Pick direction question

  1. Dave Kirkpatrick
    Dave Kirkpatrick
    Does anyone have any advice for pick direction when using music written for the strings? I have a lot of viola music (I play the mandola) and it all includes slurs for bowing. Right now I'm picking in one direction for the slur and I'm wondering if anyone else follows that rule. It's easier to pick down/up/down/up throughout an entire piece, but given that the slurs were put in by the composer, I find myself being slavishly obedient. Should I bother or should I ignore the slurs? Any advice would be most welcome.
  2. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    My take on that would be that the meaning of the slur is "legato" -- you should try to blend the notes into each other with as smooth a transition as possible. If you're playing music written for bowed strings, that's usually achieved by playing a phrase with a single bow movement. However, if you translate that to mandolin as meaning "same pick direction", you achieve the precise opposite: a phrase played with all downstrokes emphasises each individual note and maximises the percussive effect that is characteristic of mandolin tone. Because each pickstroke has a sharp attack followed by rapid decay, there is a limit to how "legato" you can play on mandolin anyway but generally you have a better chance to play a legato phrase with the appropriate fluidity of the note transitions if you use alternate up/down strokes and also make sure to minimise string crossings and to keep your fingers down to ensure the previous note keeps sounding until the very moment you pick the next. Depending on the phrase and your technical level, you can also judiciously use left-hand legato, i.e. hammer-on/pull-off or slides, rather than picking each note.

    When speaking about Bach or Baroque music in general, I would have no qualms whatsoever to ignore any slurs in the score altogether -- many of them were not in fact "put in by the composer" but rather added by later editors. Use an Urtext edition if you can find one.

  3. Dave Kirkpatrick
    Dave Kirkpatrick
    Thanks, Martin, that makes perfect sense.
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