Over pronated bow hand

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Ashley said: Dec 14, 2011
 Violin, Suzuki in the Schools
23 posts

I have a high school student who has been playing with an extremely over-pronated bow hand since she was in first grade. Does anyone have some suggestions for exercises or teaching tools to help adjust this problem?
Thanks! :-)

Christiane said: Dec 15, 2011
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
New York, NY
47 posts

Hi agckark83,

This type of habit is very difficult to break as it takes a lot of conscious thought while playing to correct. I have on occasion (even with college non-majors) placed an attachable pencil grip on the bow over the existing “leather” grip, and asked the student to keep their index finger at the end of the grip (not on top, so you have to attach it so it doesn’t go up too high on the stick). Once the student gets used to keeping the index finger away from the middle and ring fingers, then the bow hold will change, and they can remove the grip. They have to learn to apply arm weight through the entire bow hold instead of just the prorated index finger, so this is a big technical adjustment. It is best to devise some separate open string or very simple exercises that don’t involve a lot of left hand thinking while working through this problem. Just be sure they work on it every day separately and it will change. Also be sure the pencil grip holes are wide enough to slip over the existing leather grip, and if you need to put some baby powder in the opening before slipping on the stick. Hope this might help!

Christiane Pors
Violinist
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Elizabeth Friedman said: Mar 1, 2012
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

If you don’t have it yet, get the Galamian “Principles of Violin Teaching and Playing”, which has an extensive explanation of the bow arm and how it works.

I turn the Big Triangle (tip)-Square (middle)-Little Triangle (frog) explanation on pp. 51-52 into an exercise, first in which the student picks up the bow to land it, in complete control, in each spot, paying attention to how the hand is shaped in each part of the bow, and making sure the elbow is always slightly lower than the wrist and that there is a straight (-ish) line running from the hand to the elbow. (I have them set a kitchen timer for 1-3 mins, depending on the student, and tell them to do this every day.) The next week, they can bow in half-bows from the Big Triangle to the Square, then stop, then from the Square to the Little Triangle—again with the timer set for 1-3 mins. The week after that, they can do smooth long bows, paying attention to the hand’s transition.

After this, if your student is shifting, I find things like Sevcik op. 8 to be _very_ helpful for this sort of thing. Schradiek is also very useful, and the first few exercises in vol. 1 are in first position. They are, of course, left-hand technique books, but have a surprising number of uses for the right hand. I know that you can always break pieces and other sorts of etudes down into bars, but Sevcik and Schradiek are already demarcated into very clear repetitions, and so you can assign one bar at a time. This means it’s a whole lot less daunting, and the brain only has to think about a specific set of finger patterns—or in the case of Sevcik, one finger pattern all the way up the violin, on one string at a time. I find that having the left hand do something a little complicated while trying to ensure the right hand still has a smooth, long motion, and that it moves smoothly from Big Triangle to the Square to the Little Triangle, helps to begin the process of coordinating both hands to be relaxed and move together. These books also start with all finger patterns completed on one string at a time, only introducing string crossings later—so again, a way to have less-boring bowing practice without introducing extra bowing concepts until the hand shape has been corrected.

Again, especially with teenagers, I tell them to do these exercises with a kitchen timer every day for a few minutes. The consistency is very important, of course, but it also helps them to know that they don’t have to spend an hour on this stuff every day. Yes, it’s boring, but it works really quickly!! (And be sure to tell them that!)

Ruth Brons said: Mar 8, 2012
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Actually, a habitually over-pronating teen student of mine was the pivotal inspiration for the Bow Hold Buddies™ bow accessory.

I had often stuck in pencils, chalk [whatever was handy!] to help position the index finger better. I even had the appalling thought that perhaps this child should take up smoking [those of us of a certain age certainly at one point or another had a teacher who habitually tucked a cigarette there!]. Then I had the much better idea of a rubber accessory that will, as RaineJen said on the Bowhold Training Aids thread on this forum, serve as a “babysitter” so correctly placed fingers remain in place long enough to form a new habit.

