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Help with correct bow hold

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I’m a beginning violinist. I realized I wasn’t holding my bow correctly, so I corrected it to the best of my knowledge - made sure my thumb was on the bump of the frog, my first finger was wrapped around the grip, my middle and ring finger were properly bent around the frog, and my pinky was curled on top of the bow. But when I began to play my violin, my wrist hurt badly, especially when I extended my bow. Suggestions or corrections?

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Can you post a picture of your bow hold?

Your wrist shouldn't hurt.

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There are numerous aspects of playing the violin in which your hands, neck, shoulders, etc., are put into positions that are weird when you first start out.  In my case, at first some of these positions did hurt, but a lot of time it was due to the unfamiliarity of the position, and I had tensed up.  As I worked with it, I relaxed, and it didn't bother me.  Your right hand could indeed be in a good position, but if you're tensing your hand/wrist/forearm, it's going to cause problems.  Try to get into the right position, and if it hurts, relax and try again.  Where is the tension?  Concentrate on letting that go.  My two cents.

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For one, your wrist appears to be unnaturally "bent."  Second, you have too much tension in your little finger.  Some leave it off completely, though I wasn't taught that way.  I also don't have my fingers quite as far down on the bow as you do, but it also seems many of the maestros do have their fingers positioned as you do.  Do you have a teacher?

Here's an old picture :lol: you might try to emulate if you want a great Russian grip:

Image result for Russian bow hold picture

See how relaxed his hand is?  This one is more of a Russian grip...

Here's a great Mnutter discussion, and a good video clip from another alter kocher, :D showing Franco-Belgisn grip:

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My wrists are bent a lot in the picture, but I think it’s because I was trying to get a good angle to take the picture and wasn’t paying much attention to that. Fist of all, my hands are small, and I do not have very much strength in my hands (especially in my pinky.) And yes, my little finger feels like it has a lot of strain, but I feel like I have to grip the bow harder if I lighten the pressure I’m exerting.

Am I not using my other fingers enough and should I move my whole hand up a little? I was told that my ring finger should cover the dot on the frog, but if I moved my hand up even a little bit, I wouldn’t be able to do that (my fingers are pretty short.) Unfortunately, no, I do not have a teacher.

The picture demonstrating the Russian grip shows that the whole hand is very slanted. That was part of my problem when using my bow - my wrist felt very uncomfortable (and eventually hurt badly) when I attempted to keep my hand shape when extending the bow.

Thanks for your help! 

Edited by ViolinLover_Me
Better wording

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Be careful of the advice you hear in internet forums (and youtube videos for that matter).  Carefully pick your authorities for primary information and if you seek help in interpreting those, be on the lookout for bald contradictions (such as the idea of leaving the pinkie off), as well as relevant modifications.

Although many of the teachings in other videos in this series are not mainstream, the preliminary bow hand exercises here may help you to get more comfortable and understand how the hand's relation to the bow changes during the bow stroke (you will find even here some ideas are different from what you have learned, such as about the pinkie's position, all I can tell you is that FWIW Galamian also has the pinkie resting on the facet next to the top).

A few youtube channels I think it's safe to recommend:  professorV, violinclass (Julia Bushkova), and violinmasterclass

One of the dangers of learning on your own aside from just plain misinformation (of which there is plenty) is that you will find some 'rule' in your research and apply it either too literally or without realizing that some aspect of your hand shape or size changes how you should approach the task.  Good luck in your research!

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Due to the fact that I live in a rural area, regular violin lessons will be difficult. I do not yet have my license, and I am lucky that my parents drive me to piano lessons twice a month. All my begging has made my mom more sympathetic to my cause, and I’m hoping to be able to find a teacher and meet at least once a month.


Thank you all for the advice, as any tips are greatly appreciated... 

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On 1/19/2019 at 1:53 PM, Andres Sender said:

Be careful of the advice you hear in internet forums.

That's great advice of course.  Still, I am intrigued by your problem, because--no one has said this, it seems--your bow hold looks basically OK.  So, I'm wondering why it hurts--and also where it hurts.  The "death grip" comment is probably a clue, but I wonder what part of your hand? wrist? hurts.  Now I'm a fiddler who only later on went down the path of Bach, so I have --probably-- less hard-and-fast rules than the exclusively-classical players here, but bowing ought not hurt--at ALL! 

The classical players are likely to yell, but I'm going to suggest something just to see if you can draw a bow without pain.  As I said, the basic way you've applied your hand to the bow looks OK to me.  While I was learning various styles of fiddling, something that helped me relax was to recognize that the wrist flaps up and down far easier that it goes side to side.  Some fiddlers suggested that I rotate my hand counterclockwise (from the player's position looking at the bow), so that the flapping up and down motion could play more of a role than the side to side motion.  Yes, I --gasp!-- took my pinkie off, and even my ring finger, so the bow was controlled by my thumb and first two fingers.  At the time, the purpose was to lighten up my hand so that I could execute bowed-triplet ornaments in Irish music with a very light touch--it is actually done mostly with the fingers.  When you go up the wrist raises and on the downbow it sinks--the hand sort-of trails the wrist, as if your arm were a paintbrush and your fingers were the hairs of the brush.  I played this way for awhile, and over time (and with some coaching), my whole hand relaxed and my fingers returned to their standard places, so that eventually I ended up with a standard hold, but my hand was completely relaxed. 

It might be interesting to see you do an up-bow and down-bow on an open string, and then have you point out on your hand/wrist/arm where the pain is and at what point in the motion it comes on (or goes away).

