Analogies make learning the violin so much more interesting! Here are some I enjoy using when I'm teaching beginners.
The Army General
The left thumb is like an army sergeant with great posture (a straight back) who lives next door and is just tall enough that if he stands near the fence between your yards (a.k.a. the fingerboard) and peeks over the top, only his eyes show! I do actually draw with pen on the student’s hand, with the parent’s permission.
The Bunny Bow Hold
The bunny rabbit is helpful for describing not only the shape, but the soft, relaxed feel of the bow hand. The hand is definitely not so loose that it’s wimpy and slack. It needs to support the bow, after all! But it also should never be tight or tense like a turtle shell. The knuckles on the right hand should not look like mountain ridges, but should be as flat and relaxed as possible. This does take focus. And practice, of course.
For the bunny bow hold, pretend the bow stick is a carrot stick. (Make sure the students know to never touch the horsehair.) The bunny (the hand) “munches” the carrot from the tip of the bow down to it’s home just above the heel, or frog, of the bow. Notice that, like Bugs Bunny, there are two large teeth that come down over the chin (the middle two fingers pictured in front of the bent thumb. I always remind young students that their bunny has to have a chin.) The bunny ears are the pointer finger and pinky finger. They just rest on top of the bow after the other fingers and thumb are hugging the bow. You can have students pretend their rabbit has a twitchy ear (the pinky) and use that to get them to practice pinky taps on the bow.
A Trip to the Post Office
Whereas most of the other two analogies were heavily borrowed from my first teacher, this Post Office analogy, I believe, is mostly my own. I came up with the following imagery to describe to my students at what elbow level your arm should be at on each string (yes, there are four distinct levels!).
For the G string, I tell students to imagine they’re just the right height to rest their arm on the counter at the post office if it was as tall as their shoulder.
For the D string, I have students imagine they have a large box under their arm that they’re waiting to mail.
For the A string, I ask them to imagine a thick package under their arm.
For the E string, it’s just an envelope—not much space at all, so that the arm is practically hugging the right side of the body.
If you're a student, maybe this article gave you some food for thought for ways to check your posture. If you're a teacher, hopefully this sparked some creative juices for creating analogies of your own. Here's to continuing to making things fun with imagery in teaching.
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