepare for orchestral auditions. During this time I have realised that sautillé is the most critical and practical stroke to have when you are auditioning for an orchestra. If you don’t have a good sautillé, it will send the message that you are not quite ready. If you do have a good sautillé, you will burst with a confidence that permeates everything else. From the perspective of the audition panel, we hear a lot of good left-hand technique, but we are looking for players who have also achieved incredible artistry with the bow, and who have great control of their off-string strokes at every speed and dynamic, from any height above the string.

Many people mistakenly think that spiccato is the stroke that is the bellwether for orchestral extracts, but it’s not: in Schumann’s Second Symphony and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, the stroke is not off the string the whole way. They require a mixture of strokes and a good command of your bow arm and grip, to give the impression of off-the-string playing without actually being 100 per cent off the string. That is sautillé – or what I like to call ‘audition spiccato’. 

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