"A characteristically rapid, and alternating down and up-bow bouncing stroke."
Sautillé is a reflex action
It is a rebound bowing in that the down-bow is active and the up-bow is passive. This passive reaction is described by Paul Rolland, p.36 "Balance in Repetitious Movements", where he moves a pencil in a 'click board'.
Sautillé is different from spiccato
Although it is sometimes referred to as spiccato, the sautillé stroke is mechanically quite different to spiccato. Spiccato has a separate beginning and end for each stroke, and consequently has a slower speed limit. Sautillé gives us two notes for one impulse and consequently can go faster.
Do not choose too fast a tempo
Develop your sautillé stroke on open strings at a moderate tempo of 120-132 for 4 notes per beat. As you gain control, slow down to about 108, as well as increasing the speed to about 144.
Each component of a passage should be comfortable in its own right
The left hand needs to be secure. Do not unfairly criticise your sautillé stroke; your left hand needs to be accurate in détaché at tempo before trying sautillé. Practise slurred to check left hand evenness.
Make sure your string crossing is coordinated with the bowstroke. Practise adding the string-crossing action when playing open strings. Keep your upper arm free and cross strings as smoothly and gradually as possible.
Make sure shifts are in time.
Your body use may need attention
There is a temptation to tighten the biceps in the right arm to make the stroke work. Instead, feel the outside of your right arm lengthen away from the body. Students often try too hard when playing fast and consequently tighten muscles too much.
Make sure that your body is supporting the sautillé stroke. Open your chest and feel your feet on the floor.
Remember that sautillé can be easier for the body than fast détaché when playing fast passagework such as Moto Perpetuos. If we play fast détaché we need to work at keeping the bow in the string, if we play sautillé it is less tiring in that we can allow the bow to rebound.
Start with the bow 'on the string'
Sautillé is an on-string bowing that generally starts with the bow touching the string. There are times when we start sautillé from the air (to give special emphasis or as a visual cue when leading) but usually we start on the string. In ensembles we always start on the string.
Two ways of playing sautillé
There are two ways of playing sautillé, one uses a forearm action and the other uses a hand action. In both types of sautillé there is a passive balancing motion in the upper arm.
These two types of sautillé have different finger movements:
The forearm sautillé uses the forearm and hand as one unit. On the down-bow the thumb and fingers slightly bend, on the up-bow they slightly stretch (this action is similar to the finger action at the bow-change).
The hand sautillé uses a hand action with a passive forearm and upper arm. The fingers stretch slightly on the down-bow and curve slightly on the up-bow (this action is similar to the finger action in collé).
Playing triplets with sautillé (as in the third movement of the Barber concerto) is a challenge. The rebound action of sautillé suits the duplet rhythm where the accent always falls on a down-bow, whereas in triplets every second accent falls on the up-bow. Try adding an extra upper arm impulse to the up-bow to keep the passage rhythmically clear.
When playing sautillé passages with many string crossings (as in "Mobile Perpetuum" by Novacek) the string-cross action itself gives much of the impetus for sautillé and we do not need to add much vertical action.
Resources - Bibliography
Resources - Repertoire
Definitions reprinted with permission from American String Teachers Association.