Bow Hold Off the Frog

November 17, 2017, 10:07 PM · 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.

Replies (15)

November 17, 2017, 10:11 PM · I've seen it many times with fiddlers, not certain why though.
Edited: November 17, 2017, 10:13 PM · 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.
Edited: November 17, 2017, 10:16 PM · 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.
November 17, 2017, 10:20 PM · 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.
November 18, 2017, 12:53 AM · Fiddlers call it choking. I find the extra balance helps the wrist-stroke.
November 18, 2017, 1:53 AM · 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.
Edited: November 18, 2017, 5:11 AM ·

I think the only reason for placing the thumb very close to the frog is for sautille; I don't think it matters as much for other strokes. Have you ever noticed very few if any place the thumb on the thumb pad. Its a thumb pad right? Or do I have this wrong?

November 18, 2017, 7:32 AM · 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.

Here are video clip of Mutter and Kavakos in similar fashion.

November 18, 2017, 8:07 AM · 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.
November 19, 2017, 7:24 PM · 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.
Edited: November 20, 2017, 2:52 AM · 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?
November 20, 2017, 2:57 AM · It's the same bow hod but further up.
Edited: November 20, 2017, 6:03 AM · 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).
As it stands, the bow is a bit of a multi-purpose tool which does not make it ideal for every technique - rather like having one golf club for every kind of shot. So, shouldn't we make use of any adjustment we have?
November 20, 2017, 1:47 PM · 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).

I can't see any advantage in using this hold, in terms of tone or facility, and I've tried it out quite a few times. For one thing, it shortens the available bow travel, sometimes by 1/4 of the hair length. I guess I'm old-school and hardcore, so I rely on the more classical style of hold, where you have all of the available bow hair at your disposal.

The other important point is that you need to be able to tilt the bow fore and aft very quickly (eg for the "chopping" technique) and this would be impossible without a full frog hold. Also of course, the tilting is used for different amount of hair contact too (again, very difficult on a choke-hold).

I used to believe that there were very good reasons to employ very different bow holds (I'm not talking about the relatively minute differences between "schools"), but holds like the choke, or the TUF (thumb under frog). That, along with a flattened bridge to do bluegrass "shuffle" bowing, I believed to be a necessity, dependent on the style you played.

Whilst it decreases the bow arc required, it's more difficult to play on an inner string in the higher positions, without accidently catching an adjacent string.

Now, at this point in my playing life, I can cover every style from a technical perspective, using a standard classical bridge setup and bow hold, and I don't need to make any adjustments to these - just a variation in technique.

All that said, people have their own individual styles, and I wouldn't advocate changing anything if does not affect the style(s) of music that they play. Of course, sometimes it would help, but other times it would just introduce more added complexity for the player (when the idea is to reduce complexity to steps of simplicity), and thus be counter-productive.

November 22, 2017, 4:54 PM · Btw, my previous post may be a bit misleading.
My thumb position actually does not change vs traditional way of bow holding (Franco Belgian), where it rests between thumb leather and frog.
What I did was moving up the rest of the fingers up where the thumb was resting between middle and ring finger, instead of forming a circle against middle finger.
Just the balancing points change.

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