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Bowing Technique Suggestions Requested


CountryBoy
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My 8 year old daughter loves to play the violin. She can play ALOT of songs from memory, and is truly impressive when performing .. however, an individual that saw her at a fiddle contest recommended that I schedule a day to spend with a couple in Lexington, KY because he said that her bowing technique could use some help.

We spent the past Saturday with the couple and it would seem that this individuals opinion was completely right.

My daughter seems to put pressure down with her pinky the entire time that she is playing instead of relaxing it on top of the bow for use when she needs it. She also plays with her index finger completely wrapped around the bow.

Due to these habits she does not relax her wrist or fingers while playing. Her intentional wrist movements keep the bow within 1/4" to 1" of the bridge but, generally speaking, the stiffness in her hand and wrist make the bowing seem scratchy.

The suggesions made by the coaches for this were to ..

practice with her upper arm against a wall, left leg crossed over right, and bowing only with the forearm, wrist, and fingers ..

practice with her forearm against a wall, left leg crossed over right, and bowing only with the wrist and fingers ..

And finally in a similar position bowing only with the fingers ..

_________________________________________________________

Also pointed out was the fact that she isn't moving the bow enough on each note to make it sound completely clean. She loves to play very, very fast .. but often times notes with very short time values lack significantly in tone.

One of her coaches suggested that she should play songs, (hornpipes were mentioned specifically), and to use the entire bow for each note. You can definately tell a difference in the tonal quality of the notes when she does this.

Also, is there any reason why she should not intentionally play with her pinky and index finger completely OFF of the bow? I do not mean forever, just until she learns that there is no reason to apply pressure to the bow.

Due to the credentials, accomplishments, and abilities of her coaches I am fully convinced that these suggestions are without a doubt going to be a part of my daughters regular practice routine, but I would like to see if anyone else has any suggestions that have worked for themselves or their students with issues like this.

Thank You

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Sounds to me like she should be working regularly with a good teacher who would catch something like that (of course, some students are incapable of ignoring their teachers ).

Quote:

Also, is there any reason why she should not intentionally play with her pinky and index finger completely OFF of the bow? I do not mean forever, just until she learns that there is no reason to apply pressure to the bow.


I'd be hesitant to have her do this for any period of time beyond just saying "OK, now try it without your pinky on the bow to feel what it feels like". I'd be afraid that telling her to do it for a week or so might morph into another habit that she'd need to break later.

Just out of curiosity, what was the purpose of the leg crossing thing? Did the coaches say?

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I took a lesson from a Russian trained violinist. He could play like Paganinni and had some bow suggestions I found helpful. He stressed two hand positions for the bow, one for playing at the frog and the other for playing at the middle and tip. He gave me an exercise using a pencil where the pencil is held upright in each of the hand positions and the exercise is to change the hand position relative to the bow (or pencil) while keeping the pencil upright. The wrist is bent to the right at the frog and gradually moves to the left as the bow moves up to the middle and tip. It's hard to describe in writing, perhaps others know of this exercise and can describe it better. I was always very lazy and developed a bad habit of not playing at the frog and this did help me.

There is left hand practice tip I picked up at a fiddle camp a few years ago where you pick up the pinky and long finger together while leaving down the index and ring finger, then pick up the index and ring finger together while leaving the pinky and long finger down. Its hard to do at first but as you practice you get better and better and this helps independent finger control, plus you can practice this while driving or riding in a car or anywhere.

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I'd opt for D_A's suggestion. ONE good and sensitive teacher who could slowly guide the violin habits of an obviously talented and motivated little girl who should not be confused by too much going on all at once and suddenly. Guidance should be an ongoing thing, and change is something that is done gradually over time in a sensitive way. I think it's fantastic that she is playing so well and enthusiastically. She seems to have a good sense of her instrument and music, and everything else should come with time, patience and good direction.

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My daughters regular teacher is awesome. She has an excellent relationship with my daughter. She has also placed very respectfully in national competitions and has Illinois State Old Time Fiddle Championships to her credit. She has trained a number very accomplished violinists over the years. Besides all of this, she lives within 20 minutes of my home. So I believe that we will remain with her until the day that she says that she cannot teach my daughter anymore or my daughter goes off to college. She does not have a problem with the additional coaches and I assure you that I will share the info that they gave me with her.

With respect to the "sans pinky" approach, the more I consider it I believe that you are correct. I would hate for her to trade one bad habit for another .. Thank You.

As far as the left leg over approach, I believe that this was for the purpose of making her LEAN into the wall rather than just placing her arm to the wall.

