Now that the year is almost over and my beginners are getting pretty proficient with rhythm and note-reading, I have really started focusing on bowing. I have noticed that the bowings get quite complex in the method book that I use, and difficult bowings definitely add a level of difficulty to the exercises.
We were just learning a tricky bowing with a tie, and I wanted to be sure all students were accurately reading and interpreting bow markings. I created this exercise that corresponds to a line in our method book. This was super easy to throw together and I believe that this exercise would work as a rehearsal technique on any other short tricky passage of music.
The exercise is really just one measure from an exercise in our method book...over and over to fill up the page. I took away the bowings in the first measure so students could focus solely on notes and rhythm. In the second measure, I wrote the bowing from the method book for students to read. For the remaining measures, I had students create their own bowing varations. I then asked students to play that measure over and over with the different bowings that they created. Because students were writing their own bowings, I knew students were reading and interpreting the bow markings. Students were quickly able to determine that some bowings made the measure more difficult to play, while other bowings made it easier. I love this exercise because students were practicing the notes and rhythms over and over in an interesting way...plus they really started to understand bowing technique.
To help all of my classes (all levels) understand the importance of uniform bowing, I had them close their eyes and listen to me play scales with different bowings (separate notes, slur 2, slur 4, slur and separate). They were to listen and tell me what bowing I was using on my scale. It was very easy for them to hear whether I was slurring or using separate bows. This helped students understand that bowings really are important and we want a uniform sound through-out the orchestra. Different bowings DO make different sounds...so we must read and perform what is written as a group.