Bow tilt

September 27, 2007 at 02:30 AM · I have taught (and was taught) for many years that the bow should tilt slightly towards the fingerboard. Why is this? As a teacher, I like to tell students why they are doing something so that they'll hopefully remember, but I'm not sure on this one.


Replies (76)

September 27, 2007 at 02:59 AM · You should do an experiment. Play a scale with hair tipped towards the bridge, away from the bridge and flat hair. Then do the same thing with staccato bows. Then something with double stops. Then something with double stops on successive down bows. Try other bowing patterns too. See what you find out . . .

September 27, 2007 at 03:13 AM · Excellent answer.

September 27, 2007 at 03:16 AM · Because they're too lazy to flatten their wrists.

September 27, 2007 at 03:24 AM · Greetings,

one explanation I have heard is that the full hair actually spreads too wide on the string and chokes off overtones so less sound is produced.

Can@t handle this level of technical stuff myself but basically if you use a very tight bow hair like in the traditional Franco Belgian school you have to tilt the stick other wise the bow doesn`t er, function too well. With looser hair it tend sot be flatter.Check out Ralph Klayman`s site for a discusison of this



September 27, 2007 at 03:45 AM · An imaginative guess:

(WARNING:-)This is a guess, if this were real advice you would be advised where to find a teacher in your area for more information).

I wonder if it could be to create the stable interaction between sounding point control and f2...

September 27, 2007 at 03:58 AM · It involves more than just the angle of the hair on the string.

If you played the cello, you would realize that playing with the bow at an angle to the strings (in this case the stick also slants toward the fingerrboard (but that is also toward the player) allows one to use the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, and back muscles most effectively and easily. Little varying pressures of the fingers will create all kinds of great bowing effects and the larger body muscles.

If you also played the violin, you would come to realize that the same principles of bowing that work so naturally on the cello also work on the violin. But you have to get the right arm high enough and tilt the bow so the bow can be held lightly and teh same general finger motions also work a violin bow.

Another factor about tilting the bow is that it separates the springiness of the stick from that of the hair. Adding those two elastic behaviors together is just too much for many musical requirements and make the bow too hard to control. On the other hand, there are strokes, like sautille and saltando in which the stick and hair "play" together just right. For these strokes you can just tilt your wrist a little to place the stick "over" the hair - on either instrument, to get the effect.

And yet, I have known a few very good violinists who actually tilt the bow toward the bridge instead of toward the fingerboard - and accomplsh everything.


September 27, 2007 at 03:58 AM · It involves more than just the angle of the hair on the string.

If you played the cello, you would realize that playing with the bow at an angle to the strings (in this case the stick also slants toward the fingerrboard (but that is also toward the player) allows one to use the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, and back muscles most effectively and easily. Little varying pressures of the fingers will create all kinds of great bowing effects and the larger body muscles.

If you also played the violin, you would come to realize that the same principles of bowing that work so naturally on the cello also work on the violin. But you have to get the right arm high enough and tilt the bow so the bow can be held lightly and teh same general finger motions also work a violin bow.

Another factor about tilting the bow is that it separates the springiness of the stick from that of the hair. Adding those two elastic behaviors together is just too much for many musical requirements and make the bow too hard to control. On the other hand, there are strokes, like sautille and saltando in which the stick and hair "play" together just right. For these strokes you can just tilt your wrist a little to place the stick "over" the hair - on either instrument, to get the effect.

And yet, I have known a few very good violinists who actually tilt the bow toward the bridge instead of toward the fingerboard - and accomplsh everything.


September 27, 2007 at 04:17 AM · isn't there also the idea that the frog naturally has more power than the tip and the tilt degree can be used to control projection (less tilt at tip)?

