Learn to move like a jellyfish


In the previous practice tip (#13 - Spider Crawl) I talked about stiff fingers and how they prevent good bow motion. You need agile fingers to be shock absorbers and keep your bow from bouncing. This practice tip is meant to build on the agility you began developing with the Spider Crawl.  (If you missed that one, be sure to go back and review it.)

Another thing that agile fingers help you with is playing near the frog. When you do a bow change from up to down, you need a combination of flexible wrist and moving fingers to do it smoothly and comfortably.

Agile fingers will help you with many other different kinds of bow articulations as well. For now we focus on the bow change at the frog, exaggerating the way the fingers and hand move.


Part One

  1. Imagine how a jellyfish moves.

  2. Now move your bow hand up and down in the air (without the bow or violin).

  3. On the upstroke make your fingers curl upward.

  4. On the downstroke let the fingers open again.

  5. Imagine you are holding the bow. Put your hand at the same angle as you would to move the bow. Do this 10-20 times, making sure to do it in a relaxed, fluid, smooth way each time.

Part Two

  1. Place the bow on your shoulder and do 10-20 bow changes, up- to down-bow, keeping the bow near the frog.

  2. Keeping your wrist above your fingers, let your fingers relax and stay curled.

  3. Let the jellyfish motion of curl-open happen just at the moment of the bow change.

  4. Now with the bow on the string, make several bow changes on each string. The jellyfish motion of the fingers happens at the moment of the bow change from up to down.

  5. BONUS: Practice changing strings. Use your pinky and index finger to guide the bow for string change at the frog.

Click here for a video demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bno0FgMOmpY

Timing and pieces

This technique is all about timing. After a few days of practicing it, you’ll get the hang of how to coordinate this motion at the bow change, AND you’ll be more comfortable playing pieces that require playing near the frog.

Happy Farmer, Handel's Chorus, and Hunter’s Chorus are pieces where I take time to introduce this technique. I find that these pieces gain more personality and flair when students learn how to change the bow closer to the frog.

Remember: Move your fingers like a jellyfish. Just don’t sting anyone!