Ida Bieler Method

Basic Violin Technique

INDEX 

Introduction    

The Ida Bieler Method    

Part One: The Left Hand    

The Basic Position    

The Three-Dimensional Positioning of the Violin   

The Art of the Left Hand    

Hand Frame and Position of the Fingers    

The First Trained Function    

The Second Trained Function    

The Third Trained Function    

The Fourth Trained Function    

Part Two: The Right Hand    

Basic Position of the Right Arm    

The Bow Hold    

The Art of the Bow    

Contact point    

Bow Angles    

Basic strokes    

Détaché    

String Crossings    

Legato and Bow Changes    

Collé    

Martelé    

Spiccato    

Chords    

Sautillé    

Ricochet    

Firm Staccato (in the string)    

Flying Staccato

Bow Technique Reference Videos   

Conclusions    

About Ida Bieler

Special Thanks   

Introduction

After completing both BA and MM in violin performance summa cum laude at the Hochschule der Künste Bern in Switzerland, I wanted to continue to work on my violin playing, and refine my technique.  So when I was given the amazing opportunity to study with Prof. Ida Bieler at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, I chose to follow her across the pond to the United States. When I started re-forming my violin technique, I remember discussing different aspects of technique with my classmates in the cafeteria over nearly every meal. We would often knock on each other's practice rooms to clarify some details - “So where should I place the ring finger on the bow again? Does it go here or here? Are you sure? Is it not just because you have smaller hands than me?” After resolving these questions in my next lesson with Prof. Bieler, more would inevitably pop up while practicing, as I adjusted to the new technique. I often wished someone had written a book that would provide an overview on her method that I could refer to when I was practicing and teaching. Seeing the stunning progress of my studio mates also made me want to share Prof. Bieler's method with violinists who haven't had the fortune to study with her personally. So I decided to write this paper to give an overview of Prof. Bieler’s basic violin technique, including a selection of exercises, etudes and instructions on how best to put them into practice. This  brief exploration of her method is meant to serve as an introduction, rather than a comprehensive guide (that may be for another time). I hope the information here will be useful for students currently studying Prof. Bieler’s method, students revisiting their technique, teachers, and anyone who is interested in a healthy and effective approach to violin playing.

The Ida Bieler Method

Despite having studied with some of the finest violinists of the 20th century, such as Ruggiero Ricci, Oscar Shumsky, and Nathan Milstein, and having already established herself as an internationally successful violinist, Ida Bieler felt the urge to change her approach to playing the violin in her late twenties. Ida Bieler, who is of very petite stature, was left with pain and injuries because her teachers violin methods were tailored to a tall male build. This issue motivated her to design a method that reconciles the best elements she learned from her world class teachers, with a holistic approach that doesn't put unnecessary strain on the body.  Prof. Ida Bieler's violin technique is based on universal principles of  human anatomy and the laws of physics. Following these parameters the method can be adjusted and tailored to all body types. As we will see in the next chapters, Prof. Bieler aims to align the playing position of the violin according to each individual's unique skeletal construction, and uses the natural weight of the player's limbs to produce an ideal sound. The way the violin and the bow are held, the posture we adopt while playing, and all of the movements we execute while performing should be equally economical, efficient and natural in regard to energy and motion. "Natural" here means that the violinist’s posture and movements are aligned in relation to their personal physiognomy. It should be noted that it may paradoxically at first feel uncomfortable for the body and brain to relearn certain elements, i.e. relaxation, since habit creates a sense of familiarity which physically will create a sense of “comfort”.

Part One: The Left Hand
The Basic Position

To achieve the optimal playing position, the feet should be comfortably aligned under the hips. The feet should be flat on the floor and the toes pointed slightly away from each other. The waist, rib cage, back, and shoulders should be in a natural, vertical alignment over the hips. The arms should hang relaxed in front of the body, lightly touching the front of the thighs. It is often misunderstood, that the arms hang to the sides of the torso, rather than in front. This point is crucial in order to find a natural playing posture. Forcing the arms to the side of the torso, will inadvertently create tension in our shoulders and back.

In order to find the most efficient and natural playing position it is also important to consider leg length, curvature of the spine. 

The Three-Dimensional Positioning of the Violin

In general the playing position is best approached by considering the following three dimensions:

  • The instrument should be placed parallel to the ground.