September 27, 2007 at 11:12 AM · Bow tilting should be JUST the consequence to give and remove weight from the arm:

-if you GIVE weight the consequence is that the bow will tilt toward the BRIDGE (ultimately reaching the right angle)

-if you remove weight the consequence is that the bow will tilt toward the BOARD

Therefore paradoxally it is much easier to play forte than piano because you have to remove weight

Fortunately if the bow tilts toward the bridge much more hairs will be in contact with the string increasing the intensity of sound (fortunately the contribution is in the same direction).

Tilting therefore should be not considered as an autonomous movement but a CONSEQUENCE of superior muscles will.

September 27, 2007 at 01:27 PM · Probably now I have focused better your question.

The general tilting toward the board (varying according to the weight) is due to the natural position of the fingers on the bow because this forces the bow to tilt in that way beeing the thumb shorter than the other fingers opposite to it. It is simple.

September 27, 2007 at 01:34 PM · interesting question. no answer from violinist's perfective, but if you look at your wrist, with its normal range of motion about 60 degree extension and about 60-80 degree flexion, you realize if you bend 30 degree flexion vs 30 degree extension, the 30 degree flexion is more "relaxing" on the forearm than the 30 degree extension.

examining your daily routine, you will probably agree that for most activities of daily living, your wrist is in slight flexion, simply because biofeedback tells us it is more comfortable.

one thing we do often in extension is typing on the keyboard for the addiction:), hence the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:):)

September 27, 2007 at 05:08 PM · Oh Epistles of Pedagogy, I pray to thee for guidance in epistemology.

September 27, 2007 at 03:48 PM · That's funny. Have they answered you yet, Bilbo?

September 27, 2007 at 03:59 PM · I agree with Andrew--it's just too difficult to control the sound with flat hairs because tension is too high. Students often are unable to play gracefully--such as getting the right brush stroke in Mozart--because they play with flat hairs. Playing with flat hairs is simply not necessary, and even undesireable, at least in the lower half.

September 27, 2007 at 04:33 PM · Interesting discussion, and the insights expressed have reminded me that it's good to play around with what tilt/flat hair does in different parts of the bow too. So many options, so many possibilities . . .

Scott's example is a good one--I know what Mozart sounds like in the frog with flat hair.

September 27, 2007 at 05:20 PM · Amber,

One suggestion for demonstrating to students why playing with a tilted bow is desireable:

1. play a brush stroke flat

2. play the same passage with hair tilted. They'll get it immediately.

I also show them when flat hair can make a passage really pop out, such as the last page of Tzigane, or playing with flat hair and higher in the bow, such as with Paganini's Moto Perpetuo or 5th Caprice. But it's only when a little extra articulation is called for.

September 27, 2007 at 05:22 PM · 1. A progressive tilt toward the fingerboard as the bow moves from tip to frog relaxes the hand and wrist and arm.

2. The tilt better positions the hand and arm to support the weight of the bow at the frog.

3. Less hair on the string at the frog evens out the sound throuhout the bow stroke.

4. Bounce and bow "physics" can be adjusted by adjusting the amount of tilt.

1. and 2. require tilting the stick towards the fingerboard.

3. and 4. are independent of the direction of tilt but tilting the stick towards the fingerboard is physically more efficient in terms of the geometry of the hand and arm.

The reasons some students tilt the stick back towards the bridge are that they are playing with too low an arm, perhaps their arm is too short to reach at the tip, perhaps they don't make the extra physical effort to hold the elbow and arm high enough throughout the stroke.


September 27, 2007 at 09:54 PM · Nate,

I disagree with the last inference that playing on the side of the hair only uses 3 hairs. Even if the bow is tilted, all of the hairs come into contact anyway with a little pressure. In fact, it's MORE likely that more hairs are used (unless the frog has been over-tightened).

Also, most people don't play Tchaik or Korngold with orchestras--they're in the orchestra. And orchestral playing calls for a different style, with more grace and subtlety.

The mark of an advanced player is one who can tilt or not tilt, depending on the circumstances.

