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How do you hold your bow?


Fiddlebuddy
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Hello all. I have a bow holding question. When I started playing the violin, I was told to put my thumb on the leather, and bend my thumb so that my nuckle rested on the horsehair. It doesn't look like this is correct according to the Suzuki book. I had a teacher, but she moved to a differant music place to teach. Any thoughts?? KNOW WHERE THERE ARE ANY GOOD PICS OF PROPER TECHNIQUE ON THE WEB?

Also she said my bow wrist should be more flexible, but which way should it flex? Thanx for your help.

Joe

Michigan

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Jon is right. Your thumb should NOT touch the hair. The oils in your skin will cause the hair to become black and gummy.

As for your wrist...It should be flexible in both directions. Think of painting with a brush. In order to get a smooth change from one direction to the next, your fingers and wrist need to move in opposite directions at the same time at the top and bottom of each stroke. In other words, your wrist will change direction before your fingers. Your wrist should lead all long bow movments. When moving "up bow," your wrist should be bent toward the instrument. At the change, your wrist begins the "down bow" motion before your fingers actually pull the bow in that direction. Invert the process for a change from down bow to up bow.

D

[This message has been edited by D Ellison (edited 05-19-2001).]

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The two main purposes of a bow hold are

1) to be able to keep the bow straight on the string

2) to keep the bow from falling on the floor.

Then there are other reasons for holding the bow in certain ways so you can

3) get flexibility for off-string bowing strokes

4) get some added strength (or gentleness) when needed in your strokes.

Then there is the need to hold the bow in such a way and such a place that

5) you can take best advantage of the flexibility of the stick.

It all comes down to control - and flexibility! And it does seem that some people get better control from certain kinds of bow holds (and certain bows) than others do (after all, we each have different size arms and hands - but violins and bows are all the same size).

Improving a bow hold can take many years for some of us. Some of us (especially without teachers - but a teacher is no guarantee, either) never find the best way for ourselves to hold the bow. If you hold it too tightly you will never be able to play properly. Menuhin advocated that all structures of the right hand be shaped as arches so that the flexibility of the strcture of the hand supporting the bow could flex to accomplish what it needed to - that meant that no fingers touching the bow would really be straight (including the pinky!). Then there is the question of where and what index finger joint is closest to the bow stick - and this is a major (but not the only) factor in the "name" given the bow hold (Franco-Belgian, Russian, German, "modern" etc.)

Finally, there are good reasons to realize that you may change the way you hold the bow (and where you hold it) depending on what the music you are playing requires (and how your bow behaves while you play that music). As far as where on the bow your fingers contact - it depends to some extent on what feels right to you - one might conpensate for a tip-heavy bow by moving the hand a little further from the frog - or one might do that to accomplish certain off-string strokes. On the other hand, a really fine bow (in my limited experience) will yield all its "umph" and flexibility if it is held with the thumb tip in contact with the frog. Still, a player's hand might (almost surely will) move about on that bow for certain strokes. And off course, the wrist must remain flexible (changing the wrist angle is the only way to keep the bow straight across the strings) - and many strokes require wrist action - which is easier than rapid full-arm motion.

I realize, this is too complicated to be much help to one at an early stage - which is why a teacher can be so helpful. Chances are, if you are going to be self-taught, your bow-hold will change and evolve as you learn - for a long, long time - if you are lucky.

Andy

[This message has been edited by Andrew Victor (edited 05-19-2001).]

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Since I injured my right and now have to learn a new way to bow - I found a few tricks that can help.

Often I will take off the index from the top of the stick, and make sure the stick is in the crease of the other two fingers. I try to slack the thumb as much as I can, make a constant effort to curve the little finger.

Result when the index does sneak on to the top of the stick it rests much closer to the knuckle joint.

Read on another thread here that when the bow is working well one senses the string resistance at the frog, ie in your bow hand.

This is similar but not the same thing as the vibration of the bow.

