FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

Bow Division

The ultimate objective of our different choices of bow speed, pressure and point of contact together with our choice of bowings (bow directions) is to be in the best possible part of the bow at every moment. This “best” part of the bow is that part where we can achieve most easily both the musical (dynamics, phrasing, legato etc) and technical (bounce, string crossings etc) requirements. Achieving this objective is the task of the complex art-science of bow division.

Bow division for our right hand is like ecology for planet earth: it is a huge, vital, all-encompassing subject that affects and is affected by everything. For this reason, references to it will be found on almost all the pages dedicated to our bowing. It is a complex subject because it results from the combination of all of the musical factors with all the intertwining elements of our bow technique.

Good bow division requires quite a lot of thought and forward planning: this is an intellectual skill. At the other extreme from bow division skill is bow technique. With a wonderful bow technique (and a great bow and instrument will also help), it is possible to play very well in spite of bad bow division planning, by using compensations of speed, bow pressure and point of contact. We need to develop both skills: how to choose the best bowings ……. but also how to play the worst bowings!. Bow division for our right hand is like ecology for planet earth: it is a huge, vital, all-encompassing subject that affects and is affected by everything. For this reason, references to it will be found on almost all the pages dedicated to our bow technique.

BOW DIVISION AND BOW DIRECTIONS IN UNBALANCED FIGURES

Normally we plan our bowings to avoid sudden and extreme changes in bow speed and pressure unless deliberately needed for special effects. This planning is especially necessary for note sequences in which the alternation of long and short notes note creates “unbalanced” figures for which “as-it-comes” bowings (with a simple alternation of down and upbows) would lead us into an unwanted, inappropriate part of the bow (see Dotted Rhythms). In order to avoid this very common problem, we basically have three possible bowing-choice tools (tricks) at our disposition: the retake, the hook, and the sleight of hand. This is such a large subject that it has its own dedicated page:

Choosing Bowings For Unbalanced Patterns.