Right hand flexibility by Yi-Fang Huang

The following post is by Yi-Fang Huang.

The art of Chinese calligraphy was one of the required courses I had to study in Taiwan. Although the way we hold the bow is completely different from holding the brush, it is fascinating when comparing similar technique principles between the two. The flexibility and dexterity demanded in Chinese calligraphy can be translated into similar feelings with the bow.

– The brush is the extension of the calligrapher’s arm.
– One must find the right finger balance, firm but flexible (not too tense, not too loose)
– The brush is held vertically between thumb and index finger; middle finger is slight below the index finger; the ring finger and little finger tuck under the middle finger.
– Each finger has it’s purpose: thumb controls the direction to right, index finger left, middle finger in (or down on the paper), ring finger out, pinky supports ring finger.
– Speed, pressure and direction of the calligrapher’s hand determine the result.
– The different strokes must be clearly defined.
Do “air brush writing” and feel the flexibilities among the fingers.

The following daily right hand warm-ups can facilitate the flexibility and dexterity necessary to achieve smooth bow changes, smooth string crossings and elegant strokes.
1) Stand in front of the mirror and do colle without the bow.

2) Put right hand on the left palm. Straighten all the fingers first and drop like “spider legs”. Do it a few times everyday.

3) Use a pen/pencil instead of bow in the different exercises below. It’s easier because it’s lighter. Avoid grabbing the bow too much. It’s helpful to transfer the same relaxed feeling from pen/pencil to the bow later.
– Colle motion (bow both horizontal and vertical)
– Pinky taps (both holding the pen horizontally and vertically)
– Pinky pushes out, ring finger brings in (bow horizontal)
– Draw clockwise and counterclockwise circles (bow vertical) to feel the flexibilities in wrist, palm, knuckles and fingers

4) When you take the bow, do all the above exercises with the tip towards the ceiling first. Try to make it as stable as possible. It’s easier than horizontal because of frog weight. When doing the exercises: “pinky tap” and “pinky pushes out ring finger brings in” with bow being held horizontally, you can use the left hand to hold the tip.

5) Last step would be to do colle on the viola. You can help by holding your forearm or wrist. Players with stiff fingers tend to “cheat” by moving their forearm in order to make sound.



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