Beginners often struggle with producing good violin tone. They also often struggle to keep the bow straight, that is, parallel to the bridge. And they play with a “rusty elbow.” (Read on to learn what that is.)
Coincidence? I think not! Straight bow is one of the most important skills violinists must learn as they work on tone. In fact, it will affect all 3 keys to tone your tone production, which are:
- Bow Weight
- Bow Speed
- Bow Placement (highway)
If you can’t play with a straight bow, it will diminish ALL THREE of these keys to your tone production. A crooked bow will not only cause you to skid off your highway, it also renders bow weight and bow speed useless because the bow will not properly grip or engage the string if it is crooked, regardless of what you do with bow weight and bow speed.
The skills demo videos below illustrate the first skill, straight bow.
What is straight bow? It’s making sure that your bow is, well, straight. That is, parallel to the bridge.
A big obstacle to straight bow is the lack of understanding about what joints of the bow arm need to move and which ones need to stay put. You also need to understand the true direction a straight bow moves in. If you can learn the concept of “Greasy Elbow” you will be a step closer to executing a straight bow. Watch this video. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn that a straight bow is actually traveling straight out front!
This video demonstrates “greasy elbow”, which is an absolute necessity if you hope to play with a straight bow. It’s not hard to do…just takes a little practice.
Below is an exercise to help you practice and apply “Greasy Elbow” and “Straight Bow” to your instrument. Don’t be deceived….although these exercises are simple, they contain the seeds for very advanced playing and professional tone, if practiced correctly and extensively!
your videos help me to see where im going wrong
can you give me a price for your lessons. i think i need something
to show or tell me what i need to be working on everyday.
thank you for all you do for free.
Hobart L Elam
I emailed you my consultation rate. Hope I can help you out!
Thank you for the videos. It helped me out a lot,
I’m glad my videos helped you, Yohani! Keep up the good work!
As an adult beginning violinist, I really love the idea of using a curriculum based approach to work with the Suzuki books. I find the Suzuki books frustrating without a curriculum. I want to enroll in your courses, starting with Suzuki books 1 and 2. I have watched your videos on top 20 tips of skills to learn when using Suzuki books. Do you happen to have a more detailed structured curriculum and pedagogy to be use in conjunction with the Suzuki books? I am looking to enroll in your courses this weekend. Happy New Year 2017.
Los Angeles, CA
The Suzuki Books are totally useless without a structured curriculum to go with them…..they have hardly any instruction in them. The instruction lies hidden in the genius of the repertoire chosen by Shinichi Suzuki. That instruction is imparted to teachers during teacher training and certification….which serves to ensure that all Suzuki teachers teach using very similar methods and philosophies.
Yes, my Suzuki Books are carefully thought out and extremely well planned.
You get lesson summary notes which you can print or save, you get printed lesson supplemental material, plus playalong videos and audio recordings to really help you absorb the material and get it in your ears.
I hope to see you in the studio soon! Looking forward to it!
Lora, I am taking your Suzuki Book 2 course. I have found your tips and classes very helpful especially your Vibrato lessons. I also study with a teacher once a week, but find your classes much more informative. As an adult I really appreciate the time you’ve taken with your videos and demonstrations. Your a great teacher and I can’t thank you enough. I look forward to each new lesson. Thanks again.
Thank you, April, for your feedback! It really means alot!
Keep up the great work.
Live, private teachers are great for live, immediate feedback, so it’s nice that you have one.
You’re awesome, I can’t afford taking classes right now, and you are a great help! thanks a lot, it’s easy to see that you’re a terrific mentor
You’re welcome! Come on back when you’re ready to take some lessons. We’ll be here.
Lora, you are AMAZING! LOVE the way you teach! I was a string specialist in public schools for 42 years and retired 4 years ago. Wish I had seen your videos when I was teaching!
It’s nice to meet a fellow teacher! Keep in touch, see you around!
Lora- I signed in and wanted to watch how to do a straight bow, and a greasy elbow, and the videos wouldn’t work: it said-
“Video not found or access denied.”
Did I do something wrong?
Thank you for pointing that out. Another student pointed it out a couple days ago, and I am working on the problem. Basically, I will have to re-film those 3 vids this weekend, as they seem to have been “lost” in our upgrade. Please continue to point these things out, and eventually, everything will be PERFECT…..and then it will be time for another upgrade! 🙁
Thank you Lora!
I love your online Violin classes. You have no idea how many times you have played Twinkle! Anyway, I cant seem to access the tone production videos. I also see that you have so many video clips out there, I hope that as I go through the classes I can catch all of them.
You are an amazing teacher, and as a therapist, I know an excellent teacher when I see one!
