My short answer is "yes." Used properly, such devices can help students get on the right track, particularly with issues of hand and finger positioning.
Holding a violin and bow, and then using them together, involves some muscle development and complex physical mechanics. In the end, a violinist places fingers correctly because of the ear's effort for flawless pitch. In the end, one holds the bow just so because the mechanics of the hand have been optimized, and that finger placement is what allows for freedom, flexibility and strength. In the end, one draws the bow straight in an effort an effort for uncluttered sound.
But what about in the beginning? Sometimes people confuse the end with the means for getting there. They reject any aids as "crutches" for fear that they will morph into lifelong reliance.
With care, they won't. Even if you look at the most common use for crutches, they help a person get around until they are strong enough to do so without them. Violin aids should be looked upon the same way. For example, in the case of fingerboard tapes: in the beginning, one needs physical target practice for placing the fingers properly.
Learners who are highly aural may be able to perfect their finger placement by ear, and if that's the case then there's no need for the tapes. But most people need visual help as they first teach their fingers where to land. As soon as the fingers are landing in the right place, then it's time to experiment with removing tapes; but different students need different amounts of time with them.
I used to think that devises like the Bow Right were just silly, until I met a very high-level student, who said that using the device for a few months, back when he was young, really helped him get the hang of the motion required to draw a straight bow. Of course, clamping that devise to one's fiddle for years -- that would be pretty ridiculous!
The Bow Buddy is another that can help a person learn the shape of a good bow hand. But again, there will be the occasional student that starts to form really weird habits, holding the bow buddy in the wrong places and not really using it as intended. In that case, take it off. (In my limited experience with this devise, the the pinkie part of the device works for longer than the other part, depending on the student.)
There are many more devices I haven't mentioned. One that I don't have (but want for the studio) is the really short bow; it's only about a foot long. It forces a student to play at the frog. I can still remember my own teacher pulling this out and making me use it for one lesson. That feeling of playing at the frog -- not being able to default to that comfy middle-upper part of the bow -- made a lasting impression on me. I didn't need to use the device for a long period of time for it to give me a powerful message. And sometimes getting that message in a tactile way helps more than demonstration or verbal instruction.
What is your experience with aids and devices for playing? Have they helped, or have they been a source of bad habits?Tweet
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