Question to teachers

January 27, 2017 at 06:56 AM · Hi everybody

Just want to ask teachers, when do you correct your students' bow hold ?

Do you start being "strict" on their bow hold from the start ?

I ask because my son has been learning violin for a year, and he is now on suzuki book 3, but his his teacher is not correcting the way he holds his bow.

Thank you


Follow up question as posted in post #3:

One follow up question, regarding suzuki 3 within a year...

I have observed that as long as my child can "play" the piece, the teacher moves on to the next piece.

Should the child be memorizing the piece and get the notes correctly, and not make any mistake before moving on?

Replies (28)

January 27, 2017 at 07:05 AM · I correct the student's bow hold from day one. Teaching the correct position of both hands is the absolute first job for any teacher. It's hard enough when starting from zero; it's much harder when bad habits have become ingrained.

Also, one year to Suzuki book 3 is very fast unless your son is an older beginner and a devoted practicer. I worry, given that you describe the teacher as uninterested in correcting your son's bow hold, that your son is being moved from piece to piece without ever learning one correctly. That is just a guess on my part and I could be wrong, but failure to address basic skills is a red flag.

January 27, 2017 at 09:37 AM · Sounds bad, moving fast without a good bowhold.

But we dont know how good or bad the bow hold is and is it perhaps of another style, namely russian, so that it would be just fine but not the bowhold you are used to seeing.

Find about different bowholds on youtube and then ask the teacher. Im assuming your child is not under 7, but if she were its basically up to you to correct the bowhold when you practise at home together.

Then you also have to figure out if the problem is that you child refuses to follow instructions or that there are no instructions.

But book 3 within a year is really fast regardless. And if she is younger and progresses so very fast, she has a lot of talent so the more important a good bowhold is, because without a good bow hold one cannot become a professional.

And sorry Im not a professional, but it doesnt take to be a professional to know a good bowhold is essential.

January 27, 2017 at 02:10 PM · Thank you very much for your replies.

I was right in my guess that bow hold is essential (I am not a musician nor play any instrument).

One follow up question, regarding suzuki 3 within a year...

I have observed that as long as my child can "play" the piece, the teacher moves on to the next piece.

Should the child be memorizing the piece and get the notes correctly, and not make any mistake before moving on?

My son is 12 years old by the way.

Thank you once again...

January 27, 2017 at 02:24 PM · The bow hold should be corrected from the beginning, and it should be corrected anytime thereafter that it deviates from correct.

Remember, the bow hand is the interface by which we make a sound with our instrument. It is also a mechanism that contains a lot of "feedback" about what the bow (and instrument) is doing.

I'm extremely "strict" I suppose with regard to posture, bow hold, and the motions of string playing. Primarily because it enables each student to reach their full capabilities.

January 27, 2017 at 02:53 PM · "...his his teacher is not correcting the way he holds his... "

Unless we can see the bow hold, your claim is at the level of hypothesis. Therefore all comments are pure speculation.

January 27, 2017 at 03:09 PM · "Should the child be memorizing the piece and get the notes correctly, and not make any mistake before moving on?"

There should not be any obvious mistakes in pitch or rhythm. At this level the pieces are short and memorization should be nearly automatic if the child has really learned the piece. If what you are telling us is that as soon as your son can get through the piece from start to finish with some sort of approximate accuracy, the teacher moves on, I would be very concerned. Learning the notes is different from learning how to play the violin, and the real learning starts once the notes have been mastered.

January 27, 2017 at 03:18 PM ·

January 27, 2017 at 04:53 PM · In my personal opinion, basic posture/position issues should be correctly taught from day one. However, I would not do it to the point of intimidating the student. When it comes to learning pieces, students should be able to play all notes accurately and add some basic musical expression before moving on.

January 27, 2017 at 06:21 PM · "Learning the notes is different from learning how to play the violin, and the real learning starts once [sic] the notes have been mastered."

Great statement, and I agree wholeheartedly. When I was a kid too much of my time was spent just learning the notes and moving on. Musicality is what's hardest, everything up to having memorized a piece and playing through it without mistakes is just preparation for then learning how to make music.

January 27, 2017 at 08:36 PM · Thank everybody for your input. I really appreciate it. I am now searching for a new teacher in my area...

January 27, 2017 at 09:01 PM · Son, same age, similar situation. Welcome to the club...!

January 27, 2017 at 10:59 PM · While some may not like this there is a tool to assist in developing or correcting a the bow-hold. Things-for-Strings makes a plastic "Frog and Fish" that attach to the bow and I used it to correct the students I've added from the local public school who tend to use the spoon-hold along with the straight-out-from the chin instrument hold. And they also have the "Cellophant" for budding cellists. Both train the hand for a perfect hold. No, I don't have a business interest in Things-for-Strings they just make a really cool and useful device.

January 28, 2017 at 10:48 AM · Yes, the things for strings bow helper is really great, we used it, though only the pinky part and i dont understand why everybodydy doesnt use it. That it, if theres a difficulty in the bow hold.

My young daughter used if for 3 months in the beginning so you are not supposed to get stuck in it, but especially very little fingers need some support help.

I would say, just buy it and see youtube videos about using it, its technical not musical so you dont need to be a teacher to put it on as things are not right now anyway. I know some teachers hate parents that think themselves but as only a part of teachers are great so its the only option when things go wrong. There aint enough great teachers for everyone...

