checkpoints-for-successful-setup-from-the-start

By Bob Phillips

Getting students set up for success starts on day one with how to sit/stand and hold the instrument. Getting it right in the beginning is better than having to remediate in later years. Since my beginning classes were very large, it was not possible for me to be “hands-on” with each student as a private teacher would. This required me to create solutions that worked even if I couldn’t physically position each student. The primary solution is a clear process that takes advantage of the principles of large muscle movement with clear checkpoints. This process works well for all situations and  addresses the issue of muscle tension in the students with a setup motion that promotes relaxation or the release of muscle tension. A good example of this is setting the bow on the string. If students hold the bow over their head and then lower it down to the string the large muscles relax as the bow lowers. Lifting the bow does the opposite and adds tension.

Individualized instrument checkpoints can be done for each instrument at the same time, even in heterogeneous settings, using common number commands, solving the issue of keeping all students engaged. Once the students learn the sequence, the teacher calls out the number and thus leads the student through a set up that results in tension-free position. Here is an abbreviated list of the checkpoints I used (Additional setup tips are on page 3 of Sound Innovations for String Orchestra, Book 1). You can certainly personalize this routine as you wish but I would recommend using one every day until holding the instrument correctly becomes a habit.

Violin and Viola

Basic steps to establish correct standing or sitting position:

  • Checkpoint 1: Hold the instrument, scroll up facing out, in front of the student’s face with left hand holding the neck and right hand on the bottom right bout.
  • Checkpoint 2: Lift instrument above the head. (This lifting motion usually adds muscle tension.)
  • Checkpoint 3: Lower instrument to left shoulder. (This motion usually releases tension.)

Cello

Basic steps to establish correct sitting position:

  • Checkpoint 1: Hold instrument at arm’s length facing out, in front of the student’s body so it is vertical resting on the endpin.
  • Checkpoint 2: Bring the instrument back until it touches the body. (This motion usually releases tension.)
  • Checkpoint 3: Slightly turn the instrument to the student’s right.

Bass

Basic steps to establish correct standing or sitting position:

  • Checkpoint 1: Hold instrument at arm’s length in front of the student’s body so it is vertical resting on the endpin.
  • Checkpoint 2: Bring the instrument back until it touches the body (This motion usually releases tension.)
  • Checkpoint 3: Slightly turn the instrument to the student’s right. (How much to turn depends on whether they use French or German bow.)

SI-Strings-coverscan-cluster

Being part of a musical ensemble teaches students true-life skills that extend far beyond their school years. Just as students are taught about posture as an individual, they need to learn what it means to be part of the team. These skills can begin to develop in their first year. Sound Innovations for String Orchestra may very well be the resource you have been looking for. Learn more on Sound Innovations at alfred.com/si.


PhillipsBob Phillips is well known in the music education community as a successful teacher, composer, teacher-trainer, and conductor. He is the Director of String Publications for Alfred Music and the President-elect of the American String Teachers Association.

Advertisements