Music to a child's ears
"Pretend," I say, "that you are wearing a bracelet made of candy."
"Candy !?" she exclaims. "Is it edible?"
Not really, we're just pretending. But the spark in her eyes is real! And the way she starts to bend her wrist is too.
This practice tip is one of the hardest to master. It has to do with a simple action: BENDING THE WRIST on the up bow.
A stiff wrist gets in the way
When your wrist is too stiff, it prevents bowing across the half-way point and entering the lower half of the bow. KIds who want to hold the bow stiffly at the wrist, especially the boys, tend to hold the bow like a baseball bat.
When students are in the habit of playing with their wrist in a downward, “cocked” position, they will only use the upper half of the bow, unable ever to get a whole bow stroke. I used to introduce this after several of the other beginning steps were mastered. But I have begun to introduce it earlier due to the amount of stiffness and tension I'm seeing. I also use it for intermediate and advanced students who don't use the whole bow.
Practicing a better wrist position
Asking them to smell their (bent) wrist will create a better bow stroke, while arousing curiosity and imagination about something pleasurable.
If you follow the three-step process below in order, you can show them how to practice using a better wrist position, and train their muscle memory to be more comfortable with it.
CANDY BRACELET I - NO BOW
- Imagine you are wearing a candy bracelet
- Bend your (bow hand) wrist all the way up to your nose and smell it.
- Bend your wrist the other way as your hand moves back down.
- You are mimicking a down bow and up bow.
- BREATHE with each stroke, inhale on each upbow, exhale down bow.
- Repeat 10-20 times, smelling your candy bracelet EACH TIME you go up-bow.
CANDY BRACELET II - BOW ON SHOULDER
- Set the bow on your left shoulder
- Move the bow up and down, and on each up stroke bend your wrist toward your nose.
- Exaggerate the motion, so you can really feel a good bend
- The bow will tend to fall off your shoulder. That’s ok, put it back on.
- Don’t be tempted to “control” the bow by squeezing or tightening your bow hand. This will be awkward at first, that’s ok!
CANDY BRACELET III - BOW ON STRINGS
- Play open strings, retaining the bendy wrist. You will no longer bring your wrist all the way to your nose, but you are going to get close!
- Remember to lead UP with the bent wrist on EACH up-bow. Repeat 10-20 times.
- Play Scales, Twinkle, Lightly Row, Long Long Ago, Handel’s Chorus, Brahms Waltz for long slow connected bows with time to think about the bent wrist.
- Play Happy Farmer, Hunter’s Chorus to practice quick up-bow at the frog and playing in the lower half. These require good finger agility as well as the bent wrist.
- As with the earlier steps, don’t be tempted to control the bow by squeezing or tightening your hand. If this happens, STOP!
IMPORTANT: The bow may slide around a lot at first. It will feel awkward and sound funny. Don’t despair, keep at it. As you repeat these exercises you will naturally be able to keep the bow straighter.
KEEP YOUR HAND SOFT
In my experience even when students *think* they are bending their wrist, in actuality they are hardly doing it at all. Lots of repetition required.
SEE A VIDEO DEMONSTRATION [click here]
Remember, we can arouse curiosity about a really hard technique by giving a sensory pleasure to imagine.
Who can resist candy?
Use this to introduce a valuable technique early on, and sit back and listen to them play more freely and with a fuller sound.