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Lee Gordon Seebach

Hello everyone,


In my un-expert opinion, the biggest issue I have with my progress after three months is my bow stroke.  I'd like some feedback, please, on my thinking:


After taking numerous videos of myself playing (argh! no, I won't post one yet!  but I will, I promise), I can see that my bow is all over the place.  It's not parallel to the bridge, I'm not "pushing away" on the downstroke, it wobbles up and down and sideways and I have trouble keeping the same the contact point on the strings.


My point is, I think that until I get better with the bow, there is little point in learning much else because otherwise I'll just be learning songs, for example, and developing poor habits with the bow.  I'm not in a big hurry, and I'm willing to get this right before moving on.  What do you think?


A remedy I'm trying (besides continuing to take more videos to check my progress, which only shows what I'm doing wrong but doesn't help me fix anything), I've mounted a 16"x20" mirror on the wall so I can check my stroke and my bow arm, then look at my violin to get the "sight picture" of how my bow should look as I play, back to the mirror, back to the violin, etc.  In the meantime, hopefully, I'll be training my body to cooperate so I eventually won't have to use a mirror so much.


What do you think of all this?  Thanks!


PS Beth, I love violin.lab. You're awesome.

Lee Gordon Seebach
16 Responses
Posted: April 12, 2018
Last Comment: April 17, 2018
Replies

Lee Gordon Seebach
Posted: April 17, 2018
Hi everyone,

Here's an update on my progress:

I've been working on incorporating all the advice I received from my video post comments and working with the mirror to watch and correct my arm motion and bow stroke.  Plus, I've been watching Beth's videos on straight bowing, loose wrists, and others, as she suggested.  Thanks again, Beth, and all you other wonderful folks.

Also came across Beth's video on the piece, French Folk Song.  I'm working on this and Open String Duets #1.  I play along with both in iTunes and Garageband (so I can record my playing.)  Both of these seem very important to me to focus on at this point so I can establish good playing habits.  I really feel I have no business doing much else until I can feel good about my bow stroke.  I'm determined to "get" this!

Additionally, I did come across this video of Beth's Vibrato Practice part 1  I know I'm nowhere near ready to incorporate vibrato into my playing, but I see no harm in doing the exercises she talks about in the video. So for ten minutes a day for the next 6-8 weeks, I'll be doing those, too, before moving on to adding the bow.

I plan on posting another video of my bow stroke soon.

Thank you everybody.

Lee Gordon Seebach
Posted: April 14, 2018
Wow!  Is this great, or what!?  😀🎻You guys are so amazing.  Thanks so much.

I will study all of your input and apply it.  After a week or two, I'll post another video.  Hopefully, I will have made some steps forward.  I'm sure I will with all of your great feedback in mind.

As a professional artist (painter), I know that mastering the fundamentals of any art is important because they always apply.  I'm new to the violin but I would think that the bow stroke is fundamental to playing well.  I'm not really being hard on myself, I just think it's really, really important to get right from the very start.

Again, thanks for your comments.






Ted Adachi
Posted: April 14, 2018
HI Lee,
What I notice the most is your locked elbow shoulder movement (probably because this is my own personal struggle). At 58 seconds into your video, this is most clear. There is some small movement at the elbow but most of the movement of the bow is done by your shoulder.

Flexing at the elbow is really unnatural. I think we hardly ever do it in normal activity so you have to train yourself on this. The best solution I have found is to play in front of a mirror ALL THE TIME. It is not good enough to play in front of a mirror for a minute and then continue practicing without the mirror. This movement is so unnatural that your body (or at least in my case, my body) forgets the movement right away and reverts back to what is most natural.

So set up a mirror so you can watch yourself all the time. Notice how when Beth plays, her lower arm seems to shoot up and down like a piston. Her shoulder and upper arm barely move. That's what you want your movement in these quicker passages to look like. 

As Elke says, it's not just the elbow movement that's important but it is one of the keys. Once this becomes natural and you can begin to feel the difference between flexing at the elbow and rocking at the shoulder (and this takes time; it took me 18 months!) getting the bow to go where you want it to go starts to become a reasonable possibility. 

As a plus, it is much less physically straining to play faster passages flexing at the elbow instead of with the 'sawing' motion. This can also help you recognize when you are off the track; if you feel like you are straining to play a passage, then check again your elbow.

