How high and how much pressing the bowing index finger (Franco Belgian)
I have seen that violinists can either have high or low index finger on their bowing hand.
Interestingly, among the top-notch violinists, usually the male players seem to favor low index finger, while the females tend to have their index finger high.
What's your thoughts on this?
As a beginner I find high index finger can help stabilize bow direction but at the same time make it harder for smooth bow changes.
I want to follow the high index finger way but don't know how else I would need to consider before getting this into my habits.
Also, when the index finger is high enough, how much should I press it (together with its bottom knuckle) against the bow?
Here is some images:
1. High index finger
2. Low index finger
3. Index finger does not press against bow
4. Index finger and bottom knuckle presses strongly against bow
It's impossible to answer your question because context is everything. My bow hand position and index finger weight adjust depending on the stroke I am using, how much volume I want to produce, etc. Similarly I would caution against drawing too many conclusions from a snapshot of a violinist when you don't know what they were playing at the time.
Thank you Mary Ellen! I could see that for Sarah Chang and Midori, their index finger is always high (maybe that's why Sarah Chang plays loud, since this could mean higher pressure on the bow).
A few years ago I did a detailed study of bow holds of professional players. I wouldn't call it a scientific study by any measure. I just tried to collect pictures of violinists actually playing (not posed for album covers), which is difficult because the bow is moving when you play so it's hard to get a clear picture. But with famous violinists in the digital-photography era, there are a lot of pictures available using Google Images. As Mary Ellen said, context is everything and it's hard to draw really clear generalization, because with just an image you don't have any idea what they were doing.
I'm pretty sure many change the index position all the time, from high to low, constantly. Also, your example pictures are amazingly obvious:
@Paul, it's interesting we have the same observation as regards gender and high/low index finger. Great (or otherwise :-) ) minds think alike!
Tim, it's easy to just say it depends on the context (of course, to some extent, it does). But I was also trying to find out whether it is something personal (i.e. depends on the violinist's style as well), and as beginner what factor we would need to consider before adopting a high or low bowing index finger.
Like Paul, I recently studied the bow holds of famous violinists, but only those whose sound I liked most. I noticed the same pattern of women placing their index finger higher up, and I do think it has to do with the differences in muscle mass in the arms and torso between male and female.
A search of violinist.com will reveal many great discussions on bow hold.
In addition to what I consider excellent observations about context by Mary Ellen and body differences by Carmen I would like to add that differences in instruments and bows can also account for fundamental restrictions on how a particular player might hold and use the bow.
Muscle mass / size really has very little relationship to quantity of sound produced - watch some of the menuhin junior competition, for example. I suspect variations in bow hold are more due to 1. who the people studied with and what they learned and 2. ratio of finger length to hand width.
The physics is pretty simple.
Violinists whose names we remember down through the decades did - all of the above. For example, David Oistrakh switched from FB to Russian and back on different successive bow strokes, in order to get different sound quality and articulation. It is said his father did the same, though there are fewer videos to watch. But watch David for the very quick bow hand changes (stoke by stroke) he makes on some Mozart pieces.
Female players, especially of asian descent, often have narrower hands than thier male counterparts. To achieve the same "leverage" either side of the thumb, they may well spread the fingers more, whatever the bow-hold.
I thought the high index finger thing was an affection of Dorothy Delay students.
@Christian this is an interesting observation. I just checked Dorothy Delay's students I know, and most of them maintain high index finger, even her male student Gil Shaham (he is actually the first male soloist I know of doing it - not particularly high, but still). Mr. Izhak Perlman is an exception though.
Perlman was initially Galamian-taught.
If this thread is trying to "prove" or claim that because of female anatomy / bone structure / muscle structure / (whatever), women use a different bow hold than men, then I find it beyond absurd.
@Lydia thank you for the info on Perlman :)
The entire issue with this whole obsession with index finger placement is that it misses something critically important: the amount of force exerted upon the bow by each finger.
But then sex is not the reason, but hand size, plus many other things. If your current teacher teaches you to use high index, that's what you will do, no matter if you're female or male.
I am female and I have never played with a high index finger.
Not to belabor the obvious, I want to think that sex, in itself, is not the reason.
"As a beginner I find high index finger can help stabilize bow direction but at the same time make it harder for smooth bow changes."
Thank you for the input, Jeewon! Specifically, I think I should follow your advice about making the bowing hand flexible.
Here's that old thread with Oliver Steiner's entry near the bottom:
"I think a high index finger is something a bit of context, a bit personal, a bit taught, and a bit dependent on physical-wise traits (hence some gender difference)."
Mary Ellen, in another discussion, you said you had relatively large hands!
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