Teaching the Ricochet: A Detailed Shopping List for Violinists and Violists
American String Teacher
The ricochet bow stroke is often neglected by teachers for many of the initial years of study, and there is limited pedagogical material available to help students and teachers with this technique. Yet, the ricochet is not only a fascinating, necessary, and realistically attainable bow stroke, it also offers a unique opportunity in the process of discovering the intricate balance between player and bow. The following statement from Carl Flesch (2010) summarizes the guiding principle for off-the-string bow strokes ranging from spiccato to ricochet and provides insight into how discovering or improving the ricochet will help students with other bow strokes: “the basic intention of the player should be to produce a moderately long détaché in the middle of the bow, and the inherent elasticity and springiness of the bow will hinder and prevent a normal détaché.” In other words, the bounce is produced by the elasticity of the stick; we just need to allow the bounce to happen rather than make it happen. In the process of learning and improving this bow stroke, students discover that their main responsibility lies in simply guiding the bow and letting it do its work.
“The ricochet is not only a fascinating, necessary, and realistically attainable bow stroke, it also offers a unique opportunity in the process of discovering the intricate balance between player and bow. ”
In this article, I offer recommendations and exercises that teachers can use as a guide to introduce or develop their students’ ricochet. First, I discuss the Common Ricochet, which is the bow stroke that is often taught earlier and appears in violin pieces ranging in difficulty from the William Tell Overture to Paganini’s Concerto No.1 (Figure 1). Then, I address the Arpeggiated Ricochet, which can be found in François Schubert’s “The Bee” and in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (Figure 3). A third kind of ricochet, the 3+1 Ricochet (present in Tarrega’s “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” and Paganini’s Caprice No. 5) consists of three bounces on a down-bow followed by one on an up-bow in a repeating loop. It is arguably more complex, and it appears only in a limited number of virtuosic pieces (Cotik 2020a & 2020b).
Despite being distinctive from one another, each version of this bow stroke can teach a kinesthetic awareness that helps achieve the others. Avoiding unnecessary tension and looking for freedom and ease of movement are key. It is important that the student and teacher both keep an exploratory and playful state of mind and that the sound serves as the primary source of feedback while investigating different variables in the use of the bow.
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Locate the Document
Cotik, T. (2021). Teaching the Ricochet: A Detailed Shopping List for Violinists and Violists. American String Teacher, 00031313211065438.