Hi Linda! It’s great to hear from you in the comments section!
Tone Production videos….where are you trying to access those?
I KNOW! I have so much stuff all over the place, I don’t even know where it all is….I’m working on a site re-design that will compile ALL those random resources (including all the free stuff floating around out there) in one organized place. sigh…
Let me know where you are trying to access the tone videos from, give me a link, or a description of where you are looking….I’ll get my tech guy on it. He may have moved it!
Reference intonation; My problem is that I have no reference to verify the tone being correct. I have an chromatic electronic tuner but when you play you can’t keep looking at it to see if you are correct. What is the better way to be comfortable with your tones?
It just so happens that I have a MAGICAL SOLUTION! I have already explained it in one of my youtube videos, and it is called “Ringy Notes”, which is basically utilizing the sympathetic vibrations on your violin to help you gain a reference point. YOu will LOVE what these do for you!
Here’s the link
Let me know what you think! I think you’ll love this concept!
I just found you on line. I am enjoying your tips and great advice on violin playing! I may get your on line violin lessons. I would like to talk to you first. Please call me at 770-834-5035, or e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, you are doing a great job. Looking forward for the videos.
Hey there Flower
I will certainly do a video for you on using the lower half of the bow. I was saving that for later, because it’s more advanced, and I like my students to master the upper half of the bow, be able to draw a straight bow, with good sounding point etc. before we venture into the lower half. However, it might be useful for people like to to have their concerns addressed.
Regarding using the full flat hair: At the tip, our hair should be flat, but as we approach the frog, due to our wrist motion, the hair will tilt onto its side, as the stick rocks away from your face, and toward the scroll. This is only tilt. Some people exaggerate it….only do what is necessary in order to keep your hand on top of the frog rather than behind it. This probably calls for a video as well. I’ll put this on my to do list!!!
As far as your ELBOW goes, you asked, “The elbow is supposed to move, right?” That is a very tricky question. The ELBOW JOINT must move to move the bow in the upper half. However, when you get into the lower half of the bow, your ELBOW JOINT isn’t making the motion, but your ELBOW will move THROUGH SPACE as your upper arm and shoulder take on more motion. (needs a video)
These are great ideas for videos, and I will get them done asap! The main thing holding me back is that my hair looks terrible!!! LOL!
Oh hey….check out my YouTube video on Greasy Elbow….just search “Red Desert Violin” on YouTube, and all kinds of my vids pop up. I think you’ll find several of them helpful.
I’ll do some vids especially for you….I think many others have these same issues. Thanks for posting! –Lora
Thank you. If you could post some videos demonstrating the technique to play with the lower half of the bow, it would be very useful for beginners like me.
I have a question. Should we try to play with full flat hair from the tip to the frog? After the mid point I noticed if I have to maintain a straight bow I had to move my upper arm.
//Our shoulder is very BOSSY, and it likes to try to take over the whole job instead of letting the elbow do its job. //
Absolutely right! During class he hold my elbow either with hand or his finger. But whenever he did it I couldn’t bow fully without crackling noises. I couldn’t understand why he did it, the elbow is supposed to move right?
Interesting! I’m an adult beginner too. My teacher always advise me to use make use of full bow. He says the upper arm should never move. He tells me I have to use only wrist and forearm. But I find it very difficult to not move my upper arm when I play in the lower half of the bow. Do you have any tips for me?
Your teacher is on the right track, but there are no absolutes…there will always be an exception to “never” “always” etcetera. When he says your upper arm should never move, he really means it will almost never move. Sometimes I simplify statements for my beginners and say “never” or “always”, but I know that later one, I will teach them the exceptions to those rules.
You have discovered the exception to the rule before he taught it to you. When playing in the LOWER part of the bow, our upper arm must move. But we want to minimize this motion by using lots of finger and wrist motion, and only move the upper arm as little as necessary. Our shoulder is very BOSSY, and it likes to try to take over the whole job instead of letting the elbow do its job.
My tips for you are this: play in a mirror, watch your bow arm. Play little strokes at the frog, and see if you can do it ALL with just your wrist and finger action.
Another tip is to watch the mirror, start at the TIP of the bow, and play a long, straight up bow. (by “straight” I mean parallel to the bridge) WATCH CAREFULLY the point on your bow where, in order to MAINTAIN A STRAIGHT BOW, your upper arm and shoulder MUST MOVE. This point is called the “BALANCE POINT”, and it’s a CRITICAL part of bow technique to understand where this spot is. Let me know how you do!
i just wanna thanks you for the extraordinary job you do.
i´m a begginer and i don´t have the resources to pay for lessons. thats why i really really thaks you.
I’m glad you find these videos helpful, Moises. More great content to come! –Lora