6 Bowing Tips for Harmonics on the Violin
Do you struggle playing harmonics? 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?
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. Suddely those harmonics you practiced so hard on won’t speak. Why???
Bowing the right way helps your harmonics ring!
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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
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.