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Slipping bow grip...

High Strung

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With the problems I have been having with my bows and my violin...and assuming it was entirely my doing, I have experimented with changing my bow hold numerous times over the past four months (if not more.) This, to put it simply, has completely destroyed by bow hold. Now I can't even find one that works let alone improve it. My hand slowly but surely slips slightly out of position and the music becomes rather horrid. My hand isn't stable.

The bow has always rested in the second joint of my index finger, and that gives me the best control for off the string bowing. It seems to work the best for me. My pinky usually stays on the string when I'm playing slowly and comes off when I'm playing quickly (subconsciously but I can train myself otherwise if need be.) Keep in mind that I play traditional music but I don't want that to influence a proper grip.

I believe much of the problem is that my thumb slips, despite the fact that I have a pencil grip thumb pad on the bow. How do I fix this problem?

To help you out some in helping me, I'll first ask these questions.

Could it be simply the placement of the thumb against the stick? Meaning, where EXACTLY does the thumb contact the stick and what part of the thumb contacts it?

Could it be that I don't extend my wrist properly and the thumb moves because of it? Because of the slipping problem, I have adopted a death-grip on the stick but this may be making the slipping worse and continuing a vicious sort of cycle. However, I do keep the bow quite straight, so that isn't really a factor from what I can see.

Could it be that I should keep the pinky on at all times...even though I've tried this and it doesn't appear to help?

Could it be the placement of the bow in the index finger, or even the placement of the middle and ring fingers?

I realize that it's difficult do help me over this message board but I'll try to answer any of your questions about my hold if it will help you help me. I'm only asking you after hours of tireless attempts and much frustration and I DON'T have a teacher in my area to go to for help. Plus, I want a legitimate bow grip that can utilize many techniques instead of a fiddler's grip that is used only because it works 'enough.' As well, I can only assume that, since I've lost my original grip with all of the experimenting and cannot get back to it, it wasn't particulary strong in the first place. I'm desperate to make this right. It's so important. Please help me out.

Thank you for any time and advice you can give.

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A very good description (along with clear photos)of a good bow grip can be found in Ivan Galamian's PRINCIPLES OF VIOLIN PLAYING AND TEACHING, 2nd edition, 1985, Prentice-Hall, ISBN 0-13-710773-0. Galamian was the famed classical violin teacher who was one of Itzhak Perlman's teachers.

It sounds as if you now have a lot of tension in your grip, and that isn't good, no matter where the fingers lie on the bow stick. Part of that tension probably comes from trying to outthink what your hand wants to do. You should pretty much let the fingers fall where they may and move around as they wish once you've established a basic position.

The thumb and the 2nd finger form the anchor of the basic position. For that basic position, from the Galamian book, pp. 45-46, the thumb is placed so that it just touches the front end of the frog and rests on the stick and the thumb grip. The thumb does not rest in the cutout of the frog.

The rest of the fingers pretty much fall where they want to, with the 2nd finger opposite the thumb, the 1st finger (index) in front of the thumb and 2nd finger, the 4th (little finger) resting on a bow stick facet (the one just to the inside of the top facet, according to Galamian, but if the top facet is more comfortable, then so be it) and the 3rd wherever it wants to lie most comfortably. (The pictures in the book are really worth much more than my words.)

In this basic position, there shouldn't be any tension in the hand, and the fingers do shift around some as you play and as you want different dynamics. The 4th finger may rise from the bow at times.

Thom is right in recommending a visit to a good teacher for this. If there really isn't one, take a look at the Galamian book and adapt it to what's comfortable for you.

I'd get rid of the pencil grip thumb pad, though.

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Update...I found a website that had some rather good pictures on it and I paid special attention to the thumb, since that seems to be my greatest problem. Therefore, I've recently attempted to reposition my thumb my rotating the nail towards me more, much like its natural position when you lay your hand palm down on a table. This seems to be helping...the thumb doesn't slip (if I keep consistent watch of my positioning) and my hand doesn't strangle the bow to compensate. However, I do need the pencil grip just to give the thumb a place to ancor against since I don't use the frog.

Does this sound right? I suppose it will simply take some re-training, but I'm willing to put in all the time it needs. My positioning of the fingers is correct above the stick. It's just my thumb, and trust me when I say it's great to know where to start for a cure!

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I believe that one must be able to adjust one's bow grip seamlessly while playing, simply bacause it became evident, unless I was rigid, it was impossible to maintain a ideal grip continuously. so I practiced moving to a proper grip, without assistance from my left hand. First while holding the bow straight up, off the violin then while resting the bow on the fiddle, then while playing. eventually the corrections are minute and unconcious.

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My own experience with the "pencil grip" or the sleeves that are specificlly madee to slip over bow leathers is that they DO require a bit of extra thumb pressure just to seat the thumb on them.

In contrast, a bow hold that uses the frog exposes the thumb tip to a slightly sharp corner (on new bows) that is actually painful if squeezed too hard. So the bow hold that involves the thumb on the frog is almost self-regulating in that you cannot apply too much thumb pressure - and thus you avoid tension in your left hand.

Right now I ahve a problem with an old Voirin bow. The frog is so worn from well over a century of use that I cannot seat my thumb on it. And standard available frogs do not fit the shape of Vorin bows (I would ahve to ahve one made specially by a master bowmaker) - so I built up the worn part with black epoxy "putty" that unfortunately was dislodged this week during rehairing. So it looks like I have to do that again.


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