6 Bow Technique Tips for Harmonics on the Violin | Violin Lounge TV #355

by | Mar 18, 2020 | Beautiful Tone, Bowing Technique | 4 comments

Do you harmonics sound ugly?

Wondering why your violin sometimes just doesn’t speak?

You might focus on your left hand, but did you know you can help your harmonics a lot with the right bowing technique?

With these tips you can make them ring and sound good even if you’re nervous in a performance:

Want to finally understand and play ALL possible harmonics on the violin?

(to be clear: harmonics and flageolets are the same thing)

This video is about the bow technique side of harmonics. For those confused where to find all natural and artificial harmonics on the violin, check out my free Easy Guide to Violin Harmonics right here.

Your bow technique can help a LOT in making your harmonics sound good

Yup, those harmonic passages like in Vittorio Monti’s Czardas can be very scary when you have to perform them.

What happens for a lot of violin players is that they want them to sound soft. They use little bow, maybe bow near the fingerboard and focus on their left hand. Suddenly those harmonics you practiced so hard on won’t speak. Why???

Here are 6 bowing tips to tackle those harmonics:

1) Make sure your strings are clean

It’s possible that nothing is wrong with your playing or the violin, but your strings are just dirty with rosin remains and who knows what. Give them a good clean with a dry cloth or string cleaner.

Also make sure your bow is properly rosined.

2) Use a high bow speed

Yup, I know it’s scary, but to let those harmonics ring, you should use a lot of bow. If you bow slowly, it’s harder to make the harmonics work on your violin. Just test it out in your practice session.

3) Play with confidence (fake it until you make it)

I know it sounds impossible if you’re on stage and nervous. However, when you bow in an insecure way (not regular, doubtful, too slow, too soft etc), your fear will become reality. Ouch, and those harmonics sound horrible when they don’t ‘work’.

Either play them with confidence or don’t play them. To help the harmonics ring, bow with confidence.

 

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

4) Bow near the bridge (more overtones!)

When you bow on the contact point near the bridge, your violin will have more overtones and your harmonics will work out better and ring more beautifully. However, don’t go too close, because then they’ll sound shrill. Find a balance here. Experiment what place is best. This can differ per violin and bow combination.

5) Use little bow pressure

A combination of a high bow speed with low bow pressure (or weight) is perfect for harmonics. However, make sure that you’re not bowing to superficially and that the weight is constant. Changing the weight within the bow stroke can make the harmonic stop… and we all know how that sounds… (ouch) 

6) Make smooth bow changes (or little stops)

If you have to play several harmonics in a row, you should make smooth bow changes to make those harmonics ring. Easier said than done of course. Here are 5 tips to help you!

Little bonus hack your teacher’s not going to like…

Make little stops at the bow changes. If you have difficulty making those smooth bow changes and keeping the same bow speed, your performance might be more secure if you make little stops between the notes.

The stops give your left hand fingers a little more time to be placed in the right spot.

Of course you should practice the best you can to make them smoothly, but I don’t want you to ruin your performance by making them so seamless that you can’t keep up in terms of fingering and bowing.

Want to finally understand ALL natural and artificial harmonics on the violin?

Check out my free Easy Guide to Violin Harmonics, in which you learn to recognize, understand and play harmonics without difficult confusing overviews. Guaranteed!

Let me know in the comments which tip is most useful to you!

4 Comments

  1. Name *Rajolkumar Mishra

    Thanks for your Excellent knowledge of bow technique.

    Reply
  2. John Norton

    Thank you Zlata. These bowing tips are really good ones. For many of these 6 cases I might intuitively do just the opposite of what you suggest. Using a pressure point near the bridge was a surprise as normally this area is avoided for the softer sounds, and harmonics are not generally thought of as loud sounds. But when we stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. High bow speed with light pressure is a really good tip. Cleaning the strings is easily overlooked, but that makes strings that are quite thin to begin with have a non-uniform size over their length, and this alone will blow the theory of harmonics right out the window, and the lovely harmonic sounds with them. Thanks again for your clear and concise bowing lesson.

    Reply

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