Straight Bowing Problem? - Remedy
Who would have thought that pushing and pulling a bow over strings straight i.e. parallel to the bridge could be so problematic?
I for one didn’t. But I soon discovered the reality: it is, I imagine, like trying to thread a piece of cotton through the tiny eye of a fast moving needle. Impossible!
Except of course that all things are possible – including learning to bow straight.
Okay, I’m a beginner with maybe 160 hours ‘playing’ experience and I soon enough came to know that if you can’t bow parallel to the bridge (yes, I appreciate there are times when bowing at an angle is required) you’re not going to produce tuneful sounds with a good tone.
We all know in our heads what to do but the difficulty is turning the ‘know’ into ‘know-how’. And now I just don’t ‘know’ but I’m also ‘doing.’
The solution to the problem of ‘skewed’ bowing is, in common with many of life’s problems, simple. I’ve sorted out my problem, thanks to Lora at Red Desert, and therefore so too can anyone. The way to sort out this problem was given freely to me and so I too pass it on freely and with the hope that it encourages all who have this issue to not give up. Inside of 3 weeks I’ve gone from being a ‘skew’ bower to a parallel bower.
Here’s what to do next: visit Bow Arm Mechanics - YouTube
Lora at Red Desert Violin is a gem and responded to my request for info on another matter and really knows what she’s talking about.
Also a beginner, but what I found helped in straightening the bow was fairly simple, once I discovered the cause. In my case, it was too much shoulder involvement. Considering the length of the arm, any unnecessary movement in the shoulder is magnified by the time it reaches the fingers (which are holding the bow).
It is important to know Why we want to bow straight. If the bow hair is at an angle, not 90 o to the string, the bow will pull towards the fingerboard or bridge, off of the ideal point of contact. All of our natural limb movements are circular. To get a straight motion we have to do rather complex compensating motions; Depending on the bow hold and bowing style, some combination of bending the right wrist, moving the right elbow, and a pivoting inside the hand. At the advanced class, some players will intentionally let the bow be not straight, to keep the bow hair where they want it. Every good player uses a mirror at some point to train their bow arm.
It is odd that Galamian, who is behind a lot of the modern teaching on how to keep the bow straight, and whose ideas are heavily promoted by Zuckerman in masterclasses which can be found on Youtube, says in his book that ideally the bow should be slightly angled (tip closer to fingerboard level than the frog). As a general notion, he is wrong, of course (if I may blaspheme for a moment), although there are times when in videos you see the greats, Heifetz, Milstein, angle the bow that way to achieve good phrasing.
He, Galamian, wrote expressly, in two seperate places in his book, that the tone was better when the bow was angled that way. I think one should keep that this is Galamian saying it, not just anyone.
George:" You move the bow by extending or contracting the lower arm at the elbow - not the shoulder."
You definitely move your shoulder, though, unless you have really long arms. But the elbow is the primary mover, but the shoulder moves a little especially when you are near the frog.
A reason for having the slight angle with the bow is that it ensures when crossing strings you have the correct sounding point, in other words closer to the bridge on the e string, then gradually farther away on the A,D,G. I,by the way studied with Galamian.
Bruce, thanks for the insight, I hadn't put it together that way before.