September 27, 2007 at 11:21 PM · Bows respond differently to tipped/flat. I have one very mushy bow which ends up flat hair no matter how much I tilt the stick. So, see . . . we just need to get everyone one of those cool bows and then both Nate and Scott will be happy! Sorry, that's not helpful, but I couldn't resist.

Scott--I agree that the artist's intention paired with the circumstance determines the use, which is why I thought it was a good idea for Amber to experiment and decide for herself instead of appealing to Bilbo's "Epistles of Pedagogy." Who wants to know how that would turn out . . . yikes.

September 28, 2007 at 05:42 AM · Although I am likely the least accomplished player here, allow me to weigh in with an observation:

Consider the debate between Scott & Nate: With the bow angled, in either direction, there is neither less nor more hair on the string. The amount of hair contacting the string becomes dependant upon how much downward pressure you exert.

Since the amount of hair contacting the string has an effect on tone (more hair giving a fuller tone) this means that an angled bow gives the player a slightly greater range of expression.

If you try chaning pressure both ways, this will be immediately obvious.

Works for me.

September 28, 2007 at 07:57 AM · Something to just muse about; there's going to be an optimum speed/pressure/sounding point/etc/ and let's assume amount of hair/ for a particular quality of sound. If you always play with flat hair, isn't the last variable out of your hands and in the hands of the person who rehaired the bow? Theoretically it is. Realistically there's probably a wide range that gives similar enough results. And variability in the new hair itself.

As for what to tell students...if it's a good design then you would be able to use too little hair (obviously true) and also too much hair (call it flat hair), permitting you to choose an optimum amount of hair, via the tilt. If flat hair amount of hair was really optimum, then a designer would want to increase the amount of hair available so that there was too much available, maybe requiring changes to the bow itself, to insure the player could find the true optimum amount.

It's probably safe to assume all that has already been done. If it's been done really well then 45 degrees is optimum (better to say average is spent at 45 degrees over time). Similarly, if I design an amplifier output stage, I'm going to choose components such that it biases properly near the center of the available range. Strictly speaking that isn't literally necessary for it to work, but it's just in the traditon of neat and finished design. That's a kind of philosophy that seems to apply universally.

Or, to put it another way, you could tell them 45 degrees is halfway between too little and too much and so gives the biggest usable range. Or maybe biggest margin for error, or optimizes some other desirable quality. Is that really true? Who knows :) I suspect so, though.

September 28, 2007 at 08:29 AM · Nate sez: "I'm not sure if I completely agree Allan. I'm actually trying what you said as I write this. All I'm getting more of with added pressure on tilted hair is the stick."

Man, you must really press hard! I was taught to use more speed and less overall pressure. When playing lightly and at a strong angle, there's probably only 1/10 of the total hair-width touching the string. (and I use a fairly loose bow.)


Nate also sez: " The question I think one must ask is, will this "expression" supposedly gained by playing with the hair angled be heard in the 40th row?

That's a fair question. I don't know. I do know that the difference in total tonal change (between pressure changes with a flat bow and pressure changes with a perpendicular bow) are very noticeable in my recordings, even when mixed-in with a dense track.

Amazingly (to me) is that until this thread I never noticed this before, and never thought about it. In fact, I had purposely adopted a perpendicular-bow hold, because it seemed fatter & warmer to me. -And then I agonized over why my playing sounded so one-dimensional. Changing to an angled hold has really helped. The difference is small, but it is also significant.

September 28, 2007 at 09:27 PM · Allan--imho, you are on the right track (and I don't mean flat vs. tipped hair--you need it all). Evaluating what you are hearing when you listen to yourself is harrowing work (or it has been for me) because there are so many factors which influence what you're hearing. I got the impression that's how you approach this and I'm guessing with your background, you could likely teach us all a mountain of knowlege on that subject. For instance, if you hear a slidy tone, you might assume it's because you're playing with tipped hair, when that is only part of the picture (or similarly, if you hear "crunch" you might assume it's because you're playing with flat hair). As has been well expressed on this thread already, tipped/flat hair, speed, weight, pressure, bow placement, bow usage--they all affect each other. It's easy to go after a red herring for a while before you get to the bottom of what you're trying to achieve. But, to make the attempt is commendable. So, good job, and I really enjoyed reading the last two paragraphs of your post.

