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Laurie Niles

July 16, 2004 at 3:00 PM

I think I found a new trick for students with errant violin elbows: the little beanbag frog.

Of course I found this trick while working with a grown woman, one who already knows how to play the violin but just wants to tighten up some technique.

“Your elbow,” I said. “Some teacher must have told you to bring it to the right, but now it’s so far over, it’s contorting your entire hand.”

She looked with great attention at the offending elbow and nodded in agreement. “You’re right, it’s messing up everything.”

She proceeded to set herself up perfectly, elbow down, everything in order. Then she played. As the music got more involved, around crept the elbow. Within 20 bars it had returned to its familiar position, way over to the right.

I’m guessing this was a habit about 25 years in the making. Not easy to break.

“Hmmm, your elbow is back in its old place, let’s fix it and start again,” I said. Ah yes. Like that. Perfect. Ready, set, play. What’s this? There she goes again, she’s moving to the right, to the right….

That’s when I thought of the highly technical solution: the little beanbag frog that sits atop my computer.

“He’s going to sit right here,” I said, positioning my little friend in the crook of her elbow. She laughed. “Okay,” She kept laughing.

“If he’s looking at you, watch out. He can only peek, just a little.”

The frog worked amazingly well. There was great elbow awareness from then on. In fact, I was so pleased with my new trick, I used it later in the day for someone with the opposite problem. She, of course, was four. The weight of the beanbag alone kept her from her habit of winding around to the left!

The moral of the story is: Suzuki Institutes can and will warp your mind. But a warped mind does think up more creative solutions.

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