“wobbly” down-bows

Sarah Koenigs said: Dec 22, 2015
Sarah Koenigs
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Hortonville, WI
1 posts

I have an adult student who is struggling with having a clear, even tone… but only with ‘down’ strokes of the bow! It doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough to be noticeable: the tone will be wobbly, uneven, or have a wavy quality. Any insights, bow exercises, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Right now she’s doing scales with all down-bows. We’ve experimented with varying bow speed (fast/slow) and pressure (forte/piano) and neither one seems to affect the rate of occurrence.

Sarah Koenigs

Emily Anthony said: Dec 22, 2015
 Violin, Viola
Jamestown, RI
8 posts

Are your student’s fingers stiff at the frog? I think that if you can show her how to rotate her hand into “pull” position when starting the down bow, the wobbles will disappear. Or encourage her to bow with her thumb under the frog, to balance the weight of her hand on the bow. She may find that “thumb under” is much more relaxing!

Alan Duncan said: Dec 23, 2015
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
59 posts

I’m a Suzuki parent who embarked on (re)learning the violin along with my daughter. I’ll offer my perspective—because I suffered similar issues with inconsistent tone mostly on the down bows.

After a lot of trial and error with my teacher, I came to conclude that the problem was an excess of tension in the right shoulder—the result of failing to relax into the string. Most of the adult beginner to intermediate students that I know play much more cautiously than the kids—even that alone seems to generate a lot of tension in the bow arm.

Sue Hunt said: Dec 26, 2015
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Ed Kreitman addresses this in his book, Teaching From The Balance Point, when he talks about giving the bow to the violin. It’s like putting a cup on a table, in that you let the table take all of the weight. When you get used to letting the instrument take all the weight of the bow, your upper arm muscles will soften and the shaking will diminish.

Aurora Adamson said: Dec 28, 2015
Aurora Adamson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Saint Cloud, MN
6 posts

The concept of weight transfer between bowhold fingers has helped me with thinking about down-bow tone: the weight should be applied more through the pinkie nearer to the frog and more through the index finger nearer to the tip, and there should be a smooth transfer of weight throughout the length of the bow. Visualizing/practicing this as a motion can help loosen tension through deliberate movement.

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