  • Players with short arms may need to bring the instrument slightly more toward the center of the torso, and violinists with long arms may need to move the violin farther to the left. 

  • The violin should be positioned with the treble side slightly lower than the bass side. 

The exact violin position, while always retaining the head and neck's freedom of movement, is supported by the chinrest together with, or without, a shoulder rest or pad. These elements should again be chosen depending upon each player’s individual build.

Prof. Bieler usually recommends the Wolf shoulder rest, since it can be adjusted almost infinitely (the Primo model for male and Secondo for female players) in combination with her custom-made chinrest model, which can be ordered in two different sizes from Petar Ivanov (luthier@abv.bg). This custom chinrest fits lever-like under the jawbone, which allows the head to balance the weight of the instrument. The correct setup should allow the head and neck to move freely, and allow the instrument to move both horizontally and vertically. 

To find the natural frame of the left arm, the violinist should raise and close the relaxed left arm, touching the front of the shoulder with the fingers. The arm will now be opened so that hand and shoulder will be  aligned horizontally. This frame allows a comfortable and natural playing position for both left and right arms. 

The Art of the Left Hand

The position of the left hand should allow it to function in a way that allows clean, virtuosic playing with minimal effort. In order to find the ideal basic position we need to consider the contact points of the left hand to the violin, the hand frame, and position of the fingers. We will discuss the different functions of the left hand, with suggestions for corresponding etudes.

Hand Frame and Position of the Fingers

The contact point between the neck of the violin and the left hand should be between the thumb and the index finger. For violinists with short fingers, the contact point of the index finger should be slightly below the first knuckle, which will allow the fingers to reach the strings more easily. For violinists with longer fingers this contact point will shift slightly higher towards the second (inner) joint of the index finger. The thumb supports the violin from the other side, across from the 1st and 2nd fingers while always remaining flexible without pressing. The same principle applies here; players with short fingers will need to place the thumb lower on the neck of the violin,  while players with long fingers will place the thumb a bit higher.

The position of the hand must always be determined by the position of the fingers and not vice versa. However, adjusting the dimensions of proper posture can aid in finding the correct hand position. The frame of the left hand is naturally defined by the perfect fourth, between the first and fourth finger, while in the first position. Rather than placing the fingers in a rectangular position like a pianist, the fingers should be positioned diagonally to the fingerboard. This angled orientation automatically increases the distance between the fingers. The fingers should be placed on the left side of the fingertips on the string (left side from the violinist’s perspective). Violinists with small hands, and or short fingers may need to place their fingers even farther on the left side of the fingertips than players with larger hands in order to achieve optimal playing comfort and accuracy. 

Within this position each finger may be displaced by half steps, extended and contracted in order to reach for semitones higher or lower than the position. Naturally, the fingers will be at shallower and steeper angles when shifting up or down, while the hand frame remains in the same place. The fingers are not to be lifted when changing their position, but rather should glide easily along the string, as will be discussed further in regard to the Third Trained Function.

To further enable an effective and clean style of playing in virtuosic passages, the hand should be trained to maintain the frame. This also means the fingers should be kept as close to the string as possible. In the case of playing fifths across the strings (regardless of whether the two notes are actually played as a chord, or if they  appear in succession in the same passage) one should anticipate them and set up the finger on both strings as early in the passage as possible. In this way all movements are reduced to a minimum, which again aids fast, clean playing.

The First Trained Function

The First Trained Function of the left hand deals with developing a basic position of the hand, which allows the fingers to fall directly in clearly intonated, stable intervallic patterns, and provides a clear understanding of the geography of the fingerboard. For clean virtuosic playing with minimal effort, extraneous motion should be avoided. The fingers should remain silently on the fingerboard whenever possible.

Exercises

  • Hand-Position Exercise (1st Position):

  • Sevčík Op. 1 No. 1

First, play one measure with repeat, as printed in quarter notes. Next repeat the same sequence as eighth notes and a third time as sixteenth notes as shown in the example, always slurring one measure under one bow. Practicing with the metronome is beneficial for evenness, clarity, and structure. The recommended tempo for this etude is half note = 60. The focus of this exercise should be on a correct finger and hand- position, paying close attention to intonation, steadiness and articulation, while keeping the fingers down silently whenever possible. The fingers should be lifted with an active motion and dropped with clear articulation without excessive pressure.

