Right shoulder and forearm motion.
I'm a violist and recently I got accepted to University to further study viola but right now I'm really struggling with a problem in my bow arm. When I start a down bow in the lower half the bow will always shake as I start to get to middle of the bow.
I've traced the problem to improper muscle usage/strain in my shoulder and forearm. It must be something to do with how I contort my shoulder when I'm in the lower half. I understand the motion I need to be doing yet it causes more strain in deltoids in teres major areas of my shoulder. I've also noticed its hard to bring my arm closely across my chest without my shoulder extending upward in a slight shrugging motion.
If anyone has had issues with this area in the past and could suggest some exercises or stretches in order to improve my motion in this region it would be greatly appreciated!
Try a different angle of your instrument to your body
Stretching before playing is a good idea, I had a similar issue and doing full stretches especially cross shoulder stretches helped a lot. I also adjusted my bow hold a bit and dropped my wrist just a very little and moved my fingers up, which helped by requiring a little less adjustment to keep the bow straight and reduce tension , which in my case was what causes the bouncing bow as you mentioned. Everyone is different so this may not work for you. Good luck!
You're not playing one of those 19-inch violas, are you? Do you take care of your bow? Keep the hair clean and apply enough rosin, and such?
You should read Jennifer Johnson’s book “ What Every Violinist Needs to Know About the Body” it will change you whole perspective and likely fix the problem.
Of course the bow wants to bounce in the middle, it was designed to do just that! The right shoulder should not appear to be doing anything. Down-bow from the frog: Let the string hold the bow and delay transferring the force to the first finger. Muscle strain at the right side of the back; Do not hold the Viola too far to the left, like many violinists. I have more on this topic on a Blog from April 2020, entitled "Bowing- a personal odyssey--" Click on my picture/bio, then click on "April"
Thank you all for your responses! I hold the instrument comfortably over my left clavicle. I used to hold it a little too far to the left but I've corrected that issue now. Richard, I think your advice about stretching and some slight adjustments to my bow hold are working well. I've had some difficulty keeping the bow mostly parallel to bridge and I've noticed when it's parallel there is much less evident shaking. Thank you!
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