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Violin Lessons: Holding the Bow

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Let's talk about
how to hold the bow.
What you're after with the basic bow grip
is something very natural, almost the same
as how your hand and how your fingers
would hang if you just let them hang.
So, the bow goes up into the hand like
And that's about how the finger are
Nothing too fancy, nothing too unusual.
Then they'll, they'll form around the bow
a little bit.
But what you don't want is some kind of
unequal distribution.
For example, put the fingers very spread
out or
super bunched together or weird spaces.
Now you want to pay special attention to
the knuckle on the first
finger because that will help determine
the sound that you're going to get.
And that placement can vary.
Some people have their first finger placed
on the very last knuckle here.
Many people have it in between the first
and second and the so
called Russian school has it all the way
on the last knuckle there.
Those are all possibilities.
One is not better than the other but
you'll have to experiment and
see what works for you.
For what it's worth, I usually have mine
in the, the, the so-called Russian school.
The knuckle that's closest to the palm.
What you also want is to have all your
fingers curved, all the time.
That includes the thumb, so sometimes
people are tempted to have their thumb be
straight or even bent backwards.
And that's, that's not gonna do you any
You want that flexibility.
And you only have flexibility when your
fingers are curved.
That includes also the pinkie finger.
It's important to have a curved pinkie
because the weight
that you're gonna be able to distribute
with a curved pinkie
is gonna be much greater than what you
would get with a straight one.
With a collapsed pinkie, you can only move
in one direction.
And you won't be able to control the bow
nearly as well.
So, now that you've got all your fingers
on the bow, they're well distributed and
they're curved, let's talk about the lever
that's created by the thumb and
the first finger.
That's where you get weight into the
string, pressure into the string.
It's really the same thing.
When you want pressure to the string,
it's possible to do it just with the thumb
and the first finger.
First finger pushes down or
you can think of it as the thumb pushes up
into the leather.
That's the way I prefer to think about it.
The thumb pushing up.
It's just maybe a, maybe a healthier way
to think about it then pushing down.
But when the thumb pushes up, the tip of
the bow moves down,
then you've got pressure into the string.
And that's, that's how you equalize the
pressure, let's say,
between the frog and the tip.
Because of the frog, you've got weight of
the hand there.
You've got all the fingers there.
When you move out to the tip,
in order to maintain the same sound then
you need to use that lever.
Of course, normally you'd keep all the
fingers on the bow when you do that.
But for demonstration you can see it's
possible to get that pressure
just with the, the thumb and the finger.
One thing that is not very desirable is
what you might call the hook.
And that's when the first finger is way
out in front of the other fingers.
What that does beside putting a lot of
strain on the front of the hand and
on the forearm, it encourages raising the
arm to press down on the bow and
that, that's really not gonna help you and
it's only gonna lead to more tension.
So the, the placement of that first
finger, as I say, can vary.
But it really shouldn't be separated that
far from the other fingers.
When you have your fingers on the bow,
what you'd like to feel from
all the fingers and the thumb is an equal
That you feel all four fingers and
the thumb exerting equal pressure on the
bow most of the time.
There are exceptions.
You're gonna feel at the frog a little bit
more pressure on the pinkie.
At the tip, you'll feel of course a little
more pressure on that first finger or, or
the thumb pushing up.
But other than that, for
the basic strokes, you wanna feel a very
even pressure in all the fingers.
Now if you're not going to use that hook
push down with the arm how do you exert
pressure at the tip?
It's with rotation or call it pronation of
the forearm.
So without changing the structure of the
without moving the arm up what you do is
you rotate the forearm.
And when it's pressing against the violin,
you'll get pressure into the string.
And you still maintain a great line, wrist
to hand to fingers.
So when you're, when you're wanting to
exert pressure into the string,
it's the pronation of the forearm.
And that moves the whole apparatus, rather
than just one part,
which will either be weak or will lead to
tension or injury.
Look one more time at happens at the frog.
When you're very close to the frog most of
the weight of the bow should be on
the pinky, so you can have a nice smooth
bow change.
You don't need a whole bunch of weight
from that first finger there,
because you have the whole weight of the
So the pinkie is gonna have the bear the
brunt of the weight there, the frog.
Now, when you submit a video for this
lesson, what I'd like you to do is to show
me holding the bow, coming from a hanging
position like that
with your fingers all well distributed and
all curved.
Then I'd like you to show me with the
instrument a couple of nice full bows.
Keeping the fingers and the thumb curved
with equal pressure.
And then I'd like you to show me a very
slow down bow where at the end,
you pronate the forearm to put pressure
into the string.
And then a slow up-bow where at the very
end near the frog you have most of
your weight on the pinky.