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How to Hold Your Bow when Playing with Weight

Zlata Brouwer

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Published: February 5, 2015 at 6:19 PM [UTC]

In this video I will explain how to combine the principles of ‘Weight vs Pressure’ with your bow hold. This video is an answer to a question from viewer Marisa.
Hi There,
Could you please post a video on "bow grip" and "weight vs. pressure" combined?  There are YouTube videos that talk about bow grip and then there are videos that talk about what the difference between weight and pressure is. However, there are no videos that thoroughly explain how these two things come into play together and how it's supposed to look and feel in the bow hand.

When I play a fast and loud piece, I tend to spread my pointer finger much farther away from the rest of my fingers like an extreme German bow grip. I feel like my pointer finger is getting all of the pressure and I can see that my finger is red and irritated in one spot after playing these pieces. I have read up on the topic, watched countless amounts of videos, and asked just about every string player I know how to fix this issue. I understand how to hold the bow properly (and I can see that what I am doing to achieve volume is not correct) and I understand how to use the weight of my arm. However, I am not executing it correctly.

My problem is that all of my right arm weight is transferring to my pointer finger only. Is this normal? If not, how can I feel the weight in all of my fingers? Are my middle and ring fingers supposed to be engaged somehow? If so, how? What do you feel in your right hand when you play? Thank you :)


In the video I show you the difference between Weight and Pressure first. If you want to know more about this subject, please join my FREE workshop ‘Weight vs Pressure’ to learn all about it. When you are new to Weight vs Pressure, you might want to do the workshop first and then get back to this video.

When you are playing with pressure, you push your arm into the bow. Your wrist and elbow are higher than your bow hand. In this way you choke the tone. It sounds loud, but it doesn’t sound nice. Your bow hold will look more like the Russian bow hold instead of the Franco-Belgian bow hold.

When you are playing with weight, you hang on the bow with your hand. Your knuckles, wrist and elbow are relatively low. Your knuckles are the highest point. Make sure you tilt your hand a bit, like you turn a key to the left, so you can transfer the weight of your arm into the string via the bow. You can release the tone in this way. It sounds free, full and open.

The weight is transferred through your index finger into the bow. This is normal.

Marisa says she plays in a German bow hold, in which you hold your fingers together and perhaps your index finger a bit in the direction of the tip of the bow. When you keep your fingers together, transferring weight or pressure (whatever you are using) can be difficult.

Playing with weight can take quite some practice. It can be hard to maintain it all the time, for example when you are playing with the whole bow or when you are playing fast notes.

Lots of people do too much and don’t get the flexibility and relaxation that is necessary to play with weight. 

Your bow should feel like an extension of your index finger. You should lean on your index finger. To be able to transfer the weight through your index finger, your index finger should be place a bit (not too much) in the direction of the tip. Don’t overdo any of it.

It’s not exact science. If you look at 10 different violinists, you will see that they all hold their bows slightly different. It depends on the way you play, the way you want to sound and the way your hand is formed.

You can find your own way too while keeping into account the principles I talked about in this video. 

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

From Paul Deck
Posted on February 11, 2015 at 4:54 PM
So the difference between weight and pressure seems to come down to whether your wrist is higher or lower than the bow stick. Higher = pressure, lower = weight. Do I have that about right?
From Zlata Brouwer
Posted on February 12, 2015 at 9:22 AM
Yup, you got it right.

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