Scratchy Beginners?


Sarah Marie Perkins said: Oct 10, 2013
Sarah Marie PerkinsViola, Violin
Houston, TX
1 posts

Dear All,

I have a beginner Suzuki student that is trying to saw his violin in two with his bow—Why?!

Please help.


Jennifer Visick said: Oct 11, 2013
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1051 posts
  1. have you played the child’s violin—perhaps make a recording of what kind of sound is possible on the child’s instrument for the student to listen to at home?

  2. Maybe the student has too many other things on their mind to hear or even think about tone quality—eliminate as many other distractions as you can (visual, aural, kinesthetic, social, and forget notes and songs and focus on one note

  3. Maybe the child wants to produce a scratchy sound; perhaps it is easier, or perhaps there is some emotional reason for wanting to express scratchiness… although more likely it’s because it’s hard to make it pretty

  4. how much experience listening to various different recordings of all kinds of violin music has the child had so far?

  5. Different children learn differently, Maybe try demonstrating a single note (I mean: you guiding the child’s bow arm and bow, on the child’s instrument while the child is in playing position) and asking the child to make the bow look the same; then demo the same note, same sound again and ask the child to make it feel the same (it may be good to try demoing this with the child’s eyes closed); demo a third time the exact same way and ask the child to make it sound the same; see which produces the best result.

  6. maybe try focusing on just part of a note. E.g., the attack—teach ugly, beautiful, gentle, strong, near the bridge, far from the bridge, fast, slow, heavy, light, crunchy, pretty, etc. If the student knows how to make an ugly sound because you’ve taught it alongside making a beautiful sound, it may be easier for the student to have a real choice about how to make a note sound. Ask for a song or a rhythm to be practiced BOTH beautiful and ugly.

  7. find imagery that the child understands—talk to the parents maybe, or have a list of things that can help: light, feather, fluffy, fuzzy, soft, flexible or moveable wrist, “let” the bow move, pretend a helium balloon is tied to the frog, be only has heavy as a butterfly, whatever

  8. teach that the bow can go slow, medium, and fast; teach heavy, medium, light; teach sul ponticello, and at least 3 or 4 other “lanes” on the string;

  9. maybe try “air bowing” or “shadow bowing” directly above the strings for a couple notes, then play a couple notes, then lift the bow and air bow above the strings again, then play the notes, then lift and air bow… maybe the arm will lighten up

  10. try teaching bowing with just the thumb stuck between the hair and the stick (i.e. not in the ‘beginner’ bow hold spot outside the frog); no fingers touching the top of the bow stick. Help the student create a tone that is from the bow’s weight only. (the strings have to be fairly horizontal, and the bow direction fairly straight, for this to not result in the hair sliding off the desired contact point on the string). Then gradually add fingers back, lightly, resting over the bow stick.

  11. make sure the left hand/arm/shoulder area and neck are relaxed.

  12. soften the bow hold—do a lot of off-instrument work / games before coming back to the violin with a softer bow hold.

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