Playing on one string at a time

Ellie said: May 5, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
West Chester, OH
5 posts

I have a young student (just turned 5) who is having difficulty playing on one string at a time. He can clap the Twinkle rhythms just fine, but as soon as we try using the bow on the string he has difficulty keeping the hair on just one string for even one time through the rhythm. I suspect this is because he cannot feel the difference between the bow resting on just the A string and the bow resting on the A and D at the same time. Any suggestions on how to fine tune his motor skills so he’ll be able to feel the difference between strings? I should also add that while his attention span is slowly improving, it is still not robust enough to concentrate on anything for more than maybe 30 seconds, so any exercises that involve lots of sitting still and watching may not be as successful.

Any advice anyone has to offer would be greatly appreciated!


Penelope Wayne-Shapiro said: May 6, 2019
Penelope Wayne-Shapiro
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
Wayland, MA
7 posts

I would suggest just working to develop auditory and tactile awareness by talking about “noisy neighbors”. “Oh, I think we have some noisy neighbors! Were they the E string neighbors or the D string neighbors?” And also have him DELIBERATELY play on two strings at once, then one, then two, etc. so he begins to develop conscious control of where he is. You could also have him identify your own deliberate noisy neighbors, to sharpen up his ear, and have him correct you by tipping your bow one way or another. Then switch, and ask him to tell you which way you should tip him—away from D or away from E. It will likely take a while, but his awareness will be the foundation of his own agency in developing the skill.

Penny Wayne-Shapiro, Director
Wayland School of Music
508 358 7835

Amy said: May 6, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
74 posts

Sometimes young children do not realize when they open and close their elbow that they are also slightly moving it vertically, thereby causing the bow to not stay on the desired string. Try lightly holding the students elbow in place while he plays the rhythm. I tell my students that if their elbow flaps too much while they play, they look like a chicken, and they definitely do not want to look like a chicken when they play violin—chickens don’t play violin very well.

Ellie said: May 6, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
West Chester, OH
5 posts

Thank you both for the suggestions. I will definitely try both of these at his next lesson!

Edward said: May 8, 2019
Edward Obermueller
Suzuki Association Member
Morris Plains, NJ
73 posts

You have to make sure your elevator is on the right floor!

Practice Tip #19—Ride the Elevator

Happy practicing,

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Jennifer Visick said: May 8, 2019
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts

Assuming this is a young violinist, not a violist?
So when you say A string, it is the second string over, right?

In addition to all of the technique practice others have suggested (which is all great), you may also want to see if your local luthier either:

-has a different instrument of the same size that has more wiggle room on each string level,

-or else find out if they can make a new bridge for the current instrument, that has a more distinct curvature, which would make the A string higher (locationally, not pitch-wise), giving your student more room to play.

Ellie said: May 9, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
West Chester, OH
5 posts

Yes, he’s a violinist. That’s an interesting idea; I will look into that.

Rita Yeo said: Jul 2, 2019
 4 posts

In addition to the great call outs, you may want to highlight to the student to move his/ her elbow higher when playing the E strings, and move the elbow slightly lower when playing the A string.

You can consider having the student practice in front of a mirror. Or use your smart phone to do a short video and playback immediately to review. Works for me when I coach my violin students.

Good luck!

Stradivari Strings

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