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Bow Bounce

Technique and Practicing: Stopping bow bounce

From Jim Glasson
Posted October 20, 2008 at 05:01 PM

Good Morning!!
Let me say that I'm a REAL newbee with the violin though I've been playing blues and rock guitar for 40+ years.

I'm into my 4th week and still have a little trouble with the bow bouncing a little as I play.

According to my (excellent!) instructor, I'm holding the bow well but I still get *&^%$ bounce periodically.

I put in about 2+ hours of practice a day and have recently become a bit OCD about stopping the bounce.

As a bit of detail, after about 20 minutes or so, I can still bounce the bow but it's far less.

It might be my 50 year old hands which will be kinda' hard to correct :)

I *believe* my bow hand is loose.

Anyone have a similar experience or tip or two I might try?

From Sander Marcus
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 05:27 PM
Jim: Actually, your bow grip may be just a little too loose. Try gripping the bow a little harder rather than looser, and see if that helps.
Cordially, Sandy Marcus
From Eric Johnson
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 05:56 PM
I new to the violin too and have been having problems with this also.

With me the problem seemed to be more in the stiffness of my wrists. When my teacher saw I was keeping my bowing wrist straight. She had me lead with my wrist, which caused the bow to be more of edge near the frog and flatter toward the tip.

I practicve bowing with the wrist above the hand on the up stroke and below the hand the other way.

Hope this helped. After doing this, my problem with bow bounce has dropped quite a bit.

From al ku
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 06:03 PM
i wonder when you say it bounces, you mean it bounces when it is somewhere between the mid bow to the tip, not between frog to the middle, right?

that when it bounces, it bounces on a downbow and not upbow, right?

and the section did not indicated spiccato or staccato, right? :) just kidding.

i would like to hear what the experts have to say, but my questions may help clarify the specifics for them. just a nice guy.

From Jim Glasson
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 07:05 PM
Thanks Sandy!!
I'll certainly try a firmer grip. :)


Eric: I like your technique. I'm going to employ it as well tonite and see if the dang "bounce" or chatter stops.


Hey Al!!

I get the bounce mostly on the up stroke and usually between the frog and mid-bow.

I'm finding that I do a little better by lowering my elbow a bit as well. Probably not the best form, but it seems to help.

Also, NOT concentrating on stopping the bounce helps a bit. If I concentrate purely on proper left finger placement while doing scales, it reduces a bit as well.

Ahhh, the life of the beginner.... Fighting ones own body.

From Sander Marcus
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 07:31 PM
One has a certain advantage as a beginner in that one's mind is not clogged with education, training, experience, wisdom, skills, and feedback.
:) Sandy
From al ku
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 07:43 PM
"I get the bounce mostly on the up stroke and usually between the frog and mid-bow."

glad that the nice guy asked because there may be different bounces at different places from different causes for different folks:)

now we just have to sit tight and see any good teachers will bite! i wonder if anyone will suggest,,,ommmmmm, be the bow,,,

From Josh Henry
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 07:27 PM
Hi Jim,
Congrats on starting on the violin. I've got to say that it sounds that you are progressing *quite* well after only four weeks of violin.

When your bow starts bouncing, instead of adjusting your elbow position, try to roll your right wrist slightly into the bow, adding a little weight. This will often help stop the bounce. Your thumb should act as a fulcrum, the index finger adds and releases weight (activating the "spring" of the bow), and your little finger acts as a counter-balance to your index finger. Generally speaking, you can hold the bow with only your thumb and these two fingers.

I work with many people in the process of finding a new bow, and one thing that may be affecting your bounce could be an improperly weighted, balanced, or cambered (the curve in the bow) bow. Many student or beginner bows are just intended to "saw" across the strings. I'm not saying you should consider upgrading at this point, but have your teacher evaluate your bow. You may find out that the teacher has the same problems with your bow. The most basic bows can actually hamper learning and development of your bow arm.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker

From Jim Glasson
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 08:13 PM
Hey Josh!

I actually upgraded to a Coda at the behest of my instructor as the beginner bow was making things worse.

My guitar instructor (lo those many years ago) used to say that buying a bit better than you need is an investment.

I've been trying everyone's suggestions with some success on each.

I'll certainly try rolling the my wrist a little farther to add some weight.