Nate--I know you've logged your time in concert halls, so I appreciate your experience about projection as it relates to bow hair use (and, if I ever get in a concert hall, I'll remember that :)).

September 28, 2007 at 01:45 PM · I so much prefer the use of "weight" to "pressure". Lots of implications, including that the weight is a natural consequence, while pressure is something you have to do (often too agressively.) I think tilting the bow support holding the arm up some, and that helps transfer the weight of the arm towards the string. Trying its opposite, if you pull your elbow down, letting the stick tilt towards the bridge, you can easily feel how the arm weight is now below the string. Sue

September 28, 2007 at 01:48 PM · RE: Flat/Tilted Hair 9.28.07

All is correct, including tilting the bow toward your face for a very delicate finish of a note with the down-bow––you must have a “Crescent Bow” or at least straight bow path for this. This enables the bow to retain an ease of action that is far superior to the extreme rolling of the arm/wrist for the "correct" side of the bow.

The more massive and fuller tones are only achieved with the flat hair––also the crisper forms of Spiccato, such as Spiccato secco (dry, crisp), and Spiccato sulla corda (on the string, where the stick bounces without the hair leaving the string).

It all has to do with the physics of the bow/string/bridge, etc., i.e., (1) point of contact, (2) speed of bow, (3) weight of bow, (4) amount of hair and (5) string(s) selected.

Further details can be found in my recently published books: Violin Technique: The Manual and Viola Technique: the Manual.

Have fun!


September 28, 2007 at 07:46 PM · Sue I agree completely with you

thank you

September 28, 2007 at 07:59 PM · Sorry I agree with Nate... everyone I see with a good sound plays flatter.

September 28, 2007 at 08:23 PM · does Perlman or Zimmermann play continously flat?

I bet he doesn't in piano like every good sense violinist on this planet.

This is the natural consequence of giving the weight to the arm: the wrist bends, the fingers bend and the bow tilts towarf the bridge.

Everyone should pay much more attention to the movements he does while playing: it is very useful.

September 28, 2007 at 08:24 PM · Thanks to Kimberly, Sue, & Drew.

Several excellent thoughts & ideas there. Time for more experimentation...

September 28, 2007 at 08:25 PM · Antonello:

Actually a lot of the time they are playing fairly flat, even with smaller dynamics because they play in large halls. Zukerman tells all his students this.

September 28, 2007 at 08:26 PM · this mechanism was taught by my teacher to whom it was taught at Tel Aviv Academy so, I guess it should work, at least I hope.

September 28, 2007 at 08:28 PM · What I mean is that during an mean dynamic mf the bow should be slightly tilted and the contact point should be closer to the bridge than to the board.

After you can change different parameters: weight, speed and contact point

September 28, 2007 at 08:31 PM · I guess by the way that the answer to give to the person who posted this thread is that the tilting is a natural consequence of the fact that the thumb is shorter than the other fingers opposite to it, so that the grip forces the stick to tilt toward the fingerboard.

That's the answer

Hi :)

September 28, 2007 at 08:51 PM · Yesterday I finished reconstructing, from original sources, the DVD I give to every new violin student - and expanded from 6 to 12 hours of visual recordings of vituoso violinists going back over 50 years.

Including the Heifetz master class, this incudes over 10 hours of virtuoso performances. All play with tilted bow (as I described above) except for very specific dynamic or off string bowings. It appears to me that in all cases deviation from the tiltoccurs only for special effects or as a natural consequence of "arm" joints when bowing near the tip and changing bow direction.

It's really not a matter of playing with this or that angle, but of optimizing the physics of playing -utilizing gravity, natural muscle and joint behavior, and musical/acoustical requirements.

