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teaching good bow technique and listening


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I have a student whose sound is quite thin. When he trys to play louder, his bow either goes crooked or slides around. He's also rather puzzled about how to stop the bow and get a good bite to the sound in a martele bowing, and his (right) fingers are stiff. What exercises and/or imagery would an 8 year old boy catch onto? I really also want him to learn to listen to himself, because I think that's the root of the problem. But how can I teach an eight year old to listen to himself??

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A couple ideas: for the fingers, have him play with a octagonal pencil. He should practice just holding it with the tips of his fingers (fingers fully extended), and then lifting it up vertically, bending the knuckles and finger joints only, without moving his wrist. It's hard to explain well, but if you would like further clarification, I can try to explain it better. On the subject of listening, perhaps you should ask him to record himself while practicing, and listen later. I know that it's not the same as listening while playing, but it's a start on the right path. My 2 cents, thanks! - KM

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Some exercises, which work for me (with adults) and my wife (with kids from 6 up). Please note, that this exercises are not our invention, IIRC we took them home from a seminar with prof. Sassmannshaus.

1.) Hold the bow vertical with the normal playing grip at the nut and then let the hand/fingers creep up to the tip and back down again (try it yourself _before_ you show it to the student , moving up is easy, but moving down...)

2.) Lay the bow down on a horizontal (clean ) surface, hair down, take the normal playing grip (be sure that it is correct at this moment), then lift the bow a little and rotate the stick upwards until it is vertical and down again. We call it the "railway - gate exercise"

3.) (advanced) With the instrument in playing position set the bow on the strings near the frog, stick vertical over the hair. Now release the thumb (move it off the stick) and perform string changes in an arpeggio fashion with the fingers only (not playing, the bow just rotates, bot does not move forth and back). This exercise helps to get a feeling for the balance of the bow near the frog and confidence that it does not fall off.

Especially kids mostly like the first two exercises.

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Daisy, he sounds normal to me!

I have just sat through an hour and a half of young children playing in a concert, and believe me most of the children sounded exactly like that!!

With regards to listening to themselves, I find with my kids that it helps them a lot if I play with them. They are now really good at hearing when they're out of tune and can quickly correct themselves. Also, they sometimes play along with a tape of the piano part, and that gives them a really good guide as to what is in tune, and what is not.

If this child doesn't have someone to play with him at home, why don't you tape some of his work either with you playing it or the piano part? Part of his practise could be playing along with the tape trying to be as accurate as possible.

With regards to the bowing, you could try those exercises, but I think a lot of it corrects itself with time.

The other thing to consider is, does this child know what beautiful violin playing sounds like? Has he ever been to a concert or listened to a wonderful recording? Sometimes these children have to be exposed to wonderful music so that they know what sound they are trying to achieve.


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Dear Fren,

What i'd teach my students is that......

1) ask them to shake their hands to relax them(without instruments)

2) then ask them to hold the bow with only the thumb and index finger..... barely gripping... just merely supporting

3) ask them to play the whole bow and ask them to listen to the sound quality it produces.

4) do the up and down bow strokes continuously

5) ask them to relax again

6) hold the bow in the same manner... this time round... ask them to place the rest of their fingers likely on the bow...

7) they should be able to catch that excercise

don't know if it will work for u.. but it did work on my students!!!



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I find it amazing what youngsters can do, given a few challenges. Play to him and challenge him to make the improvements for himself naturaly. It sounds easy to say, but half of my lessons with young players focus on getting them to be self-critical since as teachers, our job is to create the neccessary conditions for the pupil to regulate themselves away from the lesson. Make it fun, physicaly move him around, try all sorts of mad and wacky ideas to exagerate the correct motions (always a laugh ) and persist in not tolerating poor technique/weak bowing/poor intonation etc. The harder you appreciate/love them when they do good things, the more they take personal responsibility (even at 5 yrs old!). It's very much like puppy training......honestly......repetition and praise!!

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Thanks everyone! I tested some of the exercises today and we had a lot of fun. Even though he couldn't really get the motions, at least he was paying attention to his fingers and experiementing with different things his fingers can do. T.D., I was reading a dog training book (I have a puppy) and just laughing at how much can be applied verbatim to students!!

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