I frequently do mini bow hold makeovers with students. Sometimes the tiniest alterations make the biggest difference! In this case, we changed how the bow is involved with the cello and body.
In the top photo, you might be able to notice that the bow was being used like a sword is used. This student was one knuckle away from using their bow like a baseball bat. Oh no!
In the bottom photo, after the makeover, you might be able to see that this student's relationship with his bow and cello has now changed.
There is no longer a posture of ordering his cello to "stomp out" a sound. The change has now prompted him to *ask* his cello to release sounds.
Please give Sophia a round of well-deserved applause!
After collecting 100 beautifully ringing Twinkles on her 100-chart during her practices (see photos below) she has earned her bow! You haven't seen pure pride until you've seen what her mom, grandma, and I saw last week - she was ecstatic.
Let's go all the way back to square one for this one, which is often needed when we're working on posture related cello technique. I believe ALL my students (and in fact anyone) has what it takes to be a beautiful musician and cellist. This may sound hoakey but it's true and it comes out in the very tiny ways I approach my instrument and the ways I want my students to approach their instrument.
My students are capable and resourceful.
When it comes to the cello, they most certainly aren't handicapped, victims, or bullies. They already have what it takes to become the kind of cellist they want to become.
From my experience both playing and teaching the cello, when it comes to inefficient cello technique, there is often a tie to the ever-popular and definitely not innovative "scarcity mindset."
Pictures Speak a Thousand Words
As with most other methods of communication, body language speaks volumes. This is the reason why I don't just aim to fix someone's bow hold. I aim to improve the way they think about how their body interacts with the cello. Doing this empowers a student to improve their bow hold on their own in the future, without me.
When I see what some teachers might call a "bad bow hold" I'm also seeing that this student is working with the resources they believe they are currently in possession of. For example, when I see the bow hold on the left, I don't see a really difficult future-sautille. [Product-oriented] I see that this student is placing their body's momentum behind the bow, instead of towards/inside of the bow. [Process-oriented] This student is not exploiting the strengths they already have!
Don't fight it.
Working against what you have is also a way that scarcity eeks its way into body language. It's almost like saying, "What I've got isn't enough, so I'm going make it work, if it's the last thing I do!"
Overlooking strengths and therefore using inefficient cello techniques make it easy to fall prey to a victim mentality, whether a student knows they're doing it or not. Especially as a beginner cellist, it's easy to practice with phrases like "Here goes nothing." or "I'm gonna make this hand/cello do this."
Those are fine and good places to start, but how is your body underlining that kind of mentality on a daily basis? And ultimately, do you want to re-enforce (daily) the idea that you weren't enough or too much to begin with? or that you're too short, too tall, too young/old, too ______, to play the cello? I should hope not.
I'm totally guilty these inefficient mindsets on a lot of levels throughout my personal life and within my approach of the cello. I'm way too familiar with them to ignore the signs. I can spot it anywhere. (Like I can spot a homeschooler a mile away!) and who knows, maybe I'm just unprofessionally projecting myself onto my students... (umm... self-judge much?) Woah. See how it snuck its way back in there?! It's wily. and it dies hard.
A teacher/coach who can help you discover what you already possess and plan the right way to act upon this dynamic potential? I've been lucky and blessed to have several. I would be honored to be considered one of them and share the wealth like they did.
Because it's not about getting a bigger slice of the pie, it's about making the pie bigger so everyone gets a bigger slice.
Am I right? or am I right? ;-)
One of my new student's got a first whack at a bow hold today. You did a wonderful job, Erin! Take a look at the fantastic bow hold y'all!
Can you guess which posture point Grace and I worked on in her lesson yesterday? You guessed it! Her wrist.
Grace has a lovely loose and relaxed bow hold, but her arm weight is being held above her wrist. To help with this, we're focusing on straightening that wrist of hers a little more than it has been recently. (See the above photo for an extreme example of her bent wrist.)
When her wrist straightens out, she can release her shoulder and upper arm to allow for her energy to really sink into the cello strings.
*in my Oprah voice* "It's gonna sound GOOOORGEOOOOOUS!"
Shout out to my cello-teacher-friend Maria Scherer Wilson who posted this jewel on her facebook page! Thank you so much!
Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile and Stuart Duncan
Here's a 15ish minute concert from the NPR Tiny Desk series. You'll love it.
[For those students of mine who've been playing with your facial expressions while you practice, take note of these unique ones!]
Check out Cliff's bow hold (pictured above.) Wonderful spacing between fingers. The 2nd finger is on the silver point. That pinky finger is planted to the frog and not gonna fly away. There is a bent thumb with a relaxed wrist. Sigh... This is a cello teacher's paradise. :-)
Let's give a round of applause to Becky, one of my new cello students this month! It's so fun to see how excited she is to be learning how to play cello. Gotta love that! Pictured above is her beautiful bow hold. Notice how relaxed and tall her hand is. When that thumb is bent (crucial to relaxation) the underside of her hand opens up. Good stuff!
Last night Shannon had her first cello lesson. Let's give her a warm welcome to the studio! Also, umm... Look at her awesome bow hold!!
Yesterday Maddie showed me how awesome her Perpetual Motion "Ribits" have gotten! Man alive, that elbow hinge has got some serious movement. Love it! Way to go Maddie!
We also worked a wee bit on refreshing her bow grip. Maddie's second finger touches the silver point of the frog. All the fingers lie flat against the front side of the frog (evenly spaced) while the thumb is bendy and relaxed. Looking good Chica!