Read on to discover the 6 easy steps on how to practice ricochet as well as any off-the-string specialty stroke.
I know that many violinists, as well as other string players, would say that ricochet is probably one of the most challenging bowing techniques on the violin. Learning to control fast, bouncing notes can be difficult especially if you are still getting the hang of spiccato and sautillé.
In this blog, I will show you 6 easy steps on how I practice ricochet, as well as any off-the-string specialty stroke (including spiccato, sautillé, and even the special ricochet bowing for Paganini Caprice #5).
First, I like to practice the ricochet notes with a legato bow on the string.
Next, I progress to adding a 'kick' to the bow to get the bow stick to jump.
Think of adding a vertical impulse to the bow, like jumping on a diving board to get it to bounce up and down.
This will activate the ricochet, not unlike getting a ball to bounce by giving it an impulse.
While you experiment with adding a kick to the bow stick, it's important to get to know your bow stick's properties.
Look at and start to feel where on the bow stick your bow likes to bounce, and at what tempos.
Does the point on your bow change with the speed of the ricochet?
(Hint: Yes, it does! The faster the speed of the bounce, the higher up the bow stick you will go in what I call the "Middle Zone".)
You may want to mark the "Middle Zone" and the specific points on your bow stick as a visual reference (small twist ties can work well for this temporary purpose.)
Also keep in mind that the lower strings will need a contact point that's slightly closer to the fingerboard.
As well, you will likely need a more horizontal approach to the bow when on the lower strings (as opposed to approaching the strings vertically with the bow.)
As you play ricochet on the higher strings, you will notice that you will need to adjust the contact point to be slightly closer to the bridge.
Be sure to use your eyes and ears to measure and judge your results.
Develop your ricochet control and accuracy by ensuring you practice it with a metronome.
Aim for as much rhythmic precision on your up-bows as your down-bows.
As with any bow stroke or violin technique, continually scan your body and release any excess tension, particularly in the bow hand and arm (all the way to the shoulder area and back).
It helps to maintain a sense of freedom and relaxation in your arm and shoulder socket.
Remember that the joints should be springy and reactive, never stiff and controlling.
Lastly, experiment with more or less horizontal bow motion to get the sound that you want. Use your ears to help you determine if you're getting the sound quality you want out of your ricochet.
If it's too percussive, apply more of a horizontal approach to your bow stroke.
if your bow is not bouncing enough, add more verticality to your stroke.
It may seem intimidating at first, but slowly, you will see improvements in your ricochet.
Jennifer, a beginner violinist student who had only been playing for 9 months, took my Paganini 5 Challenge Course and learned spiccato and ricochet in just 5 days! Can you believe it?!
Inside my course, I break the infamous Paganini Caprice No. 5 ricochet down into just 5 simple sequential steps.
And it worked for Jennifer!
Now, Jennifer has all the off-the-string concepts and knowledge to apply to all other repertoire.
For those of you wanting to master the arpeggiated ricochet in Mendelssohn and Sibelius violin concertos, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade concertmaster solos, and Paganini Caprice #1, then check out my tutorial on 4-String Saltando/Arpeggiated Ricochet.
Just remember to start with a legato on the string then progress to getting the bow stick to 'jump'.
Mark down the tempo you are currently starting at and keep progressing to your goal tempo.
Keep an eye on your contact point, practice with a metronome, release any excess muscle tension, get to know your bow stick... and continue to experiment!
Let me know how your practice goes and if these tips are helpful by sharing this post and leaving a comment on Facebook or Instagram!
If you'd like to know how to work privately with me, book a free consultation with me on my calendar.