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Cello Lessons: Right Hand Bow Hold

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This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Multi-Style Cello with Mike Block. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Cello Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

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[MUSIC]
Now we're gonna talk
about how do we hold the bow.
Well, you're gonna put your
right hand out, palm facing up.
And as we do this, we wanna keep in
mind that the bow hold should feel as
natural and tension free as possible.
But with my left-hand,
I'm actually gonna place the bow,
the frog of the bow facing to the right
in the second knuckle of the fingers.
So the fingers have the first
knuckle here, second knuckle and
then the palm knuckle, the third knuckle.
In the second knuckle will rest
the stick of the bow with the fingers
kind of hanging out over the edges,
then we're going to
very naturally curl the fingers in,
to pull the bow towards the palm.
And I'm gonna do it enough,
so that my thumb It's
going to touch where the frog
meets the stick of the bow.
You can see there's a little bump where
the frog meets the stick, right around
the grip and my thumb is gonna stay
bent and contact the bow right there.
So I'm gonna now flip it over,
gonna flip the bow this way,
so you can see my fingers
from the outside.
If you practice in front of a mirror,
you can check out your own
fingers in your bow hold.
The rule of thumb for the fingers is
you want them to be comfortable spaced
sort of as,
if your hand was just hanging naturally.
We wanna have very small
windows in-between the fingers.
We don't wanna spread our handout too
far and if your hand is too close,
you'll lack some stability.
So just a natural spread of the fingers
will give you just the right spacing.
I do wanna say something, a lot of
people's instinct is to stretch out their
first finger and their pinkie and give
yourself the widest foundation possible.
Although this does give you
a totally solid bow hold,
it unfortunately lacks any flexibility.
And we're gonna need a lot of flexibility
in our bow hand to make smooth
bow changes and a lot of other subtle
techniques as we move forward.
So I'm gonna encourage you strongly
not to let your first finger move out
towards the tip, but
keep everything kinda close together.
I actually feel like my pinkie is quite
engaged with the frog of the bow.
The pinkie can actually sit right on
what's called the eye of the frog.
You bow should have a little circle
in the middle of the frog and
that's pretty much where my pinkie will
lie and my third finger lies right
here on this metal strip that
the bow enters the frog at and
then my second finger
actually touches the hair.
And you can even see, well,
this is a newly re-haired bow.
But on my other bow, you can see that
there's a little bit of dirt on the hair
where my second finger touches it.
The first finger doesn't touch the hair
really as much, but is the one furthest
out and will probably be mabye on some
metal part of the grip that you have.
Every bow grip is different, so
don't worry if your fingers aren't
lined exactly where mine are.
But again, I want you to keep your
thumb bent and that's again, so
that we have flexibility in the bow hand.
If your thumb gets straight,
we lose that flexibility.
Sometimes, your thumb can
actually slip through the bow.
And obviously, that's not gonna
be very helpful for our bow hold.
So really, using that indentation
where the frog meets the bow stick
is gonna be the place to
keep your thumb stable.
If I'm holding the bow in the air,
I have to keep my pinkie and
thumb pretty well engaged to keep the bow
from like just dropping like that.
But when the bow is on the string, you can
actually let the instrument hold the bow
up and I only need maybe my thumb and my
first finger to keep the bow from falling.
So the other fingers don't need to
be actively engaged when the bow
is resting on the string.
So let's go through all
the steps one more time.
We're gonna put our palm out,
our right palm, face up.
We're gonna put the bow stick into
the second crease and where the frog
meets the stick is kind of where my third
finger is right next to the pinkie.
And I'm gonna curl the bow in,
so my thumb meets that point and
I'm gonna flip it around and
put it on the string.
You'll notice my bow arm,
will ideally have
kind of a gentle continuous
slope down into the bow.
What you don't want is to be
holding your arm up like this or
even kinda letting it hang like this.
You want a smooth,
continuous slope if at all possible from
the shoulder through the elbow,
the wrist and the hand into the bow.
[SOUND] Let's take our
handy-dandy bow hold now and
let's pull the bow across the string.
We'll put the bow on the A string, which
is the string all the way to the left.
That's our highest string.
And like we talked about before
when I pull the bow to the right,
it's gonna be a down bow.