  • Recommended extra practice Kreutzer No. 9

Practice with a metronome, with one bow per measure. Focus on steadiness, hand-position and intonation.

  • Sevčík Op. 1, No. 23

Use these exercises to practice displacing your fingers within the basic hand position. The fingers are displaced by half steps, extended and contracted in order to reach semitones higher or lower than the original hand position. The fingers should glide easily along the string without being lifted. 

The Second Trained Function

The Second Trained Function directs attention to hand placement in relation to the individual strings (left hand string crossings) while always retaining the major aspects of the First Trained Function. The hand frame in relation to each individual string remains the same, while the position of the arm adjusts for the string crossing. When crossing the strings the placement and motion of the left arm must be considered, as well as the contact point of the thumb and the first finger. When changing from higher to lower strings, the elbow needs to travel closer to the middle of the torso and the thumb farther underneath the violin to allow the hand and fingers to reach the lower strings. The opposite is true when changing from lower to higher strings.

Exercises

  • Sevčík Op. 1, No. 1, 2 and 3 (practice on all strings)

The above discussed principles of the First Trained Function should be transferred and applied to the different strings, and also to different positions. Refer to practice instructions of First Trained Function (Sevčík Op. 1, No. 1.)

  • Kreutzer No. 6 

     This is a good etude to focus on leaving fingers down silently in order to retain the chordal structure of the piece. It is important to decide when it may be more efficient to keep fingers down on both strings when playing fifths, as opposed to when it provides more flexibility to reset the finger minimally on the neighboring string. The latter could be, for example, an appropriate measure to avoid any unnecessary stretching of the finger and tendons. Before starting to practice this etude, take a minute to analyze and mark into your score when you can leave your fingers silently on the string, and where you need to prepare fifths. Again, the goal is to keep your fingers down, close to the string whenever possible, in order to enable virtuoso playing. Due to the many string crossings in this study I would recommend first practicing this etude with a détaché stroke in the middle of the bow with two strokes per note. Once the string crossings become smooth, switch to one stroke per note. This etude can also be used to practice martélé.

The Third Trained Function 

The Third Trained Function deals with the division of the fingerboard into separate positions and the necessary shifting technique. This requires accurate and automatic learning of the grid-like division of the instrument into seven full positions and their enharmonically spelled half positions. While retaining hand, arm and string crossing relationships of the First and Second Trained Function, the realization of the gradual diminution of note spacing, as well as the widening of the string distance in high positions, must be developed. 

Shifting

Prof. Bieler describes two main types of shifting: block shifting and the leading finger technique. During the block shift, we move on the same finger to a higher position while maintaining the same amount of pressure until the desired position has been reached. Once that point is reached, we push the finger down to the fingerboard. The bow plays a crucial role in making the shift as clean and secure as possible. While reducing the bow-speed in order to minimize any sliding sounds during the shift, one should continually apply bow pressure to keep the string down. This allows the left hand to slide over the string without having to apply extra pressure to keep the string down. Furthermore one shouldn’t forget that a change of position is always happening within a rhythmic context. Having a clear idea of ​​the timing can further support clean, precise shifting. The leading finger technique uses the block shifting as an intermediate step to shift to the new position, while ultimately playing the arrival note with a different finger. This type of change in position may be practiced at first with an audible intermediate tone (played with the shifting finger); finally one should be able to make the position change inaudible. During the shift the thumb moves as a unit with the hand, without adding any pressure. From the 7th position onward the thumb will (depending on the length of the player’s fingers and the width of his hands) leave its original position and start moving around the violin in order to allow the player to reach the higher positions. 

Exercises

  • Basic Shifting Exercise

Focus on a steady, rhythmic motion for clean, precise shifting. The shifting motion should come from the elbow while the forearm and hand move as a unit. The fingers that are not used for the shift should be very loose and relaxed, pointing slightly towards the player's left shoulder. It can help to imagine the direction of the shift in the same diagonal direction, towards the left shoulder rather than following the exact direction of the strings. This exercise can be practiced with or without vibrato, as well as starting from 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger, and on all strings. 

  • Sevcik Op. 8

Practice very slowly with a metronome (16th note = 60), slurring half a measure on one bow. Note that despite the excruciatingly slow tempo, the speed of the shift itself should be quick. This exercise is also excellent for developing bow control, even consistent sound and smooth bow changes. 

