Orchestra- ASTA Convention

Orchestra- ASTA Convention

One of the sessions I attended was titled, “Help! I keep running out of bow! Strategies for Teaching Slow Music in the string orchestra classroom,” presented by Molly K. Baugh from the University of Michigan. Besides being a solid engaging presenter, Molly had lots of great tips and ideas to share. As teachers, we need to always find the other side of the error, the outliers. It is ok to do too much on the string instrument so the student experiments with the outliers, whether it be a intonation of too sharp or flat, too much or little bow, extreme posture habits, what too much arm bow weight feels like, etc. Give the student permission to sound “bad” and they are learning and problem solving.

Bow control: WASP (Weight, Angle, Speed, Placement) Experimenting with bow weight, have chin fiddles play upside down bending from the waist until strings face the floor. Then play the same passage right-side up. A stand partner can hold their neighbors bow down, then play half as scratchy, 1/4 as scratchy. Have a student play holding the tip of the bow instead of the frog. Having an awareness of the full bow, play a “silent full bow” game where you or a student leader says, frog, middle tip to place the bow silently on the string. Experimenting with control over bow speed, use uneven bowings such as additive scales slurring 1, then 2 up to 4 using the whole bow each time. In rehearsal, pause during slurs and check bow position such as freezing the bow on beat 3 or a 4 note measure slur. Transfer metaphors such as sight, texture, taste, smell and sound to perform with the bow: Play and angry forte versus a happy forte.  Play this like you are graduating today. Play this like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner. Invite students to determine climax and arrival points within phrases. Use wording such as “Rests are where silence starts, not where music ends.” Put your brain in your right hand (bow) and the left hand will fix itself out. The Sound and Vision books 3 and 4 focus on the bow. These were all great ideas executed well. This session offered practical strategies for developing students’ musicianship and the bow control to express that musicianship through the performance of especially slow music.

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