January 28, 2017 at 03:45 PM · I don't hate it when parents think for themselves but I do prefer to be consulted in advance. :-) I have used the Things for Strings bow hold doo-dads and like them, but they aren't necessarily appropriate for every student and it should ultimately be my call. And if, say, a parent decided on her own to add tapes to her child's violin, or to start teaching vibrato because she was impatient with my timetable, we would have to have a conversation.

January 29, 2017 at 03:16 AM · Maria Lammi said "I know some teachers hate parents that think themselves..."

We generally like when parents think for themselves, but not when that interferes with many years of successful teaching experience.

Heck, I've even had parents who were rank amateur violinists (or worse) who thought they had a better idea of how to direct their child than my decades of professional experience. Those people, I'd rather they take a back seat and not think too much :-D

January 29, 2017 at 06:51 AM · Well I have to add that I said what I said in conjunction with this particular thread when the teacher does not sound to teach with success and the OP it trying to find a new one. If the teacher is successfull so then there is no need to try anything else.

January 29, 2017 at 11:47 AM · In my part of the world (Australia), many children in the schools are taught to hold the bow with the thumb under the frog ! Are you referring to something like that ?

Why would you start a child off like that anyway ?

January 29, 2017 at 03:02 PM · Brian,

I think that Suzuki method encourages this thumb below the frog approach. Their idea is that small hands can't hold the bow correctly.

The problem is that small hands grow into big hands, and old habits die hard.

So, I don't teach it that way. Normal bow hold for life.

January 29, 2017 at 10:31 PM · The reason for the thumb-below-the-frog hold, I am guessing, is that it teaches a relaxed open roundness without the slight distortion of the "circle" of a real bowhold.

January 29, 2017 at 11:36 PM · If you're starting a young enough child, you teach the thumb below the frog hold for the same reason they get extra thick crayons - their fine motor skills / muscles aren't developed enough to hold small items securely.

For, say, a 10 year old, they can usually just go straight to a normal bowhold.

January 30, 2017 at 12:11 AM · When I get an older (middle or high school) student who has been playing for a few years with a disastrous bow hold, I will sometimes ask them to spend a few weeks playing with their thumb under the frog as a step towards rehabilitating the bow hold. It's easier to develop the relaxed open "roundness" Lydia refers to with the thumb under the frog, and it's also easier to move to a decent bow hold from correct except for thumb under frog than it is to move from terrible.

January 30, 2017 at 01:35 AM · Mary Ellen,

I see what you're doing there, but I can't say I'd do it myself with a student. Why not go straight to correct? I've had a lot of transfer students from other studios where bow hold wasn't a priority, and I find that with constant vigilance and explaining how the bow hold functions, I can generally get them there.

January 30, 2017 at 04:04 AM · I try going straight to correct, but that isn't always effective when the student has been playing incorrectly long enough for the bad habits to be fully entrenched. Going to the thumb under the frog is a last-ditch effort, and it has worked very well.

January 30, 2017 at 04:41 AM · With very small children I have seen teachers start with the thumb on the bottom of the frog but then this is usually corrected after a few lessons. Letting them go through Book 1 like that is probably a bad idea. I think if a child has the fine-motor skills to start violin lessons, the bow hold could be perhaps one of the more difficult things but it's not an outlier.

January 30, 2017 at 05:12 AM · I started at five with the thumb under the bow; it's standard in Suzuki. I don't remember having any problem with the transition, which probably took place in Listen and Play bk 2 (equivalent to the second half of Suzuki Violin School bk 1).

January 30, 2017 at 01:04 PM · Mary Ellen -- that makes sense! I probably sound like a broken record to some of these transfer students -- I'm sure you know that feeling.

I did have a friend at university who would often default to the thumb-under-frog hold when our teacher wasn't around. A heck of a great player, but she never fully adapted to the change. I don't know the history of it -- perhaps her teacher waited until too late to switch her to normal.

January 30, 2017 at 05:01 PM · Douglas, in my opinion your friend is an outlier--there are many, many excellent violinists who got their start in Suzuki, thumb under frog, who had no issues transitioning to the mature bow hold. I can think of several in my orchestra alone. But that would explain your extreme resistance to the idea.

Slightly related story--years ago I was sharing a stand at a gig with a colleague who had injured his right thumb in such a way that he could not play with the usual bow hold due to resulting pain. He was just about to tell the contractor that he couldn't play, forfeiting the gig and the paycheck, when I suggested that he try the Suzuki bow hold of thumb under frog. He tried it, it worked, he was able to play the gig and collect his $$. Afterwards he thanked me profusely for saving the gig for him.

January 30, 2017 at 05:40 PM · Indeed -- there are many roads to Rome. I'm not resistant to the idea, just haven't needed to use it on my students, preferring going straight to correct. My friend was definitely an outlier -- I have never seen this again -- only offered as an example of habit forming.

FWIW, I didn't start in Suzuki, so I never had to do this. Had a grumpy old Russian teacher as a child who would smoke while teaching/playing his Gagliano and was especially particular about position. I held the bow correctly, mostly out of fear :-D

That's a great story about the thumb pain-- good thinking!

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