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What size bow should I use?


miles
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Most adults use a full sized bow.

 

When children move up a size in violin, it's common to wait a bit longer for them to change the bow. We ask the youngster to play a long A to the tip. if the bow arm needs to pull back behind them to reach the tip, then the bow is too long, and they must wait, usually for a few months. Once the habit of pulling the arm back at the bow tip is formed, it can be very hard to break. You might try this test.

 

It's hard to get great small sized bows. I have made several from good old bows with badly damaged handles. My old partner had a box of decent old sticks, and we chose those with petite heads to remake as small bows. We just cut off the handle and fitted a frog further up. Maybe your local workshop could do the same.

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Use a full size bow unless your arms are too short, in which case, take up the piano.  


''  Once the habit of pulling the arm back at the bow tip is formed, it can be very hard to break. ''

Hello Conor, I couldn't agree less and breaking bows is an art. :)
 
Heifetz played round the corner and it didn't do him any harm. 
See in this link, the camera is parallel to the fiddle yet the bow never travels in a straight line
Of particular interest is his down bow staccato  :


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"Forgive me for perhaps puting the cat amongst the pidgeons, but I can remember reading somewhere in one of Retfords books, where he asks the retorical question; “why should a five foot woman play the same length of bow as a six foot man?”. I couldn’t help myself thinking, yes indeed, why?"

 

I had a fiddle teacher who was quite short, and played a 3/4 fiddle. No one ever said that all adults should play a 4/4, and my point above is that the bow should fit the fiddle, and proper bow technique needs to be learned.

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...so would shorter people need smaller pianos too? :ph34r:

Josef Hofman was a great pianist with short arms and small reach in the hands, if I understand correctly:

"He had small but exceptionally strong hands.[2]Steinway eventually built for him custom keyboards with slightly narrower keys..." —from Wikipedia.  The narrowing of the keys shortened the length of the keyboard to accommodate his lack of reach.

And thanks Ben for posting the Heifetz video. I had never noticed how he positioned his bow hand for the down bow staccato. It's almost comical. I have a feeling Heifetz must have said to himself more than once, "Let's see what people make out of this!"

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Once the habit of pulling the arm back at the bow tip is formed, it can be very hard to break.

Isaac Stern:

 

Miles, I once had a young student (in 7th grade) who had the same complaint.  I can't quite see you through this computer monitor, but I'll tell you what I told him, in case it applies to you.  I told him we could change his chin rest to the middle, but that would make it more difficult for his left hand.  I said he was still growing, that he should just use whatever part of the bow he was comfortable with, and that I didn't think it would be a problem.

 

I didn't tell him, however, that I thought his problem was that his left hand was pushed back too far.  (Before he studied with me, he had been playing with the violin almost parallel with his shoulders.)  As I suspected, within a couple of weeks the bow problem had vanished without another word, and he was playing beautifully with a very natural position, easily using the whole bow.

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BTW,IMO,  "rounding the corner" as Ben put it, is not something only done by people with shorter arms, and if you'll notice, in the Stern video above he doesn't ALWAYS come around.  Stern's arms aren't THAT SHORT.  Even though I have long-enough arms, I started coming around because there's something about it that feels right and even looks right for some reason.  The old idea that the bow must remain parallel to the bridge, like most good ideas is taken as "gospel' and has restricted many mistaken violinists.  (Remember I started all this by saying "IMO."   :) )  "The bow should be fairly parallel to the bridge most of the time, but not so religiously that it causes stiff awkward looking bowing," would be a better general rule.  If someone can find a concert violinist of note who looks like a poster child for perfectly "academically correct" bowing, I'd like to see it.   

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I see nothing wrong with using whatever length bow works for you. I physically cannot use the full length of a full size bow, but I use them anyway because they work and fit in my cases. I like good 3/4 bows, but find no playing advantage. And they are much scarcer.

 

About all of the people I have made 3/4 fiddles for use full size bows. These fiddles require full size (or custom) cases, which will often not properly hold a 3/4 bow.

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Thank you all soooo much for answering my posts.  I started learning to play the violin as an adult learner.  Because I am very petite (at that time wearing size 00, and now size 0 after having one child) and almost 5 feet tall, my teacher started me with a 3/4 violin and a 1/2 bow.  I don't recall I had any problem bowing, such as bouncing or maintaining the "plane", but I do now.  The reason that I switched to a 4/4 bow because my second teacher told me that longer bow is better for making music.  She suggested that I left out parts of the bow if I could not reach the tip (or the frog for that matter).  For some reason, after I used 4/4 bow, I started to have time maintaining the "plane" and bow often bounced as well.  Just the other day, I rosined my soon-be-five-year-old daughter's brand new bow (1/8) and tried it on my violin as I rosined it, and I found it so much easier to handle my bow hand/arm--the bow did not bounce and I had no problem maintaining the "plane" with minimum effort.  As a consequence, the 3/4 violin and 1/2 bow combo led me to thinking that maybe a short bow is right for me.  Right now, I am using Berber chinrest (with Bonmusica shoulder rest).  Berber is center mount, but the cup is still a bit more left positioned.  I will try a Flesch cup and see how it goes.

 

Again, thank you all very much, and Happy Holidays!

 

miles

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...so would shorter people need smaller pianos too? :ph34r:

the late genius M. Petrucciani was indeed playing a "demi-queue" piano, about 2m instead of about 3m for a standard size one. Many adults also need a 7/8 violin, and I guess there is no reason not to use slightly shorter bow if necessary.

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I can see the need for a shorter piano moreso than the need for a shorter bow, or even a violin unless you are extremely small (or at the other end of the spectrum, extremely large). 

 

I suppose there are virtuoso techniques I haven't (and won't ever :unsure: ) acquire that might require more of the equipment...so I will accept the need for more specialized or tailored equipment to support those techniques (in people that are not of average build).  But I started out on a 4/4 violin as a 10 year old...and am comfortable with a 16" viola...and can handle a 16.25" if I have to.  Haven't tried bigger than that...so can't comment.  My point is that I can play a range of sizes.

 

So when I compare myself...and consider my violin/viola playing cohorts...of various sizes (and yes...most do fall under the 'average' umbrella) I just don't see the need for a shorter bow in particular...or it could well be I'm missing some vital factor yet - with regards to a bow - since you can use less of it if you need to - esp. at the tip.

 

I can see weight being more of a factor actually...a heavier instrument would be more fatiguing to play...

 

...now if we were discussing the bass...that's an entirely different animal... ;)

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