Developing strength through relaxation

The trigger
Teenagers wanting private lessons for the first time very often have realized that the “fun” music they like to play is becoming more challenging. They may have friends who have been taking private lessons for a while who seem to learn music faster and have more leadership opportunities in orchestra. Most likely these students will ask to learn shifting and vibrato. Hopefully violin holds and bow holds are well set up.

The strengthening piece
Strengthening has to do with allowing freedom in one’s hands. For the violin hold, it is having the right chin rest and shoulder rest and placing the violin correctly on top of the shoulder. For the right arm it is being able to move the bow mostly from opening and closing from the elbow. However, the student may first need to work on their bow hold, developing the way the thumb and middle finger act as a fulcrum for balancing the bow.

Relaxation
Learning to relax in a particular way in order to have a freely moving hand can be elusive. It seems to be counterintuitive for many students who try to forcefully “muscle” vibrato which interferes with their tone and being able to play in tune. When I was a kid it was popular for a while to sneak up on a friend and push your knee into the back of the friend’s knee. That feeling of momentarily losing balance is very similar to how the wrist feels with hand vibrato. Likewise, keeping the right shoulder relaxed is critical for producing a clear tone with the bow.

Violinist Linda Beers is the creator of the Inspiration for Violinists, a 50 card deck. Each card has a unique image and text inspiring musicianship, mindfulness and spirituality.

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