Legato bowing on violin is playing musical notes smoothly and connected. If you are playing legato, you are playing connected melodic lines without any space or interruption between the notes.
Being able to play a beautiful legato tone on violin can make a huge difference in the quality of your playing. Legato playing is a skill that you can keep refining and developing over many years. I am definitely not “mastering” legato myself completely, but here I want to share a few tips with you based on what I have learned so far about legato.
Legato Bowing on Violin Tutorial
Two types of legato bowing
The easiest way to play legato on violin, is by playing multiple notes under one bow stroke. In the picture above, you can see a curved line placed over the notes. This line is called a slur. A slur indicates that multiple notes should be played under one bow stroke, with legato articulation.
Though, sometimes we have reasons to play legato on several bow strokes, for instance if we used a full bow for one note and we need to change bow direction. When we play legato, we make effort to make this change of direction sound as smooth and unnoticeable as possible.
Playing legato without a slur
Probably when you were young, you have been playing on a swing before. Do you remember that moment, that you are on the very top, the highest point that you could get too? When you are at exactly that point, you feel like you don’t have any weight for a moment. You can feel like you are floating.
This is the way that changing from a down-bow to an up-bow should feel. This is only possible when you fully relax your hand.
If you fully relax your hand, it is like when your hand already stopped, the fingers are still following the bow. Your fingers only get flexible if there is no tension at all. It is like the bow pulls the fingers with it for a moment longer.
On the moment the bow is changing direction, you don’t actively stop the bow. The natural weight of the bow, has completely stopped the bow.
To understand this better, think about painting a wall with a paint roller. Imagine you are putting a LOT of paint on this paint roller. After that, you start to move the roller up and down on the wall. If you would stop the paint roller at once, the paint would fly all over the place. What we do instead is: in the beginning we accelerate the movement (actively) and then we let the paint roller become slower, because of relaxation in the hand, until it fully stopped. There is no sudden stop or change in direction, but you are slowing down before. Just like when you are pressing down the brake in your car. Your car doesn’t stop at once, but it gets slower and slower until it stops. After that, you can drive backwards.
After the bow stops, we make an active movement again to make the bow start moving again.
Other legato bowing on violin resources
Here you can find another video that I personally enjoyed about legato bowing:
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