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Position of index finger on bowing hand


racerex

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My teacher corrected my bowhold today by moving my index finger away from my middle finger, then pulling it back from the bow so that the point of contact is near the joint closest to the tip of my finger. She said that there is more flexibility with wrist movement this way. Do you all position your index finger this way?

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I don't.

Try this: position your fingers on the stick the way they hang when you're just sitting around and relaxed. Now move your hand around about the wrist. Try playing at the tip and at the frog, and do some smooth back-and-forth string crossing with the wrist (keep the arm "quiet").

Now try with the index finger extended (if you have to, exaggerate until you notice what and where the difference is). How does it feel in your wrist when you move around?

Galamian used to teach that bow hold way back in the day, most likely because that index finger position helped "grab" the string. One of the members of the Guarneri Quartet (Steinhardt, maybe Tree?) said it caused too much strain in his hand, so he changed the way he held the bow. Later in life, Galamian gave up on that bow hold too, as did some (but not all) of his students.

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Offhand, I think it is a mistake, but that's because I don't know why she did it.

i see lots of bow holds by fine players - so I know there is not just one that is best for all.

Finger length, hand size, forearm and upper arm length all factor in.

It is the sound that you get and the ability to totally control the bow for all kinds of strokes that really matter.

Sometimes one might even need to hold the bow a bit differently for different weight or balance or for an instrument that has a different bow "pressure" requirelemt for different effects.

Personally, I now like to hold my thumb on that "pointy part or the frog" that will hurt if I squeezer too hard - and opposite my middle finger. My pinky bent (for legato playing)and on top of the bow on the octagonal face toward me. My index finger is on the bow between the first and second joint - althoug when I pick up the violin (or viola) bow I have it at the second joint, it slips down as a turn the bow over. I hold the bow this way because with a really fine bow it allows all the flexure built into the stick to work for me. With a very stiff bow, I might sometimes hold it a little differently, because the flexure is not there, in the stick.

This hold will vary for playing near the tip or frog, and definitely for downbow staccato.

(mostly) only as much as necessry to move the bow straight and to keep it from falling on the floor - the violin does most of the work holding it up. Thus the hold when the bow is on the string is much lighter than when it is off the string.

Andy

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Quote:

i see lots of bow holds by fine players - so I know there is not just one that is best for all.


Hit the nail on the head. I used to hold the bow differently than I do now, but I find my current way a lot more comfortable, and with more control. Though, I'm playing cello, so the entire position of the bow is different. But I agree that there's not, "one right way."

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Thanks for all the replies. I keep forgetting to look in my Galamian book (Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching) to see what he recommends. But I wonder if according to what you have said that whatever is in that book is outdated. One problem area I have is with bow changes; i.e. keeping the sound continuous, and when I have watched others they do this kind of jerky movement with their hand/wrist at the bow change. I wonder if gripping the bow too tightly with your index finger can hinder the loose movement at this point?

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I believe with that style of bowing you are supposed to take pressure off the index finger momentarily while changing bow at the frog. I have no idea what you are supposed to do with your finger at the tip, but I believe that bowhold does have a useful tendency to push your wrist away from your body, and toward the scroll, while also increasing pressure at the tip.

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Quote:

Thanks for all the replies. I keep forgetting to look in my Galamian book (Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching) to see what he recommends. But I wonder if according to what you have said that whatever is in that book is outdated. One problem area I have is with bow changes; i.e. keeping the sound continuous, and when I have watched others they do this kind of jerky movement with their hand/wrist at the bow change. I wonder if gripping the bow too tightly with your index finger can hinder the loose movement at this point?


Yes. I will go out on a limb and say that of all the infinite variety of bow holds used successfully by good players, I doubt whether any of them involve actually gripping the stick to any extent with the index finger (as opposed to resting the index finger on the stick.)

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No. 1 - trust your teacher

No. 2 - more gap between index (1st) and the middle two is a sound technique, encouraged by most teachers.

No. 3 - the 'depth' of the first is fairly controversial but the main/average approach would recommend the stick is under the second segment. The days of getting it 'way far over' are gone. If you are now on the first segment, there may be a specific reason your teacher has identified.

