How do you develop strength and flexibility in your bow hand? You can make surprising progress away from your bow, using a pencil and some basic exercises.
Being left-handed, I was always a little bit behind the curve with my right-hand technique. Because my right hand was not my dominant hand, it was both weaker and less adept. An early teacher showed me the typical finger exercises to do with the bow, but I didn't start getting good at them until I discovered the pencil.
Yes, I'd been holding that pencil forever in the left hand -- for writing purposes, but what if I held it in my right hand -- like a bow? It was much easier to do the finger exercises with a pencil, which lacks the weight and unwieldiness of the bow. I could do the exercises almost anywhere and any time -- while in class, procrastinating over work, talking on the phone, watching videos or television -- you name it. This allowed me to master the motions and develop coordination and even some strength. The habit of doing the exercises frequently with a pencil meant that when I was playing my violin in orchestra, during breaks my hand simply started doing finger scrunches with the real bow.
In the video above, I've described a number of bow exercises and concepts you can work on, away from the violin and bow, using a pencil. Something to note: much of the flexibility and strength you are developing in your fingers will ultimately be used passively, even though the exercises themselves are active.
I hope this gives you some helpful exercises and food for thought. Please feel free to add your own ideas, exercises and thoughts in the comments section below!
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