Tall, tense Bow arm Shoulder… How to relax?


Allison Sargent said: Sep 19, 2011
Allison SargentViolin, Viola
Pflugerville, TX
13 posts

I’ve seen so many students and colleagues over the years play with this squished tense bow arm shoulder that rises up towards their ear while playing. I’ve personally never had this problem but have a students that is very advanced for her age with the high shoulder.
What good exercises and words do you use to try to get the point across to change the habit?
I’ve tried Alexander Technique lessons, I’ve tried holding down the shoulder. I know she can relax her arm but only when reminded of it. I know its a very common problem with violinists! It’s hard for me to get the point across and get the outcome I want when I’ve never had the problem myself… Help?

Allison K. Sargent

Teri said: Sep 19, 2011
Teri EinfeldtTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
West Hartford, CT
367 posts

I’ve found that often times when the shoulder hikes up, it is because the student is uncomfortable getting to the frog and has not mastered that technique. Generally it involves allowing the upper arm to follow through, making sure the elbow follows the hand as it approaches the frog. The two words I use, having learned them from fellow teachers, are “close” (tip to middle referring to the forearm) and “float” (middle to frog referring to upper arm).

Good luck,
Teri E

Sue Hunt said: Sep 20, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

It sounds like she needs to awaken her kinaesthetic awareness. I would suggest lots of bowing games away from the instrument. This way she can focus on softening her shoulder without her ears getting in the way. A few games sprinkled through each practice should help her to get the feeling. 40 great games to teach straight bowing

Kids can get used to having another person do all the thinking and remembering, so you need to get round this. You can do it in easy stages:
1. A few days of gentle patterning with verbal commentary.
2. A few more with verbal reminder.
3. Next, ask, “What do you have to remember here?”
4. Then, notice and reward the desired behaviour.
Or just cut to the chase and EVERY TIME you observe her doing it right, reward!

Music in Practice

Barb said: Sep 20, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

An idea I got from Phyllis Young’s Playing the String Game (but haven’t had opportunity to try yet) is to get the student to shrug. If the back is twisted it will be uncomfortable and difficult, and if a shoulder is too high it will have to be lowered first before it can be shrugged.

“When practicing at home, it’s a good idea to shrug your shoulders every so often. If it proves difficult for you to shrug them, change your position to make it easy. Let’s try it now in both good and bad positions so you can feel the difference.”

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Paula Bird said: Sep 21, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Check the right bow hold pinkie. Often when shoulders are high, the wrist is high (thumb isn’t down touching or near the hair in a bent position), or more often, the pinkie is straight and high rather than rounded. When we get the student to round the pinkie and bear more of the weight of the hand, the shoulder and elbow muscles tend to relax. Maybe I’ll post a video about this on my blog tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

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