Imagine...you get up in the middle of the night. You don't want to wake anybody up. But then...

CREEEEEEEK! The door squeaks and groans! Rusty hinges...sounds like a haunted house!

Squeaky door hinge = squeaky sounds

Your elbow is like a door or a gate. If it is stiff and rusty, you will squeak.

Your gate is the hinge point, where the elbow opens and closes. Moving this freely is a BIG secret of good violin playing.

Why? Here's what happens if your gate doesn't open:

  • your bow does not go in a straight line. 
  • your bow wanders, traveling in an arc up and down the fingerboard.
  • your sound becomes cloudy, papery, pressed or forced
  • you have to work three times harder to move your bow, therefore you use less bow, and less sound on each note
  • fast passages and sixteenth notes are very difficult
  • the music sounds heavy and plodding

THEN, you start to feel frustrated and annoyed, even angry or sad that you can't attain a sound that you like. Pretty soon you feel like giving up.

Want to learn how to open your gate more? Take a peek and try some of the following actions.

ACTIONS FOR THIS WEEK

Give your elbow hinge some oil

Give your elbow hinge some oil

These practice methods will give your gate some "oil":

  1. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and move it down to your elbow. Watch and feel your gate -- your right elbow -- opening and closing.
  2. Place your bow on  your shoulder. Move it up and down. Same thing -- watch and feel your gate opening and closing.
  3. Do eight bow strokes on the open A string, opening and closing at the elbow, listening for a good ringing sound. Try it on other strings

Say the following rhyme while helping your child move the bow up and down on their shoulder:

 

OPEN THE GATE

Open the gate in the morning
The children want to play
Close the gate in the morning
The children want to stay

Open the gate in the evening
The children have to go
Close the gate in the evening
That's how you move your bow!

I've seen children age 3 learn this rhyme and follow along, even when their parents said "they have trouble focusing."

This also works with older children and adults - the silliness of the rhyme helps them remember it.

REMEMBER: Good contact with the string depends on opening the gate. .

Whenever you feel like your sound is becoming papery, cloudy, or squeaky, go back and check your elbow.  Give it some oil, and you'll get an instant improvement in the straightness of your bow and therefore your sound as well.