Would you leave a piece of chocolate hanging half way out of your mouth?
"No way," the student answers, "I would eat the whole thing!"
Then he (finally) gets his fingers curl down around the bow instead of holding it by the fingertips.
Many Suzuki teachers introduce the “bunny” formation of the hand. This is simply done with the right hand by curling the two middle fingers over the thumb placed against the palm of the hand.
This hand formation allows for finger independence of the "ears" (pinky and index) as well as feeling how the middle two fingers work together with the thumb.
Bunny Eats The Chocolate
The frog looks like a piece of chocolate, so it is easy for kids to go from forming the bunny hand to placing it on the bow:
- With your left hand (violin hand), hold your bow in the middle of the stick, bow hair parallel to the ground, with the frog on the right.
- Make the bunny hand in the air with your right hand (bow hand).
- Now bring the bow up into the right hand, letting bunny "eat" the square of chocolate.
- Pull your thumb outside of bunny’s mouth, and place it into the “window” between the stick and the hair.
- Let the bunny’s teeth reach all the way down to the bottom of the frog, without going underneath.
- Place the pinky on top and keep it curled.
- Spread out first finger slightly away from the other two.
- The hand should be soft and springy, not hard or with pointy knuckles.
- Rest bow on your opposite shoulder.
- Take your hand off the bow and repeat from the beginning. Do 5 times per day.
Watch The Video
Bunny Hand is very easy to perform, but it must be repeated often.
This method can be introduced right away, or it can be done later after other aspects of the violin are taught. When starting a new student I try to do this within the first few lessons, but it works with students who are already used to a different way of holding the bow.
Even intermediate students can regress, and this exercise will help recover their bow hold.
Watch out for mutant hand! If the hand tightens, stiffens, or adjusts out of its relaxed curl over the frog, start over and place the bunny again. Be sure bunny doesn’t leave the chocolate hanging out its mouth!
As with other Practice Tips, this one creates a language that can easily be returned to in review: “Bunny isn’t eating the whole piece of chocolate, is he? Can we have bunny’s teeth drop down a bit farther?” I often say, "Your bunny is getting angry" or "you have mutant hand" when bow hand has gotten clenched or tight.
Don't get stuck!
Avoid the frustration of bad habits with bow, and continue the progress you've made with this Practice Tip!
Get simple step-by-step exercises that will improve your sound with Learning Violin: Moving The Bow (click here).
And you can also check out these related videos for bow hand agility and softness: