Learn to negotiate both the uncontrolled and controlled techniques

To achieve the detached, distinct sound of spiccato on the cello, there are two strokes: uncontrolled (a light, fast stroke) and controlled (a stronger, slower stroke). The controlled spiccato is a pure saltato stroke, a “jumping” stroke or an “off the string bounce”—you have control over both the down and the up bows. The uncontrolled spiccato is a weighted, on-the-string stroke that “sounds” as though it is bouncing more than actually being “off”—you only have control of the down bow.

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1. In the controlled spiccato, the bow hold needs to be more of a “grip,” the weight on the bow evenly distributed throughout all four fingers. With flat hair, the stroke is an arm stroke.

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2.For the uncontrolled spiccato, first find the balance point on the bow and add weight to the stick by rotating the forearm toward the first finger. The grip for the uncontrolled spiccato is a loose one, unlike the grip for the controlled spiccato.

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3. The uncontrolled spiccato motion is a fast one, throwing your hand toward the ground. There should be little horizontal direction with the stick; it will, if at all, leave the string for only 1/16 of an inch!

*This article appeared in Strings February 2010

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