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You've asked a good question. You will get a lot of different answers. Holding the bow should be very natural. Your hand's natural position will decide how you hold your bow. Here's how natural it should be. Hold your hand out in front of you. Keeping your hand/fingers relaxed simply bring your thumb and fingers together in a relaxed manner. Usually you will find the thumb will come to between your middle and 4th finger. You will see your thumb nuckle is slightly bent out. Now simply put the bow in your hand using this hand position. The tip of your thumb will be between the leather and frog. The wood of the stick will be between your fingertips and 1st joint (on the pads). You'll see a lot of players raising their little finger. You're not drinking tea, you're playing the violin. Each finger has its function for voicing. The wrist is next but I won't go into that. And... your thumb between the nail and joint will come into contact with the hair. That is normal. It shouldn't be a deliberate matter, though, as this would create an unnatural and tense position.

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I have, since my first lesson, been taught that my thumb should be in contact with the hair, a la Kato Havas (as ann said...thanks much, i'd have never remembered her name right now). My teacher, who is friends with Havas uses this technique as well, hence i use it. I like it.

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The advantage I find in the Havas approach to the bow is that with the thumb joint truly flexed, it is easier to keep the muscles of the wrist and lower arm from tensing. I have the most wonderful little kids, though, who still insist upon the "Death Grip" even with a flexed thumb!

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quote:

Originally posted by Andrew Victor:

The two main purposes of a bow hold are

1) to be able to keep the bow straight on the string

2) to keep the bow from falling on the floor.

Then there are other reasons for holding the bow in certain ways so you can

3) get flexibility for off-string bowing strokes

4) get some added strength (or gentleness) when needed in your strokes.

Then there is the need to hold the bow in such a way and such a place that

5) you can take best advantage of the flexibility of the stick.

It all comes down to control - and flexibility! And it does seem that some people get better control from certain kinds of bow holds (and certain bows) than others do (after all, we each have different size arms and hands - but violins and bows are all the same size).

Improving a bow hold can take many years for some of us. Some of us (especially without teachers - but a teacher is no guarantee, either) never find the best way for ourselves to hold the bow. If you hold it too tightly you will never be able to play properly. Menuhin advocated that all structures of the right hand be shaped as arches so that the flexibility of the strcture of the hand supporting the bow could flex to accomplish what it needed to - that meant that no fingers touching the bow would really be straight (including the pinky!). Then there is the question of where and what index finger joint is closest to the bow stick - and this is a major (but not the only) factor in the "name" given the bow hold (Franco-Belgian, Russian, German, "modern" etc.)

Finally, there are good reasons to realize that you may change the way you hold the bow (and where you hold it) depending on what the music you are playing requires (and how your bow behaves while you play that music). As far as where on the bow your fingers contact - it depends to some extent on what feels right to you - one might conpensate for a tip-heavy bow by moving the hand a little further from the frog - or one might do that to accomplish certain off-string strokes. On the other hand, a really fine bow (in my limited experience) will yield all its "umph" and flexibility if it is held with the thumb tip in contact with the frog. Still, a player's hand might (almost surely will) move about on that bow for certain strokes. And off course, the wrist must remain flexible (changing the wrist angle is the only way to keep the bow straight across the strings) - and many strokes require wrist action - which is easier than rapid full-arm motion.

I realize, this is too complicated to be much help to one at an early stage - which is why a teacher can be so helpful. Chances are, if you are going to be self-taught, your bow-hold will change and evolve as you learn - for a long, long time - if you are lucky.

Andy

[This message has been edited by Andrew Victor (edited 05-19-2001).]

Andy: I have heard of off string bowing and off string stroke. But, I am not sure I understand what is really meant by that. If one bows "off the string" there is no sound.????? Please explain. Ben

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On the string bowing is where the bow is mostly on the string; off the string is usually when the bow hits the string from the air and is lifted or allowed to bounce (or be in the air) between strokes. On-string is stuff like martele, regular slurred staccato, detache; off-string is stuff like spiccato, colle, flying spiccato/staccato, ricochet.

I've had seven regular teachers in the past 16 years, and I've been one of my teachers since a little before high school. My bow hold is still evolving, but I think it's stabilized for now. It'll probably change more as soon as I start practicing more than 1 hour a day again and as I figure out how to do that Paganini Caprice 5 bowing. Your bow hold may change depending on the tone color, dynamic, or bow stroke you're doing.

Good technique should accomplish your musical goals and fit your physical make-up. Your posture should be good, and you should be relaxed. Use a mirror--if it looks ugly or unnatural, it's probably not the best way to do it.

-Aman

[This message has been edited by vieuxtemps (edited 05-22-2001).]

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