Finger flexibility bowing exercise for little violinists

Edited: March 27, 2023, 9:37 PM · What are the best bowing finger exercises for children?
I realized most little violinists don't have finger flexibility but those who achieve it very early have great sounds. It makes a huge difference.
My daughter has flexible wrist but not fingers, so the sound is not as good.
Her teacher doesn't do any finger exercise yet. All of her little students have bad sounds and stiff wrist and fingers.

I realized some strict teachers work on wrist finger movement from the beginning while others don't and wait until students grow up and have intermediate level...

What would be a good approch?

Replies (17)

Edited: March 27, 2023, 8:47 PM · If her left hand is stiff, you can have her practice anything she’s working on with “whistles,” which means the fingers touch the string where they are supposed to but they don’t put any weight on the string at all. When done correctly it sounds absolutely terrible. And then you have her play the same passage again, this time adding just enough weight to make the notes come out clearly.

I just did this myself today with a beginner student and the difference was amazing.

March 27, 2023, 9:44 PM · Thanks Mary. Her left hand is awfully stiff so will try what you suggested.
The original question was about bowing. Edited my question.
March 28, 2023, 6:30 AM · My kids didn't develop this early enough, but we have found two things that help. The first is to teach them a colle stroke. This is a stroke that is not often used directly in actual music, but is fundamental to flexibility for other strokes. There are lots of online tutorials you can watch to teach the stroke.

The second is to do a variety of bowings in scales that require finger movement. I'm not talking about slurs, which is what people usually do, but bowings that require finger or wrist movement. It doesn't matter if the scale is 2, 3, or 4 octaves (though the latter will be hard!), but what you do with the bow. For example, you can do colle at the frog, or use the fingers to do a kind of portato stroke or hooked bowing. You can also do these exercises with simple etudes like Kreutzer #2.

Edited: March 28, 2023, 7:02 AM · I have used small oranges, one in each hand.
In the right hand, the corner of the thumb presses in the "dimple" left by the stalk; in the left hand the pad of the middle finger presse there.
Both hands can gather up the oranges from the table, and enclose them firmly but gently.
Then, without moving the backs of the hands, we can rotate the fruits to left and right.
We can move the oranges in mirror image fashion, or in parallel motion, and alternate rotation and extension.

We can also eat the oranges, but not during the lesson!

March 28, 2023, 10:53 AM · A decade ago there was a series of four books for online purchase by Sue Hunt, one of them 36 Bow Hold games at Definitely worth checking.
March 28, 2023, 11:34 AM · Sorry but I'm having understanding the original question, "What are the best bowing finger exercises?" What is the bowing finger?
March 28, 2023, 11:48 AM · As a college student, I practice scales at the frog using only wrist and finger movement to get more right hand flexibility (basically what Susan said). I've tried this with my older students and it often is helpful, but never beginners, as it seems too complicated of a movement to explain to them. Perhaps I will try it with younger students from now on. Another teaching method I have tried is practicing leading with the wrist and letting the fingers follow. I do this first without the bow and tell them to move their arm like they're moving through water, petting a cat, or picking up a ball of fluff (whichever analogy seems to stick with them best). Then we try it with the bow, but no violin. I've also tried having them straighten and curl their fingers on the bow (like little finger pushups) so they can observe how their bowhold can change as they move.
March 28, 2023, 12:55 PM · Adrian - are the oranges (clementines?) held more in the fingers or the palm? I'm about to go grocery shopping...I also have some small plastic snap-together balls (think plastic eggs that people might put Easter candy in, except these are actually spherical) but I could see wanting to use something that has more "give" than a hard plastic shell. This also reminds me of a way I used to "fidget" as a kid, which was to hold two small items in my hand and use fingers to rotate them around.
March 28, 2023, 3:03 PM · Colle exercises were very helpful for my daughter to get more relaxed fingers and wrist for the bow arm. She didn't start doing that until she was 7 or 8. For her, she would not have been able to develop this level of control at a much younger age. I think your daughter's only 4 or 5?
March 29, 2023, 7:31 AM · Fine motor control is rarely complete in children under 10. While finger exercises can help the fact is that fine motor control takes time to develop.

Ms. Sato did not state her daughter's age but my guess is that she is not close to 10 and, while girls tend to develop fine motor control a bit earlier than boys, completing all those neural connections takes time.

Yes, there are a few wunderkind who develop at a very young age. They are rare.

Tincture of Time works wonders. Be patient.

Edited: March 29, 2023, 9:20 AM · Their are quite a good number of exercise videos on you tube:
For instance Laurie Niles

Or Mimi Zweig:

In the middle of the video she goes through some of the basic Suzuki exercises

March 29, 2023, 9:38 PM · George, if I’m remembering correctly, the young lady is 3 or 4 years old.
March 30, 2023, 5:08 AM · @ Mengwei: My oranges should fill the hand to find a gentle but firm roundness alternating with fingertip pressure and motion. So the orange size depends on the pupil's hand!
Your retailer will be amused/irritated..

Soft juggling balls age better!

March 30, 2023, 8:27 AM · Sue, et al.,

Three or Four? That is very young and I doubt that she has developed a lot of fine motor control in her hands.

I don't understand the drive behind parents of these very young children. Do they really expect their four year old to be featured on "From The Top" or be playing at the conservatory level?

At three, most children have difficulties handling a spoon. Mastery of a violin and bow at that age????

Then again, I have to remember that I'm child-free so I don't know what it is like to have a three or four year old in the house.

Edited: April 3, 2023, 3:04 AM · George, with 3 and 4 year olds Suzuki used thumb rotation to tilt the bow under flexible fingers, for both tone, and string crossing. Similar to my oranges!
He also has us place the thumb under the frog, which "thickens" the bow: like giving small children very fat pencils and markers..
April 1, 2023, 2:24 PM · Finger and wrist flexibility can be developed outside of the instrument. Racquet sports - tennis, racquetball, squash - are excellent in promoting wrist flexibility. A simple exercise to promote finger flexibility is to pretend “spraying” water droplets from the tips of your thumb and fingers.

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