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Fiddle Lessons: Right Hand Bow Hold

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Alright fellow fiddlers,
we're about to embark on one of the most
important parts of playing the fiddle.
Maybe, some people say the most important
The bow hold.
How to move that bow back and forth.
So you get the sound of the fiddle.
So let's have a look at the bow.
This bow is,it should look a lot like
And let's go ahead and just take the bow.
Just grab it in our hand down here by the
Don't put our hand on the hair.
Just wrap our hand around the.
The bow, and just relax and just get
comfortable with that.
Just caress that, just hold that bow in a
relaxed way.
Now, this is completely an unstructured
way of holding your bow but
it's, this is what it should feel like
after a couple of
months of doing it the correct way, it
should just feel like a natural thing.
You just pick it up, holding it.
So, let's now take our thumb, put it below
the frog,
and then wrap our fingers gently around
the bow, like so.
Okay, this is, this is good too.
We want some, we want some nice contact.
With the fingers over the stick, that is
gonna be one of those things that stays.
Now, this is an important thing,
I like the classical method of holding the
bow which, in which we take our thumb and
bend it in the opposite of the hitchhiker
We bend it like this, and then we point it
To the crack between the frog and the
You see this little corner here, and
we just go boink, stick that straight in
so that the point of the thumb,
and this is gonna, you're gonna have to be
cutting those long thumb nails.
If you're doing a lot of oyster shucking
with your thumb nail you're
gonna have to cut that off in order to do
I'm gonna put that down right in there.
And it's gonna be bent like that.
And touching the hair.
This is a good thing to do,
is just feel it, the top of the thumb
sorta touching the hair right there.
That's gonna give you a little extra
What that does, that sorta brings the
A little bit so that our fingers are
wrapping around.
You can see that the little finger is
coming down on top of the stick.
Just setting itself on top of the stick.
These other fingers are just wrapping
themselves gently around the bow.
Okay, so we hold the bow out in front of
Take the left hand.
The left hand holds the tip.
Again, staying away from the hair.
See that our right hand is wrapped around
the bow.
We've got our thumb bent, hopefully, which
is going to tilt the bow.
So that the hair is a little closer to us
than the stick is.
That's good, we want that.
Now our elbow is probably a little down
because we're
talking about being relaxed here.
We wanna shake out, make sure we're not
hunched up, we don't want that.
We just wanna be normal.
Now imagine that there's a little balloon
attached to our right elbow.
And it's gonna let, bring,
just float the bow up until it hits a
certain point that feels comfortable.
now, what that does, I'm gonna do that
again, and instead of watching my elbow,
watch my hand.
You can see that.
And if you watch my, okay now watch my
arm, top of my arm.
It's going to tilt.
To your right, to my left, alright.
It's gonna just tilt like that and
that also tilts the hand and you can see
that the hand rotates a little bit.
So that the bow crosses
this finger between the first knuckle and
the second knuckle.
That's pretty important where that
And this is a subject that is a huge
subject that
is a subject of much discussion and.
Back and forth.
Now, what exactly this first finger does.
Now, you'll see some kind of classical
musicians that will take their first
finger and they'll put it way up there and
that gives them a lot of control.
Now, if they want to do those flying
staccatos and all that kind of stuff.
However, it's not very good for
one thing that we do in fiddling.
We have to be flexible because you're
playing dance music, playing groove music.
We want to be super flexible to be able to
really bust out those rhythm.
That kind of thing.
So what I'm doing here is I'm rotating the
hand around,
tilting the arm, elbow coming up so that.
That first finger crosses between the
first and second knuckle.
What that does is bring the wrist into a
where it can bend in the same direction as
the movement of the bow.
So, instead of this
Where the wrist is essentially frozen,
if we bring the elbow up, tilt the arm,
stick crosses between the first and second
knuckle all of the sudden
we have a situation where we can actually
use the wrist and knuckles.
To be flexible on the up and down stroke.
we want that thumb to always be bent
pointing right in there
at that little crack between the stick and
the frog.
So, when I.
Change the bow to a downstroke,
so we have wrist motion,
we have elbow motion.
Elbow is back and forth, we have wrist
motion up and
down in the direction that the wrist
normally bends, and we have.
Knuckle also.
Knuckle motion.
You have.
go ahead and just play the D string back
and forth.
All right.
So, okay.
Now what's going on with this last finger?
You'll see that it's kinda moving moving
on and off the top of the bow.
When I'm down here it's actually not even
touching the bow at all.
You can see.
There's just floating hand space, not
doing anything,
it's not wrinkling up, it's not doing,
it's just ready for action.
Because when I come back up you can see
how it just goes right into place.
Touching the top.
Of the stick, and
that finger is actually counterbalancing
the whole rest of the stick.
If I took the finger away, the stick would
You know, so, you can see.
So that, so we have this nice little
fulcrum here.
This is.
Kind of laying over and helping apply
pressure, and
this finger is actually counterbalancing
the stick when it's needed.
we have this moving fulcrum here, where
the bow meets the string,
and, if we start here, and we're gonna be,
the little finger's actually counter
balancing to some extent, that bow.