The Fourth Trained Function

The Fourth Trained Function pertains to the varying uses, colors, speeds, pressures, dynamics, and accentuations of vibrato. This is a very wide field and therefore cannot be discussed in greater detail at this point.

Part Two: The Right Hand
Basic position of the right arm

 The myriad functions of the bow arm are divided between different portions of the right arm, always working from our joints natural positions, using the weight of the arm for sound production, rather than strenuous muscular activity and tension. Starting with the basic position discussed in part one, the right arm should fall naturally slightly in front of the right leg. The forearm should now be placed across the stomach while the upper arm remains close to the torso. The forearm creates a square angle to the upper arm. While retaining this position, the arm is raised from the shoulder to place the bow on a string of the well-positioned violin. The rectangularly aligned upper arm and forearm, the bow, and the string which the bow is placed on, should naturally create a square. For practical purposes this right-angled position is referred to as ‘the middle of the bow.’ It should be noted that the so defined ‘middle’ is relative to each violinist's individual build. Violinists with longer arms may achieve the right angle at a higher point in the bow than the bow’s ‘mathematical middle,’ and lower in the bow for people of shorter arms.

The Bow Hold

In order to find a basic bow hold, the right arm should be supinated, so that the palm is facing the ceiling. While the tip of the bow is facing away from the player’s body, the frog is embedded in the relaxed, open hand. Place the thumb on the inside of the bow stick, rounded at all joints. The right side of the tip of the thumb touches the leather wrapping on the bow, while the left side of the tip of the thumb has contact to the rounded end of the ebony frog. The middle finger is now placed on the other side of the frog and connects with its first joint with the thumb. This ring will be the center of the bow hold, and form an important point of reference for any bow stroke. The ring finger will be now placed close to the middle finger and will have contact with the bow through its first joint. The pinky will be placed on the inner rim of the octagonal bow shape, which allows balancing the weight of the bow with less effort, and helps prevent slipping, as opposed to placing the pinky on top of the bow. The pinky should be rounded at all joints and placed at a small distance from the ring finger. As we now place the index finger on the bow we need to consider that its contact point will change in relation to its usage at the different points of the bow. In general, the point of contact will be somewhere between the first (outer) and second (inner) joint of the finger. However, this contact point will travel further to the outer joint when playing at the frog. When playing in the middle of the bow, the contact will fall precisely in the middle of the two joints. When using the tip, the contact point will move closer to the second (inner) joint of the index finger. While the index finger plays a crucial role when playing in the upper half and tip, the middle- and ring-finger have dominating control over the middle as well as the upper and lower half of the bow. The pinky together with the thumb plays an important role in controlling the frog and lower half, and plays an essential role for articulations such as the collé. All fingers should remain rounded and relaxed, always retaining their flexibility which is utilized in controlling every area of ​​the bow. 

The Art of the Bow

In the following chapter we will discuss the natural proper functions of the different portions of the bow, and how to balance the physical properties of each part of the bow through muscular usage of our bodies, as well as by changing the ‘angles’ of the bow.

Contact point

The contact point of the bow to the string (i.e. the bows position between fingerboard and bridge) is crucial for the sound color and quality. Choosing a contact point close to the bridge, while pulling the bow slowly and using flat hair will create a full sustained sound,  a lighter and more transparent sound will be achieved by playing closer to the fingerboard and taking weight out of the string by tilting the wood of the bow out (see Bow Angles). Obviously there are countless combinations of bow speed, weight, contact-point (and vibrato) and just as many different timbres available.

Exercise

Discover the most resonant sound on your instrument, by playing détaché on the open E-String. Always maintain a good contact of the bow to the string. As you’re playing, start moving the bow gradually further towards the fingerboard, and then again closer to the bridge. Observe how the sound and dynamic are changing. As you get quite close to the bridge, you will discover a point where the sound reaches maximum volume and resonance. If you move from this point just one millimeter closer to the bridge, the sound will turn into a metallic, overtone heavy ponticello sound. Slowly travel a couple times back and forth between fingerboard and bridge in order to get a feeling for where the most resonant contact point is located on your violin. Continue with the same experiment on the other strings. As you will discover, the most resonant contact point will be slightly further away from the bridge, the lower the string. If you would draw an imaginary line through each of the most resonant contact points on each string, it would result in a diagonal line across the violin, pointing away from your left shoulder. It is therefore often helpful to point the tip of the bow slightly “out”, away from the head, particularly in fast passages with many string crossings.

