STRING PEDAGOGY NOTEBOOK

MARTELÉ BOW STROKE

Martelé is a bow stroke that is played on the string. It differs from the detaché bow stroke in that pressure is applied before the beginning of the bow stroke, and the pressure is released as the bow begins to move. If executed properly, the note has a crisp attack or accent. The bow stops at the end of the stroke and weight is added in preparation for the next stroke.  Martelé is used in marcato passages, for accents, and for musical passages that require crisp articulation and separation. It can be played at any dynamic level from pianissimo to fortissimo. Say the word "pow" or "ping". The "puh" sound at the beginning of those words resembles the beginning of a martelé stroke. One way to describe Martelé to students is “ playing pizzicato with the bow”


A review of the Collé bow stroke is very helpful when introducing Martelé. Collé is a very short bow stroke initiated by flexing the fingers. It should be performed in both directions. When going down bow the fingers start bent (like the mountains of Colorado) and then straighten (like the plains of Kansas). When going up bow the fingers begin straight and then flex and bend (Kansas to Colorado).


When learning the martelé bow stroke, start by asking the student to do “bow push ups.” The stick will flex and touch the hair. Next, ask students to try to wiggle the string while applying weight with the bow, but without setting the string into vibration. have the student stop the bow in between each bow stroke.


The keys to getting a quality Martelé bow stroke are

1) Getting weight into the string while retaining flexibility in bow hand.

2) Adding pressure (weight) before beginning the bow stroke.

3) Releasing pressure immediately after the attack.

4) Slow practice. The bow must come to a complete stop before each note. Give a descriptive word to each part of the process. For example – “Press, wiggle, pow, stop” or “Weight, wiggle, pow, stop. Eventually it can be three parts – “Weight, pow, stop”

When introducing martelé  to students, give them frequent reminders on posture, bow hold, bowing lanes, and make sure they are in the middle of the bow. Give students the opportunity to focus on the attack or "bite" of the bow stroke on either an open string or a single stopped pitch, free from a musical context.  


Once students can get 8 consistent crisp articulations on a single pitch, then try placing martelé into a scale. When students are able to play a scale with consistent crisp articulation, then try placing into musical contexts such as familiar songs they know from memory like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Wait until students are confident and comfortable with the martelé bow stroke to introduce repertoire requiring the use of martelé.


Remind students that Martelé is a crisp attack with a release of sound, not a surge of sound after a weak attack. The most common problems students have are not releasing the pressure when the bow starts to move, or moving the bow before applying pressure.