From Anthony Chi
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 08:31 PM
I had similar problems with bow bounce and discovered that my problem was my bow hold. I'm assuming you are using Galamian or Franco-Belgian with the pinky curved and resting on the bow. With this bow hold the pinky is used to help counter balance the weight of the bow when moving from one string to another. The index finger is used to control the path of the bow during a stroke. The thumb and the remaing two fingers (middle and ring) "pinch" together to control bow pressure. What caused my bow bounce was that my middle and ring fingers were not properly draped over the bow...instead the fingertips rested to closely to the top of the bow. Once I properly draped my middle and ring fingers over the bow, my bow bounce stopped.

Might be usedful to look at the bow holds of these violinists:


From Terry Hsu
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 08:56 PM
A bouncing bow might be caused by an improper distribution of weight in your right hand. Try holding your bow without your violin and making oval shapes against a wall. The idea is to keep your bow parallel to the ground the entire time. While this doesn't completely simulate what it's like to bow with your left hand holding your instrument, it might give your right hand a better sense of how the weight has to transfer from finger to finger depending upon where you are in your up and downbow.

Just an idea, it's hard to tell without seeing you what's really going on. In any case, it's a good exercise!

From Christian Abel
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 09:22 PM
Its like hiccups. Ignore it and it will go away on its own soon.
From Terry Hsu
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 09:35 PM
Either that, or have someone sneak up behind you and scare you. I've heard that really helps for the hiccups. ;)
From Josh Henry
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 09:42 PM
Terry--that might cause the bow (and the fiddle) to bounce off the floor!
From Tess Z
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 09:45 PM
Ditto what Anthony suggested. My bow hold was the problem as well. Once I started properly draping my fingers all the way over the bow, much of the bow shake was eliminated.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 10:30 PM
congratulations on strating the violin. DOn@t buy into any of this stuff about age and stiffness. The conneciton is there, but it is not actually the body so much as your attitude (Unless you eat junk food....;))
I`m ging to suggets three exercises since you are so inot praciticng!
1) Spider up the stick. Are you familiar with this? One simple holds the bow vertically and using only the fingers allow it to move toward the ground as you hand moves up the stick toi the middle and then work your way back down again (much harder9. Don`t kid yourslef this is a kids exercise. Dounis (one of the great pedagogues) reocmmended this even to pro players and i use it all the time with my studnets.
2) Set up your bow hold with the bow parallel to the floor. Press up very slightly with the sum so that you get a converse reaction in the fingers. This is not tension per se. You are just making sure the shape of your hand is stable and firm. Now make huge cirlce asand other shapes with the bow. Write your name, draw pictures in the air and so on. Keep the bow hold set fimly in that shape but imagine your writs, elbow and shoulders are soooo relxed they are lieik spaghetti. (Thanks to Drew for this one)
3) Pracitce bows from the heel to around the middle. Howevver, hold the bow like you would hold a cello bow. After a while pracitce normall but keep the feeling of the weight distributed across the hand as in the cello hold. If you don`t know what a cello hold is go find a cellist.
From Andrew Victor
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 10:28 PM
I think there are a number of good ideas above, but in my opinion an unwanted bounce is more likely to be due to too tight a bow hold rather than too loose.

The entire focus of your bow technique should (usually) be the point of contact of the bow and the string. Everything you do with your right hand/arm/shoulder is aimed at that tiny point. The bow hold must adjust to the part of the bow touching the string. The forces from your fingers on the bow will be different depending on where the bow sits on the string AND the kind of stroke you are making.

There are really only three points of contact on the bow. The string and your thumb supporting it upward and (usually) one* (1) finger applying a downward force. That one finger will change depending on where the bow is on the string and what you are intending to do with the bow (probably not too fancy at your stage of development).

* There are some bowing techniques that can involve more than one finger doing things together, or so closely related, that they are touching simultaneously or close to it (watch old films of Heifetz's downbow staccato, z.b. Hora Staccato). But generally, it is a total waste of energy and strength to have fingers pressing on the bow in opposition to each other - and the tension that results can easily result in shaking and random, unwanted bouncing.


