Stiff fingers are the enemy of the violin.
When your fingers are stiff, your tone disappears. It’s like a electric transfer station going offline; all of sudden there is a blackout! The energy cannot flow from your body through your arm and into the bow.
Stiff fingers also cause the bow to bounce. If you're mystified by why your bow is bouncing, check your bow hand, if it is hard and stiff, that's probably why.
To remedy stiff fingers, I love doing the spider crawl.
Spider crawl quickly develops finger agility in the bow hand, while encouraging lateral (side-to-side) movement of the fingers. It is one of the first things I teach, from age 3 to age 83. Young muscles developing and old muscles with arthritis - everyone responds well to this exercise.
HOW TO DO SPIDER CRAWL
- Hold the bow out in front of your body
- Point it vertically in the air, tip toward the ceiling
- Crawl upwards along with stick, letting your fingers do the walking
- No letting the bow “drop” down - that’s cheating!
- Think of your fingers as dancing on the bow
- Keep your pinky curled
- Keep your fingers off of the hair - only touch the stick
- When you get to the tip, crawl back down
- Slowly! Try to keep the tip steady at all times
- Don’t rest the bow on anything or hold it with your other hand - that’s cheating!
Tips For Young Children
Placing a finger puppet on top of the bow really helps kids concentrate.
- The monster doesn't want to fall!
- Start with a straw, then graduate to a dowel or practice bow.
- 3-4 year olds may “cheat” at first and rest the bow on the ground or steady it with their other hand.
- Sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider”
Tips For Adults
We can have especially stiff fingers! This exercise really works to loosen them up.
- It should be done every day for adults who are beginning or returning to violin.
- Just be sure to rest and not overdo it. We don't want to strain and create undue tension.