Do you ever find yourself landing on the wrong string, or hitting other strings whilst playing? Do you find that your stream crossings are not consistently smooth?
These could be signs that your bow arm is not consistently at the right level. Instead, your bow arm could be too high, or it could be too low.
How high or low the arm is, especially the upper arm, will affect how you deploy the weight of the arm into the string via the bow. This in turn will affect the sound quality.
It will be easier to find the right arm level - and to make a nice sound! – if you build a strong physical memory of where the arm needs to be positioned. and play each string cleanly ... without hitting the other strings.
Here’s an exercise that will help you to build up this memory quickly:
1. Raise your violin into playing position
2. Close your eyes
3. Decide on a 'target' string - i.e. which string you are going to play
4. Bring the bow to the violin, place the hair on the string, and focus intently on how your upper arm position feels
5. Move the bow (play!)
6. If you are playing the correct string, celebrate! Then do it again to repeat and consolidate the motion
7. If you are not playing the correct string, remember how your upper arm felt, and tell yourself whether it is too high or too low. (For example, if you were trying to play a D string and you touched the A string, then your arm is too low. If you touched the G string, your arm is too high)
8. Take your arm away from the violin completely, then try again. When you try again, be sure to think ahead and pre-plan the arm movement, as if you were 'correcting' the movement in advance of makig a mistake! For example, think back to the last time you did the action, then tell yourself your upper arm needs to be higher or lower than it was the previous time.
If the consistency of your bow arm is a technical priority for you right now, try practicing the exercise above for a couple of minutes each time you practice, for at least a few practice sessions.
After a few days or weeks, you are likely to see an improvement in consistency in your bow arm! If not, let us know ([email protected]) and we will help you to diagnose the issue.
For the best results, you may need to allow several weeks for your muscle memory to become strongly consolidated.