Ask the Teacher - Grigory Kalinovsky


The New York-based violin pedagogue explains why he advocates Galamian scales and a few sprints for students warming up

What is the most common technical problem you help students to overcome?

Many students develop tension in the right shoulder when they try to make a big sound. This is almost always due to a weakness in one of the deltoid muscles (deltoids are responsible for lifting the arm away from the body) that should control the weight of the bow arm during playing. To test the muscle, I give new students a simple exercise: hold out your bow arm horizontally in front of you, bent to a 90° angle at the elbow, keeping the shoulder down and the wrist relaxed and hanging below the elbow, so that the forearm is pointing about 45° downwards. Then lift the elbow as high as you can and lower it again, keeping the shoulder down and forearm pointing down all the time. I get a lot of ‘ouches’ from students when they first do this; their arms often shake and shoulders creak, all of which are signs of weakness. Then I ask students to practise a variation, putting the arm into the same position as before, but this time, moving the elbow from side to side. The ultimate goal is to be able to swing the arm freely in the horizontal axis while maintaining any elbow level for any string, because that free swing is what gives you a big powerful sound without tension, and the whole concept of bow division is built on controlling the free momentum of that swing – the more bow you want to use, the more momentum you give to the arm motion, and vice versa. The feeling should be as if the only thing slowing down the bow is the friction of the hair with the string – otherwise, the arm would simply ‘fall through’. In other words, to slow down the bow, you don’t slow down the arm – you increase the friction with the string through weight and sounding point.

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