An important part of learning an instrument and performing is bowing properly. Often overlooked, taking a bow properly puts the finishing touches on a performance and adds to a student’s confidence. Not knowing this skill can lead to awkwardness in what otherwise might be a fine performance.
Every teacher and instrument have their own process for taking a bow. The following is a process I teach my students. This may change as the student becomes more experienced and performs in varying circumstances.
Taking the stage – Hold the guitar securely in the dominant hand up right against the body. The student should walk calmly towards the stage while looking at the seat they are going to perform in. I tell them to avoid looking into the audience as this can cause anxiety and provides an opportunity for the student to trip.
Getting the guitar out of the way (after performance)- The first step in taking a bow is getting the guitar out of the way. Standing with it in playing position the student can bump into a music stand or microphone. I teach the student to grab their guitar with their right hand (or dominant hand) where the neck meets the body and stand the guitar up on the right thigh.
Footstool – The footstool is the first tripping hazard. The student must take their foot off the stool before standing. Standing on the footstool can cause the student to trip or break the footstool. The student should also remove their foot to the right of the stool to avoid straddling it (this is another tripping hazard).
Standing – With the guitar being held securely against the body in the dominant hand the student can now stand. Holding the guitar against the body allows the student to be aware of where the guitar is. This avoids it being banged into anything on stage.
Charlie Brown and Snoopy- The student is now ready to bow. Taking small steps to clear their music stand. The student should stand with feet together, bow at the waist, and say to themselves “Charlie Brown and Snoopy”. This phrase is roughly the correct amount of time a student should be bowing. (process is reversed if playing again)
Why do we bow- Explaining why we bow to a student is important. If the students know why we bow, they are less likely to forget or do it carelessly. The reason we bow is to thank the audience for their attendance, attention, and applause.
Adding confidence- A lot of emphasis is put on learning music and playing flawlessly. However, details such as how to handle yourself on stage can be overlooked. Taking the time to explain the bowing process to students will give them less to be concerned about which can help with their focus.
Spatial Awareness- Especially for those who teach very young students, you quickly learn that this is something to work on. Little kids are hardly aware of themselves let alone their instrument, other people, or the many hazards you can find on stage (cables, microphones, music stands, other instruments, etc.) Teaching students how to bow is a good opportunity to work on this to prevent damage to instruments or students.
Explaining the stage- Teaching the bow is also a good opportunity to explain to students what being on stage is like. Explaining the set up and why and what is on stage helps them navigate the stage with more confidence. I like to show student videos and pics of previous performances to help with this.
Jamey Mann Guitar Instructor Suzuki Guitar Instructor Facilities and Admin. Staff The Catoctin School of Music