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Where the bow touches the string
It’s hard to convince students that they’re not getting their best possible sound and the cause is how they’re moving the bow. Once a piece is somewhat memorized, I tell students to watch the bow instead of their left hand which frequently requires a lot of reminding. We talk about how after learning the notes, rhythms and the technical aspects of a new piece of music, the next level of accomplishment requires focusing on the bow to produce a beautiful sound.

Practice in front of a mirror
Even more advanced students may move the bow with some elbow swinging which can be seen while practicing in front of a mirror. As students grow, adjustments in bowing patterns need to be made. However, a student may feel that because they have learned vibrato, shifting and other advanced techniques, they’re beyond the basic study of how the bow moves. A protégé of Dorothy Delay once told me that besides his masterclasses with Delay, he had an additional lesson every week with the “bow guy” whose job it was to teach the straight bow that her students are known for. 

Path of the bow
I use the example of the compulsory exercises that figure skaters used to do before we would see them on television in the Olympics. Like the skaters, the bow has to precisely travel along the same line. In this case the bow hair needs to move along the same place on the string. Keeping the tilt the same also helps to get a clear sound and access the violin’s natural amplifier. It seems like a dichotomy that in order for the bow to stay parallel to the bridge, it needs to travel in a circular path.

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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