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Daniel Broniatowski

Learn How to Play Violin!

February 5, 2013 at 3:28 AM

How to Hold the Violin and the Bow

Welcome to the third and final series called "How to Play the Violin". In part 1, we examined the parts of the violin. In part two, we covered the parts of the bow. In part three, I will take you through a step-by-step guide how to hold the violin and the bow. Please note that nothing replaces actual lessons with a qualified teacher but this is a great way to read up on the topic before your first lesson!

Sometimes, a picture is worth even more than 1000 words. In our discussions, you will find this to be the case.

So, let us begin!

1. Stand in rest position. Notice that my feet are together and the violin is tucked under my right shoulder. The instrument is cradled under my arm and is held loosely with the upper arm over the strings just above the tailpiece.

2. Now place your right foot to the right so that it is under your right shoulder. Lean ever so slightly on your left foot. Then, pretend that your left hand is a hungry crocodile and make a pinching motion (without chomping tightly) with the fingers and thumb. Your hungry crocodile oddly likes to eat violins. Take your left hand and "bite" the lower bout of the instrument (that is, the "shoulder" of the violin that is closest to the floor).

3. Make sure that the left thumb is touching the top of the back of the instrument, just below the neck.

4. Then, use your left hand to remove the violin from under your right shoulder and hold it straight ahead - right in front of you.

5. Next, turn your arm (the one with the violin) counter-clockwise so that the button (that is the tiny black part that is on the very bottom of the violin) points upward toward the ceiling (or at least as close as you can get without feeling tension in your arm). Note that most people (including myself) cannot turn our arms around fully unless you are double-jointed.


6. Then, bring the violin "in" so that your chin rests just above the tailpiece (NOT the chinrest!) Remember what we discussed in the first blog post about the chin not going on the chinrest? Well, this is the time to get it right, lest you develop bad habits. Also, remember how we discussed needing a proper fitting for a shoulder rest and chin rest? This step will not work properly if you haven't yet done so.

And that is how you hold the violin!

Let's now cover how to hold the bow.

This is a little more complicated.

Please be patient with yourself when doing this. Many students get frustrated when learning how to hold the bow. Furthermore, when playing, it is very easy for beginners to lose the proper bow hold. If you can, try to spend a few days focusing only on how to hold the bow before you attempt to play. You'll be happier in the long run!


1. We're going to make bunny rabbits! Try your best to replicate this "pose". Note how the thumb is gently curved under the first joints of the two middle fingers. This is the nose of the bunny. The ears, or the other two fingers, are nice and curved. Make sure that your entire hand is loose and nothing is tight or clenched.


2. Here is how it looks from the side.

3. Holding the bow vertically on the stick with your LEFT hand (we'll call this the "helper hand"), make your bunny rabbit in the right hand. The tip of the bow should be at the top, toward the ceiling As we spoke about in the parts of the bow, remember not to touch the horse hair! Very carefully with both arms straight out in front of you, turn your bunny rabbit sideways, so that the thumb is closest to you. In your left hand, make sure that the bow is being held with the hair away from you.


4. You may wish to do this part in front of a mirror. We are now going to deconstruct the bunny rabbit and reconstruct it with the bow on the inside of the bunny. Take your right thumb and let the center of it touch the corner of the frog. The corner is the top-most protruding part of the frog that meets the stick.

5. Now, with your thumb curved, place the bunny's nose on the other side of the frog. Only the first joints of the two middle fingers should be touching. Now, place your index finger on the stick so that the side of the finger touches, just above the middle joint. Then, rest your pinky ON TOP of the stick and try your best to keep it curved.


5. If you can, try to move the bow horizontally. And that is how you hold the bow! Good luck!

For more lessons like this, be sure to check out my violin videos at

-- Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Violin teacher serving Watertown, Brookline, Newton, and greater Boston, MA

From Robert Pait
Posted on February 5, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Im confused, what in the world makes this blogworthy? Was this purely to advertise your services? Are you a sponsor so you get to advertise? Are you saying that that is the only way to hold the instrument and bow, which contradicts many other pedagogues who prefer the techniques of other styles?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 6, 2013 at 5:27 AM
Hi Robert,

I consider something like this blogworthy because it is of potential help to people learning to play the violin, or learning to teach how to play the violin, or seeking different ways to explain beginning violin. I consider this site to be a place for the friendly exchange of ideas. I don't believe this author was trying to convey that this was the one and only way to hold the violin or bow, it's simply his way, which is why the blog is under his name. He includes a link to his own lessons, yes, but his blog provides information that could be of benefit in itself, without a reader having to click on that link.

The blog section is for many different things: articles that will provide useful information, ideas, inspiration, interesting stories, etc. Thank you for reading and we welcome everyone's feedback.

From Terry Hsu
Posted on February 6, 2013 at 5:29 AM

I personally don't see anything wrong with it. Yes, there are a variety of ways to hold the instrument, and this is one. I like to see different ways of teaching fundamental violin concepts. What works for one person, or child, doesn't for another. Something like this might click for someone.


From Iljin Cho
Posted on February 6, 2013 at 5:37 AM
Thank you for posting this! I believe, from my experience, your bowhold is the most beneficial--physically and technically. I currently use the same bowhold myself.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on February 6, 2013 at 5:38 PM
>We're going to make bunny rabbits! Try your best to replicate this "pose". Note how the thumb is gently curved under the first joints of the two middle fingers. This is the nose of the bunny. The ears, or the other two fingers, are nice and curved.

Yikes. I'm in first grade again.

From Paul Deck
Posted on February 6, 2013 at 6:22 PM
I don't have any objection to this stuff being posted here, you can either read it or ignore it. I do find many of these "how-to" blog posts to be relentlessly unoriginal, however. While this particular blog entry is no worse than many others on this point, one does wonder just how many pictures of the "standard" (Franco-Suzuki-Belgian) bow hold the world really needs. Todd Ehle has a whole YouTube video on this wherein it is explained in truly excruciating detail, bunny ears and all.

From Bert de Vree
Posted on February 6, 2013 at 8:10 PM
i pick up my violin and make a couple of strokes
its a wonderful sound
for some reason i have to stop, and after a while
i pick up the violin, unchanged, and play it again; horrible
how do i get my body and mind in excactly its previous CONDITION??
kind regards, bert
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 7, 2013 at 4:44 AM
Well, you really just need the one that works for you, or your student, or your child. I've taught this kind of beginning lesson many times, and it always goes a little differently. I never stop looking for ideas about how to present the "same old thing"!
From Paul Deck
Posted on February 7, 2013 at 2:16 PM
"how do i get my body and mind in excactly its previous CONDITION??"

Answer: Just have yourself a couple of beers.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 7, 2013 at 3:59 PM
Bert, the more you practice, the more consistent your playing gets. Your muscles get stronger, and holding the violin, which seems to awkward at first, starts to feel more and more natural.
From Brian Lomax
Posted on February 7, 2013 at 4:23 PM
This article sure does make me happy that I am a fiddler and can relax and put my feet on the coffee table any time I feel like it. Everybody relax and have some fun.
From Terry Hsu
Posted on February 7, 2013 at 8:41 PM
That's the wonderful thing about fiddle and jazz. There are no wrong notes, and if there was, it was just improvisation! I'm actually sort of being serious. :)

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