Student can't isolate wrist movement for vibrato or bowing
I have an adult student who has been playing for about four years. Clean bowing has always been a struggle, because he tends to use his entire arm for every movement, and can't isolate just the wrist or elbow movement to keep the bow parallel to the bridge. He's been able to increase the wrist movement, and now his bow is "mostly* parallel despite still having too much shoulder/upper arm movement.
About a year ago, we started working on vibrato, and I cannot get him to do it without moving his entire arm so that the violin shakes. Lots of students struggle with that in the beginning, but I've never seen it to this extent--and it's been a year with seemingly no progress.
I've tried every exercise I know, made up new exercises...this week I literally had him try Progressive Muscle Relaxation meditations to see if that would help his awareness of the different muscle groups. I just finished spending half his lesson just trying to fine tune the movement, and we still can't get breakthrough.
Has anyone had this problem and been able to find a solution?
Thanks very much for your time!
With a metronome, I’ve practiced the vibrato motion with only with the left and right hands without the violin: the left hand performing the motion while the right hand encircles and holds the left forearm. When “vibrating” I can feel that the forearm and wrist share a set of muscles and it’s the muscles in the forearm and not the wrist that is the impetus for the motion. I think by holding the left forearm it might help reduce the unnecessary arm motion when the vibrato is later performed on the violin.
Can you get him to isolate the wrist motion by practicing vibrato in 3rd position?
Have you done things like knocking on a door? Fingers up, knock with knuckles. Then knock to a metronome... Exercises away from the fiddle might help with isolating the muscles.
May or May not help, but.... place violin in valley between thumb and first finger, place ring finger on d on the a string, don't touch the neck at all with the thumb, then try moving the hand back and forth, with complete hand relaxation, it's a very difficult exercise, but may help, remember the thumb shouldn't even touch the neck, it should be supported solely by the v, its even better if the violin can be supported by just holding the fiddle in place with the head on chin rest so that the hand hangs in space with just the finger touching the fingerboard. There are probably videos of the technique somewhere or other, don't know ifit will help but no harm trying.
Hi Sylvia, I have taught an *immense* amount of beginners over the years, at least half of whom were adults.
Erik's reply reminded me of the Simon Fischer straight bowing exercise, if you haven't already tried it (you can find it on page 119 of "The Violin Lesson" and I'm sure it's somewhere in "Basics" as well). Basically you hold the bow and the student moves his hand up and down the stick, following the path of a straight bow, to get used to the feel of it. It is impossible to do this without moving all the joints of your arm. The bow needs to be positioned against the violin where it would be at the lowest point in a downbow.
I second 3rd position (Andrew). I had read somewhere that the easiest note to begin vibrato on is E on the A string in 3rd (2nd finger), so that's how I began. The contact between wrist and violin prevents the arm from moving. And if necessary press the scroll gently against a wall to steady the violin.
Thank you all so much for your input and ideas!
My breakthrough to this skill was to imagine a string tugging on the back of my hand while massaging the string so the finger tip rolled on the string. It was a great way to isolate the relaxation needed to perform this skill.
"Who's that, knocking on my door? Who's that, rosining my bow?"
My breakthrough were the vibrato exercises in "warming up" by Fischer
Perhaps he is squeezing with both thumbs. If that is the problem, there are various exercises to mitigate this.
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