When we go down, to the tip of the bow,
the violin itself is holding the bow up,
and we're applying a tiny
bit of pressure, with this finger, to keep
the bow on the string.
And that bow is gonna be very close to
perpendicular, to the string.
If we're in the middle of the, if we're in
the middle of the of the bow,
you can see that it makes kind of a box
Because with the arm the violin part of
that box, the bell part of the box,
forearm and upper arm are, are apart of
that, that squarish box shape.
So, it changes of course.
You go, if anything.
So, when we're down here that little
finger is
sorta counterbalancing the bow, against
that unchanging string.
Here's another factor.
If we have the fiddle down here.
If we're holding it down here.
If it's down, the bow is, there's no
gravity helping us.
We're using the fiddle to hold that bow
if you're down like this, it's gonna be
all type of problems.
Tonal problems, everything else.
I'm not gonna be able to keep that bow
If you're playing from a long time,
it's gonna be difficult to keep that bow
in position.
So, we want that, that fiddle out like
that, holding the bow up.
Very gradual changing of the balance of
the bow between the frog and the tip.
With old time fiddling, you're using about
this much, a lot of traditional fiddling,
you're using about this much of the bow.
You can choke up on the bow, you can do
all kinds of funny dips.
I kinda think,
with bluegrass and a lot of the jazz types
of music, you really,
you're competing with an entire band, and
you're playing very sophisticated music
with a lot of tone and pressure.
So, you really, you really need to have,
you know, a good grip, and
be able to generate.
That pressure, and keep that bow.
Guided properly, so
you can really get a tone out of the
So, it's really important, I think, to
just run this long bow thing,
just feeling how it feels to go from
counter balancing the bow with your
little finger to applying pressure in the
other direction with your first finger.
Here we're counterbalancing.
It's kind of in the middle.
And here we're playing more,
with a little more pressure with the first
finger so
that we get an even tone from the tip, to
the frog.
The frog here.
Tip here.
I'm really changing that pressure between
putting, you can see.
Also I'm gonna over, I'm gonna exaggerate
this a little bit.
Putting a lot of counterbalance here, at
the frog.
When I'm down here at the tip, there's
this thing going on.
You can see that I'm doing a little bit of
a pinch,
here, between the thumb and the first
finger, and
that is all continuing, like, on a
spectrum [INAUDIBLE].
It doesn't change suddenly at all.
So, when,
this is a great thing to practice, this
long bow business.
People are always saying, well play long
notes, play long notes.
Why play long notes?
Because, that's the way you're going to be
able to really get
comfortable with that bow, and feel like
it's just a part of your arm.
The idea that the bow moves, and the arm
just goes along with the ride.
You know, that's, that's what we're,
we're kind of psyching ourselves into that
That the bow is moving by itself.
Our arm is just along for the ride.
Just making slight adjustments.
And this is where a metronome can really
help you.
Because that metronome is gonna keep you
from going.
You want to have, you can like say, say
okay, I'm gonna set the metronome for,
you know, 80 beats a second, and that
metronome's gonna go off.
It's gonna be and I'm gonna say.
Okay, it's gonna have six, I'm gonna have
six beats.
I've gotta fit a long bow into six beats.
So, like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
And being able to manipulate the bow in a
slow way like that.
That's gonna take practice.
You know, what you're gonna see, is you're
gonna ha, you know, you're gonna have.
Things like that.
That's, it's just inevitable, that, that's
how things are gonna start.
So, you just have to keep at it.
This is the kinda thing.
This is the kinda instrument that is just,
you know,
you can't just walk over it, put your
hands down, make a sound, that's great,
like a piano or something like that.
Piano's got it's own problems, but
this instrument is just gonna kick your
butt for a while.
But if you keep at it, it works.
I struggled with this for years.
Everybody I know who plays the fiddle,
struggled with it.
I always tell beginning players, you know,
okay, the first ten years are the worst.
After that it will get better.
Some people get it in as little as six
Some people it takes a long time.
If you stick with it, work on it, open
strings first.
You will get it.
For you, beginning, fiddle players,
people that are really just jumping in on
this stuff,
trying to figure out how to play this
I would like to invite you to send me a
short video, of you playing open strings.
Playing those long notes.
The best thing to do would be four long
notes at a very slow metronome setting on
each string.
So if you play four long notes on the G.
Say, four beats at 60, on the metronome.
Four, four, four clicks per bow.
2, 3, 4.
1, 2, 3, 4.
And switch to the D string, same thing.
1, 2, 3, 4.
1, 2, 3, 4.
And the same thing with the A string, and
the same thing with the E string.
We can, I can probably help you with that
just I can point out, possible problems.
And the, very important to try to get this
Right, as close to the beginning as
possible, because undoing,
as we all know, bad habits are a lot
harder to straighten out,
than to make good habits at the beginning.
So, yeah.
Those of you who are just starting with
the stuff,
go ahead send a short video of that.
And we'll just get it, get it straight, at
the top.