September 28, 2007 at 09:07 PM · You know what... I never paid attention to what my bow was doing, where it was (sounding point)... how tilted it is...

I just listened. Then a few months later when it sounded good, I noticed that I was playing very close to the bridge, my bow was fairly straight, and that my hair was flat.

So listen.

September 28, 2007 at 09:10 PM · Also...

You talk about Tel Aviv academy. Well, if you observe Ms. Fehrer's students (and I have been to masterclasses of 3 of her most famous this year); Zukerman, Mintz, and Hagai Shaham. They all like flat hair and a lot of articulation. Their ppp is even quite loud. So, something to think about.

September 28, 2007 at 10:01 PM · It's just colors, folks. Not everyone likes Matisse, and Salvador Dali might be jarring to some, but other's cup of tea. It's a wide world out there, and isn't the violin grand? Endless options. I just saw Itzhak Perlman playing Klezmer music on Youtube. Wonderful. I can't remember the last time I grinned so much.

September 29, 2007 at 01:48 AM · Louise Behrend, of the Julliard School, gave a lecture many years ago entitled "Tone: A Coat of Many Colors". She spoke among other things about vibrato, bow strokes, glissandi and portamenti, using more or less surface area on the finger pads, choice of fingerings and on what strings to choose to play certain passages in a given piece of music as well as arm weight, bow speed, contact/sounding point, and playing with flat or tilted hair. My recollection is that ultimately it was a question not of what produces the biggest sound, or the most projecting sound, but what you were trying to say in as interesting and committed and convincing a way as possible. Though there is disagreement in this thread about whether to be flat haired or tilted I would hope that there is agreement that no one kind of sound or tone production fits all kinds of music, composers, stylistic periods, and genres. It does indeed depend on what you are trying to achieve and say. Of greater importance is the intelligence and depth of the player's emotional and spiritual commitment to the music and just as the sound of spoken languages throughout the world is so varied and nuanced without being able to say that the meaning of the words in any one language are more profound than in another, so too different sounds in the musical language can be equally valid and full of meaning. I would not want to give up enjoying and trying to emulate the beautiful colors that Heifetz creates using a tilted bow any more than I would want to give up enjoying and trying to emulate the colors that Zukerman got when I heard him recently in Dvorak's Romance. Chacun a son gout.

September 30, 2007 at 04:59 PM ·

September 30, 2007 at 05:49 PM · "Sorry I agree with Nate... everyone I see with a good sound plays flatter."

I don't understand why people are being so dogmatic about this issue. It's not an "either-or" question--it's simply a matter of what the music demands at any given point. You can't tell me that it makes sense to start the Sibelius or Mozart 5 concerti with flat hair. It's like saying that "good violinists have a fast vibrato."

And I really don't agree that bow tilt follows the wrist and fingers--it's the other way around. Being able to utilize the full range of bow tilt shows full artistic control.

September 30, 2007 at 07:29 PM · Scott.

Many violinits play the begining of those concertos kind of pathetically. The sound is thin, their bows are bouncing... why? Because they think they need to play on half a hair. Successful performances start with most of the hair on the string. At the end of the day, the dynamic isn't loud, but all piano means is not forte. It's simply more secure to play with more hair, and you can do any dynamic with this method. Amount or color of sound has far more to do with your sounding point... not arching your wrist like some traditional Thai dancer.

September 30, 2007 at 10:39 PM · Greetings,

as Scott says, it juts boils down to what sopund oen is looking for at the time.

Incidentally, I don@t know what he is doing now but I hvaebene watching a lot of early recordings of Zuckerman and the bow hair is distinctly tilted in the upper half,



September 30, 2007 at 11:24 PM · I can summarize under your "nulla osta" the different opinions in this way:

the bow has a natural tilt toward the board if the fingers are distended (this is a fixed point I hope)

If you close the fingers along with the thumb opposite to te medium there is consequent tilting of the stick toward the bridge.

