"Literally, 'glued'. A bowing in which the sound is produced by placing the bow on the string with a 'light pinch' at the beginning of the stroke and immediately lifting it to prepare the next note."
Collé is a component of various bowstrokes such as martelé, down-bow retakes and three-note chords. It is one of the few strokes with an active finger movement.
Opinions vary about whether collé is a finger action only, with no hand involvement, and whether it starts only on or only off the string. I take an inclusive approach and believe it is useful:
Starting both on and off the string.
Involving the hand as well as just fingers.
Collé involves a short quick action that requires a clear connection and then leaving of the string so that the note will ring on after the bow leaves the string. Because of this it is often likened to pizzicato.
In the repertoire, collé is rarely used on its own as a bowstroke. It is useful as a practice technique and as a component of various bowstrokes, such as martelé, down-bow retakes and three-note chords. Collé is a good way to add articulation to the beginning of a stroke. It is also good for the bow hand to feel that it could be ready to play with a collé articulation at any time, for instance to articulate a string crossing or to help left-hand clarity in a slurred passage.
There are two distinct finger and thumb actions on the violin bow; they are the collé and the bow-change actions.
Collé-style finger and thumb action is found in:
Three and four-note chords
Bow-change finger and thumb action is found in:
Sustained détaché and whole bows at moderate and fast tempos
Changing the bow
Collé-style finger and thumb action
When playing collé the fingers and thumb curve on the up-bow and straighten on the down-bow. This is an active movement used in strokes like martelé to create a click at the beginning of the note followed by a release. When adding collé to a martelé stroke we actively curve the fingers and thumb to begin an up-bow and we actively straighten the fingers and thumb to begin a down-bow.
This curving and straightening can also be passive when allowed to happen in strokes like spiccato. If you vigorously throw the hand or the forearm away from the body and back again you will notice that the fingers passively straighten when moving away from the body and re-curve when moving towards the body.
Bow-change finger and thumb action
The other direction of movement is the fingers and thumb bending on the down-bow and straightening on the up-bow. This movement is usually passive, that is when changing to a down-bow in the middle of the bow, the forearm will actively change direction and the fingers will passively follow.
When changing to a down-bow at the heel of the bow, the upper arm will actively change direction to an up-bow and the fingers will passively follow. Note that while the finger movement is passive at the bow-change at medium or fast tempos, it can be active at slower tempos. Notice also on a slow up-bow how the fingers begin to curl before the change of bow.
We need to be clear which finger movement relates to which stroke. For instance, bow-change action is less useful for martelé and collé action is less useful in a sustained forearm détaché.
When to teach which movement
Students find it confusing to be taught two movements at once. My preference is to teach collé action on and then off the string first to allow early development with martelé and spiccato. Collé ensures that at least the fingers and thumb can move. Once the collé action is integrated into the bow arm, then develop the bow-change action.
Can we over-program finger movement?
If all parts of the bow arm unit including the fingers are available to move when required then we do not always need to analyse which of the differing finger actions are needed. However if there is a frustrating issue with a bow stroke such as three-note chords or bow-change at the heel, it helps to analyse what finger action (if any) is being used and whether it suits the bowstroke.
Bowing Fundamentals - Change of Bow 1
Resources - Bibliography
for Berman, Jackson and Sarch, Dictionary of Bowing and Pizzicato Terms
Definitions reprinted with permission from American String Teachers Association.