On & Off the String

How to Play Staccato

Staccato, as I mentioned in my writing of last week , is the hardest technique in violin playing literature. There are many ways to achieve in playing staccato. However, there are two kinds of staccato; which are firm staccato and staccato volant (flying staccato).

I would like to share the important and valuable references and sources of Leopold Auer –who  is the master of the 20th centuries’s greatest violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz…

According to his opinion, the manner of playing staccato is differed by violin virtuosi. In addition; those virtuosi have divided into some groups which are consisted of players; who believe in different manners of staccato stroke.

For instance; Kreutzer, Spohr and Rode thought that staccato stroke should be produced with the aid of wrist. (Auer 1921,71) Some great virtuosi of 19th century had only the manner of moderately rapid staccato playing. Joachim who is the master of our writer (Leopold Auer) “…produced his staccato only from the wrist; and it was just rapid enough for the demands of the classical repertory which preferred in his concert and his chamber music performances.” (71)

On the other hand; some other group of virtuosi; such as Viextemps, played the staccato in a mixed manner. He produced the staccato stroke from the wrist and the forearm, and manage to play a member of notes on the same bow-stroke so he secured the most astonishing effects. (72)

However, Wieniawsky was the brilliant representitor of staccato stroke. His manner of playing staccato refers to the usage of upper-arm only. Most of the players of our generation including me, prefer to play the staccato with this manner. Of course; staccato stroke should be played according to the manner of composers and their pieces.. This kind of staccato, stiffen the wrist to a point actual inflexibility; but it helps to produce the staccato with dizzyling rapid at the same time possesses a mechanical equality. (72)

Note: Joachim used this term for the first time, “The virtuoso exists for music not music for the virtuoso.” (71)

Staccato Volant (Flying Staccato)

On the contrary; Sarasate only used the staccato volant which is popularly known ‘Flying Staccato’. This technique does not require high-level rapidity, but it should be played with springing bow in graceful manner.

The ‘Flying Staccato’ are based on two methods, which is related to the “…playing from upper arm, as well as from the wrist, using both at the same time, with the difference”. (72-73) Ino other words, ‘flying-staccato’ should only be played with wrist and upper arm movement, since this is only way to produce this quality of playing

Furthermore ; the staccato volant (flying) is the elastic manner of the usage of staccato..

To sum up; we can absolutely divide the usage of staccato into two groups. This concerns two manner of staccato playing: Firm staccato which is strictly sticked to the bow, and staccato volant (flying) that is about the bow is (jumping) springing gracefully, and carefully on the string…


  1. Auer, Leopold, ‘Violin Playing as I Teach it’, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 2009 http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/7/7d/IMSLP29626-PMLP66515-Auer_Violin_Playng.pdf,  30.10.2012

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