USE MORE BOW, PLEASE

Teresa said: Jul 25, 2011
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Aloha!
I have a student who has the most difficult time using more than 2 inches of bow at any given time. At each lesson, I try to come up with a different way of asking him to use more bow.
-How many inches of bow did you use?
-What did you think of your tone?
-Imitate me and play with as much bow I use.
-Try giving your bow hair to the string.
-If you use more bow, you will have a bigger tone.
-When you use 2 inches only, the rest of your bow gets jealous from not being used.
etc…
Then FINALLY, he uses more bow, says he likes the way he sounds. His mom and I rejoice with praise! Then we move onto another piece and he’s right back to 2 inches of bow again. This has been going on for the better part of a year.
This student took 4 years to complete book 1, and is going into the 6th grade. He loves to play the violin, especially ‘fiddle songs’, as he says.
Additionally, he plays with a pancaked violin hand. He corrected it for a few months and went back to it while learning Gossec Gavotte.

Any feedback from my fellow teachers is appreciated.
Mahalo,
Teresa

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Betty Douglas said: Jul 25, 2011
 16 posts

Hello, Teresa! I am not a violinist or string player, obviously, but I had a few thoughts. Have you tried having him practice in front of a mirror so he can see his bow movement? How about video recording his playing and watch it back with him so he can see how little his bow moves? Finally- would it be possible to attach streamers to the ceiling- one where his bow tip should be at full extension and one where his hand should be at full extension and let his feel that feedback- perhaps in front of a mirror? Thank you for listening to my suggestions-I’m returning to flute world now! Good Luck!

Betty Douglas, flute teacher

Patricia said: Jul 25, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

Dr. Starr says “develop an ability and make it a part of you”.
It sounds like your student is trying really hard to correct things….. have you been able to know what happens in the home practice (have you asked for mom to tape any practice sessions?), It is natural for a student to go back to what is his natural state of playing when starting a new piece. So, you need to really bolster his review and get what technique he needs to improve to be 100%.
In terms of the bow arm—I find if a student has a hard time going from twinkle rhythms—short bows —to a longer bow stroke—it usually has to do with the bow hand…. they feel like they may drop the bow. How is his bow hand? Do you do the rocket bow games? Can he do them without any trouble? Can he shadow bow songs on his shoulder using longer bow stroke?
I play lots of review in groups where I change what part of the bow the students have to play in…. staccato in the middle—no problem—how about at the tip? how about at the frog? (well not until my students are in bk. 2 for the frog). How legato can you play from the middle to the tip? okay—how about from the middle to the frog?
If you do alot of review that way—his bow technique will improve and hopefully get to be his Natural State of Playing so all new repertoire will get this improved technique. Hope some of this helps…. Good Luck with him!
I once had a student who took 5 years to finish Bk.1…

Teresa said: Jul 25, 2011
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Hi Patrizia!
**Thank you for your suggestions. Mom is very involved with practice and comes to all lessons and takes notes. She has allowed him to progress at his own rate and celebrates every aspect of his musical journey. I really like the idea of having her video some practices and will ask her to do so.
Here’s a review of some of your suggestions that I have tried with him-
BOW HAND: It appears to be in check, though the pinky does flatten out when he’s nervous.
ROCKET GAMES: We don’t do the rocket games anymore, but I do have him bow pieces without instrument straight up and down. Lots of nice motion there.
REVIEW: Yup… sometimes (ohh ouch!) Everything including Minuet 2 to Twinkles, no prob. It’s everything after that.
LEGATO: He CAN play a beautiful full rich legato, frog to tip, middle to tip, frog to middle. He just doesn’t apply his ability to the pieces. He started on Chorus with LONG BOW STROKES about 3 weeks ago. We’ll get to a place where he’ll do it at lesson, yet upon return the following week we’re back to 2″ of bow. Even the first note, he’ll try it over and over and over, using a mini bow stroke, looks frustrated as to why the note won’t sing!

