Violin Bowing Directions


An accent placed over or under a note means the note should be emphasized by playing forcefully.


Play with the bow (bowing directions such as arco are often used after a plucked, pizzicato section).

Au talon

Talon is French for frog, and this term means a particular section of music should be played with the bow at the frog (other terms for frog are nut or heel)..


Bariolage is a French term which means an “odd mixture of colors,” and directs the string player to achieve a contrast in tone colors by playing on different strings. An example of barriolage is when the same note is played, alternating between open strings and stopped strings, or by playing a repeated passage, oscillating between two, three, or four strings. Fingering is often used to indicate bariolage.

Bow lift

Lift the bow, and return to its starting point.

Col legno

“With the wood.” Col legno means to strike the string with the stick of the bow rather than the hair (it is also called col legno battuto) When there are extended col legno passages in music, some professional violinists use inexpensive bows for these sections in order to avoid damaging their expensive bows.

Col legno tratto is less commonly used, and indicates the wood of the bow should be drawn across the string (use with caution, this can damage the wood of the bow).

Down Bow

Begin the bow at the frog, and pull the bow from the frog to the tip.


Bow slightly over the fingerboard.


Bow at the point or tip of the bow.


Sforzando means forced or accented, and is usually attached to a single note or chord. It generally indicates the note should be played loudly with a sudden accented emphasis.


A curved line grouping notes together, indicating the notes included in the slur should be played in the same bow. Unless otherwise indicated, notes in the slur should be played legato. When slurs are used with dots over or under the notes, this indicates a slight separation should be used between the notes (the terms slurred staccato or dotted slurs are often used to describe this technique). When a slur is placed between two notes with the same pitch, this is called a “tie” and the two notes are played in one bow for the duration of both notes.


Play with the bow near the bridge. The result is a glassy, whispery sound.

Sul tasto

Bow over the fingerboard. This produces a soft, flutelike sound.


Play sustained or broadly, and hold the note for its whole value.


Connect two or more notes of the same pitch with one bow.

(bowed tremolo)

Bowed tremolo indicates the note should be played with very short, rapid and unaccented bow strokes, moving the bow back and forth for the duration of the note value (tremolos are usually played in the upper third of the bow, and a light wrist motion is used to achieve them.)

Tremolos are either measured (a clear subdivision of the note’s rhythmic value) or unmeasured (play the note as fast as possible). Tremolo signs are indicated by short slanted lines through note stems. For example, one line through a stem indicates eighth note tremolos, 2 lines mean sixteenth note tremolos, and 3 lines indicate unmeasured tremolo. If tremolos are placed on a beamed note, the beam counts as one of the lines.

(fingered tremolo)

Tremolos may also be played between more than one note, and this is called fingered tremolo (it is also known as slurred tremolo). Instead of the bow rapidly moving, the fingers rapidly alternate between the two notes of the interval, while the bow smoothly plays. Fingered tremolo is generally notated by incomplete beams being placed between two notes of an interval to indicate the rhythmic value of the tremolo.

Up bow

Begin the bow at the point or tip, and pull the bow from the point to the frog.

Whole bow

These terms are sometimes used to indicate what part of the bow should be used:
WB = Whole Bow; LH = Lower Half; UH = Upper Half; MB = Middle of the Bow.