Musings on Beethoven 5, III

I’ve been working in Beethoven 5 for years – probably as most of us have. And for most of those years I did the same bowing – which was whatever I had marked in from previous teachers. But there was a problem. The excerpt remained outside of my sphere of comfort. I just couldn’t make it work.

I thought, why? What is preventing me from achieving the perfect flow and ‘the’ sound. I decided to try an approach that may sound radical and be heresy for most students – I CHANGED THINGS and did the opposite of what all my teachers had marked in. Up bow? Nope, now it’s down. Slurred? Not anymore. Short to long, long to short. I questioned and changed everything. And suddenly things started to click. The pickup note sounded like a nicely placed 3rd beat pickup note. String crossings and slurs became ironed out and smooth.

I analyzed the string crossings and the bowings. If you are crossing a string on a slur there is a chance that the second note may not speak well. And if your bow is crossing the string there is a slight disconnect regardless of how smooth your bowing is – it’s just two different strings! So I decided to change bows on some string crossings.

WHOAH! I was on to something. I thought about my violin students who are in jazz band and came to me with music that had 4 bars slurred. It’s not a slur, it’s a phrase marking. AHH!!! Much easier.

I added bow changes but added them at string crossings to mask them.I also wanted a bowing that helped not only play the rhythm but portray the rhythm. Make it obvious to  the listener, or -ahem- the audition committee. So I tried many options and wanted to share them

I consider these ‘audition’ bowings – meaning use whatever works for you to play it well. But you should be prepared to play in any way within a particular bass section.

In the end I found it’s about changing / freshening / trying something new / pushing limits / thinking outside the box. I’d been playing the same bowing for years – with the same stagnant results. By trying changing the bowing I felt a renewed interest in the excerpt and a new insight into the rhythm.

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