Thanks for your reply.

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Thank you for your reply.

Actually, one of the coaches gave my daughter a similar exercise to the first one that you suggested. She called it the "elevator". My daughter is to hold the bow to her side and move her arm from the lowest point that she can reach to the highest point that she can reach and maintain the bow straight up and down.

She doesn't have a problem for the most part as far as keeping the bow within an acceptable tolerance from the bridge goes, she just doesn't relax her hand enough to allow the weight of the bow to rest completely on the strings. The way one of her coaches described it was to let the bow fall thru the violin. With this in mind he said that you can achieve any dynamic by changing the speed of the bow without ever putting any pressure on it whatsoever. He demonstrated it, and I am a believer.

Even though this is somewhat off topic I will mention it. I was completely unaware as to how to determine the correct amount of distance to leave between the hair and the bow when tightening it and here was his suggestion. When tightening the bow, use approximately 80% of the MAXIMUM pressure that you will be using while playing a particular number and then tighten the bow until the middle 3 inches of hair are ALMOST touching the stick. This is a huge difference when my daughter plays Ashoken Farewell one song and Orange Blossom Special the next song. I have been searching for that information for quite some time, I certainly hope that my posting it can help somewhere along the line.

The left hand exercises that you suggested will become a part of my daughters "travel" exercises. Thank you very much. Although your second suggestion wasn't directly related to bowing, it is a perfect example of the type of information I was hoping to receive by making this post.

Thanks again

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I'll give the elevator a try tonite. The Russian had one other suggestion I found a bit odd and the suggestion was not to angle the bow hair away from the bridge but to use all the bow hair on the string, he said this uses more hair and consequently makes for a larger tone. I've never heard of this from anyone else, everyone I have ever seen tilts the bow. I did hear a teacher say she tilts the hair the most at the frog and then gradually diminishes the tilt to where she is playing with all the hair flat at the tip. I decided I would not play without the tilt but do try and reduce the tilt as I get closer to the tip. On tension, I had a State Champion fiddler-Texas Shorty Chancellor-show us his tension which is less tension than I use and that most use, he said he tightens just enough to put a pencil between the hair and the stick in the middle. On using all the bow, I've looked at Dallas Symphony violinists and notice they use literally every inch of hair from frog to tip and I do warm up exercises using all the bow on scales and this also helps me expand and not just use the center of the bow. My key practice tip though is to practice everyday, never miss, even if you only play for 15 minutes, the muscles need that daily reinforcement.

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Exactly as you said.

Bow hold and how to play the bow on a violin...i.e. right hand technique,very basic but take years to learn doing it properly. Learning it from someone who is well qualified is important. I have never seen anyone who does it wrong and yet produces good sound.( period) It just would not happen.

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Well, my son has demonstrated by way of countering what he sees me over-obsession with technique that he is capable of bowing effectively while holding the bow in a closed fist. But that is after he learned the proper way and the process has permuted every fibre of his being. If you want to confuse an established violinist, show him a very wrong technique you are doing and get him to emulate it, especially if it's the basis of the entire technique -- most aren't able to "play wrongly" if their life depended on it.

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My suggestion would be to have your Daughter go to a recommended violin teacher weekly, for at least a few months. That way, she has coaching and direction that will ensure that she stays on track. I cannot imagine someone being told something as complex as learning bowing technique only taking one session and then being expected to accomplish correct bowing without having regular lessons over time. Since it is only bowing that you are concerned with you may be able to get by with 1/2 hour lessons only if the teacher offers that. Only remember that bowing is something that takes years to learn. If you can offer her lessons for years, that would be best.

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Thanks for your reply,

My daughter takes 1/2 hour piano theory (theory only at this point) lessons followed by 1/2 hour violin lessons weekly. The coaching session was over and above her regular lesson schedule.

It was recommended by a very accomplished violinist that watched her play at a fiddle contest that she take occasional coaching sessions for her bowing technique. He recommended 4 different individuals from across the United States and I felt that with all things being considered the couple that was 5 1/2 hours away (one way) was the best candidates for the coaching sessions. Due to the distance, weekly sessions with this couple would simply be out of the question, however our sessions are between 4 and 5 hours once a month at this point and are only to address any flaws in her technique.