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Teresa said: Jul 25, 2011
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Hi Betty! Thanks for your feedback. If I didn’t have 16 ft ceilings I’d try the streamer idea.. sounds like fun!
Teresa

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Patricia said: Jul 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

so, hum—it sounds like he can do long bows in the exercises and shadow bowing…. so maybe it’s a mind thing…… Here are 2 things I do with students that seem like they should be able to do it but aren’t.
1.) I have different pictures on cardboard, clothespins that open and close. (either works)…. I put them on the bow where I want the student to play to and where I want them to go back to…. sometimes, the visual guide is all they need for a while…. sometimes the student wants to take them off immediately—I tell them I want them to do all their review songs with these guides at least 10 times before they try to take the guides off. (I want to make sure the first time they play without the guides—they are successful.)
2.) If just the guides aren’t working 100%—then I play a game with them. I use different things depending on the student. I will use dimes for explanation. I count the number of bows I want him/her to play using the bigger bows—I place these dimes right in front of him…. and tell him they are his as long as every bow goes from dot to dot. I will only take 1 dime away for each bow he cuts short. I pretend to hover over the dimes as he is playing—looking like I want to steal them from him—usually the student plays through the entire song perfectly. When that happens—then I tell them—they are rich and from now on—when they play that song if they don’t use fill bows—they have to pay me back for every bow that they cut short.

The other thing I need to add is that sometimes a student cuts their bow short becuase they keep falling off at the tip…. and they don’t want to do that in front of you…. so I play the game above and tell them I will pay them for every bow they make fall off at the tip…. once they know it’s allright to make a mistake—they don’t anymore. It’s funny how students sometimes get tangled up in mind games that do not help them play optimally.
Good Luck…. I can’t remember who said this I think Dr. Starr did—I love him so much…. He said “it is easy to teach the natural students—students who would succeed no matter who was teaching them—it is the students who make us think about how to teach, how to explain things that makes us be the teachers we are.”

Teresa said: Jul 26, 2011
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

I love Dr. Starr too.. he’s been here a few times and has heard my students. It was WONDERFUL! It is so true (your last sentence) it IS the students who make us think that make us better teachers.
I’ve tried the clips on the bow, and tapes on the bow to give him a visual reference of how much bow he should use. He’ll do it a few times, then revert back to his 2″.
I’ve also done the penny game, much the same as your dime game, but not in a while. Perhaps I’ll give that a try next lesson (which will be mid August!)
Thanks again, Patrizia!

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Brenda Lee Villard said: Jul 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Edina, MN
27 posts

Gummy bears! Whether they are 16 or 6, a gummy bear wins them over every time. I would start of with one line of (cello world) French Folk Song and every time I saw the bow go from tape to tape, I’d start dropping the bears down in a cup. I would also set a goal of only 1 line so for sure there is success. Then I’d focus on something else. Sometimes the kids say to not stop and they want to try another line——”oh, that’s so hard to do 2 lines, really?” Also, some kids love it when I do the opposite….I give them a cup (dixie cup size) of gummy bears and any time I see something (like a bow thumb not staying bent), I take the bear out of the cup and put it in Mom’s cup….or my cup. It depends on the kid which way you do it—earn the bear or take away the bear— but I’ll guarantee it’ll work. Every piece that has the correct amount of bow usage, the piece becomes part of the gummy bear club. It’s up to him what he’ll do to celebrate when he has 5 pieces, or 10 pieces, etc.
(and yes, gummy bears can come sugar free!)

Teresa said: Jul 26, 2011
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Gummy Bears or perhaps Jelly Belly’s!

Thanks!

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Rachel Schott said: Jul 27, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

You might try referring to “speed” as opposed to “distance”. He’ll need to move that bow more quickly to pull a beautiful tone on Chorus…

Sounds like a great student (and a darn good teacher, too!). As hard as you’re working, I hope his mom is insisting he uses big bows at home, too, and not just letting it slide. :)

Teresa said: Jul 27, 2011
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Hi Rachel!
BOW SPEED! Sometimes a change of wording can make the difference. How many times have we been to institute observing a student who will make an immediate change in their playing when the home teacher/parent respond with “we’ve been working on this for months!”
(and THANKS for the compliment! :lol: )

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

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