Bow Angles

Unique and of utmost importance to Prof. Bieler’s technique is the usage of the different angles of the bow, which impact the quality of the different strokes and sounds. Prof. Bieler differentiates between two general ways to angle the bow. The first one describes the vertical alignment of the bow to the string. If the wood of the bow is tilted towards the fingerboard, it is referred to as using the ‘outside of the hair’, while ‘flat hair’ refers to keeping the wood of the bow exactly above the hair. The second angle describes the angle of the bow to the bridge, which concerns moving the bow in a slightly diagonal direction, for example pointing the tip of the bow away from the left shoulder (see Contact Point) as opposed to keeping it parallel to the bridge.

Basic strokes
Détaché

Détaché is the most basic and fundamental bow stroke and means of sound production on string instruments. détaché should always be practiced with a clear, resonant and healthy tone. Evenness in stroke and dynamic is essential, as well as keeping the natural weight of the arm in the string and having good contact between bow and string (a feeling of pushing and pulling the string).

Prof. Bieler divides the bow into five parts: the middle, upper half, lower half, frog, and tip. Due to the different properties of each of the bow sections the bow angles and distribution of the weight need to be adjusted accordingly. In the following part we will discuss each individual part separately.

The Middle of the Bow

As discussed above, the middle is defined by the square shaped by the player's arm, shoulder, the string we are playing on, and the bow. The bow is parallel to the bridge, the stick of the bow directly above the hair, and the hair flat on the string.

The Lower Half of the Bow

In the lower half, we need to compensate for the increasing weight of the stick of the bow, by turning the hair slightly out, as well as adjusting the angle of the bow to the bridge, by pointing the tip of the bow very slightly away from the head. 

The Frog

The same laws apply at the frog as in the lower half, but due to the increased weight of the bow stick, we need to tilt the wood of the bow even a bit more towards the fingerboard, and point the tip even slightly more away from the head. The usage of the fourth finger is playing a particularly crucial role at the frog, since it needs to balance the weight of the bow, while retaining its round shape.

The Upper Half

In the upper half the weight wanders in the opposite direction, therefore we need to compensate by flattening the hair of the bow and using a parallel angle of the bow to the bridge.

The Tip

At the tip, the hair is completely flattened, the angle of the bow is parallel to the bridge, or even slightly angled with the tip towards the head. For violinists with short arms the following adjustments are recommended, but can also benefit violinists with longer arms. 

  • To avoid injury by over-stretching the right arm, it is recommended to use only three fingers (the 3rd finger replaces the 4th finger, placed on top of the bow). Very small people might even consider not using the tip at all.

  • To maintain a strong sound at the tip, the wood can be angled towards the body, while the tip points slightly towards the head.

Exercise

It is important to practice détaché at first in the five separate bow parts, until each section of the bow is mastered. Then sections are joined together for longer détaché, legato, and smooth bow changes (see Legato/Bow changes).

  • Kreutzer No. 2

Practice the five parts of the bow separately. The goal is to maintain an even stroke and a healthy, resonant sound at all times. 

Focus on a good bow hold, correct angle of the bow and smooth string crossing (see chapter String Crossing.) This etude is also excellent for practicing the elements of the First and Second Trained Function, such as hand-position and hand-frame, keeping the fingers down, and anticipating and preparing fifths whenever possible.

Once you feel comfortable and secure in all the five parts of the bow, also practice the variations by Galamian (International Music Company Edition.) The basic patterns No. 5- 10 are especially important.

  • Kreutzer No. 8

Practice with a détaché stroke in “your middle”. For smooth string crossings keep your right elbow low, while using flat hair. 

Tip: To ensure proper elbow position, practice in front of a mirror, while pointing the scroll of the violin straight at the mirror. The bow and upper arm should be generally in a parallel position to each other. 

String Crossings

Prof. Bieler describes seven different levels of the arm: When we’re playing on the four open strings, as well as playing on two strings at the same time (G, D, A, E, GD, DA, AE.) For very fast string crossings, as for example in the Bariolage passages of the Bach Prelude of the E-Major Partita, Prof. Bieler recommends not only using flat hair, but even tilting the bow slightly towards the bridge, while keeping the elbow relaxed and close to the body (similar position as for Martele) and staying in the middle of the bow for fast and clean playing.

