Refusing to practice bow holds

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Hoang Trung said: Jun 22, 2017
 1 posts

My son is 3 and a half and has been taking violin lessons for 2 months now. About a month ago, he began refusing to practice his bow holds (called “bunny holds” right now). He just decided one day that he wouldn’t do it. He agrees to do them at his private and group lessons, but won’t at home.

Everything else is going really well. He’s a very sensitive and intense child so I fear that I might have done something to ruin this aspect of practice for him. I usually try to make things fun, but when something is extremely challenging, he tends to get frustrated and back away a bit.

He started saying, “I will hold the bow my own way.” And usually that’s the end of practice for that day.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to convince him to practice holding the bow properly? I’ve bought books with games that we can try, but it usually doesn’t get that far because he just won’t even put his fingers on the bow properly. I’ve bought puppets, but they don’t have fingers… I’ve tried saying that the bow (or marker right now) is an oar or a drum stick or an ice cream cone, but lately he’s been saying, “Well, if it’s an oar (or ice cream cone or drum stick), then I can hold it my own way.” And usually, that’s where our practice ends.

I would truly appreciate any advice!!!

Thank you!

Paula Bird said: Jun 22, 2017
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

How about you stop asking him to make bow holds for a few days and instead ask him to be the teacher for you? And then you can make a certain number of bow holds, such as 5-7, and each one is different in some way. Then ask him what he sees. Don’t correct him at this point but just ask him to tell you whether you should be doing something different. If he thinks you are doing it correctly, give yourself a gold star on a chart or something. Get all excited about having done it correctly according to your “teacher”. Get all excited about filling up your little chart with successful bow holds, because a filled up chart will mean that you get a special ice cream cone or something.

Do not—I repeat—do not try to then trick him into doing it himself. You are not even going to suggest it. You are only going to do this with him as the teacher. Be sure your incorrect bow holds are very exaggerated. And you can also add things like, “I want to make sure I learn how to do this right.” And “please help me to do this right.”

Let us know how this works.


Paula Bird

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

Ruth Brons said: Jun 22, 2017
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
West Orange, NJ
150 posts


Image by Ruth Brons

The Bow Hold Buddies accessory set by Things 4 Strings would do the trick. I use them with all my beginners, of any age, to optimize practice and lesson time. Full disclosure: I developed them in my own studio in 2008 for my own students, for the exact reasons you are experiencing with your son.

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons

Laura Kuennen-Poper said: Jun 23, 2017
Laura Kuennen-Poper
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Oberlin, OH
4 posts

This practice issue is almost certainly not about bowholds! A 3-year old who is easily frustrated and is “backing away” from working on this may be being asked to do something that he is not physically (neurologically) able to do yet. So the thing to do is to asking him to do this, and tell him that you’ll come back to it when he’s ready.

There are a thousand other things to practice instead: clapping rhythms, listening to music and singing tunes, balance, etc. I’d ask the teacher to back off on the bowholds until the child is more able, and substitute other things to practice instead. Good luck!

Jean Petree said: Jun 23, 2017
 Flute, Viola, Violin
2 posts

I know there is a “cellophant” thing for budding cellists bow hold assist, but I didn’t see anything similar for violin. It would be interesting to try a device that one could attach to the bow and insert the fingers into in the appropriate configuration (and maintain the configuration).

Sue Hunt said: Jun 27, 2017
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

Have you considered asking your teacher to observe you doing a bow hold practice? I find that when I watch parents practising something that there is usually a great difference between what they do and what I thought that I had taught them to do.

Ask your teacher to observe you at your next lesson and check, in the lesson, to see if you can follow all new tips and advice.

Edward said: Jul 10, 2017
Edward Obermueller
Suzuki Association Member
Morris Plains, NJ
73 posts

When my students refuse to practice something, usually pushing the issue does not do any good. So I just let them do it wrong.

Once time has passed they forget what it was they were trying so hard to resist, and fall into doing it correctly.

I go over what I say to students who are resisting me in this article:
It’s Because You Can

Happy practicing,

Free Guide: Mom, Dad, Can I Practice?
Free Game: Leprechaun Practice System --> Works for online teaching!

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