Teaching a straight bow
What exercises do you use to help a student develop a "straight" bow stroke, or in other words a bow stroke in which the bow stays parallel to the bridge?
I'm not a teacher, and this is probably pretty obvious, but for some reason I hadn't been practicing in front of a mirror for a while, and recently, practicing in front of a mirror has been really helpful in me drawing a straight bow. I've been able to work on my bow distribution on Schradieck doing 4, 8, 16, 32 notes per bow and listening to make sure my sound is nice. So this isn't really anything new, but the feedback from the mirror is immediate and really helps.
In my experience a lot of self-teaching can be gained by having students spend a little time using one of those "sounding-poinbowing t guides" that prevents the bow from going outside the usual range of sounding points" (i.e., that part of the C-bout area).
I have a really good method for this, actually, IF we're talking about teaching it to a brand-new beginner! Of course this won't be applicable to experienced students.
What worked for me is the image, put forward by Drew Lecher, that you are actually bowing along a huge circle whose center is located at the scroll (the precise radius of the imaginary circle depends on the contact point). At all times you imagine that your bow ought to be tangential to that circle. It is just an image but that is what did it for me. I'm sure different ideas work for different students.
But then bowing in a straight line is not the optimum.
This is the exercise for acquiring a straight bowing action that my teacher showed me some years ago, and it worked like a charm. All you need is an area of vertical wall space with a smooth flat surface. Violin and bow are not required.
The following is from Galamian's book on violin playing concerning the "slightly slanted stroke".
I guess I should probably ask: why are you asking this question in the first place?
What worked for me was the image that someone is pulling and pushing my bowhand in a straight line down and up.
I saw this violin attachment online that's supposed to keep the bow straight. It's like those beginner walls on bowling alleys. Does anyone have experience using that?
Erik: The reason I ask is because I teach a violin pedagogy class for music education string players and I am always looking for new or different ways to solve technical problems to pass on to students.
I don't think this has been mentioned yet, but I ask them to focus their attention on the contact point and try to keep their bow in the same place on the string throughout the whole bow. Many young students get confused when bowing in the mirror, and after all, the whole point of a straight bow in the first place is to keep a consistent contact point so it sounds good.
Practice in front of mirror. I learned how to tilt my bow an unusual way so I can't really say anything but to practice in front of a mirror.
I have noticed, virtually without exception, that virtuoso violin soloists bows are angled slightly as they reach the tip. This causes a change in the sounding point that quiets any noise of bowing direction change.
The slight angling at the tip, that Andrew mentions, is something obviously to be aimed for. However, I'd say it comes under the heading of advanced technique and before the student can execute it well they should have acquired the control for a full length straight bow first.
Thinking like an engineer, I've seen and addressed the problem. The problem is the tendency to lock joints. Most beginners start bowing from the shoulder and it takes time to address that by using the elbow instead. The next problem is the wrist, which has to rotate in order to keep the bow straight. I've found that teaching a bit of over-rotation of the wrist eventually settles down to just the right amount to keep the bow straight
I'm not a teacher, but I figured this out by myself early on as a child: just look at space between the bridge and the angle of the bow hair, listen to the sound variation to determine whether my bow is on the right track.
My teacher used to teach young students by making a tube or something out of paper about the thickness of a bow, sending a thread through it, and tying it at sides of the room so that the student will move the makeshift bow nowhere but straight. I think this method would help students by making bow movement kind of stick.
I was taught to bow "straight." Then a couple of years ago I noticed in a pair of videos of Renaud Capucon playing the Beethoven Romances (easily found on youtube), he was playing the staccato 16th note passages with his bow at a lot of angles. I asked about it in a thread, and many of the responses were along the lines of why am I such an idiot. Based on my own reading, I surmised that what they were hinting at was what Galamian said that Bruce quoted -- sometimes a little angle is better. I was curious why that would be useful for that particular articulation, since that's where Capucon chose to do that. But of course nobody wanted to explain that -- they just wanted to point and laugh at the amateur.
I feel like very closely related to this is Dounis' concept of thinking about bowing in a crescent shape to make sure the pressure is at the correct levels at the frog and tip. Both bow angle relative to the bridge and weight can benefit from thinking about continuous change instead of straight lines.
I was in a workshop where the instructor had the student bow on the bridge.Place the bow on the bridge and keep it there while doing full bows.
Hello Prof. Berg, I also think that the guides and gadgets are of limited use; once they are removed the incorrect mechanical motions will return. For demonstration with a beginner, I put the violin on my lap, hold the bow only with the thumb and second finger, set the bow at an acute wrong angle, and as soon as you move it, it drifts, pulls away from the best point of contact. the physicists call it vector forces. In one of Paul Rolland's book he suggests holding a cardboard tube at the bridge, and the student attempts to run the bow through the tube without rubbing the side. In Menuhin's book, he sets the frog on the music stand, then runs the hand along the stick. If the contact points of the fingers are stable, then the wrist must fold. If we move from the shoulder, elbow, wrist, naturally, all of those motions are circular, We can only move the bow straight, on the best point of contact, if we combine, synchronize the motions from those three joints. And then there is that other approach, also difficult, of having the stick pivot inside the hand. It looks like the "Russian" grip at the tip, and the Francoo-belgian grip at the frog. For the elbow movement, with the arm at 90 degrees, somewhere near the middle of the bow, stand with the upper arm against a wall. When moving down-bow from there, towards the tip, the elbow moves away from the wall. When moving up-bow, towards the frog, the elbow also moves away from the wall. The analogy that one of my teachers used is the motion of that gear on an steam train that converts the linear motion of the piston to a circular force on the drive-wheel. That slight angle that advanced players use insures that the bow doesn't drift at the extreme ends. I find my spicatto to be better, I don't know why, if the tip is slightly towards my left ear, the frog slightly away from me jq
I have students warm up with an exercise I call "20 on the highway."
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