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Violin Bowing Terms

The violin can be a challenging instrument to master. The bow especially has
many difficult techniques. Sometimes these are a bit much for a student to

Violin Bowing Terms = Those words that show up in the music asking
violinists to do special bowing effects. Some of the bowing techiques can
bring a tear to the eye when first tried. Each week students are exposed to
terms in the violin repertoire that challange their bow technique. I will list
some here and I have included on this page a place to email me any term you
would like to see listed here and also a definition or an explanation of how to
play it.

Learn the terms and how to execute them

• ARCO = bowed passage, to use the bow, in

music it tells you to use the bow on this passage
• COL LEGNO = the bow stick is used to hit
the strings
• SPICATTO = a controlled bouncing or
spring bow off the string, Flexible fingers and wrist
are a must.
• SAUTILLE = my personal favorite, is fast
spiccato acquired through a completely relaxed hand
that permits sufficient elasaticity to allow the bow to
bounce itself. A rapid bounce, half on and half off the
string, relies on natural rebound.
• DÉTACHÉ = is a broad legato stroke with a
slight space between each note
• LEGATO = is a smooth stroke without any
spacing between the change of bow
• MARCATO = is a sharp stroke, literally,
well marked
• MARTELÉ - Martellato = is a hammered,
accented effect
• STACCATO = is a light, short stroke with a
period of silence between notes, this will very
according to tempo
• RICOCHET - Saltato - Saltando =
rebounding bow, bow rebounds on several notes in the
same bow, springing
• TRÉMOLO = moving the bow with great
rapidity, trembling, repeat the same note with rapid
up and down bow movements, best done with the
• SON FILÉ = sustained tone
• FLYING SPICATTO = like regular
spiccatto in that the bow bounces, but instead of
remaining stationary-the bow is drawn along the
strings as it is bounced producing a virtuoso effect. S
• UPBOW STACCATO = there are many
types of upbow staccatos...there is the normal "loose"
kind...the stiff kind...and the off-the-bow "flying"
kind. basically we're dealing with the normal "loose"
kind. Set the weight with your arm. this weight is
constant and never varies. The bow stick should
remain shouldn't be jumping up and down.
From there...the magic is in the wrist. Do clockwise
motions with your hand, so that the third finger is
doing the work...use the first finger as the pivot point
with the third doing the motion. combine that with
smooth arm movement and you're set. One way of
practicing (besides going slow->fast) is to repeat a note
4 times with the upbow stacatto. then move to 3
times...then 2 then 1... I believe it was Szeryng who
said that a good stacatto comes from a good
martele...and it was Galamian who sometimes had
students raise their second fingers to help promote the
proper clockwise motion. con_ritmo
• SPRINGING stroke and THROWN stroke
French text says SAUTILLE. The terms "springing
stroke" and "thrown stroke" are explained by Carl
Flesch in his Art of Violin Playing book I page73. This
is a great book, and my advice is to buy it and to read
it form cover to cover. In the springing bow (sautille,
exercise 16) the bow jumps but the hairs don't leave
the string, the bow jumps by itself and you do not
have the control of each individual stroke, let the bow
bounce by itself. Keep your joints loose, pull the elbow
in, so the bow is not totally parallel to the bridge and
then give a sligthly slanted impulse to the fingers and
bow. You must dig IN the string, do not try to lift the
bow. The more you dig In, the more the bow will
rebound, just think of a basket ball. But the actual
hairs will not leave the string....(it is difficult to
explain). As for thrown stroke, you control every
individual stroke. Here the stick and the hairs will
come off the string. Try to play strokes non parallel to
the bridge. This time the elbow is not "in", so the axis
of the curve that you describe with the bow is parallel
to the bridge but the actual path that the bow follows
is not. Imagine that instead of drawing a parallel
stroke to the bridge you draw a line with the shape of
a "C" (of course, the, opening, of the C is by the
bridge's side). The shape of a C is not vertical (not
only) but horizontal. In the extremes of the C your
bow lands and takes off gently from the string. Of
course you can do sautille or spiccato forte, piano, fast
and slow. The more to the nut you play the louder and
slower it will be (and conversely). You have to
experiment this by yourself. Casortis exercises are just
a small compendium, and they have exercises very
easy and they have very difficult ones, you should not
get discouraged, the difficult are really difficult. Try
first to understand the difference between
spiccato=thrown stroke= control of every stroke up &
down and sautille= springing stroke= letting the bow
to jump by itself and just giving a general impulse
when needed. Then use it in musical context (Mozart
sonatas and quartets, you should read them all,) Then
try the difficult exercises. - Francisco Sard
• SALTATO = This is a thrown staccato in
the upper half of bow. It is a down bow thrown.
• COLLE = This bowing is in the MARTELE
family of bowing strokes. It is Played in the lower half
of the bow, it is approched from the air with an
attack, then a lift.
• SUL PONTICELLO = Bowing is down near
the bridge and creates a glassy sounding tone.
• SUL G = Play the passage on the G string
• SUL TASTO = The bow is played lightly
over the fingerboard, creating a hazy sound.
This is also known as FLAUTANDO.
• Louré or PORTATO = The slight
separation of a series of notes taken in a slur. - Steve
• CHANTERELLE = Note or passage on the
E string.
• COLLE = Pinched stroke at frog, often a
series of down bow strokes.

AU TALON = Bow at the frog.


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