No.4 - as everyone points out, there a many holds that work well and suit individual players but (perhaps against the flow here) I would say the core principles (shape of thumb, placement of fingers in relation to thumb, use of pinky) are closer in 99% of cases than folks think. The shape of the hand and personal build affect the way it might look but the bottom line is that we have a more uniform hold now than ever. Go to a conservatoire and take a look

T_D

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  • 1 month later...

I think I use the russian hold, but the contact point/second joint often looks really reddish after a prolonged period of practice (2-3 hours..). Is that normal?

I don't have a very loud violin, so I have to really bow hard to get the best sound out of it. The problm is the second joint sometimes hurts quite a bit if I practice non-stop for more than 1-2 hours...am I bowing the wrong way? Or is the contact point wrong?

Thanks.... any help will be greatly appreciated.

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I prefer the Egyptian bowgrip to the Siamese grip. Haha, I think that classifying and forcing a student to either position their index finger a certain way, grip the bow a certain way, etc, is just plain nonsense. A student should, within reason, just hold the bow whichever way is comfortable and effective for them. Different grips and positions can be tried and the best way is achieved through trial and error. A teacher who insists on a certain elbow height, or bowgrip, or anything else, is misguided and misguiding. Also, if a teacher blames a faulty bowstroke on your grip, or elbow positioning, they aren't correctly diagnosing the problem, which must be felt and heard.

I've heard it said dozens of times that someone "has a nice bowarm" or a "nice bowgrip". These things should only be considered "nice" if the musician is effectively using them to sound the way they would like. Anyone who has admired a player in an orchestra that they could not hear and commented on them "having a nice bowarm" is also severely misguided.

Gee, can you tell that I've had a couple teachers that annoyed the hell out of me with their irrelevant technical comments?

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For SLOW bow strokes, I suppose that you could hold the bow with your fist and manage to produce a decent sound after some practice. For more complex bow technique, there are some basic guidelines that are based on certain physical properties.

For example, you wouldn't want to have your elbow too far out of the plane of movement for a grand martele stroke. The elbow only opens in one direction, and you want to be sure that it is in line with the path the bow will take in this rapid, long stroke.

However, there are no rules that can be said to apply to everyone. I have a student whose radius and ulna are fused at a point near his elbow, preventing normal rotation. Obviously, there have to be some modifications of technique in this case.

As technique becomes more complex, the variations that work become fewer. If you are fortunate enough to be the student of a great teacher who is familiar with the variations of human physiology and how they affect technique, you would do well to listen to the voice of experience, rather than try to re-invent the wheel.

Sometimes an advanced technique has to be built in steps over an extended period of time, and some students aren't patient enough to wait for the results. They go off on a hunt for a shortcut, and usually end up with an expedient facsimile of the desired technique which inevitably ends up falling short somewhere down the road.

There are plenty of pseudo-teachers out there that insist on techniques that they themselves don't understand, and you want to be sure to steer clear of them, but the advice of a skilled teacher should be adhered to carefully.

Jerry

A brief anecdote:

When asked for his solution to a fingering problem by a member of a string bass master class, Gary Karr responded by playing the excerpt with his wrist! Moral of the story - technique appropriate to the situation.

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If one does look at the Galamian book (2nd edition), the pictures (pp. 46-48) present a pretty natural looking grip, with some space between all the fingers, but no unnatural stretches. The index finger contacts the top of the bow in neither the first joint (the joint closest to the finger tip) nor the second, but on the straight bone part between the joints. That contact makes sense to me. It's hard to press down using a joint but easier to press down using a straight finger segment where there is less give.

Anyway, as others have already noted, I find that my bow grip changes slightly from the basic grip (mine seems to be pretty much what the Galamian book presents) depending on bow style. If I want a bigger, fuller sound, I open the fingers up and that includes pushing the index finger up the stick slightly but not into a joint. If I want to do spiccato for an extended period of time, my grip becomes more of a finger tip grip.

If you had all of your fingers squeezed together, then your teacher was probably correct in spreading them out into a more natural grip. If that spreading out stretched out an already spread out grip to create more tension, then that wouldn't help.

As others have already stated, the grip that allows the hand to stay relaxed and avoid getting tense is the best grip, whatever that may be for you.

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