There's no such thing as a "proper bow hold."
That's because any "bow hold" we create changes as the bow moves up and down, and we have to let it do so. We try to set up the hand and fingers so that certain mechanics can work, but to describe this set up as a single "bow hold" or "bow grip" is not quite right.
That said, different kinds of finger placement lead to slightly different mechanics, and one of the most crucial fingers in deciding how you cope with that ever-moving stick is the thumb. Is it straight all the time, or does it bend when moving up to the frog?
Like many violinists and teachers, I play with, and advocate, a bent thumb. This provides both strength and flexibility in the bow hand, and it requires a strong pinkie, to take the weight of the bow at the frog. Of course, when the bow is far at the tip, the thumb will straighten, but the thumb bends as the bow moves upward and the weight of the stick shifts to the pinkie. It's usually a feature of the Franco-Belgian bow hold.
However, many players have a bow in which the thumb is straight, even locked, whether at the tip or the frog. This usually involves a high wrist at the frog, and very often the pinkie is straight as well. I would love to hear from those who make this type of bow hand work, because I know less about how the mechanics function in this bow hand, which is more aligned with the so-called "Russian" bow hold.
I have to say, there are a lot of famous violinists who have made rather unusual-looking bow set-ups work, for example:
In the above photo (Editor's note, which is a fake! See comments below), Paganini's thumb appears to be pointing up the stick, certainly unusual! It's hard to know how exactly he held the bow several hundred years after the fact, but various drawings and pictures would lead me to believe: rather strangely (perhaps due in part to his Marfan syndrome). This all serves as a reminder: we each have our own physical shape, and so technique will vary.
How do you hold your thumb on the bow? Is it bent at least some of the time, or is straight all the time?
You might also like:
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.