How? Straight bow

said: Jun 2, 2010
 15 posts

My five year-old, who is now tackling Lully’s Gavotte, still doesn’t have straight bow. I’ve tried all sorts of tricks; stoping his elbow from going further out, have him look at the bow, etc. Maybe I haven’t stuck to one trick long enough, but none of them has worked. He knows what “straight’ bow means: bow parallel to the bridge. But I just don’t know how to help him. Our instructor has said that one needs to “feel” in the arm when the bow is straight and remember the movement. But he hasn’t given me any practical instruction beyond that. Help!

Diane said: Jun 3, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

Yes—one needs to feel a straight bow—but what if you don’t know how to feel it?

Kinesthetic learning is the fancy word for learning by feel, muscle memory etc.
Aural learning is the fancy word for learning through hearing and sound.
Visual learning—eyes.
People are generally strong in one of these areas. So how to teach your child a straight bow? Use all three: kinesthetic, aural, visual

Kinesthetic activities:
Have your child hold the bow. You guide their bow in a straight fashion. Ask them to feel it.
Have your child put the bow on the string in the middle of the bow. Now have them walk up to a wall and place their bow arm from the elbow to the shoulder against the wall. Now bow from middle to tip. Ask them to feel what is going on.

Aural activities:
Have your child play with the bow crooked on purpose. Listen to the sound. Now guide them to play with a straight bow. Listen to the sound. The sound now becomes the feedback for whether or not the bow is straight.

Visual activities:
Comparing the bow with the bridge is hard to see even though it’s right there. Use a video camera so your child can see when they aren’t having to play at the same time.
Set up your child to play with the bow on the string at a straight angle. Place a fun toy or stuffed animal in just the right place so if they did a downbow towards the toy they would do a straight bow.

Playing with a straight bow is pretty important in the world of violin playing. Good for you for tackling the problem. Continue to talk to your teacher about the topic and stay positive with your child!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Diane said: Jun 3, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

OK—I’ve got more to say….

45 degree angles are important to check.

Is the violin at a 45 degree angle? Imagine the shoulder and the sternum are 90 degrees. Does the violin sit 1/2 way between?

If the violin is at 45 degrees, the student has nose to scroll, scroll over foot, and the arm under the violin over the foot—the entire left side of the body is angled at the 45 degrees.

Now—do the same with the bow arm. Take the upper arm and place it 1/2 way between the shoulder and the sternum. Keeping these 45 degree angles should get the bow to straighten out.

Good luck!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Gabriel Villasurda said: Jun 4, 2010
Gabriel Villasurda81 posts

I agree with myviolinrecital in what she says about feeling the “reach-out” process as we go towards the tip.

I suggest LONG, LONG AGO starting up-bow. Whereas the original bowing constantly drives the player to the frog (requiring a compensation to keep the bow straight there by adapting with the wrist and fingers), the up-bow start constantly makes the player go to the tip. You can stop after every half-note to see if the bow went straight.

“Straight” is a hard concept to convey since the child cannot actually see the bow from the vantage point that the parent and teacher have. Maybe a mirror or video camera would help get this across.

It is easier for the student to watch the 90-degree (Square) angle between the bow hair and the string. I keep a plastic drawing triangle in my studio for this problem. You can also use the corner of a business card instead.

Good luck.

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 5, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1068 posts

Occasionally I will have a student hold the instrument ready to play while I hold the bow at the tip and the frog, fixing it on the string at a contact point somewhere near the tip. Then I’ll have the student lightly run their fingers up and down the stick, essentially forcing the arm to do all the necessary motions to allow the hand to keep on a straight path along the length of the bow. (Using a tissue under the fingers makes the hand slide up and down a lot easier).

This exercise is based on forming a muscle habit—muscles habitually do what they have done the most—but without using the aural feedback, it’s similar to using finger tapes to see where a finger should go. It gets a student close—sometimes “close enough” to get started, with refinement coming later on.

If practice has to be done alone for some reason, then there are tricks that can “force” the same motion for muscle “habit- training” only. For example, a student could hold a cardboard tube (such as you find in the middle of a roll of paper towels) steady with their left hand and run the bow up and down through it with the right hand. Or, there is one contraption, which seems to me to be a better, albeit much more expensive, version of sliding a bow up and down through a cardboard tube or of training the hand by sliding it up and down the bow:

I don’t have one but I’m thinking of getting one, just to see how well it would work.

Deanna said: Jun 6, 2010
 90 posts

Is he opening his arm from the elbow? You can review Var. E, Perpetual Motion doubles or Etude doubles to work on that. You can also have him watch his arm as he’s playing one of these review pieces so that he can see it opening and closing. I tell my student it’s like a door that opens and closes. Without the bow I also have my students make a fist and stick their thumbs up, then bring their thumb to the middle of their chest as if to say “me”.

If he is opening his arm from the elbow and it’s just going crooked at the tip and frog then I agree that Long Long Ago using whole, half, half bow division would be a good review. You can also do full bow twinkle theme, Chorus from Judas, and tonalization. I explain to my students that the hand has to come in a bit at the frog and out at the tip to keep the bow going straight.

As for games—there’s rosin track—wipe off the violin, rosin up the bow, then make a track of rosin right on the highway. Then play whatever piece trying to keep the bow following the track. At the end he can look at his violin and see where the rosin is—where he was playing and work on making the track only the width of his bow.

Goalpost—Attach a pencil with rubber bands inside the curve part of the violin (same side as the chin rest). Attach it to whatever side he tends to go crooked. The “post” should be standing up perpendicular to the violin. The point is to stay on the highway side of the post.

Sue Hunt said: Jun 24, 2010
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

Take it gently. Sympathise with your son. He has taught his arm to do what it does really well and it probably hasn’t yet learnt to pay attention to steering. Does he know what his elbow feels like when he extends his arm in front of him? How can he get that feeling in his arm?

Ask him if he is brave — feeling brave enough to work. Get him to ask his eyes to tell him if his muscles are working at their job. What do they tell him? Have you asked him how arm his muscles can make the bow go straight? Can they show you how they do it while he plays a couple of straight bows.

Play the chips game. 5 chips for him and 5 for a toy animal. (you don’t want to play against him at this stage). If he does ONE really straight bow, he wins a chip. If not, the toy wins. He may want to practice the bow stroke a few times to get his muscles ready to win. Don’t interfere, just let him figure it out. Just encourage him to show his muscles kindly and gently what they have to do.

When he is ready to play, let him be the judge. You can always have the option to ask for “Cheater’s Proof.” This way you should engage his critical faculties and he will actually learn more thoroughly.

Review piece like Twinkle vars. 2 and 3 or Lightly Row? How far can he get through the piece with straight bows. Again, put him in charge of the judging. Increase the number of bow strokes as he rises to the challenge.

said: Jun 30, 2010
 15 posts

I didn’t get to check all very helpful replies until now between a family trip and Suzuki Institute. I am very encouraged to read what I can do with my son now. I want to give you all an update in a month or so. I’ve learned a lot by reading all the comments; I truly love Suzuki method and this forum because you guys take care to teach a parent like me. THANK YOU!! :D

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