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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quick Practice Tip: Fish Bowl Staccato

Here is a way to "feel" the staccato bow stroke in your right thumb. You will need a partner for this. Have your partner hold out cupped hands so that you can turn your bow upside down and place the tip of your "fishing pole" in your partner's "fishing bowl." Then have your partner flick down on the tip of your bow. Feel the pinching pressure of the "fish bite" against your thumb. Do this several times until you become familiar with your thumb's feeling the flicking of your partner's "fish bite."

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Now when you place your bow on the string to play, try to recreate that same sensation in your thumb. Be sure that everything else about your bow arm or hand is completely relaxed and that your thumb is the only part of your right side that is "turned on." Some students describe the feeling as a pinching of the thumb upward. Some students experience the sensation as a pressure between the upper fingers on the bow against the thumb underneath.

All you have to do is move your bow back and forth on a level plane (not up or down). If you have a firm, strong thumb and you stop your bow correctly at the end of each note, you should experience a slight "ping" to the beginning of each note. This is a lovely, ringing staccato sound. You will not need to press down on your right index finger to produce the pinched staccato.

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When a student has difficulty with staccato, I find that the most likely reason is that the student is not stopping the bow adequately on the note previous to the staccato note. Even professionals tend to "dribble" a little from one note to the next, sort of like coloring outside the lines of a picture in a coloring book. Work on cleaning up the ends of notes, and with the fish bowl technique of a strong, firm thumb, you will have a beautiful pinging note start. The note's middle is another topic for another day.

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