watching the violin


Nobuaki said: Jan 30, 2008
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts

Is anyone has good suggestion that students can watch the violin all the time to keep the bow straight?

I told them that watching the violin help to keep the bow straight. But after few seconds, they lose concentration. I made some students stand in front of the mirror and watch it over. i also place a doll on the violin to watch it.

I understand it’s very difficult to watch it all the time, because the bow is very close and hurt watching it all the time.

I can see that student’s bow is everywhere when they don’t watch it.

any suggestion?

Gabriel Villasurda said: Jan 30, 2008
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

Find a room with a single overhead light, even a bare light bulb or spotlight. Stand the student directly under this light source. Turn off all other lights. Watch the shadow of the bow on the top of the violin.

Check for tension in the right wrist and elbow. In order for the bow to be straight, all the joints have to bend.

Try this trick: With nothing in the right hand, place a quarter on the back of the hand. Raise and lower the hand as high and low as possible maintaining a flat platform for the coin. Failure to bend joints results in the coin falling on the floor. Next move the hand horizontal while pointing the index finger straight ahead; notice how the wrist has to move “east and west”.

Variation: fill a small glass with water to about almost to the top. Place the right palm over the top of the glass. Elevate and lower the glass keeping the water from spilling out. Failure to bend joints results in spillage.

Return to the bow. Be sure that all joints of the arm are loose and able to bend—shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers. the wrist is capable of bending up and down and left and right. Make sure there is some movement in both planes.

Another thing about watching: It is very uncomfortable to try to watch something very close with both eyes, especially since the plane of the violin is tilted downward on the E string side. Encourage the student to choose one eye as the main watcher when focusing on something so close yet canted. I’ve seen students actually go cross-eyed trying to watch the bow. Other students tilt their head to the right in order to try to make the images of both eyes to be the same.

In the end, we really can’t watch our bows. Advanced musicians are reading notes, watching the conductor, etc. We need to learn to bend our arm joints just the right amount at the right time by the FEELING and the SOUND. Of course, we do use our eyes at some point, but before long we rely on other factors. Do not neglect the Kinesthetic and auditory cues.

When working on straight bow, be sure to use open strings or very easy, slow pieces to allow the student to concentrate on this one activity.

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

said: Jan 31, 2008
 89 posts

My son had some visual issues that made it very difficult to follow his teacher’s instructions to “watch your bow.” But he had some success with other sensory feedback, e.g. “listen to your sound” or “feel how a straight bow stretches these muscles.”

Lynn said: Jan 31, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Learning to know and manage where your bow is without monitoring it visually is a necessary skill…position…placement…tracking….speed/distance.
As Wonky and Mr. Villasurda suggest, tuning into the non-visual sensory input channels is key—regardless of whether the student has visual difficulties.

To integrate visual with movement or sound, I’ll first establish the ability in question with watching the bow. When the student can do that reliably, I’ll ask them keep doing it, and to notice what they’re hearing, or feeling in their bow arm. It’s really helpful if you can help them verbalize what feature of feeling or sound stands out for them. Then I’ll ask them to replicate that sound or feeling with their eyes closed for a few strokes, then open their eyes and see if the bow is where it needs to be. Once that’s happening, I’ll give an easy playing task, and ask them to notice when/if that sound or feeling slips away. Once they can notice that, maintaining awareness becomes the focus for their review pieces.

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 31, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

I sometimes teach the student how to make the bow crooked on purpose, and to find out what that does to the contact point (a crooked bow tends to make the bow “want” to move in one direction while pulling down bow and in the opposite direction on an up bow). Then I have them move slowly from crooked bows to straight and then on past straight to crooked the other direction, listening to the sound change (if they can hear it) and feeling the contact point change in the right hand.

Also, you could ask the student to close their eyes and see if they can tell you, while you change their contact point, which direction you have changed it to. This helps get the awareness of motion into the right hand fingers without the aid of sight.

Imagine your student is blind. How would you then teach a ’straight bow’… this might yield some good exercises.

Another idea, instead of watching the contact point, is to have them hold the instrument with the left hand, and turn their head to watch their right hands. See if they can aim for different spots. Teach the parent to make a target (circle with the hands) which helps the student get a straighter bow.

There are straight bow contraptions such as this:…. use at your own risk!


Nobuaki said: Feb 1, 2008
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts

thank you for suggestions. I will experiment next few weeks and see how it works.

said: Oct 13, 2008
 145 posts

I saw a child at a suzuki conference with ends of straws sticking out of the f holes. This was for keeping her bow straight apparently. Could be worth trying !

Laura said: Oct 14, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

My kid’s teacher used something similar for her—not straws, but the same idea. It helped to build the muscle memory of whatever it took to keep the bow straight, without actually having to explain it. The explanations came later—but by then, she already appreciated the difference in sound that a straight bow makes, and would.therefore correct it easily when required.

Gabriel, I LOVE your ideas about the coins and the water to train wrist flexibility! I also love how you explain everything so clearly for the teachers and parents, so we know the inside scoop on what is being taught.

I believe this type of thing works well for very young children, with little explanation required,. It is much more fun to try to keep the bow aligned with the gimmick of choice, for example, than to listen to and and follow proper technical instructions. The results are the same, and the explanations and terminology can be added in due time. (What 3-year old understands the meaning of “parallel” or “perpendicular” anyway?) However, for an older student, the explanations definitely need to be given.

(David a.k.a ddm, are you still reading this board? :) )

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