[SOUND] Don't worry about
how long it takes for
you to pull the down bow.
It can be really quick [SOUND] or
it could take forever.
[SOUND] Try and
do it as relaxed as you can.
[SOUND] When you get to the tip,
I want you to stay.
We're gonna stay at the tip without
lifting the bow and we're actually just
gonna head right back to the frog with
an up bow, which goes to the left.
[MUSIC]
And then we're gonna freeze at the frog
again, so all of our weight of our arm
is just kind of sinking into the string.
Let's try both a down bow and
an up bow one more time.
[MUSIC]
Stay at the tip,
don't lift the bow off the string and
we're gonna head right back up bow.
[MUSIC]
Very good.
At this point, you may be asking
yourself how much of the bow hair
should be contacting the string?
That's a great question.
You can play with what's called
flat hair where all of the bow hair
is contacting the string.
[MUSIC]
Also, through the course of playing,
I think it's actually pretty common for
most people to play with
slightly slanted hair
where the hair is turned out
towards the ground a little bit.
Towards the bridge and that actually
means that not all of the bow hair
will be contacting the string as
you can see in the close up, but
I'll pull a down bow and an up bow
with slightly slanted hair turned out.
[MUSIC]
So now, let's try and
pull down bows and
up bows on each string.
Okay?
So we already did the A, now let's move
to the right one string to the D string.
Put the bow on the frog and relax all
of your arm weight into the instrument.
I don't want you to be holding up
like this, if you can help it.
I want you to drop your shoulder,
so that we have this smooth,
gentle slope all the way into the string.
You can even slant your bow hair slightly,
I think that actually helps this smooth
angle we've been talking
about in the bow arm.
I'm gonna take a down bow and an up bow.
Why don't you guys join me?
[MUSIC]
You'll notice that
I actually didn't stop in
between the down bow and up bow.
I tried to have a continuous
sound through the change.
Let's try that one more time and
see if you can achieve it, as well.
[MUSIC]
It may take
a few times.
But honestly,
both ways are really good to practice,
either stopping between the bows or
trying to go for a continuous sound.
Those are both really important
techniques that we'll be using
in all of the pieces of music we play.
Let's move on to the G string,
which is the third string over and
we'll put the bow on the string again.
Let's take a deep breath.
Let's relax our right shoulder.
Let's get our smooth angle going and
keep our fingers relaxed.
You can even try,
like I'm holding the bow, so
that I can wiggle my fingers and
keep my hand relaxed.
I'll pull a down bow and an up bow again.
Join me.
[MUSIC]
You'll notice now that we're
on what are called the lower strings,
the G string and the C string.
That the strings are much thicker and
that's how they get a lower sound even
though their the same length as the A and
the D strings.
So we'll actually require more arm weight
in order to get the thicker
string vibrating.
So let's try it again and
make sure your shoulder's relaxed and
all of your arm weight is
sinking into the string.
We'll do down bow and
up bow without stopping.
[MUSIC]
Now we'll
finish with
the C string.
Take the bow, put it on the string.
Let's take a deep breath,
drop all of our shoulders and
we'll take a down bow and an up bow.
[MUSIC]
Very
good.
The C string is our thickest string.
So you're likely gonna have a slower bow
on it to enable to engage it to vibrate,
then you would use for
the A and the D string.
Let's try it one more time and
get all of your arm weight from your
relaxed shoulders into the string.
You can even bounce on
the string a little bit.
I don't know if you can see that Marcus,
but I'm sort of letting my arm weight sink
in and out of the C string,
because there's tension on it.
I can bounce in a little bit and
you'll know your arm weight is
sinking into the string,
if it's a little depressed.
So, I'm gonna pull a down bow and
an up bow while thinking about that.
[MUSIC]
Very
good.
You may have naturally been taking bows
all the way to the tip like I was.
However, it's not necessary at this point,
we'll work on that as we play these first
couple of tunes that we're gonna learn.
But if you only go to say,
the middle of the bow.
[SOUND] And then back.
[SOUND] That can be a little easier.
It'll take a little bit more finger
strength to play all the way to the tip.
In our next video, we'll explore more
of what it takes to have a good sound,
playing the cello and
what it means to play with a straight bow.
[MUSIC]