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I don't think that it is clear to everyone that your daughter already has a teacher. I can't help feeling it worrisom that she is exposed to four different people's approaches on top of that of her teacher's. I have had to consult another teacher on a specific occasion regarding a specific problem where there was no other way, and despite the fact that I knew what I was doing, knew there were some different approaches and philosophies at work, still have to work out the confusion where the two sides didn't "mesh". In the least, the regular teacher should be informed of the consultations if you intend to have your daughter take the advice because that teacher will need to work with her in the knowledge of what she is doing in addition to what he/she is teaching her. I would also wonder -- if there are indeed concerns about your daughter's bowing -- whether her regular teacher shouldn't be made aware and be asked to remedy the situation in a way that will fit with the teaching already in place. There are indeed times to consult coaches and see secondary teachers: but is it a good idea to do so with a younger student? Perhaps the teachers on this board can answer that.

I guess the bottom line is whether this is working for your daughter, whether she is happy with it, and whether she is still enjoying her playing. If she is, then you are probably on the right track.

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My daughters teacher is fully informed on any additional instruction that she receives. Any and all suggestions that are made will be fully discussed with her teacher, as a matter of fact this morning will be her first lesson since her coaching session and we will discuss a few suggestions that were made by the coaches at that time. Three things stick out in my mind as being areas of discussion.

1. Her coaches feel that my daughter should most definately use a shoulder rest and gave a number of reasons supporting their argument. Her regular teacher discourages the use of a shoulder rest.

2. Her coaches suggested that she stop using vibrato by moving her wrist and fingertip, until she learns to do it by moving her forearm (elbow) and rolling her fingertip.

3. And finally, her bowing technique which has been discussed in this thread.

As far as four different people's approaches on top of that of her teachers, I assure you that these are coaches suggestions and if any of their perspectives conflict with that of her regular teacher, we will continue to follow her teachers directive.

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++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My son, he sees me over-obsession with technique

/Stillnew/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"Technique" is everything in violin playing, describable or non-describable ,you cannot be over-obsessed with it as I have been told.

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Quote:

1...... Her regular teacher discourages the use of a shoulder rest.


I would be very interested to know why the regular teacher discourages the use of a shoulder rest. My teacher a student of David Oistrakh gave me no choice. I had to get a shoulder rest. She uses one. It immediately freed up the left hand from the job of holding the violin. A person using a shoulder rest can actually hold a violin without using their hands, when they have a shoulder rest. Why does the regular teacher discourage the use?

Ben

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I discussed the shoulder rest issue with her teacher this morning and she said that she doesn't have a problem at all with my daughter using a shoulder rest if that is what my daughter wants to do.

Her teacher also said that she has recommended a shoulder rest to individuals that have a problem controlling the violin due to the length of their neck, which of course is not an issue with my 8 year old daughter, but that she would agree that controlling the violin is much easier when using a shoulder rest.

I would say that my daughters teacher feels that a shoulder rest is somewhat of a crutch, but those are not her words, they are mine.

Thanks for your reply ..

I would ask that other posters please include suggestions of exercises or recommendations that you have that may help her technique. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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There are certain physical princiiples of violin playing, forces, body structure, bowed string vibrations, instrument responses, etc., etc. (yes, even shoulder rests - and chinrests - AND- how the fingers balance a bow about the fulcrum of the thumb) that EVERY teacher should know about and help all students use as applicable their specific situations.

Yet one continues to hear of those short-necked teachers who insist that NONE of their students use shoulder rests - or that all students use the same chinrest style the teacher does - or (equally bad) just stick with the one that came on the fiddle in the first place. And the ones who insist on all students using Dominant strings (or whatever) on their instruments, no matter how bad they sound.

I would have hoped that the world had long ago passed by their like, but obviously no such luck.

Parents, and students should be warned.

Andy

P.S. A hearty bow "grip" is often seen in young children - even with a wrapped around index finger - it goes against the principles of balance, but (what can I say) if you look at videos of the young Sarah Chang, you will see that she used her index finger in such an insistant way - but not any longer. If the violin can take the pressure from the bow that this ususally creates, you might get away with it. On many instruments it crushes the tone. Bow speed is a better way to control loudness than pressure and "sounding point" (location of bow on string relative to bridge) is the way to control projection and overtone balance in the tone.

The pinky exerting pressure on the bow serves to lift the bow off the string, weakening the tone, but it may be what is needed for soft playing near the frog. The fingers need to move around (slightly) and change "expression" on the bow almost all the time. But the basic principle finds its expression at the contact point of bow and string - whatever it takes to get that contact to make the sound you want.

So you see, we tend to introduce these things to young students only gradually and often without stressing the principles, which can be confusing. The principles join with bodily sensations and mental connections in the player so that it all finally makes sense. But standing on the outside, as a non-playing parent (or a wind-insrument-trained middle-school orchestra teacher) it is possible to watch the process and still not have a clue.

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