Help with making straight bow stroke

November 7, 2005 at 04:42 PM · My son's bow goes diagnal if he is not paying attention. Mainly because he moves his upper arm side ways especially in the fast passages. His teacher told me to touch his elbow when he starts to move it side way, but he gets very irritated when I do that. Is there any other way that you can suggest to correct this? He is also a lefty. Does this make it harder for him to fix it? I tried to imitate a bow stroke with my left hand to feel what he is feeling. It is pretty hard, I think, for left handed people to have a good control on their bow arm. So if you are a lefty I would like your comments, too!

Replies (11)

November 7, 2005 at 05:16 PM · Had the same (I think) problem not to long ago. To get a feel for exactly what I was doing as far as pulling my bow arm behind me, I stood next to the wall so that I simply had no way to pull that arm behind me while playing. After a little bit of time the situation was corrected.

Actually I guess you need to clarify 'sideways'. Elbow of the bowing arm is moving further to the left away from the body, pulling behind the body (this is what was causing my bow to move laterally/diagonally) on the strings, or... ? Anyway I would think playing next to the wall would isolate the arm regardless.

November 7, 2005 at 05:10 PM · I've heard mixed things about a device called the "Bow - Right". Some say it's kinda complicated to assemble, but the long term pay-off is worth it. Here's a link to where you can purchase it: If you are looking for an image of it, here's one:

What I like to do is also practice in front of a mirror. That way you really SEE what happens, and it's that much tougher to lie to yourself. Having a straight bow is a bit of a visual trick. When you draw a straight bow, it appears to you the performer as being slightly crooked. And when you "correct" this, you start pulling crooked strokes for real. Make sure your son knows that it is ok for the bow to appear to be curving.

You might want to try showing him pictures of violinists drawing perfectly straight bowstrokes. You can find a lot of pictures like this on google. Sometimes all a person needs is to see what they need to do, and they come up with their own conventions. Never force an idea on someone, but rather work with the ideas they come up with. This is very beneficial to both the student (feels accomplished and more natural) and the teacher (learns a new way of working).

November 7, 2005 at 07:05 PM · My teacher had me look at the bow while she drew the bow straight across the strings (it actually doesn't look straight from this angle). Then I'd play simple simple pieces while watching the bow.

Right away I felt how much easier it was with a straight bow, so once your son learns the proper way to bow, he should be fine.

There is no difference between a lefty and a rightly. This is a common error for all beginners (moving the shoulder instead of the elbow), but it can be debilitating if he doesn't fix it. Touching his elbow really is a great suggestion, if your son really resists that there's not that much YOU can do. He should practice pieces he knows very well with proper bow technique so that he can focus his attention on his bow arm rather than the notes.

November 8, 2005 at 04:16 AM · I am also a lefty & sometimes have trouble with the bow-particularly playing staccato. Practicing in front of a mirror is good.

Maybe his right arm gets tired quicker because it's not as strong & gets lax -mine does. But practicing will also help that. Also, maybe he's got too tight of a grip on his left hand & he's concentrating on his fingers too much.

Sometimes-especially playing the cello-I feel like it's a "pat-the-head/rub-the-belly" experience. Sometimes us lefty's have to really concentrate to get the right hand to do what it's supposed to do!(I do anyway:) keep practicing, it's making the right arm stronger,too!

November 8, 2005 at 04:35 AM · I forgot something else we did in our orchestra group.

We would stand behind the student(carefully,so we wouldn't get poked in the eye) & shaped our thumb & 1st finger like a c (only turn it up= U)& placed it so the bow would line up between the fingerboard and bridge. While playing, if the bow went crooked, it would rub against our finger(by bridge) or thumb(by fingerboard). They automatically fixed it right then.

It would help him to get a "feel for it" instead of trying to watch the bow all the time while trying to play.

November 8, 2005 at 04:49 AM · Greetings,

there is a useful and simple exercise thta may help. Place the tip of the bow on any string you like. Have your son form his bow hold and then slide it up the stick without moving the bow. In order to do this yopu simply hold the screw tighly between finger and thumb. Because the stick does not move the hand, wrist and arm are taught to follow the exact line of a straight bow. This should be done many times on a daily basis.



November 8, 2005 at 05:24 AM · Hmm, I wonder if that works, Buri. I will try it on a couple of my students this week and see how it goes.

November 8, 2005 at 06:57 AM · Greetings,

Emily, this is considered one of the classexercises for developing the movement of the bow arm. You can find it in Menuhin`s books and I think also in Basics. It is also very useful for more advanced players to keep their bowing tehcnique in shape. One can do it without aid of a friend by resting the screw on a music stand ste at an appropriate height,



November 8, 2005 at 08:25 AM · Another useful device is to select an object which is off to the right in a straught diagonal line.When drawing the down bow the hand should aim for this object.This will prevent the hand from being pulled behind as happens when the shoulder is used.Also the up bow will arrive at the correct angle to be straight instead of being pulled round into the wrong angle.

November 8, 2005 at 11:18 AM · Buri's advice, as always, is excellent. I used the same excercise a year ago and it worked very well.

November 8, 2005 at 05:10 PM · Thank you all for you wonderful advice. Eric I told my son to stand next to the wall and play a piece last night. After some resistance from him with "It doesn't feel good. My elbow is rubbing the wall!" comment, He complied and it is working well. I told him as he learns not to move his elbow side way, the uncomfortableness will go away. Buri, I will try your advice tonight with him. I just wanted to make sure I got this right. When you say "without moving the bow", does it mean no wobbling to the right or left nor up and down, just staying on one string you choose and draw the bow like detache? Janet, that is a good idea. I always told him to pull his bow to the direction of his belly button or between his legs since he tends to pull his bow toward his right leg or sometimes over his right leg. Ahhh, it is overwhelming trying to help this "entering a rebelient stage" kid!!! Help!!

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