Nathan teaches spiccato "off and on"

To bounce or not to bounce? Spiccato off and on

Many years ago I asked a colleague, “how do you practice spiccato?” He answered, “Oh, I practice it off and on.”

I assumed that meant “now and then”, so I asked, “OK, but how?”

“I practice it off and I practice it on!”

I had to laugh. I was pretty sure I understood, but I like details! So to be sure, I asked for a demo. This new video is an expanded version of what we went over that day, filtered through many years of practicing and teaching the “off and on” method.

This method involves some experimenting with the “3 Variables”: bow speed, pressure, and contact point. If you need a refresher, head on over to this article and download the free guide that goes with it. It will make the “off and on” method much easier and more rewarding.

12 thoughts on “To bounce or not to bounce? Spiccato off and on”

  1. Love it! So tempting to add complex motions in the wrist, fingers, arm, etc to make the bounce happen when in fact the bow is designed to do the work. Thank you, very helpful!

  2. Nicholette Fetsch

    Thanks, Nate. This is so helpful. I think that right hand movement is the problem here.

    Good health and happiness to you and yours.

  3. On working with this, I’m wondering:

    1) How can it be applied to up or specialty spiccato strokes e.g. Kreisler Rosmarin or Pag. Caprice 24 Var 1?
    2) Though contact point, speed and pressure are matched, isn’t it sometimes necessary to adjust distance from balance point to achieve a proper spiccato?
    Thanks again for making this useful demonstration!

    1. Thanks Bill! For your first question, I must admit that I’m not the “up-bow-staccato” specialist that some may be! But the foundational etude for this is Kreutzer #4, and for that as well as the pieces you mentioned, you can still find the contact point and other variables by playing on the string: slurred! Then, to give the articulation, it’s mainly a matter of pushing the bow thumb up into the leather of the bow for each note. So the arm/hand generally resemble the slurred version.

      For your second question, absolutely! I believe I mention that near the end, but perhaps too briefly, as a further thing to experiment with in case your spiccato hasn’t fully “baked” yet in a certain passage. Same with bounce height.

  4. Hi. Thank you for your videos that help us playing the violin in a better way.

    I’ve been struggling with my spicato for years. I’m a professional, I’m 39yo playing in a orchestra. Normally, when I need to play sixteenth notes in a 110-130 tempo I do it with my bow on the string because I can’t control it off string. If the tempo is slower or faster I can play the sixteenth notes (fast tempos using most the right wrist). It’s frustrating.

    I’ll try what you said in this video.

    Thank you.

  5. Charlene Stevens

    This video showed me that my wrist is always too high, especially on the G string. I knew this, but have forgotten about it. Now I am playing with a level wrist (not bent, but lined up with the forearm) I know it’s going to stick with me this time! A high wrist is used for…? I might need some clarity with this.

    Also, how can I stop the bow from bouncing too high when I increase the speed? It’s very comical to watch. At very high speed, will my arm feel like it has it’s own ‘motor’ like in vibrato?

    1. Hi Charlene, about the bow bouncing too high when things get fast: you can develop a sense for which “direction” the energy of your arm is directed. If it’s directed vertically, or toward the floor, even just a bit, then the bow will rebound much more strongly off the string especially when the tempo is fast. If it’s horizontal, or following the same line as the bow stick, then it will bounce much less high.

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