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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bow Games/Exercises

Bow games are an huge part of my routine in my orchestra class.  I use these games to check bow holds every day, but also to get student's attention and get class started.  As students enter the classroom, they bring me their instruments and I tune them.  All students must be on time and be tuned by 1 minute after the bell rings.  While they are waiting for class to start, they are working on bellwork that I write on the board each day.  The class can start getting a bit noisy with 36 beginners...(and this year I will have 54 beginners in one class...yikes!) class begins when they hear music coming through the speakers.  I always do our bow games to the beat of some music that I choose.  I use different music throughout the year....Here is a list of some of the music I like for bow games:

Stayin' Alive  - BeeGees
I Like to Move It - Crazy Frog
You Spin Me Right Round - The Chipmunk version
Lindsey Stirling music
Vanessa Mae electric violin music
Piano Guys music
Monster Mash  - at Halloween
Ghostbusters - at Halloween

I recently found a neat website that tells about some games and particular music to use for each game.  I may have to try some this year:

As soon as students hear the music start, they get their bows and their eyes are on me to lead them in bow games.  Later in the year, I turn that job over to a student, and I let students begin class so I can walk through the students and fix bow holds.

Now to the games:

1.  Rockets - moving the bow straight up and down.  For more challenge, you can have students hold a canning ring and move the bow through the middle...controlling the bow so that it does  not touch the sides.

2.  Side to Side - moving the bow left to right with right arm straight - this works the shoulder muscles.

3.  Open and Shut - moving the bow by opening and shutting the elbow - this is an important bow game to teach students how to bow straight.

4.  Tic Tocs - moving the tip of the bow back and forth like a second hand on a clock.  Students should be watching the tip of the bow while they do this.

5.  Stir the Mush - a stirring circle motion with the you are stirring a pot.

6.  Wind Shield Wipers/Railroad Crossing - moving the bow to point straight up, then tilting left until the bow is parallel to the floor.

7.  Pinky taps - for violins and violas only - tapping the pinky on the top of the stick

8.  Elevators - With the stick parallel to the floor, move the bow up and down.

9. Spider Crawl - crawling up and down the stick with fingers only

10.  Disco - moving bow from top left to down right - like the disco dance from Saturday Night Fever

Student don't get bored with these for awhile.  I like to introduce at least one per day.  When they do get bored with these exercises, I start to switch things up a little bit.  I bring a penny for each student and have them do bow exercises while keeping a penny balanced on their right bent thumb.  You can do the same with hard lifesavers, M&Ms, Skittles.  You can put gummy lifesavers on the tip of the bow and have them try to keep the lifesaver there throughout the bow games.  Students can race each other on the spider crawl.  I send a few students out in the hall, then pick certain students to do bow games with bad bow holds.  Then the kids that were in the hall have to come and find the students with bad bow holds.  I buy balloons and have students try to keep a balloon in the air while doing the rockets bow game. 

I feel bow games are important to do every day because a proper bow hold is so important.  I am constantly checking and fixing bow holds, and I find that students quickly learn to hold the bow the right way if I am doing bow games and checking their bow holds every day.

For violin/viola students that have trouble with keeping their pinkies on the bow, I buy the small size corn cushion stickers, and I stick one on the top of the stick.....we call the stickers 'Pinky Donuts' and the pinky will sit quite nicely in the sticker.  This can solve a lot of bow hold problems.  Sometime I use the sticker for cello/bass thumbs.

See more about bow games at another post HERE.


  1. Could you do a video on these bow games. It would be very helpful and very appreciated. Thanks for your wonderful ideas!

    1. There is a great video on Youtube with most of these bow the teacher changes the music according to which bow game is being done, so it's pretty entertaining. Check it out!

  2. Bow games are an huge part of my routine in my orchestra class. I use these ...