From al ku
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 11:30 PM
what happens to the bow-string contact when one (not jim) upbows with a rather tight right shoulder/neck region, like a shrug, in an effort to finish the upbow to the frog, so that instead of "pushing" the bow on the string toward the frog, the action is one of "lifting"...?

with an inadequate bow hold, this "lifting" action may be accentuated for job security:)

From Roland Garrison
Posted on October 20, 2008 at 11:37 PM
One thing I find that happens to me is when I lift the bow to change bow position, if I lift too much, it tries to bounce when I again set it on the strings. If I keep it fairly close to the strings when I reset the position, then it does not bounce. I suspect if it is hitting the strings at too much downward angle, it is difficult to control where it stops, and the strings act like a trampoline.
From al ku
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 12:01 AM
you mean newton's third law, roland?

i think i know what you are saying and agree that you should not land directly downward. if you can find some tapes of the pros, you may see that they actually incorporate a nice flick action of the wrist to buffer the landing (thus the beginning of the next note). pretty cool to watch because it looks slick:)

From Jack Rushing
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 12:51 AM
Shirley says, Press up slightly with your thumb.
From María Frades
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 09:46 AM

I have played violin for over a year now, so I am a newbie too. I had the same problem with my bow hand, in the same section: between the middle and the frog.

My teacher told me I just needed to strengthen (sp?) some muscles that I hadn't been using... for anything except bowing.

So in my case, spending time on bowing slowly, from the tip to the frog, absolutely relaxed, on open strings looking for a delightful sound helped me solve the problem.

Hope this helps :)

From Jim Glasson
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 11:27 AM
Thanks all, I'm trying each and *every* suggestion!

I certainly found the proper group of musicians for help.

From al ku
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 12:29 PM
jim, curious to know with your background of head banging, instrument smashing rock guitaring, what brought you to violin? new found interest or old flame breaking through? classical violin or other styles of playing?

whatever,,,good luck. it's neat and refreshing to see adults embarking on the violin journey.

From Jim Glasson
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 02:19 PM
And a journey it is!
I really don't know how I came to like violin and classical violin at that.

It just happened when I was listening to a little Itzhak P. a few years back. I was intrigued and I started reading the biographies of Amati, Stradivari and Guarnieri.

Even went so far as to visit my beloved Metropolitan Museum of Art to see (and hear occasionally) these fine instruments.

I dunno, I just got sucked in.
I looked up violin classes in my area, wound up signing up. Bought a great violin and chincy bow (since upgraded to a Coda) and I've been learning ever since.

I've always LOVED Mozart for his amazing music and Bach I figure is from another planet as no human being can write that well.

I've been playing blues and 60's/70's R&R for so long (Albert King, SRV, Jimmy Page etc.) that at my advanced age (55), this is another experience for me to enjoy.

It's neat as the instructor doesn't need to teach me scales or the circle of 5ths and I can trill the daylights out of the "D" and "E" strings. LOL!!

Now I just need to sit back, learn, play and enjoy.

I'm hooked.

Thanks for asking!!

-Jim (even have tickets to see Joshua Bell in recital at Avery Fischer in Feb!!)

From Stacy Pigott
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 09:17 PM
Hi Jim,

I can certainly understand your frustration. It seems the more I tried to stop my bouncing bow, the more it bounced!! Here's what helped me:

1) Correcting my bow grip. Someone else had a similar problem earlier in this thread...my middle and ring fingers were not wrapped around the bow enough. Also, my fingers were all too close together. For me personally, my bow grip was also too loose. I was not controlling the bow with my fingers. Once I focused on my first and second fingers controlling the bow, I started to make some progress.

2) My instructor talked a lot about controlling the bow, and how I was not doing that when it bounced. So he would have me play open strings only, full bow length, but stop the bow so you are actually playing four notes on one down bow. Your bow stops one-quarter of the way down, half way, three quarters, and then at the tip. Repeat for the up bow. By stopping your bow, you are forced to control it. Concentrate on how your bow hand feels at that point.

3) Following the past point, concentrate on how your bow hand feels when there is no bounce, so you can duplicate that feeling when there is a bounce. By focusing on how "right" should feel, you might be able to tell what is out of line when things go wrong.