 

Exercise

  • Kreutzer 2 

Practice this Etude first with détaché in the middle of the bow, while stopping before each string crossing, using the break to move the arm from the shoulder to the next string level. I recommend practicing in front of a mirror (as described in détaché    ) in order to make sure that the whole arm is moving as a whole, and that the upper arm and bow remain in a parallel position. Then start eliminating the stopping, and anticipate the string crossings with the elbow, in order to allow for smooth string crossings. 

Legato and Bow Changes

After mastering détaché in the five parts of the bow, the parts will be now reconnected for legato playing. 

For smooth bow changes, the bow speed needs to decrease just before the change in direction occurs, while maintaining a good contact with the string. At the frog, the weight of the bow needs to be compensated by lifting the elbow out and up the closer we get to the frog. The elbow is starting to move back down into its original position just before the bow change.

Exercise

Practice legato playing and bow changes on any long note. Start by studying each half of the bow separately. For the lower half, start in the middle of the bow on an up-bow. Go to the frog, and then back to the middle. Repeat that process a couple of times, focusing on a smooth, seamless bow change, continuous and resonant sound, as well as keeping a consistent contact point. Then proceed in the same way in the upper half, starting in the middle of the bow on a down bow (for violinists with short arms, it is not recommended to go all the way to the tip). After you become familiar with these two movements you can proceed to connect them and apply the whole bow.

Collé

Colle is the precise, punctual placement, and pinching of the string with the bow. Gripping, stretching, and pulling movements of the fingers are of central importance. The goal is to be able to place the bow with great certainty at any point of the bow without shaking or uncontrolled bouncing of the bow. 

Prof. Bieler describes four basic types of Collé: With articulation, without articulation, from the air, and from the string. For the Collé without articulation, the bow is securely placed and lifted without any sound. To practice Collé with articulation, the bow is placed in the same way on the string, but then lifted out of the string with a circle like motion, generating a pizzicato-like, resonant sound. The Collé may be further used when landing the bow from the air on the string for a clear start of the note. This technique contributes to the control of every part of the bow. Collé can be used in different variations to achieve a clean attack and crisp articulation of the note. 

Exercise

You can practice the Collé on any note, as described above, silently or with articulation, in all the bow-parts on down-, and up-bows. 

You can combine practicing articulated collé with practicing starting vibrato from the head of the note (vibrato-accent,) on for example a scale. Practice this exercise on both on down, as well as on up-bows.

Martelé

The Martelé is a relatively short, sharp stroke in the upper half and corresponds to the articulation of the spiccato in the lower half. Place the bow on the string in the upper half, using only three fingers on the bow, as described in the chapter The Tip. “Catch” the string, like in the above discussed collé, and transfer the weight of your relaxed arm, the elbow in a low and relaxed position close to the torso. Using flat hair, move the bow now with fast bow speed without adding any pressure. Experiment turning the wood of the bow towards your body for an especially clean stroke. 

Exercise

  • Kreutzer No. 7

Practice Martélé in the upper half. You can try a faster, lighter Martélé more towards the tip (with the wood of the bow turned towards you), and a slightly heavier Martélé stroke more towards the middle (with flat hair). Pay great attention to clean string crossings, which will get more challenging the closer you get to the tip. 

Tip: Start practicing this etude with a metronome (set for example to around 150) and always leave one beat between each note to leave enough time to prepare the next note. The goal is to make the preparation for the next note as fast and clean as possible, which requires a quick string crossing, good contact between bow and string, and keeping the weight of the arm in the string. Once you feel comfortable with that tempo, you can increase the metronome speed gradually, until the extra preparation-beat can be eliminated.

You can also try the different variations from Galamian (International Edition) for this Etude, and practice starting the etude and its variations both up and down bow.

Spiccato

Spiccato is a bow stroke of lightness that lifts from the string through a controlled motion of the upper arm. Prof. Bieler’s spiccato technique evolves from the détaché stroke as opposed to other schools, where it’s equally referred to as ‘thrown bow’ or ‘bounced bow.’ 