At three months I think you are doing very well. Keep practicing and be patient with yourself.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: April 14, 2018
Hi Lee, actually you're dong music better than you think. Your tone is not suffering due to any bow traveling issues. In fact, I was rather impressed. Refining the detaché motion will happen. The video Elke referenced will help.  I'm glad I heard you play the open string duets with me! I wondered if those long bows would be manageable, and you're managing them! Because they require such a slow bow speed, play a little closer to the bridge and your sound will be glorious!

On the Resources page here, Elke has done a brilliant job archiving my video responses to members' videos. If you scroll down the first two columns, you'll see a number of labels having to do with straight bow. There's one referencing "dart throw" too. I think you'd glean a lot from watching the members' videos, then viewing my response. Essentially you are doing the same thing the others were doing, so be comforted that this is totally normal. Getting the open elbow feel isn't intuitive at all, but once you feel it, it will become second nature.

Inge Black
Posted: April 14, 2018
What I saw and could relate to is that the whole bow stroke looked much better than the short strokes at mid-bow later on, even though the belief often is that w.b. is harder.  I can relate to it because the lessons I had "back then" started with whole bows.  I never did get at the short strokes, and have had to work at them.  They did not come naturally.  I understand that most people start with the short bow strokes and then expand to get bigger, so for them "whole" is what is new.

At mid-bow, the motion is from the elbow: the forearm is opening and closing at the elbow.  For the "down bow" part, you can actually get a relaxed sensation by holding your upper arm in the air with the arm "folded", and just let your forearm "drop" from the elbow, and then bring it in again - then reduce the drop.  What you want to get into your body is the distinct sensation of your forearm folding and unfolding from the elbow.  You already have this as you do whole-bow and get to the center but now it would be good to isolate that motion in particular.

Elke Meier
Posted: April 14, 2018
Ditto to what Dianne said! I sure expected something completely different after all your heavy warning words :). I think you might be way too hard judging yourself... 

As for observations: 
  • Not quite sure about this one as it didn't show very clearly from this angle, but I'll mention it anyway: Make sure your index finger lays LOOSELY over the stick. The index finger is there to put weight on the bow, but it cannot do that if you "grab" the stick with the index finger. Grabbing the stick will make any loose movement of the wrist very challenging... 
  • Just opening and closing the elbow does not do the trick for straight bowing. The wrist is just as involved. I am sure you have seen the video on the bi-fold door. But I experience the same as Dianne: the short notes in the middle of the bow are the hardest, because you can get away with not doing it properly... I would do two things: Take one duet with long bow strokes and do it slowly (the one at 1:45 would work well for that), but do it for now without accompaniment and really concentrating on using the whole bow from frog to tip. When you watch your video you will see that in fact you use about half a bow for these long notes. But if you do them more slowly you can actually use a whole bow and observe how the elbow and wrist feel in the different sections - frog, middle, tip. 
  • Play one of the duets with shorter notes toward the tip, entirely in the top third or quarter of the bow. That would help you concentrate on how the elbow and the wrist work together because toward the tip you would feel those movements better as they have to be more pronounced. 

Dianne
Posted: April 13, 2018
Sorry about that... the delete key! 

3 months? You are doing so well! Yes, your hand draws back on a down bow to cause the bow to drift to the fingerboard on those short detaché bow strokes, but that is hard to do and you can work on that.

At 3 months I was only using about 2 inches of bow and had poor tone quality, so when I saw your video I knew it was remarkable to have that kind of tone and bow usage.

You were doing well on the long bow, it was the shorter strokes where you just need to push out with the hand. Exaggerate it at first and then find just the right spot to keep the bow straight. I think the shorter, faster bows at the mid point of the bow can be the hardest to keep straight.

Lee Gordon Seebach
Posted: April 13, 2018
Hello Dianne,
Thank you for the comments and the nice words.  I've been playing other instruments all my life so maybe that helps, although the violin is the most challenging I've ever played.  I enjoy it, though.  I've always admired violinists.

I did build one of those paper tube rigs and have been using it once in awhile.  Maybe I'll work with it more.  I'll do anything!

I will work on pushing away so my hand doesn't draw back.  Thanks for your feedback!

Lee Gordon Seebach
Posted: April 13, 2018
This discussion includes members-only video content

Hello everyone,

Here's a short video from a couple days ago of me playing along with Beth's Open String Duets #1 (aka Open String Accompanied Exercises).

I've been back on violin lab and playing the violin for three months.

