Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekly Music Nugget 63

     This weekend I am playing two concerts which include lots of spiccato and  sautille bowings.  These are different varieties of bowings in which the bow is bounced (kind of like little jumps).
     I remember how difficult it was for me to learn how to play spiccato.  Different teachers worked with me, to no avail.  Finally my college violin teacher changed my bow grip, and I was off and running.  Once I figured it out, I could quickly move ahead.
     My next  challenge was sautille.  This bow stroke utilizes the natural springiness of the bow.  It only works in what is known as the "sweet spot" of the bow, which varies a bit from bow to bow.  The sensation is that the bow is doing the "bouncing" by itself (some say the bow actually never leaves the string), but the performer controls it.  It's hard to explain, and it's hard to teach.  I remember discussions about it in my pedagogy classes years ago.  This little discussion doesn't do it justice.
     When it was time for me to learn sautille, once again I didn't get it.  My teacher (BYU at the time) tried all kinds of things, and nothing worked.  One day he used a different word.  I don't remember what the word was, but something clicked and I figured out the bow stroke.  Then I was off and running; in fact, once I got it, it became a strength.
     This afternoon I watched a YouTube video about teaching sautille to violists.  It was not particularly good, and as I reflected on my experiences with sautille, I suddenly realized that sautille isn't taught.  It is discovered.  It's kind of like learning to ride a bike.  How do you explain how to ride a bike?  That's pretty tricky.  You show and you explain.  You hold the bike while the rider attempts it.  Finally, often after many failed attempts, the rider gets it.  The rider practices for awhile, and he is off and running independently.  Now, ask the rider how this came about!
     Teaching sautille is a process of guided discovery!

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In addition to being a violist, I am a wife and mother (three sons). I dabble in writing, handwork, sewing and photography.