Shaking Whole Bow
just watched a video from Murphy Music Academy talking about the bow shaking on rapid or not so rapid whole bows. I agreed with everything the presenter said about it being a very widespread problem. I have met professionals who angst over it. According to Mr Murphy (?) the fundamental cause is almost always tension in the trapezius muscle (the huge shrugging muscle of the upper back, neck area) on the right side. i’m curious if there is a consensus on this?
His proposed cure was good I thought. To start in the middle of the bow and draw a down and then up bows to the point using only the weight of the bow . Prior to this one very consciously relaxes the right trapezius , even going as far as tilting the head over to the left to stretch the right side of the neck. Once the pure stroke is ok then start two inches further down the bow and so on until whole bows are being played without any weight added at all. The exercise seems fine to me except I think Alexander technique is probably superior to what might be over active stretching.
I practiced this for a few minutes today but it was kind of boring because i dont really have a bow shake problem. But I also though the exercise was not proactive enough for an advanced player. I figured if I was teaching this to someone at intermediate level I would stick some kind of chord sequence in front of them (Sammons or sevcik) and have them release tension prior to the stroke on one string; be on the adjacent string after finishing the stroke. (a la Galamian...) and then repeat the relaxation process before drawing the next stroke. My point is that by stopping between strokes for as long as it takes to ensure complete freedom in the upper back, shoulder or whatever, then drawing the bow, between -each- bow stroke, one is being much more rigorous about integrating the relaxation into ones playing.
Does anyone have any different approaches to dealing with the shake problem?
Other than the "stage fright" problem that caused my shaking bow in solo performance from age 17 to 45 (when I finally discovered Inderal, a beta blocker) the essential (familial) tremor I had had to a minor degree much of my life became serious enough by age 75 to affect my bowing whenever my thumb got within 1 cm of my other fingers. That this has nothing to do with my back muscles (as far as I can tell) seems apparent, because it occurs even if I'm just sitting in a chair with my elbow resting on the chair arm. But then again, because it less of a problem when I play cello there is obviously a postural relationship.
I would certainly agree that that muscle (didn't know it by name) needs to be relaxed and that I sometimes need to explicitly remind myself to relax it.
For me the main culprit is the transition of weight bearing between the anterior and middle deltoid muscles during a down bow. At certain speeds and amounts of weight my anterior deltoid wants to release tension in very coarse increments.
Try surgical tubing. It has almost the perfect inside diameter, and adds a very pleasant reinforcement.
What I've found helpful with the "shaking bow" nuisance in the past was to practice exercises similar to those Buri described, but with my eyes shut. This made me use my ears as "eyes", and to be more aware of what my musculature was, or wasn't, doing.
Trevor, I will try your idea. I'm a beginner who is having trouble hearing myself.
Thumb leather pieces are available for sale on ebay. Even fancy lizard leather - but that one isv ery expensive - I mostly go for the cheaper stuff - In the past I have I tried building up electrical tape, but it is really too thin.
For increasing the diameter of your thumb leather, how about the overgrip material they sell for tennis racquets.
Paul, for me, it would be too much - I still have to be able to get my thumb between the stick and the hair. I think the thumb leathers I've bought allow me to grow the diameter about 1mm at at time. My "trigger" diameter is very sensitive and once I get past it I can be OK in most circumstances. I never know exactly when it will happen so I always have the backup choice to "grab" the whole frog - I can do most things holding a bow that way - and fake the rest.
I tried to visualize the bow travelling across a flat plane in space. I use that visual key in my mind and try to replicate it when drawing the bow across the strings. I ahve found that stretching before hand (a full body stretch with arms and legs, lying flat on the ground,is a good way to loosen before playing).
Bow shake; the topic comes up often so I will repeat myself.
Joel, that sounds like it would help me. Thank you.
Perhaps this is wishy-washy of me, but I tend to prefer a more holistic approach, which maybe is a convenient way of saying that I forgot how I got here.
I have 4 bows, two of standard Tourte design, and two of baroque design. Of the Tourtes, one is a very pleasing 100-year old German bow, and the other is about 20 years old, not as good as the old one but otherwise perfectly adequate for most purposes. Of the two baroque bows, one is snakewood and gives an excellent tone and response. The other is less expensive but also otherwise adequate for most purposes.
It's been a few years since I've done any AT, so forgive my mixing of the terminology, but I like to think of the allowing the forearm to lengthen to the elbow, and the upper arm to lengthen to the elbow, which doesn't get at the trapezius, but I would want the trapezius to be relatively quiet and lengthen as much as possible from the jaw to the shoulder - I'm not sure if a lot of people with shaking bows are lifting their shoulders without realizing it, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Buri, a posited equivalence of bouncing bow and bouncing cheque? I like it, especially if the bow is at the top end of the market!
I have often found that the issue of bow shaking is tied to a deeper problem, one with both physical and psychological components.
It's the mind that's the problem.