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Drew Lecher

“GPS” –– 3.1 Upper Right Arm

January 26, 2008 at 6:24 AM

How do you think of, view and order the movement?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

This is a continuation in the series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope they are of benefit to you.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the intervallic measurements set about for the left hand fingers and also the contact variables of the Bow Hair to the string — the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.

Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important in all of the above.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables — they will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into and out of the various settings/posturings for the bow arm, enabling one to accomplish the passage.

Some of the points below deal with other aspects of the bow arm, hand, thumb and fingers.

Everything affects everything.


Pull (Draw)/Push (tirez/poussez), Raise/Lower/Modify — subtly adjust as needed and when needed, programming all the moves’ actions and feelings into your GPS/MPS.


9. Arm
c. The Upper Arm is the “Primary Motor” for the bow stroke — both Up and Down.

1) Pulls back to begin the Down Bow in the lower half and also pulls back to begin the Up Bow in the upper half of the bow.

2) Initiates weight into and out of the bow.

3) Makes a wing-like move for string crossings.

4) Lines up just below the bow when using flat/full hair, and raises slightly for playing on the side of the hair — along with the rolling action of the stick to bring the hair and thumb together for stability. (See 1. Thumb: “Ruler of All.”)


From the heel/frog to the middle (the point at which your elbow is 90º) there will be a pulling/drawing back of the upper arm. Beyond the 90º angle the upper arm should push. Many players have the goal of a straight bow, but this is not truly the best path.

The most fluid and tonally resonant path for the bow and arm is the Crescent Bow path — flowing laterally along the plane of the given string(s). It automatically requires and develops a supple, fluid action in the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Tonally, the Crescent Bow is working in concert with the natural resistance of the string created by the bridge — the nearer to the bridge, the greater the resistance. The Crescent path is a very slight orbital path around your left hand or scroll — even when exaggerated it will not distort the tone.


From the tip to the middle (again, the point at which your elbow is 90º) there will be a pulling/drawing back of the upper arm. Beyond the 90º angle the upper arm should push.

Think of Down and Up Bows as drawing the right hand right and left (out and in) along the plane of the string(s). The back of the right hand must keep its line/angle to the bow. The joints of the right shoulder, elbow and wrist are fluid and totally without tension — well lubricated hinges.


Simply raise and lower from the shoulder — a most basic and all-important move that needs mastery, after which additional subtleties can be added in the forearm, thumb and fingers.

Rhythm: ALL actions require a rhythmic control — whether a long sustained tone or a short crisp note.


Long sustained tones should be sub-divided in the players mind. As an example, in 4/4 time it is very good to hear the underlying rhythms of the composition and their contributing flow/momentum to the given phrase. This is of absolute necessity for great ensemble in all music — duets to full symphonic playing and in unaccompanied repertoire. Literally sing the subdivisions in your mind making the whole-note crescendo/diminuendo/sustenuto with forward/holding back/stationary direction of the phrase in any combination thereof. This requires a progressive modification of 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair.

A very important tip is to hear these quarter pulses in sub-divided 8ths or even 16ths. A tremendous assist in total focus on the musical line, it will guard against the otherwise inevitable long note with undesirable audible pulsations.

If you are not sure whether these gremlins are present, watch your bow at the point of contact and also the vibrating string. Any variation in the bow or string is audible and observing these will educate both your ears and sense of touch to the faults. Begin with open strings — when playing 2 strings the lower string should vibrate wider.


When accomplishing the shorter strokes, whether on or off the string, the Crescent Bow must be applied. It is as if you are drawing small little commas. This slight orbital action prevents the tensing of the left arm, particularly in the joints. On the string and off the string the basic action is the same — it all comes from the détaché stroke. Do not vertically drop the hand from the bow arm via the wrist — this will radically alter the amount of bow hair selected as the bow changes from down to up. You want to keep the amount of hair the same unless a deliberate modification is desired thereby changing tonal aspects.


During the following do not tense through the arm and never through the joints.

In the lower half of the bow simply sink down the arm’s weight onto the bow and, watching the stick as it approaches the hair, continue to where the stick and hair meet — do not let the stick touch the string as this will produce a scraping sound.

Now gradually release and at some point begin to draw the bow — you are experimenting, so follow your instincts of touch and observe the results. To maintain the volume of tone on the Down Bow you will have to increase weight as you travel to the tip — in so doing you must not let the elbow react/twist in an ascending manor. This must be absorbed within the arm and the arm’s line maintained during the complete bow stroke.

Conversely, in the Up Bow with a sustained tone, lighten the bow as you travel from the tip to the heel/frog. Additionally do a slight lift off the string going beyond the strings with your bow hand, as if you have taken off from the runway in a jet — perfectly smooth, of course:-) Then return with the Down Bow for the perfect landing in motion.

The easiest legato bow change for the Up to Down Stroke is at the vary heel/frog with your right thumb crossing over the played string. There is virtually no tendency to accent vertically in the ensuing Down Bow, as we naturally do not wish to slice our thumb on the strings or bridge:-)

It is of paramount importance to practice in various rhythms, bowings and dynamics. It develops knowledge of the technique required to achieve the passage and opens the mind and ears to harmonic structure that will guide your intonation and musical interpretation.

Hope this helps —

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

From sharelle taylor
Posted on January 26, 2008 at 11:22 PM
I think its extraordinarily generous of you to post these guides. thankyou, I enjoy them all. I've ordered your book too :)

I'm working on upper arm and bow weighting and stuff like that at the moment, I've landed on my bum - right back in the kiddies corner beginner room. for a while. 'tis a roller coaster to be sure. How can something so natural and obvious become so hard and require so much conscious effort. I've never once thought about how to hang washing on the line, place a delicate cup on a top shelf, paint an architrave, and I know that my arm stays relaxed and guides my hand though a zillion other such tasks, but stick a bow in there and everything goes spac.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on January 27, 2008 at 5:29 AM

Thank you and your book should be there very soon.

Maybe the problem for all of us is "we are playing the violin" and it has to be so very, very, very proper.

Use great posture, easy well-formed and flowing movements, and note how you draw the bow across the strings, just like… "I've never once thought about how to hang washing on the line, place a delicate cup on a top shelf, paint an architrave." (You actually have and they became second nature — the goal of the violinist:-)

So lift the violin in preparation to play as you would the washing on the line; place the not-to-delicately-held bow on the string; and draw the sound as you would paint an architrave with a variety of stroke styles — making it beautiful.

Watch and observe what works and what doesn't, keeping the working stuff and shedding the rest. So much is just not duplicating the bad and only replicating the good.

Tell your hands and arms what you want them to do and not all the things they shouldn't.

It's a great journey — ENJOY!!!

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