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Thread: Violin and the Bouncing Bow Problem

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    Default Violin and the Bouncing Bow Problem

    Hi all,

    I just got my first violin yesterday, and I've already tried playing it a little. I don't have a teacher yet and I probably won't get one until fall, so I thought if you folks could give me a little help.

    One problem I've run into is that when I try to do vibrato, even the slightest shake in the violin makes the bow bounce which results in jerky notes. I've tried to move my left hand very gently when making the vibrato, but it's pretty hard to shake it without the body of the violin shaking, too. Can you give me any tips regarding this?

    I've found out that the violin is quite a bit easier on the left hand in some aspects than the electric guitar which I've played for ten years. You don't need to press all that hard on the strings, and the vibrato is easier aside the bouncing bow

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    It's almost sure that you aren't holding the violin correctly. Please try to afford at least one lesson with a teacher or ask a friend who's played a while.

    Have you got a shoulder rest? Do you need one?
    You need to hold the violin comfortably under your chin without clenching and without support from the left hand. Obviously the left thumb does give some support while playing but the left hand should be free to move up and down the fingerboard so you shouldn't be clenching the fingerboard either.

    Next, bowing should always be parallel to the bridge and when first starting, using the whole length of the bow in the correct position with the correct perpendicular slope etc. The right hand needs to be relaxed, flexible. Practice on open strings.

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    I adjusted my shoulder rest, and that seemed to help a little to the bouncing of the bow but it didn't solve it entirely. I guess I got a lot of practice ahead. You're right about getting a teacher. The only problem at the moment is that the local music school is on summer break so it might be difficult to find a teacher during the summer. But I'll be definitely getting one when the school continues.

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    It's practice, really. A similar thing will happen when you start position changing - moving the left hand up and down the fingerboard to get the higher notes. You gradually find you jar the fingerboard less as you go along.

    The main thing is to get the bowing right - this is a serious source of bad habits. For part of your practice, work on the open strings. Use the whole of the bow from the heel to the tip. This means using right shoulder, arm and wrist flexibly. When the tip is on the strings, the right arm is almost straight (except at the wrist of course). When at the heel the elbow is quite bent. The bow should be parallel to the bridge at all times with the stick sloping slightly away from you and maybe 2-3cms from the bridge.

    Don't apply a lot of pressure. When the dynamic is p/pp, the bow moves slower, when f and above move it faster. Sure, you'll exert a little more pressure for louder notes but this can coarsen the tone. Play a tiny bit closer to the bridge for loud notes.

    Anyway, enough of me. Here's a site that might help if you have broadband. If not, the lessons will take a long time to download. Click "master classes". He starts from the first steps.

    http://violinmasterclass.com/mc_menu.php

    Edit - he refers to the Kreutzer violin studies which are used as exercises in this instance.
    Last edited by Frasier; Jun-12-2007 at 13:05. Reason: added classes site

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    Wow, thanks for the link. It really seems helpful! I'll be browsing the site thoroughly

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    Senior Member Morigan's Avatar
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    As an amateur violin student myself, I'll tell you this. Don't expect to do vibrato any soon. This isn't like a cello. According to my teacher and most professionals I asked, it takes years to be able to do it (at least correctly!)

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    vibrato: practice it against the wall. Relax your fingers. The true vibrato comes from the first join of your finger. You need to relax your hand enough to let it vibrate. Also, the vibrato isn't a forward-backward motion. It's a circular motion. You are using the pad of your finger as a pivot point to move your first joint counterclockwise. I'm not the master of the vibrato yet, but if you take a look at heifetz' vibrato, you'll see how fast his first finger joint moves.

    bowing: You need a firm bow. First, make sure the grasp is coreect. Knuckles down, relaxed. Try to make your bow as heavy as possible (and by heavy, imagine your hand as a weight...it is pulling the bow downward). You just need some more strength to hold the bow in place. And if that doesn't help, faster bowing might.

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    I'm afraid I have to agree with Morigan. There's no way it's worth trying to learn vibrato until crimson is able to play a decent scale (reasonable intonation) without supporting the violin with the left hand (more than slight pressure from the left thumb).

    It's also easier to get the effect in a higher position - the 3rd, say. Props are inadvisable - the student needs to support the violin independently of props or they will just bring further problems on themselves when abandoning the prop.

    At first it can be extremely tiring to the left wrist so the student must learn to relax the wrist and fingers as much as possible while allowing enough pressure to stop the string. At best, choose a single sustained note and practice it slowly, trying out the different fingers. A couple of minutes per day is enough at first. In fact, a good part of vibrato is WILLING yourself to do it. To do that, the student has to know what they should be doing. A demo by a good player is worth a thousand words so the student can examine what's going on.

    But as you say, Luximus, bowing has to be secure. No use if the bow goes all over the strings, so long bowstrokes that stay in the correct position come first. They help to produce good tone for the beginner too.

    Still, we hear dozens of views of the anatomy and action of vibrato but the site I posted presents at least one way for those to whom vibrato doesn't come naturally. (It doesn't to me. I've been playing a few years and still have problems. I always include a slow scale with vibrato in my practice.)
    Last edited by Frasier; Jun-13-2007 at 12:47.

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    Junior Member Woodley6453's Avatar
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    This has been said really, but I just thought I'd add in:
    While you're just starting, try not to focus on vibrato; it's actually a bit of an advanced technique and takes most players a while to even start learning it. You need to build up more basic skills first - holding the violin properly, bowing (and making your bowing hand and wrist more flexible), intonation, note changes, etc.
    "Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend."
    -Ludwig van Beethoven

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    maybe you have the tension on the bow too tight.

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