I am pleased to say that this particular teen, and his reformed bow hold, have now gone on to major in music in college.

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
www.Things4Strings.com

André said: Mar 13, 2012
André AugensteinViolin, Piano
55 posts

Exercises can be made loose by hand without ther use of the bow,
turns the hand causing the pulse is linked,so the student get a sense
of their movements and their anatomy.
Greetings
André Gomes Augenstein
Violin Teacher

Violin Student(International Suzuki Association) in Germany 1987
Violin teacher (International Suzuki Association) in Dublin 1995

Glenda Walsh Crouse said: Apr 19, 2012
Glenda Walsh Crouse
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Recorder, Cello
Westminster, MD
8 posts

Make sure that the pinky remains on top of the stick at all times. Use a pinky house if needed. But the main thing is to make sure the knuckles (on the back of the hand…not the finger joints) are parallel to the stick.

Julia said: Apr 19, 2012
Julia ProleikoViolin, Piano, Viola
Saint Louis, MO
22 posts

How’s the elbow? shoulder? too high? Probably also issues with tension in the arm.
Is the sound coming from arm weight or by a pressing hand? Maybe try taking away the instrument and miming motion (Julie Lyon Lieberman)…sometimes it is helpful to do this in front of a mirror. We are often unaware of what we are doing (and even more unaware of what pain it gives us).

Also, try holding the bow on the string at the bow’s tip, move the right hand along the stick to re-teach the bowing motion with a relaxed shoulder and heavy arm/elbow (making sure the pinky is on the stick!)

Paula Bird said: Apr 20, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Pronated bow hand usually presents itself with a high elbow too. I once had a 3 yo student come in with a high elbow one week, out of the blue. As I tuned her violin, I noticed that she had no rosin on the bow and couldn’t make a sound! Hence the pronated bow hold and high elbow. The student had to press hard on her index finger and bow in order to get a sound to come out. You know, try as hard as we did, I could never quite rid the student of this high elbow problem for years, no matter what I tried.

Here are links to two articles that talk about how to release tension in the shoulder. Basically, this happens when the weight is shifted to the pinky in the bow hold (like turning open a door know to the right from the player’s perspective, to the left from parent’s perspective).

One teacher (and I have used this technique twice just this last year) put the bow hold pinky “in jail” by making the student play for a week or two with the pinky hooked under the screw. The student learns how to shift the weight to the pinky side. Kids seem to think this is funny, and it does work. You need to wait until the old habit bow hold is forgotten.

I wear a rubber band wrapped around the frog to help me “feel” where the pinky is supposed to be. The band is wrapped around the bow over the eyelet. It doesn’t weigh much and it is addicting. I make kids members of my honorary rubber band club. Kids with the rubber bands usually have superb bow holds. I use it because my hands are dry and they tend to slip off the bow too easily.

Article 1

Article 2

One thing to be aware of is how the bow hold thumb, index finger, and pinky work together. They are like a bad gang. If one of them is out of whack, then the others are influenced to “go to the dark side.” So I am ever vigilant to keep just the tip of my thumb against the frog, my index finger on the stick in the first joint knuckle, and my pinky on the backside of the tip of the bow.

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

Irene Mitchell said: Apr 20, 2012
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

Paula, do you mean backside of the top of the bow? This topic is very helpful thanks!

Sent from my iPhone

Irene Mitchell

Paula Bird said: Apr 20, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Yes, backside of top of now, right above eyelet. My hands are tiny. For large students I will allow pinky to land above backside of frog closer to screw but still over frog. NEVER on screw or hand is imbalanced. Too bad I can’t send you a picture.

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

Paula Bird said: Apr 20, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Irene, email me your iPhone number and I’ll text a picture of pinky in jail and of rubber band.

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

Irene Mitchell said: Apr 20, 2012
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

done, thank you! so it’s the inside top plane of the bow stick…
I was confused by ‘pinky on the backside of the tip of the bow’
gracias!

Irene Mitchell

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