This was taught to me soon after I joined OTS at age 17. It was something I guess I never learned as a kid. Maybe it’s because most of the runs in the Suzuki literature (think La Folia in Book 6) are even-numbered runs.
This is a very different philosophy than most of the orchestras out there in the world. In many orchestras I’ve played in, seating is everything, in terms of your ability and reputation. But this orchestra is about service and missionary work, not ranking. I won’t pretend that there isn’t some carryover between the world and the church. It’s something I’ll admit I’ve struggled with, though I’m not proud of the fact. But I’ve definitely thought about this a lot over the years.
Granted, this is one I already knew. But having been in Music Education classes, where especially non-string players being trained to teach strings are told that if there’s a tone problem, “just tell them to use more bow,” I think this important concept bears repeating. I’ve also seen method books that train players to use an entire bow for a whole note, to use exactly half a bow for a half note, etc. It is a good method to learn. However, this is not the only type of bow distribution! Yes, using more bow is often a good thing to try—especially for hesitant beginners in a small ensemble. But when players think this technique is the one right way to do things for the rest of their life, they’re missing out on added nuance in a big way. There are notable exceptions to the “more bow” and the “whole bow for a whole note” approach. Just think about it. The main advantage to more bow is you can get more volume. But if you try to use lots of bow in a fiddle song, for instance, you’re going to get bogged down. (The secret to playing fast is to use tiny amounts of bow!) If you have a big crescendo on a note, you’re going to start using the bow conservatively, and then rapidly increase it’s speed. You don’t divide your bow equally according to the beats for that. If you have three whole notes in a row, tied together, marked at ppp, using three whole bows is not the answer. Try saving your bow instead!
The way you use your bow depends on dynamics, rhythm of the passage, desired speed, desired articulation, style of the composition (a Baroque minuet will be played differently than a military march, for instance), size of the ensemble, etc. I use the sul tasto approach (over the fingerboard) a LOT in the Orchestra at Temple Square, which is a large ensemble. After all, our primary role is to accompany the choir. It’s even written in our mission statement. We’re the “helpers,” not the main attraction.