Teacher Talk: your string teaching questions answered by our panel of experts
What do you make of the theory that crescendos should always be played on an up bow and decrescendos on a down?
Peter Thwaite, London, UK
Jeff Bradetich: The general assumption is that crescendos are played with an up bow. While this is quite common and often necessary, the ability to play a crescendo on the down bow provides greater freedom. The down-bow crescendo offers unique expression: ultimately, it can be more expressive and better controlled than the up-bow one, provided the sound is pulled from the instrument and not pushed or pressed. I have found that on longer notes, which need to blossom in an operatic and lyrical manner, the down-bow crescendo is superior to that played with an up bow.
Generally, it works best to play decrescendos on down bows since it is much easier and more natural-sounding to remove the weight from the string as the hand and arm move away from the point of contact. It is important, however, still to develop the ability to play decrescendos on up bows even though it is more difficult and less natural-sounding.
Jeff Bradetich is professor of double bass at the University of North Texas College of Music and at Cleveland Institute of Music
Our Teacher Talk series was first published in The Strad in January 2011. Subscribe to The Strad and get the best in teaching tips every month, from Simon Fischer's long-running Basics column to advice from top string players in Masterclass. Or click here to find out about our digital edition.