No More Nagging!

As I am getting ready for the school year to start, I have been thinking about ways to resolve long-term posture issues that students seem to grow into over time.  I teach high school students, so if issues have not been resolved by the time I get them, it can be incredibly frustrating for both myself and the student if I am constantly nagging them about their issues.  Here are a few things that have helped me in the past:

  1. Pizza Delivery Anyone?   – Okay… The left wrist is one of the most common issues I see in all ages of violinists and violists.  No Nagging Necessary
    1. FIRST STEP: Avoid Public Humiliation – Instead of calling them out on it in front of the entire class, show them after class in your office what you are looking for.  Take the time to address the issue to show the students how important it is.
    2. ON THE PODIUM: MODELING MAGIC – When you see students with their wrists in toward the violin or viola, and you can’t walk over to them, try the following, even during rehearsal:
      1. Look directly at the student with the issue
      2. Model the poor posture while still looking at the student
      3. Place right hand thumb on the inside of wrist and push it to the proper place
      4. This works 9 times out of 10!
    3. OFF THE PODIUM: No Nagging! – Instead of nagging your students, simply walk by them, move their wrist with a marker or the eraser end of a pencil and push out their wrist to where it should be.
  2. Pretzel Posture – Another incredibly frustrating habit, but a much easier fix 🙂 
    Sometimes I really think this is how students are trying to sit... Seriously pretzel style...
    Sometimes I really think this is how students are trying to sit… Seriously pretzel style…
    1. FIRST STEP: Physical warm ups – Warm up students before you even start playing.  As they are preparing to sit down after warm ups and stretches, model the ideal posture as they are lowering into their chairs.  Be clear about what you want and point out students with ideal posture
    2. ON THE PODIUM: FEET FLAT – From the podium, stomp right foot, then left.  You may have to explain what you want the first time, but students will get this cue immediately once you tell them.
    3. OFF THE PODIUM: TOE TAP – Walk by the student and tap their foot with your own.  This is a discreet way to get them into the posture you want without embarrassing them
  3. Bizarre Bow Grips – Okay, I’m sure you have seen all kinds of wild bow grips in your own time!  From the hitch-hiker thumb peeking through the other side of the bow (ARGH!) to the entire hand shape tilted to the right instead of the left (DOUBLE ARGH!).  This is one of those that you will have to work and work and work and work on!  So, try these steps, but please comment below if you have more.  I’m always on the lookout for new tips and tricks for string playing
    Sure... Why not just hold the bow with a rubberband and your thumb under the frog?!?!?!
    Sure… Why not just hold the bow with a rubberband and your thumb under the frog?!?!?!
    1. First Step – Demonstrate the proper bow grip.  You may want to do this even when teaching high school (I do this with every level of orchestra).
      1. Avoid telling the students that they have been holding their bows “wrong” for like, ever.
      2. Instead, explain that the new way will allow for more advanced techniques
        1. Not only is this true, but it gives the instructions greater weight and importance!
      3. Provide a step by step process for setting up the bow grip and then have students check theirs.
      4. Have them take selfies with the proper bow grip.
      5. Have students tap each finger on the bow to ensure flexibility
    2. ON THE PODIUM: Pick up ANY STICK-LIKE OBJECT and demonstrate the proper bow grip.  Look directly at the student who needs to adjust placement.
      1. The student may just need to re-place the fingers on the bow.  That’s okay.
      2. Demonstrate this from the podium while looking at the student.
      3. This can happen while music is being made (it is less embarrassing for the student this way too)
    3. OFF THE PODIUM: Walk around the room and discreetly fix the bow grip
      1. Perhaps bring a straw with you
      2. Tap on the “offending finger” with the straw to show the student what needs to change
      3. Help the student re-form the grip again if necessary

Remember to always smile at the student after a fix so that they know you aren’t mad or frustrated.  Never let them in on your frustration or you stand a great chance of losing them 😦

Now, go enjoy your school year and fix all those little buggy problems that drive us insane.  And when you fix them this way (discreetly), your students will have even greater respect for you because you are respecting their need to fit in while helping them.

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