Start with a fast détaché stroke in the lower half with flat hair, then turn the wood of the bow “out” which will cause the bow to bounce off the string, while using the whole arm (spiccato is the only stroke in Prof. Bieler’s method that uses the whole arm, moving from the shoulder.) This relation between détaché and spiccato is a good example of how the angle of the bow hair can transform one stroke into another (see Bow Angles). 

Exercise

  • Kreutzer No. 2

Practice this etude starting with four or two strokes per note. Once you feel comfortable playing this etude with an even and controlled spiccato stroke, it is also recommended to practice the transition from détaché to Spiccato, and vice versa: You can play for example half a measure détaché and then the other half Spiccato.

Chords

Prof. Bieler has taken the chord technique of Nathan Milstein, in which the three-part chords can be played easily unbroken. Place the bow on all three strings at once, the wood of the bow is again turned out while the tip is pointed away from the head. Due to the curvature of the bridge it is best to place the bow close to the fingerboard, so that the bow can rest on three strings at the same time. The bow is then pulled from the strings without additional pressure.
To differentiate the main voices in chords for example in Bach, the bow remains on the string with the leading voice, which can create the illusion of sustain, as well as serve to bring out the musical line. While sustaining the chords, the fingers of the left hand prepare as fast as possible for the next chord, while the bow prepares, seesaw-like, for the string crossing.

Exercise

  • Dont No. 1

Position your bow as described on all three, and four voices simultaneously as described above, then pull the bow without any additional pressure. 

Practice voicing, by sustaining always one voice after breaking the chord. Start by practicing landing on the soprano line, then the alto line, and so forth.

Sautillé

Sautillé is a virtuoso springing bow stroke, produced exclusively through a fast vertical flicking motion from the wrist. Again, the angle of the bow determines the articulation of the stroke. By using the outside of the hair, a very light stroke can be achieved, ideal for orchestral playing. If a stronger articulation is desired, the hair can be flattened.

Exercise

  • Kreutzer No. 2

Practice with eight, four then two strokes per note. Focus on maintaining a consistent and regular stroke. In order to allow for smooth string crossings, it is important to anticipate the movement of the bow arm slightly earlier than for other strokes. Start moving your right elbow gradually in the direction of the anticipated string just slightly before the actual crossing. 

Ricochet

Ricochet is a virtuosic springing bow stroke that utilizes resistance, through a combined motion of the wrist and lower arm. The bow is placed on the string and then lifted through a whip like motion.

 

Firm Staccato (in the string)

A virtuoso bow technique which is produced through the combination of fundamental Martelé and motion of the lower arm.

 

Flying Staccato

It is produced through changing the angle and dynamic of the firm staccato, allowing the bow to lift off of the string.
 

 
Bow Technique Reference Videos 
Conclusions

(…) Work in progress

About Prof. Ida Bieler

Ida Bieler has set a standard in the course of her unusual career as a musician of extraordinary scope. Winning major competitions on three continents, she has enjoyed an exceptional international solo and chamber music career, performing with top international orchestras, as a recitalist and as a chamber musician in major music capitals and festivals throughout the world. 

Critical acclaim and awards have included the Cannes Classical Award, Echo Klassik Preis, Resonanz, Fono Forum, the Strad Selection. One of Europe’s first female concertmasters, she led the Gürzenich Symphony and Opera Orchester of Cologne.

As a member of Germany’s legendary Melos Quartet, the Xyrion Piano Trio, Ensemble Villa Musica, the Heine Quartet, she performed and toured around the world. Most recently, she founded the Reynolda Quartet of UNCSA, in residence at the Reynolda Museum of American Art and Faculty Quartet of the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Ida Bieler leads international masterclasses worldwide and is one of the most sought-after teachers in Europe and America today. She is professor at the Robert Schumann Hochschule Düsseldorf, Germany, the Kunstuniversität Graz, Austria, and at the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Her pedagogic initiative, the Vivaldi Program Düsseldorf, has been awarded Germany’s most coveted education prize, “Ideen für die Bildungsrepublik.”  Additionally, she is the artistic director of the Chrysalis Chamber Music Institute and the Vivaldi Project at UNCSA.

June 2020

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Special Thanks To

Prof. Ida Bieler, Bennett Astrove, Brooke Hendricks, Stephen Moran, Nathalie Schmalhofer, and Eva Wetzel!

© 2020 by Lucia Kobza