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Is it me or the bow?


AJ
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After my fiddle teacher pointed it out to me, I've been trying to keep the bow from bouncing so much as I play. Am I just putting too much pressure on the bow, maybe I've tightened it too much, or is it that it was a cheap bow to start with and I've been using it for over three years? Or is it a combination of all these things because try as I might I can't seem to keep it from bouncing, and I don't recall having this problem the last time I took lessons?

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Probably none of the above, although some bows are less susceptible to bouncing.

I have a big perpetual problem with bouncing bow. The more tense (less relaxed) I am the more the bow bounces. It improves if I drop my right shoulder and try to relax completely my whole right arm for a few seconds.

By the way, my bounce is worse on my teacher's Simon than on my John Brazil.

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I think It could be either or both. Some bows tend to bounce more than others due to their weight and/or balance. In playing with heavier or lighter bows, I find most heavier ones to be more stable. As long as they are stable-heavy and not sluggish-heavy, I like them better.

When I have a problem with a bouncing bow and it's not the bow's fault, It's me trying to put too much control responsibility on the wrist and right hand. This is my the-harder-I-try-the-worse-it-gets area. If I focus only on having a proper grip and flexible wrist while putting the forearm in charge of bowing, the bouncing stops. Of course, the upper arm needs stay out of the action until bowing up closer to the frog. Moving the upper arm before it's necessary to follow the forearm can also cause bouncing on the subsequent down-bow. My bowing is best when I forget about the wrist and right hand, imagining that all the required enegry and control is coming up from the base of the forearm.

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My list of possible reasons.

1. Hair too tight.

2. Poorly balanced bow with too much weight near frog.

3. Playing with flat of hair instead of near edge with an especially bouncy bow. Reserve flat of hair for sautillé and some spiccatos.

4. Trying to apply too much hand pressure to the bow (different requirements for different bows). Try "floating" the bow, just supporting it as lightly as possible with (say) your thumb and 2nd or index finger and see if it still bounces.

5. Not letting the bow "set" on the string before trying to draw it. Only the tiniest fraction of a second is needed to set the bow.

Andy

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For a time during my highschool years I played with one of those cheap but marginally adequate Glasser fibreglass bows. Mine was beginning to show its wear, and I did eventually retire it in favor of a carbon fibre bow because of a bouncing issue. Every time I got about 3/4 of the way down the bow on a downbow, it would start skipping. It wasn't an issue with my positioning or playing; others were able to produce the same effect (including my very accomplished teacher.) So while it's unlikely, it could be your bow.

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When playing into the string more, try getting into it with the weight of the arm rather than with the hand/wrist. The hand and wrist naturally have to play their part in transmitting the additional pressure, but they should not become entirely rigid. In drawing a long, steady bow, their job is to serve as a responsive link between the bow and the arm, which does the driving simply by bending and straightening at the elbow. A bouncing bow is often the result of conflicts among body parts about who has control over what.

Playing double stops is great for developing bow control, especially when long, slow bow strokes are used. The adagio from one of Bach's sonatas for violin and harpsichord, I think it's Nr. 5 in f minor, consists entirely of beautiful double stops. A very nice piece of music, but something simpler for the left hand could be just as good for helping to develop a steadier bow.

- I should have mentioned more about the role of the fingers and wrist. The wrist is flexible so that it rises proportionately with the up-bow and drops with the down-bow, but the wrist and fingers are not limp. They maintain a constant tension to counter the weight of the arm. Keeping this counter-tension in balance with the weight of the arm is an important element in maintaining control of the bow.

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Again, thanks for the suggestions, I will have to pay more attention to overall arm movement to figure out what I'm doing wrong. As for the bow, well I bought it about 4 years ago, or so, and it was a cheap $40 one, so it might be due for replacement anyway. When I was in a music store recently, trying out violins, I commented to the sales person that I really liked the bow he had given me, he smiled and said 'sorry' and showed me the price tag...$600. I definitely noticed the difference!

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It's pretty hard to find a competent wood bow below that price*, but it would be well worth your while, if at all possible, to invest a little less than half of that in a good basic carbon-fiber bow like a Coda Aspire or Eastman Cadenza Artist.

* Although the Chinese bows Joe Martin sells through his Martin's Violin Shop eBay store are not half bad, and sell for as little as $125 or so depending on how fancy the fittings are. I have one of his $225 viola bows, which my daughter is now using- it's certainly competitive with good carbon-fiber bows at around that price.

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I can 100% of the time get rid of the bounces by relaxing my shoulder. As soon as you get a bounce focus intently on the shoulder and make it melt like butter. Just like that bounces go away until that area of my arm gets tense again. I have a 15 dollar bow (wood) that plays just fine if my arm is relaxed. I believe bouncing has way more to do with arm tension than anything with the bow though the other things people mention can make some difference too. I just think your relaxation is the most likely suspect.

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Bouncing is a desirable quality in a bow. Some will have to pay thousands to get a bow that will spring to life when used for sautille or 'springing bow.' Maybe your $40 bow is really a good bow, so don't give up on it until you have worked on the situation with a teacher. A good teacher will show you how to 'draw the bow' and how to change directions and change strings and start or stop a stroke without bouncing. This takes time to learn, so don't feel bad if you are bouncing for a few years. Using a bow involves controlling your entire body and your posture. Do you have a teacher who is helping you with this?

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