I can see myself that I need to push away more and a looser elbow, but any and all suggestions are welcome.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Dianne
Posted: April 13, 2018
Hello Lee. The same thing happened to me on fast detaché up bows. Elke kindly directed me back then to just the right video for me to practice away from the instrument. Watch this video from 1:25 in. As Ted has mentioned, getting the 'feel' for the correct bow arm mechanic will take time, and you can start with this before practice for a few days. Watch Beth's bow hold closely and how different parts of the bow require different kinds of movement.

Lee Gordon Seebach
Posted: April 13, 2018

Thank you Beth, Jerry, Ted, and Elke,


I'll post a video soon so you can see.


Beth, yes, I've watched your videos for Open String Accompanied Exercises #1 and #2 (Open String Duets), downloaded the PDFs, and have been practicing along with the recordings for #1.  (Haven't progressed to #2 yet.)  I'm sure this will help me.  It's good to get your feedback on this. 


Ted Adachi
Posted: April 13, 2018
I made a writing error. 
I wrote:
...So I found it important to flex the elbow and keep the shoulder relatively still. Using the mirror is a very good idea for this as it is very obvious when you watch your elbow if it is locked or if your UPPER arm is moving up and down from the elbow as you bow...

I meant to say 'your LOWER arm is moving up and down'. The upper arm should be still and the lower arm flexes up and down at the elbow.

Sorry for any confusion.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: April 13, 2018
Hi Lee, Having a mirror is a great idea, but you may still  have trouble diagnosing the root (or roots) of why your bow is roaming. It's possible that when you're using the left hand and reading music, that your bow arm starts misbehave and doing things you';r not even aware of. Did you see the relatively new posting with open string songs? #55-56, #65-66. These would be helpful to work on so that you can keep an eye on your developing bow technique.

Ted Adachi
Posted: April 12, 2018
While it is true that it would be helpful to see your bowing here is some advice based on my very limited 20 month experience.

First, be patient but work hard. 3 months, at least for me, was really like no time at all working at the violin. It is a very unnatural instrument and everything takes a lot of time to get used to. But the fact that you perceive your problem and are ready to work on it is very good.

I found that my biggest problem (and it may not be yours) was that I would lock my elbow and then use my shoulder to move the bow, especially in fast passages. This 'sawing' motion really makes the bow go crooked.

So I found it important to flex the elbow and keep the shoulder relatively still. Using the mirror is a very good idea for this as it is very obvious when you watch your elbow if it is locked or if your upper arm is moving up and down from the elbow as you bow. 

For me, it took about 18 months of playing before I could really 'feel' the difference between flexing my elbow and locking it so you need to be patient. Again, the mirror is a very good idea. I think I could have remedied my problem a bit quicker if I had set up a mirror right away (several times, I thought I had the problem licked only to discover on making a video that I was still doing the same things! Now I have a mirror set up at my table so when I sit and play I can constantly keep an eye on things).

Jerry Wright
Posted: April 12, 2018
Lee,
 I had the same problem for many, many months.  I could not make the bow go straight no matter what I did.  I tried the mirror, I recorded video of myself playing and watched the videos, I watched countless videos of other players, read articles about bowing, and my bow was still going in 80 different directions.
One day, I was watching a video, I am pretty sure it was one of Beth's and she said picture yourself throwing a dart.  For some reason it just started clicking after that. 
I agree with Elke and would encourage you to post a video for Beth and some of the other experienced players to give you positive critique.  I was scared to death to post my first video, it still terrifies me to play in front of others, but I promise you that nobody on this site will judge you and the positive feedback you get will be invaluable.  We've all had the same problems at some point in our violin journey and you will find it refreshing to hear how others found a solution to the problem that you are currently facing.  Besides, I am certain that I still hold the record for worst violin playing video ever posted. 😀


Elke Meier
Posted: April 12, 2018
I think you definitely SHOULD post a video, Lee, be it terrible or whatever else you think. A constantly crooked bow could well be a question of posture, or the angle of the violin, or something in the bow hold - there are so many aspects that can contribute to this and which you will probably not see as a beginner. I have been at it now for a few years, but I am still surprised sometimes at Beth's diagnosis of some video. She picks up things I wouldn't have seen.
And if you are too scared to share your playing I would do a private lesson with Beth. But I would definitely make sure that it was not only you looking at the problem but someone that would not only see the problem but know how to remedy it!