4) Someone else also mentioned wrists...mine wasn't as relaxed as it should have been. I watched a great YouTube video that talked about bending your wrist and bringing your wrist towards your nose on up bow. (Perhaps one of the teachers on here can explain that better?) By consciously thinking of bringing my wrist to my nose, my bowing not only straightened out, it also helped get rid of the bounce.

5) Relax and BREATHE! The more tense I got, the worse I bounced. :)

6) Now I am doing bowing exercises that might have been helpful during the worst bounce times. I do not know what they are called, but for example, the first exercise is a whole note followed by a quarter note. Set your metronome at 66 and play each note with a full bow. Start on G string, play G whole-A quarter. Then Bflat whole-C quarter, D (4th finger) whole-C quarter and back down to G. Then do it on the D string, etc.

I hope some of this has helped. I think one of the biggest changes I made was in my attitude toward the bouncing. I used to get so frustrated, thinking to myself, "Why can't I stop this bouncing!" Then one day I decided to turn it around more positively, and I started thinking, "I CAN stop the bounce, and I will, if only for one bow, or two." By concentrating on a positive outcome instead of the current negative situation, I was able to (finally) stop the bounce. :)

Best of luck!

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 10:22 PM
all this stuff is great but I just thought I@d raise a point here that sometimes gets lost behind the plethora of technicla detail we are so good at talking about.
Of course it is importnat to have a clear understanding of the function of the various body parts but one of the abolsute fundamentlas of bowing is simply this: it is the tool we hold we organizes what the body does.
Think about the highly complex and skileld action of turnign a screw with a screw driver. So you pay attention to your elbow , or wrost or shoulder? Or how about reaching for a cup of coffee? Do you think about moving your elbow first and then doign somethign with your fingers?
The organizing factor is actually your intention followed by interaction with the object itslef.
How this translates into violin playign terms is that one should spend most of ones times paying attention to teh feeling of the string though the bow hair and into the fingers. This will ultimately tell your body what it needs to know about how to play the violin. It takes patiences and awareness but its the essence of producing a fine sound.
From Jim Glasson
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 11:03 PM
Thanks Staci, I'm going to take your advice to heart.
Every one here really provided some wonderful insight but your words distilled it for me.

Buri, you too!!!
It really is a matter of letting ones body do what it needs to do as you say.

To quote a monumental figure I admire - "Don;t think, hit".
Or in this case, don't think - play.

From Joy Laydbak
Posted on October 23, 2008 at 06:19 PM
While it is very possibly you're technique and all the advice above is great, it also might be your bow. My first bow was quite crooked. It bounced a lot right in the middle of the bow. Buying a new bow completely got rid of that problem. I still have the old bow and if I pick it up, it will still bounce around, even though the bow I was using ten seconds earlier didn't.

Try going into one of your local violin shops and trying a few of their bows. You might find that a straight bow eliminates the bounce when you have correct technique.

I'm not saying that good equipment can fix all our posture and hold problems (wish it could!), but a bent stick might bounce even for the greatest players of all time.

From Michael Richwine
Posted on October 25, 2008 at 04:43 PM
I'm a relative novice as a player (a little over 3 years), but I had the same problem for a bit, and solved it when somebody suggested that I relax my thumb. It loosened up my whole hand and stopped the bow shakes.

It also might help to think about guiding the bow instead of controlling the bow.

From Leslie Dawn knowles
Posted on October 25, 2008 at 05:38 PM
A few ideas - think of the contact point of the bow on the string as the center and balance everything towards that. Don't get all scrunched up with tension. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed too along with the other things mentioned and remember to breathe out all the way when you exhale which helps to get that last bit of tension out - A quick fix too which will give you confidence in your ability to handle this problem is if it's bouncing on long notes (sometimes because of nerves), you can simply change the violin's position too - raise your scroll a bit or turn the violin a bit flatter -
Good for youi, keep at it!
cheers leslie
From F Almeida
Posted on March 19, 2010 at 07:55 PM

 I know this thread is old, but I want to thank you for the great suggestions.  I'm also a novice, only started with the violin about a month ago.  I have no music background and I am an adult (forty-something, I forget ;-) ).

I have been having a heck of a time trying to get rid of these unwanted bounces, but everyone here has given me a few things to try.  For that I am thankful.  Who knows, in a few months or years, I will be able to give something back to a novice too.


