Making of an Artist: Rafi #4

Rafi has added the following songs to his repertoire: Jingle Bells, A major scale with arpeggio, Happy Birthday, and Lightly Row (the second song of the Suzuki Book 1). He is able to use all four left hand fingers now with a lot of control. Happy Birthday and Lightly Row are still new, so it is easiest for him to learn the songs while I help place the fingers. Whenever I place the fingers, I also make sure his fingers are curled and relaxed.

For bowing, Rafi is still working on La La Sh Sh, starting down bow (middle) and up bow (from the tip). He has learned to keep his fingers more  relaxed on the bow. While he is playing I am constantly checking that all limbs are moving efficiently. That includes raising his left arm if it has drooped down. I am adjusting the position of the violin this way. 

Also I am keeping my hand on his right shoulder to make sure it doesn’t go up during the bow stroke. A shoulder that goes up creates physical tension and an unpleasant sound; thus it is to be avoided at all times. 

With my other hand I am also supporting his right elbow. Here I am making sure his elbow is at the same level as the bow and that the entire bow arm adjusts to the different heights necessary for the La and Mi strings. Basically, you want your shoulder to be down and your elbow to be up!

Additionally, Rafi is simply resting his right arm on my hand, allowing the weight of the arm to rest in my hand. Using the arm weight of the right arm is essential for beautiful sound production. It takes a while to get the feeling of letting the arm be heavy while suspended in space instead of letting it flop down completely. It is super helpful to have someone hold your arm while practicing bowing to get the feeling of this (I wish I had learned like that when I was younger!). In the production of a beautiful violin tone, there is a lot that can be seen with the eye (such as seeing the bow touch the strings with the correct angles) as well as ones that cannot be seen, such as the weight of the arm that is released into the string.

Since Rafi is getting better at La La Sh Sh, the next step is adding the rhythm and bowing patterns to his practice. The “I like chocolate ice cream,” “Grasshopper,” “Mississippi is a river,” and “strawberry, blueberry, pineapple” tapping rhythms (see video 1) are now played with combinations of quarter and half bows. These bowing patterns will be used in the future to play the first song in Suzuki book 1, the Twinkle Variations.