Use to improve
To follow our last article on how to bow, we want to learn a few bow games to hep us practice and improve. These are just a few of the games we play in my private lessons, but they each do something different and beneficial to your technique.
Flip it and fix it
This is our introductory bow game. This game simply has you make the correct bow hold, with the bow hair facing the floor, then you flip the bow over so that the bow hair is facing the ceiling. Then, flip it back over so that the bow hair is facing the floor.
What’s important here, is that often times it is easier to make corrections to our bow hold when we have flipped the bow over so that the bow hair is facing the ceiling. Specifically, it’s easier to adjust your thumb and pinky fingers when you have the bow flipped over.
Penny bow games
The penny bow game is a big hit among my students. It is excellent help in creating a good, solid bow stroke, but it’s also challenging and in that respect, it becomes fun. Rule number one is that the top of the wrist stays flat throughout the bow stroke. So we use this to make a “table top” of sorts, where we can put things on the hand to help us remember to keep the top of the hand flat, and not tilted.
You probably guessed what we’re going to put on top of it. Yep, a penny! Now, this does work with other coins, but a penny is usually the easiest to start with. Generally, the larger and heavier the coin, the tougher this exercise becomes.
Place the penny on top of the right hand (or left if you’re bowing with your left hand), between the first finger and second finger knuckles, but halfway between the knuckles and the wrist. Next, open and close your elbow, and allow your wrist to bend, keeping the top of the hand flat throughout the bow stroke. Remember, the goal is to keep the penny from falling off the top of the hand.
Monkey climb/spider crawl
This is a great game for once you’ve worked a little bit on your bow hold. All you need is to know how to make a correct bow hold, but you don’t have to be able to make a perfect bow hold all the time. This game is specifically geared more towards strengthening the hand.
First, make a good bow hold, and then point the tip of the violin bow straight up at the ceiling. Now, slowly place one finger above the other and “climb” up the bow stick until your fingers and thumb have reached the tip of the bow. Now that you’ve reached the tip of the bow, it’s time to go back down to the frog.
This is the “crawl” part of the exercise. Reverse your fingers and walk them down the bow stick back to the frog. Place on after the other with the thumb until you’ve reached your original bow hold.
These are great exercises that will help you with a straighter bow and better control over your bow. Keep practicing these exercises every day. They are useful even as an intermediate violinist, so don’t let go of them too soon. Use these tricks and you’ll be well on your way to being a bow master. Music is magic and keep practicing!