posture and “I can’t see whether I’m on the highway”

said: Nov 27, 2011
 13 posts

Thanks, everyone, for your help thus far!

My student/friend is practicing diligently, but says she can’t tell whether her bow is (1) straight and (2) on the Chrysler highway.
Since I have no Suzuki teacher-training, I’d like to know what you do about this.
This student is a teenager with a busy family—I doubt she can round up someone to sit there through her practice session to give her feedback.

I am wondering whether this might indicate something amiss in her general posture that I am not catching.

My (totally amateur) ideas were:
1. to play while looking in a mirror
2. to use only a very small fraction of the bow
3. I put “dorm tape” on the highway itself, which doesn’t help
4. to hold the rosin-box in the same place as the string and practice keeping the bow in the rut in it
5. to hold the violin down below her shoulder (where some fiddlers hold it) and play there, watching.

I see a couple of suggestions in older posts on this forum—straws in the F-holes, Sharpie on the strings—which look as if they might work. But I would like to know whether there is anything obvious that I might have missed.

Ruth Brons said: Nov 28, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Yes, there is a wealth of good straight bow practice tips in this forum’s archives!
I’ll paste below one of my previous posts, but first I do want to comment on some of the items on your list of ideas.

1—using a mirror is Great!
2—using small bows—also Great! Start in the middle of the bow and gradually lengthen to use upper half. Then gradually add in lower half. The bow arm mechanics for each half of the bow are quite different.
5—altering the violin hold to improve the view of the bow— Not Great! The violin needs to be where it is going to be, so the bow arm can train correctly.

From previous April 2011 post:

Two major pre-requisites to straight bowing are a stable violin hold and functional bow hold.
I tell my students that the violin strings have to be in the same place each time so the bow can know where to find them!
And, of course, the bow fingers must be relaxed and in position.

I especially appreciate how myviolinrecital’s link, above, points out different approaches to this skill: Visual, Aural, etc.
I would like to add three exercises to her Visual category:

Making H’s:
Point out how the bow makes the horizontal part of the letter H,
with two strings making the vertical parts.
Kids know their letters so well that they “get” this,
even though the length of the bow and extra strings exceed a true letter H.

The “Clean, Clean, Dirty”Rosin Game:
Clean any rosin off the violin and strings, and then apply a ton of rosin to the bow.
Then play a short excerpt or repeated notes,
trying to keep the bow “on the highway” -
taking care NOT to play neither too close the bridge nor over the fingerboard.
Then use a finger [either yours or the student’s] to wipe the string[s] in the area over the fingerboard.
If the finger winds up with no rosin, the student says”Clean!”
But if the finger has picked up rosin from the string[s] the student says “Dirty!”.
Repeat with the string[s] in the area next to the bridge. .
Then repeat with the string[s] in the “highway” area.
Students win the game when the order of their spoken words is “Clean, Clean, Dirty”.
Especially fun when using silly voices!

Whisper Bows on the Bridge:
This is especially helpful for full-bow players.
Have the student draw a bow as slowly and as lightly as humanly possible,
from one end to the other, with half of the bow hair on either side of the bridge.
Going slowly allows time for the player to observe/feel the minute adjustments the bow hand/bow arm have to do to stay on track.

Christiane said: Nov 28, 2011
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
New York, NY
47 posts

Hi skookum,

Playing with a straight bow takes a lot of practice at different levels of advancement. The mirror is a good starting point, and playing on the rosin or paper tube on the shoulder to encourage the opening of the right elbow, but nothing can replace “hearing the sound” of a crooked bow.
Ask your student to close their eyes and listen to their bowing on open strings (start with A and D, then E, then G). Use 1/2 to 3/4 of a bow first, then work up to a full bow over time.

This is of course assuming that there are no basic flaws in the:
violin shoulder hold,
bow hold,
wrist (hand) leading on the V bow motion, or
bow finding the sounding point

Check all these areas first before asking for a straight bow.

Hope this may help!


Ps… The highway term in Suzuki originates from the great violinist Fritz Kreisler, who had an amazingly beautiful rich tone, not from the automobile, Chrysler.

Christiane Pors
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

said: Dec 4, 2011
 13 posts

Thanks for your help!
(I did know the highway is named after Fritz Kreisler—as was my violin teacher’s cat—but I never looked up how to spell it! Oops :)

Paula Bird said: Dec 4, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Two other ways to see the highway:

(1) The student places the bow about the width of a finger away from bridge.

(2) The student looks inside the bow between the hair and the stick. When the bow is on the highway, the student can see the ending edge of the fingerboard in between the hair and the stick..

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Sue Hunt said: Dec 5, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Or you could have a look at 40 Great Games to Teach Straight Bowing. The games are sorted into sections: with helper, away from the instrument, and using the senses, visual, audio and kinesthetic. It is illustrated with pictures of students doing the games and has flash cards for lucky dip etc.

Victoria said: Mar 3, 2013
Victoria McLaughlin
Suzuki Association Member
Matthews, NC
4 posts

I put a strip of bright colored tape on the bridge on the point where the student can see from his point of view that horse hair and tape “go together”. The visual aspect helps a lot.


Clara Hardie said: Jul 16, 2013
Clara Hardie
Suzuki Association Member
Detroit, MI
21 posts

When a students bow is not straight I look at their feet first. Usually their right foot isn’t “zipped” enough or the left foot isn’t slightly forward to create “elbow over toe”. Opening up the body starting with the feet helps square everything up.

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