How do you straighten a crooked bow and tame the angles of the bow so they work for you?
In most violin studios, we spend time regularly in front of the mirror. It’s a great way to work on everything we do since what we do is so easily visible. In my studio we work a lot on bow skew (angles) and contact point (lanes) in front of the mirror.
But the mirror doesn't always work for everything and everyone. So how can you straighten your bow, away from the mirror?
I recently made a video for my violin students to give them lots of choices for tackling crooked bowing once and for all - and none use the mirror. All 10 ways are designed to hone the proprioception of bow arm movement, that is, how you perceive the position and movements in your bow arm. If you or your students are in search of a variety of mechanisms for bow straightening, here it is:
The ability to bow straight has to precede working on "Figure-Eight" bowing in a student’s development. But once a student is in more advanced literature, many teachers introduce Figure Eight bowing, i.e. bowing “crooked” on purpose.
The Figure-Eight movement allows us to do two things:
First, it allows us to make bow changes smoother by following Newton’s first law of motion: a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by another force. When our bow arm can “round the corner” instead of coming to a halt, the result is a more seamless bow change and a smoother feeling for the player.
Secondly, it can increase our sound density by allowing us to slow down the bow. This is achieved by angling our elbow forward on the downbow, and backward on the upbow. For an excellent explanation in action, here is one of Todd Ehle’s fantastic videos on the subject:
Happy practicing, everyone, whether straight or crooked is on your to-do list!
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