Capet, bow and finger movements

December 6, 2006 at 02:02 AM · Hi,

I'm reading the English translation of Lucien Capet's "Superior Bowing Technique", an superb book full of interesting ideas and exercises.

But I'm confused about a term: it's about the so called "Horizontal movement" of the fingers. The text reads:

"The horizontal movement consists of increasing the pressure of the bow on the strings, as the 1st and 4th fingers press the stick alternately in the direction of the strings and toward the nut.The 1st finger pulls while the 4th finger pushes and viceversa"

Everywhere in the book this "horizontal movement" is referred as a way to increase pressure. But i cannot see how this movement can increase the pressure of the bow on the string. When I try to practice this movement, all that I achieve is to bend all the bow, moving the tip alternately to the nut or the bridge and breaking the bow parallelism to the bridge.

I am interpreting something wrong???

Thank you in advance

Replies (10)

December 6, 2006 at 03:59 AM · Greetings,

that was one of the issue sthat puzzled me in the book too. Someoen told me that this translation loses some of Capet`s meaning in various cases. Perhaps this is one of them,



December 7, 2006 at 09:04 AM · Hi Enrique and Buri. I'm not convinced that Capet himself was clear on how to verbalize the idea of internal oppositions within the hand. He spends relatively little time and effort explaining it compared to bow division, even the roule exercise. In particular he doesn't explain how or when to use the 'circular' motion of the alternating pressures between f1 and f4. I'm not convinced that it's necessary to use the circular motion to achieve his stated purpose.

One application of the internal opposition between fingers is to add pressure to the bow as Capet suggests. There are other ways to achieve this. The most widely known method is to use the first finger to add pressure, whether by pressing down from the base knuckle, feeling counter pressure between thumb and first finger (Dounis), or by pronating the whole hand - all three being slight variants of each other but similar in that they apply a vertical pressure onto the stick.

There are also variants on what Capet suggests, which is essentially a horizontal twisting motion applied to the stick, and achieved by feeling opposition amongst the fingers (rather than fingers against the thumb). The stick is weaker laterally. If you twist it, it collapses under the pressure of the fingers quite easily. By what you described Enrique you almost have it, except that you have to keep the hair from sliding along the string by feeling the vertical component of the first finger, whether it's pushing or pulling.

Here's where I would depart from Capet's approach.

1) The 1st finger pulling is limited by the relative weakness and placement of the pinky. Even if you place the pinky on the inside top facet of the octagon, it's still too weak for more aggressive strokes. Also, pulling the 1st finger is not very good for tracking on up bows, as it causes a bad angle. (Which leads me to suggest that the circular pressures should be matched to up and down OR the circular motion is a subtle thing that doesn't affect the tracking of the bow)

2) The pulling motion of the 4th finger is actually done by the 3rd finger (unless you let the pinky hang over the stick like a cellist)

But as it turns out that's not a bad way to start. Hold the bow like a cellist - pull with fingers 4, 3, and 2 (f2 twists the bow with the thumb) against 1, which pushes - don't let the hair slide - bend the stick side ways against the hair so that it collapses.

After some experimenting, I think you'll find it easier to just use f2f3 against f1 - do the 'finger splits'. f1 doesn't even have to push, just resist. Rather than pushing across the stick or pressing down, split f1 away from f2 along the stick (Galamian) - use just enough pressure so that f1 doesn't slide. f3 pulls and f2 twists with the thumb as before, but the middle fingers can also pull up (lifting the handle vertically) against f1. In other words, f23 curl as f1 extends. The pinky helps to stabilize and balance the hand, especially for the more subtle strokes. As with f1, instead of pushing down, spread f4 along the stick toward the button without letting it slide. In this last version, f1 and f4 spread along the stick, f2 and f3 curl in and up. Start at the middle of the bow where it's easiest to bend, then apply to the extremities. Start by collapsing the bow all the way - vary the pressure for more subtle strokes such as parlando.

This hand technique can be used for such strokes as:

pinch, release, ride




accented/heavy up bow


agogic stresses

I think the reason why the internal hand technique is so versatile is that it doesn't disturb the rest of the arm (the weight, level, rotation, general setting of the arm/hand), or even the hand itself (i.e. the hand remains flexible when the fingers do the opposing, even when quite firm, whereas the baseknuckles become quite rigid when the fingers oppose the thumb). It provides a whole palette of colours and articulation, but moreover control over them.



December 7, 2006 at 04:47 PM · Thanks for this detailed response. This concept of lateral bending of the stick is really interesting, I never had heard it before. I'm going to explore this new hand dimension.

And maybe I must refresh my french and try to read the original version. (By the way, the french edition is much more beautiful and has more convenient layout)

December 8, 2006 at 05:04 AM · Greetings,

thanks Jeewon. I shall print that out and peruse it over a long soak in a hot tub,

I`m inclined to agree with you about the role of the third finger. It seems to be akin to Vegh referring to nthat particular digit as `the tone producer.`



December 8, 2006 at 02:53 PM · Hi,

Jeewon - very nice post.

Here is what I gather reading the French version. A lot of things are involved in this one statement, but most have to do with weight transfer I think. The idea of the weight transfering towards the index as one goes to the tip, or little finger as one goes to the frog is implied. Pulling and "tirer" means two different things violinistically between french and english. In French, "tirer" is the name for down bow. The implied thing therefore is that the weight is felt primarily in the index on down bows. I think that this is the rotary point that Capet is refering two, and since the middle finger and thumb make a balance point (l'anneau), I think that this transfer is from one part of the hand to the next depending on where one is in the bow.


December 8, 2006 at 09:44 PM · Greetings,

thats interesting. If I m reading you correctly that is completley different to what Jeewon is talking about and the English Capet. Transferring the weight from first finger to fourth and back is surely pretty standard technique



February 3, 2007 at 09:33 PM · I would have to read Capet's book again. It was quite hard for me to comprehend his writing. The galamian book, as well as Simon Fischer basics have all a violinist needs to know about bowing.

February 4, 2007 at 03:29 AM · This seems like a good example of "one picture is worth a thousand words", and I really ought to include a few in my own "fundamentals" on my website. At any rate, who publishes this English version, who distributes it, and what is the cost? Thanks.

February 4, 2007 at 04:08 AM · The English version can be found here:

February 5, 2007 at 06:31 PM · The French version of the Capet's book is a bit confusing for translation because he used the anatomical number for finger ie the thumb is the first finger and pinky the fifth finger;futhermore

he said that the stick must very near the second phalange that is the second bone starting from the nail.That implies the Dancla's bow grip where the first joint of the index finger meet the stick and the the press the side of the frog.

However two lines below, describing the role of the index finger ;he wrote " The role of index finger is to bring strength by pressing the bow with the second phalanx but above all by counteracting the pushing of the pinky . So the index finger pull the stick toward the bridge while the pinky push the stick toward the the fingerboard with the thumb as fulcrum whith increasing pressure non the stick.This simultaneous contrary motion is called horizontal movement few lines after.

For the pinky ,he described two roles :horizontal and vertical

To summarize, Capet's technic rest upon constant changes in pressure of each finger that allow a kind of "vibrato" of the bow

Ps the counterbalancing of the two extrem finger was also describe by Menuhin in his boook the art of violin playing(I'm sure for the title)

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