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The paintbrush idea with the wrist oriented to allow motion on that axis to assist the hand in accommodating the changing angle of the forearm is mainstream teaching.  Special exercises using only certain fingers for purpose of developing awareness of the function of the various fingers in different parts of the stroke are also mainstream teaching (as opposed to teaching a normal bow hold sans pinkie).  :)

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Well, I don't have the best bow hold in the world.  But I've had to change mine as well.  If you have the wrong bow hold, it will hold you back - never mind about possible injuries.  And of course, if it hurts, it's wrong, and if it hurts you won' t play.

I took some pictures - not great, because I can't hold the bow and the camera - but I tried to mimic your pics, so you can see the difference.

First picture - shape of hand.  Your middle and ring fingers - and thumb - support the bow.  Thumb should be bent - not straight.

Second picture - same shape, holding a pencil.

Third picture - now holding a bow.  Your index finger should be on the bow between the first and second knuckle.  It does NOT grasp or hold the bow, rather, it drives the bow.  You can increase, or decrease pressure with this finger.

Your pinky will come up and off the bow.  It's purpose is to balance the bow when necessary.  The exact position of the pinky is less important - everyone has a different hand shape.  So don't worry about whether it's on the adjuster, or the wood, etc.


LOL...this is why a teacher is important.  It's really hard to see what you're doing - especially at the beginning.


2019 Bow hold -fingers only.jpg

2019 Bow hold -with pencil .jpg

2019 Bow hold - with bow.jpg

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I feel like the more I practice, the less it hurts specifically, but it’s still definitely uncomfortable. 

The discomfort is mainly in the wrist when I extend all the way out. In general it starts to hurt when the tip of my bow is an inch or two from the string. To manage to get the tip all the way down to the string, I have to lean back a little and bend my wrist some. It doesn’t hurt at all on the up stroke though.

But in order to get the down stroke, my fingers tend to cram themselves a little bit up the bow, thereby completely ruining any good bow hold I might have previously attained.

For the time being, in order to work on keeping my bow hold intact and until I figure out this problem, I’ve been doing shorter bow strokes.

Is it possible that my arms are too short to fully extend without doing weird things to my wrist? 

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I am right handed. If you are checking in the mirror - to avoid twisting yourself up to look to see what your fingers are doing - that's what you should see.

Besides - this is about basic finger placement, not about what your hand should be doing in an up-bow ricochet or a flying spiccato...etc  ^_^

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13 hours ago, ViolinLover_Me said:

But in order to get the down stroke, my fingers tend to cram themselves a little bit up the bow, thereby completely ruining any good bow hold I might have previously attained.

Hm.  I wonder if you've got the violin almost over your left shoulder, so that you have to draw the bow out away from you to get a downbow that is perpendicular to the strings.  That would explain your leaning back to get to the very tip of the bow.  Ideally, the violin goes out at an angle from your neck at about 45º from the plane of your shoulders (looking down from above), so the perpendicular bowing movement goes across your body.  Your right hand would be down to the right of your right thigh, if you're sitting down, when you've drawn the bow.  The wrist drops as you go into the last third of the stroke, but then towards the very end, the fingers can drop, brush-like, below the wrist to get a little more extension.  Anyway, maybe see if turning your arms clockwise to your right makes it easier to bow... so if facing forward is 12 o'clock, then moving from 9:30 to 10:30 with your left arm, and to around 2:30 with your right arm...?

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Just look at wrist positions and finger placement


033 bow.JPG


Relaxed compact hand for smooth pressure on E string at the frog,,,

031 bow.JPG


This is some power on the G string,,, He is pushing a little bit, Hand is tilted into the bow and string,,,pressure on the index finger, flat wrist

032 bow.JPG


No pressure on the index finger...

030 bow.JPG



Kogan,,, superior weirdness,, he can do it any way he wants to, he got results and then some!  flat wrist

029 bow.JPG

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Heifetz,, flat wrist,,,

022 bow.JPG



021 bow.JPG


J Bell

020 bow.JPG

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Hillery H

016 bow.JPG

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011 bow.JPG

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07 bow.JPG


She some times really wraps her index finger around the stick,,,,

08 bow.JPG

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Heifetz, dropped wrist, using three fingers,,, different techniques lend themselves to different sound,,,,This is probably during harmonics,,

04 bow.JPG


Really digging in,,,

01 bow.JPG


She's getting ready for some noise right here,,,attack!

02 bow.JPG



You see bow holds change all the time within certain bounds that work for the player.

023 bow.JPG

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Heifetz,, notice how compact his hand is, all together,, not spread out and spindly,,,


Heifetz,, notice how he signals for a left turn at the end of his up bow,,,,,, that is not recommended.

But it is rather "cute!"

He was a real "Ham" it would not surprise me if this was intentional just to freak people out a bit.

Little finger comes off at the end in quite time.


This shows range of bow movement and arm travel from E to G, going from E to G in this manner is great exercise.

It is not necessary to play all the way to the very tip, it can happen later, play as far as is comfortable.


This is a birds eye view of the bowing in action. Notice the straightness the precision of movement and the deliberate articulation. It is definitely athletic, focused and energetic. Very simple, back and forth and back and forth. Watch this till it hypnotizes you and you can see it and feel it, so you know what it looks and feels like. Relax into it, the bow is an extension of your hand, NOT a separate part, don't fight it, become it, learn to feel it and use it.

Then just like my teacher would say,,,,



The bow hold has to be secure enough to do this,,,,,,


Straight and firm wrist,,,





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