Bow Hold Off the Frog
Recently I have come across several violinists on the internet, namely the ones on OnlineLessonVideos, who hold the violin bow completely off the frog. It looks like they are holding on to the stick of the bow. I was wondering whether it is an advanced bow hold I have not heard of and if there were any benefits to playing this way.
I've seen it many times with fiddlers, not certain why though.
What do you mean? I play with my thumb off the frog, but if it is “completely off the frog”, I have never seen it done this way. I started out more classical, then moved to fiddling and now I’m doing a little of both.
I have seen this with some of the violinists in the Berkeley Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. That is they hold the bow on the stick a few inches more toward the tip. It does give you a lighter touch on the strings.
Wait hold on. I just watched a video, and that is definitely not what I do. I can see it being lighter, but honestly I don’t think I would always want that.
Fiddlers call it choking. I find the extra balance helps the wrist-stroke.
I just noticed this too recently at an orchestra! I was taught to have two fingers on the frog (one of the finger on the dot) but I didnt see anyone holding it like that. Their fingers are mostly on the stick above the frog, but not or just barely touching the frog.
I do that myself. I used to play with both middle and fourth fingers on the frog, but I found by placing them slightly upward where only the fourth touches the frog, actually helps with bow control through out the entire bow length. But I think it really varies from one person to another, where hand size, arm length and playing style all differs. Probably need to find what you feels most comfortable and has most control with.
The only problem with holding your bow farther up the stick is that it makes it harder to do strokes right at the frog because your hand is ahead of your contact point then.
I tried it when I was fiddling, and it made certain things harder to do (i.e. fast string changes) I know I probably wasn’t doing it perfectly.
So would there be any reason for me not to learn both styles of bowing, seeing as holding the bow further up provides a lighter touch and better bow control, but may have drawbacks playing at the frog? If so, in what situations would you switch bow holds? Also, where could I learn how to do this?
It's the same bow hod but further up.
I have had many students who come to me that have been taught to actually put the thumb inside the frog. I really don't like it but try to be diplomatic and say that there are different approaches. I try it for myself and several things come to mind. First, it's darn uncomfortable! Also, it gives the feeling of a heavier somewhat unwieldy bow as the weight is shifted towards the point. The place in the frog does seem to indicate that somebody at one time had the idea that your thumb would go there - maybe in baroque bows? Horsehair is notorious for stretching therefore if you are riding the frog then your weight distribution is going to be slightly different when your hair stretches by a quarter of an inch in extreme cases. However, there may be some technique at some time that works better with this hold so I prefer to try it and keep an open mind. Similarly choking up on the bow has its pros and cons. You see this hold in fiddlers that play those fluid 6/8 patterns and why not? You could argue that this hold would be no good for sautille or whatever but if you are a player only playing one style that may be irrelevant. If you do play more than one style there is no reason why you can't move your hold according to what you are playing. Personally, I found that a slight choking up of the bow towards the tip has helped me in certain situations such as playing Baroque music, playing swing jazz, playing very light sul tasto - over the fingerboard type effects and so on. Where the thumb is can vary, all the way from playing with my thumb on the leather (not against the frog) for swing jazz to severely choking up on the bow so that there is virtually no weight for sul tasto. I will return to my default thumb position which is on the leather but touching the frog (these days I have a good rehairer but in the past rehairs had left the hair so long that I could not always have my thumb touching the frog).
Some fiddle players use the "choked" hold as mentioned before, and for some they have learned that way to avoid simple ricochet, especially when making first contact with the string (ie the bow is easier to control).
Btw, my previous post may be a bit misleading.