5 Ways to Say “Stand Up Straight” Without Saying “Stand Up Straight” Yet Again…
I’m still waiting for the day that teaching the violin becomes easy for me. It has definitely become much easier than it used to be, but I still struggle. Last week I wrote a blog post, “Are You a Strict Teacher or a Nice Teacher?“, talking about why I try not to over-compliment during a lesson. That day while I was teaching I realized how many times I say the word “good.” Pretty much every time they stopped playing. How embarrassing.
A lot of aspects of the violin and music are very complex. It makes sense that they are difficult to teach. But there are some things that should be simple that still give me trouble. One of those is convincing my students to stand with good violin posture. Sometimes the more I try to explain it, the odder they look. They try to stand tall by sticking out their rear end or thrusting their chest forward.
In the past few months I’ve been working with several new students, many of whom really struggle with their posture. Recently, after 30 minutes of working with a new student on standing tall, one of my older students walked in for her lesson. For a second I stopped and stared at her. She used to have terrible posture and now it was great. How had we done that, again? I couldn’t remember.
One explanation of posture never does it for me. Every one of my students will relate differently to what I’m saying. Because of this, I decided to create a list of everything that has worked at least one time. Some of these ideas I pulled out of my head on the spot, some I’ve copied from teachers I’ve observed, and some I’ve found from Teach Piano Today. Each one has worked for one of my students at one time. Hopefully they can help yours, too.
1) It’s All About Tone
Maybe this one is obvious (to everyone except me, of course.) About a year ago I told one of my students for the umpteenth time to “stand up straight!” She looked at me and said, incredulously, “why do you care about what I look like while I play?” Oh. I probably should’ve mentioned that a long time ago.
I took a second to show her how her posture was affecting her tone. Putting all of her weight into one hip was pulling her bow crooked and her crooked bow was making her tone sound wispy and inconsistent. Boom. Fixed. I never had to bring it up after that. Sometimes our students need to know why we are teaching them something, and usually, it’s about the sound. (You know, we’re musicians, so that would probably make sense.)
Put the instrument in a safe place. Dangle your arms and reach for your toes. Count to twenty while you slowly (oh so slowly) come back to upright position. Reach your arms high above your head and let them float down. Teacher puts instrument back in student’s hands while the student focuses on how tall they feel now.
3) The Snowboarder
Brecklyn gets full credit for this example. She was inspired by the 2012 Winter Olympics and told me about it. It has worked for several of my students.
Imagine what a snowboarder looks like. (Even better if the student has tried snowboarding before.) Their feet are apart and they lean into their toes just a little bit. Their knees are quite bent and they lean back slightly. Once you’ve explained “snowboarder posture,” all you have to do is yell “Cool, Dude!” while they play and they go back to good posture.
Stand with your feet apart, fists on your hips, and head held high. Imagine a cape flowing back from your shoulders (this tends to help roll your shoulders back.) Teacher puts violin on student’s shoulder. Once you’ve explained “superman posture,” yell “To the Rescue!” as a quick reminder.
Alternate of this idea: “Princess Posture”
Imagine that there is a string coming from the top of your head as if you were a marionette. The puppeteer pulls on the string while leaving your feet on the floor. Your head pulls higher and higher until your spine straightens out.
Crack an egg
Crack an imaginary egg on top of your student’s head and describe how it would drip and slide down their spine. It will probably give them the shivers and help them straighten their back.
Poor violin posture is often caused by poor muscle tone, perhaps caused by sitting in a desk or in front of the tv for long periods of time. The good news is that the more they stand with good posture, the more core strength they will develop, and the less you’ll have to nag them about it. I also believe that the more they stand this way, the more confident they will feel, which will also help their playing.
Have you found a good way to help your students remember good violin posture? Let us know in the comments!