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Why Use Bowing Patterns with Beginners?

One of my teaching “aha” moments came while working with in a kindergarten class whose parents were not available as practice helpers.

The challenges of this class ultimately led to my Movement Building Blocks sequence. Preparing the movement vocabulary for playing violin away from the instrument has made life easier for EVERY beginner I’ve had since.

After seeing the huge impact of this pedagogy “find,” I started to wonder … what other sequencing assumptions should I be questioning?

Fast forward. About four years ago I had the realization that my advanced students sounded better on Book 1 not because they’d practiced their Book 1 songs more, but because they had more technique.

I know. Obvious. BUT. I wondered. Does technique need to be tied to repertoire?  

I started experimenting with introducing various “more advanced” techniques during Book 1. The result: my students’ facility went THROUGH THE ROOF. And — the length of their home practice increased by about 30%.

My Book 1 lessons now look like this:

20 minutes of bowing technique on scales (stuff l would previously have introduced in Book 4)
10 minutes of repertoire
10 minutes of note-reading

You might think that a five-year-old would lose interest after just a minute or two of boring old scales.

Turns out, not so much. Have you ever seen how long a young child spends trying to snap their fingers?

Each bowing pattern is like a new “trick.” Getting it really good is actually intrinsically satisfying. (Even if you’re five.) (ESPECIALLY if you’re five.)

My beginners and I do lots of tricks in each lesson, and each pattern takes only a few minutes. AND they love that it’s on easy material (a scale).

They take great pride in their technical precision, and they assume that practicing scales is central to their violin practice. They consider their repertoire to be the “fun” thing they do during the second half of their practice.

Ummm. Think about THAT for a minute!  ╮ (. ❛ ᴗ ❛.) ╭  

Over the past month I’ve created videos for all the bowing patterns I use. The videos include my teaching points for that particular pattern. My Book 1 families use the videos between lessons to remember the rhythms, as a “sound model,” and to review my polishing points.

You can find the videos here. The titles mirror the rhythm and technique for that technique — so for example, Peanut Brittle is staccato hooked bows.

(As an aside, Peanut Brittle is now my students’ very first introduction to bowing. But that’s another story.)

I hope you enjoy these bowing patterns and find them valuable for your young students!