From Andrew Pollow
Posted on March 19, 2010 at 08:51 PM

And I spend alot of time every day trying to make it bounce. I can do ricochet? jette? fast but I still cant do sautille much and I want it really bad.


It could be age - that guy that was playing during brain surgery had a bouncing problem and they adjusted something in his brain that made his stroke smooth. Its amazing they can do that.

From anthony Huda
Posted on June 16, 2015 at 04:02 PM
I have a $3000 Schuster bow and also a $15 Amazon.com bow and all bows in between including carbon fiber bows, they all bounce. Do not play for 2 hours after having coffee. Then start tuning by long calm strokes and keep doing that you will calm down slowly and the bounce will disappear. When you play a piece start from the upper half and as you progress enlarge the distances to the frog. As you keep playing you will be better. It is the warm up.
Another bold move is buy a ten bucks bow from amazon. release the strings take the screw out to let the strings hang so you have only the wood. Take a harsh sand paper and sand the wood down to make it quite thinner and put the strings back. Yes it is an abnormal bow. And start the day playing with this. It will feel hell but you get used to it. Don't press it just relax. This will teach your hand to be relaxed. Play until you feel comfortable with this bow. Then you can move to the regular bow. Just a note: When I played with a guitarist the Paganini sonatas for violin and guitar I used this thinned bow on stage so I do not overpower the guitar. It was great !
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on June 16, 2015 at 04:26 PM
Nathan Cole on June 13, 2015 posted here an informative video and blog about his “safety move” for soft starts and bow changes at the frog – see http://www.violinist.com/blog/ncole78/20156/16850/, in the course of which he says he will be coming up with another video addressing the problem of “bow shakes” (similar to, or perhaps the same as, bow bounce). May very well solve a few problems, imo.
From Henry Butcher.
Posted on June 17, 2015 at 05:04 AM
Yes, a relaxed hand to gain 'the feeling of the string though the bow hair and into the fingers'..... But also, I read recently to actually practice the bouncing bow strokes.
From Arnaud Boeglin
Posted on June 18, 2015 at 03:26 PM
Also as a quick note, 4 weeks is very little and bow control is something that violin players develop and refine over years. Guitar might help with independence of hands and finger flexibility, but in itself will not help with intonation or bowing at all ( note that any musical experience would most likely help with intonation ).

If you're serious about playing violin, get yourself a lot of patience and a teacher. Intonation and bow control are a marathon work, you do little exercises for them everyday, and they slowly come together.

From Nathan Cole
Posted on June 21, 2015 at 05:26 AM
Hi, I do mean to make this video... one of the more vexing problems, and as many have repeated here, something that ALL violinists deal with, from the very greatest on down. I've sat two feet away from the most famous soloists watching them stare down a bouncing bow, and it only increased my admiration seeing them accept what was there right in front of them. Yet there are ways to make it less of a distraction.
From Peter Charles
Posted on June 21, 2015 at 08:17 AM
It even happened to Heifetz ...
From Nathan Cole
Posted on June 24, 2015 at 05:08 AM
Yep, happened to everyone... a colleague of mine described a venerable teacher (former major concertmaster, etc) giving a student a real dressing-down one afternoon in a master class about bow shakes. Really pouring it on: "In my day, if you had that kind of problem, it meant you weren't meant to be a performer... we didn't have such a thing as nerves..." Think Dana Carvey as the "Church Lady" in Saturday Night Live.

That night, he played Lark Ascending with the student orchestra and you know the rest. My colleague recalled, laughing, "he was trying everything... raising the arm up, putting it down, trying to 'walk it off'. He almost ended up in the first violins!"

It happens to everyone.

From Colin MacLeod
Posted on June 24, 2015 at 06:12 AM
I find the more consistently/ regularly I practise and play, the less there is bow bounce.
From Andrew Victor
Posted on June 24, 2015 at 01:43 PM
It's been almost 7 years since Jim Glasson started this thread. I hope he solved his problem and is still playing the violin.

After 76 years of playing the violin I have developed the problem he described (upbows only). It may be a combination of a familial ("essential") tremor and some problems with one or more shoulder muscles (the muscles for upbow and downbow are not the same).

It would probably be a good idea to get a medical diagnosis for this and start a regimen of prescribed physical therapy.