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James Plattes

Bow technique for the adult beginner

November 23, 2010 at 1:25 AM

I have taught many adult beginners througout my teaching career.  I am interested in finding out how other teachers have approached teaching these players to obtain a fluid, smooth bow technique.  Also, have any teachers had success in teaching these players to have a good vibrato?  Any suggestions?

Realize that there are 17 "hinges" in the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder that move as a professional player moves the bow.  That's an amazing concept.  Any inflexability in these "hinges" will lead to a crushed tune.  This is a difficult instrument to play well!


From Janis Cortese
Posted on November 26, 2010 at 5:55 AM

The best advice my teacher gave me was:

1) Keep your hand relaxed.

2) Practice a LOT.

That's about it.  Between those things and a vague idea of the handshape I am ultimately after, I'm muddling through okay.  What it looks like and how it FEELS are so different that the only thing that works is just practicing as much as you can and trusting that it will straighten itself out as long as you keep the right handshape in mind as you go and stay relaxed.

Also, be aware that it won't settle out all of a sudden so that you won't have to worry about it anymore.  That was something my teacher said very explicitly: first you tweak your bow hand.  Then, you worry about scroll hand technique and posture, then back to the bow hand, then the scroll hand again, then how your shoulder is positioned ... You tweak everything a bit here, a bit there, back to the bow, now the intonation again ... It's a constant process of adjustment here and there and back again.  There is no such thing as a sudden achievement of the "right" bow hold that will settle the matter for good, and you can stop thinking about it.  Everything comes into focus like a blurry photograph sharpening up, bit by bit, until it all starts taking shape in the fog.

When I get OUT of the fogbank, I'll let you all know.  :-)  I'm still flying on instruments hoping the last thing I see isn't a confused mountain goat running out of the way.


From di allen
Posted on November 26, 2010 at 7:04 PM
relaxation of upper body. think of a rag doll hanging from the ceiling. practice slow full bows on open strings, scales very slow, listening hard all the time, arpeggioes, in all keys. do this daily, just a few minutes. it can be a meditative experience and you wont see quick results but you wont care. just stay in the moment, think 'effortless mastery' dont get frustated, be patient, dont throw violin against the wall.

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