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Drew Lecher


May 9, 2009 at 4:26 AM

 This is part of a series of articles dealing with:

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

They will be kept under the heading of VIOLIN TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope they are of benefit to you.


Bow Hold / Injured thumb


“I have a question for you.

6 weeks ago I dislocated my right thumb in a fall. The tip to first joint looked like it was at 45 degrees to the section below. I could only look once, it was extremely painful.  I haven't had a violin lesson since. Now the splint is off, I'm starting flexing exercises.  The Doc told me that my left thumb, for baseline, is extremely flexible.  Besides violin, domra and piano, I also do a lot of handwork and have throughout my life.  The doc is letting me use my bow for 10-15 minutes a day (I showed him my bow so he could see and feel it).  Do you know of anyone who has had such an accident and their outcome?  I'm using more of a fingertip hold, no bend in the thumb, unique bow grip.  I've read the "How they Play" series and don't recall my new method. :-)  I'm not complaining, at least I can make some music and it could have been worse.....  Getting back to my question:  Do you have any experience with a student with this situation? I'd appreciate any info you can share.




Hi M,

I am so sorry that you suffered such an injury—any hand injury to a string player is horrific.

I take it that your thumb is now in line and needs to develop flexibility. Assuming you hold the bow with the Franco-Belgium Hold [2b. 2) below], the most predominant hold taught these days—the hand is slightly squarer to the bow and the thumb also quite perpendicular with some flexing/bending in various strokes, etc. 

You will probably find the Russian Bow Hold [2b. 1) below] to be far easier—I assume you are not 6 feet tall with long fingers and long arms:-) Your thumb will be a bit more diagonal, pointing somewhat toward the frog and floor, and will not need to be so active. Excessive thumb activity is often taught with the Franco-Belgium Hold—good for agility but not required for playing well. Heifetz, Milstein and a few other 'modest' violinists used the RBH reasonably well, I think:-) 

Generally the RBH is more easily learned and is still what I teach when students are of smaller stature. It enables an ease of flow and longer range of distance, thereby getting to the tip without stretching excessively.

Having learned and used both, due to my size, I use the FBH 98% of the time.

In 1a below I mention placing the thumb on the "thumb-grip"—this will be a gentler touch. You could even put some surgical-type tubing there, though I am normally not a big fan of such additions. In your case, it could make a world of difference.

One of my students was born with his right hand fingers being only 2 slightly larger fingers. We use the RBH with great success and though he is very young and plays a 3/4 violin he pulls out an extremely mature and imaginatively expressive sound—he is a blessing and honor to teach, work with and know. Tremendous spirit and love exudes from his very being.

Hope this helps you and perhaps a few others. 

God bless and do let me know how you are doing. I pray it is a quick recovery.


Excerpts below: (pg X)


Bow Fingers / Hand/Arm

This deals with the physics of playing and handling the bow.

1. Thumb: “Ruler of All.”

   a. Fulcrum of the bow and placed on bottom/near-side of the “thumb-grip” (leather wrap) so it cannot slip through, between the stick and the hair.

   b. When using Flat-Hair the thumb should have a slight ascending bend into the bow and not be in contact with the hair – the palm will be to the side of the frog and slightly forward depending upon bow hold style.

   c. When using Side-Hair have the thumb touch the hair by rolling the bow, simultaneously bringing the hair and thumb towards each other until they make contact – increasing the curl of the thumb/fingers.

   d. The two points above, i.e., b. and c., will have differing hand/wrist/arm angles, with c. requiring a slightly higher positioning – take care not to do too much.

   e. The thumb must not protrude to the other side and should never touch the fingers.


2. 1st Finger: “Primary Sound/Tone Producer.”

   a. Place on top of bow in or between the two joints/creases.

   b. The choice above will affect the angle and location of thumb/fingers/hand to the bow.

       1) With a shorter, smaller hand and/or shorter arm, consider use of the 1st joint/crease (middle), as this will enable an easier bow stroke to the tip – a more diagonal angle of thumb/fingers/hand to the bow known as the Russian Bow Hold.

       2) Conversely, with a longer, larger hand and/or longer arm, consider placement between the two joints/creases – the hand will be slightly squarer to the bow with the fingers more curved. This is known as the Franco-Belgium Bow Hold.

   c. Paramount is always the ease and complete balance, freedom and flow of motion.





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