Now if you close the fingers not as a autonomous movement but as a consequence of give weight to the arm (Steinhausen) the wrist bends and the fingers close with the tilting toward the bridge.

This is the natural mechanism occurring (can anyone contradict this?

So if someone (shahm, Zuckerman, Kreisler and so on..)decides to play always near the flat position, modifying other parameters like bow speed or contact point it is just a choice.

How can't you understand the movements occurring around you?

And above all it seems that we forgot the answer to give to the guy who posted the thread: where the tilting of bow toward the fingerboard comes from?

You are just bla bla bla...

October 1, 2007 at 08:22 AM · There are a lot of videos on youtube showing perlman in pp with the hand hanging from the arm , fingers distended and bow tilted toward the fingerboard. (this also in mf)

don't you want to see that now?

October 1, 2007 at 03:59 PM · Antonello...

That's great. I don't care if people tilt their bows when they're listening to a sound they want. Me and Nate are talking about people who do it when they shouldnt. At the end of a phrase, everyone will deflect the hair... whenever people are delicate they also deflect the hair. I'm just saying that as someone who sees a lot of ok to good violinists play, a lot of them make the mistake of always being on the side of the hair, and in the examples of Mozart A+ and Sibelius, my point is illustrated perfectly, time and time again.

I've seen Perlman and Zukerman play live a number of times now, not to mention masterclasses... they very much engage the entire bow most of the time.

October 1, 2007 at 05:16 PM · I have not understood what you have just said. Probably it's fault of my english

October 1, 2007 at 05:17 PM · I'm glad to have given the answer to the question posted on ths thread: the origin of natural bow tilting toward the fingerboard.

That's all: you are free to play in the way you want!!

October 7, 2007 at 04:40 PM · Nate,

You've implied that one has to "arch your wrist like some traditional Thai dancer" in order to tilt the bow. That's only if the hold itself if faulty: I can tilt as much as necessary with a fairly flat hand. It depends on where one places the pinkie. It's always amazed me at how many people were not taught exactly where to place it. I use Galamian's method of placing the pinkie not on the top facet, but on the next one down. Thus not only can one play flat if need be, but also tilt the bow if necessary (one wouldn't keep the bow flat while playing, for example, the orchestral accompaniment for a classical concerto).

October 7, 2007 at 05:04 PM · I heard a really good explanation from my string pedagogy teacher (Bonnie Black) 2 years ago. She compared skiing to violin playing. I've never skied before but comparing the two is very appropriate.

Apparently, skiers tilt their ankles (and therefore, their skies) outward in order to have more control. Otherwise, I think they would much more easily fall forward. Same can apply for the bow. If the bow hair makes a 90 degree angle to the string, it can skid right off. Try it!


October 8, 2007 at 02:06 AM · Nate,

Sorry--I didn't read closely enough. BUT... you did agree with him with the following:

"That is about the best advice on this thread IMO."

And I think bow shake problems are not from bow tilt--they are from a small organ called the adrenal gland.

October 8, 2007 at 11:03 PM · Greetings,

I agree with Scotts comments about bow shakes. One of the most simply emergency measures one can use for a shaking bow in performance is actually to tilt the bow!!!

I haven`t worked hte mechanics of it out but anoth option is to consicously move atention from the upper arm to undernetah the arm running into the armpit and back. I think this is connected withvision at some level as well as a muscular thing.



October 9, 2007 at 12:24 AM · yea nate... almost every masterclass I've attended or played in, they advocate strong, flat hair. Let's run down that list:

Shlomo Mintz, Itzhak Rashkovsky, Zakhar Bron, Igor Oistrakh, David Russell, Robert Lipsett, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Viktor Danchenko, Vadim Gluzman and Chaim Taub are just the ones I remember recently... all of them discuss this same thing. Student starts playing weakly, or with no sound... well, they give the order and suddenly there is a lot more substance. I speak from personal experience because this summer, the two latter teachers made me do that right on stage, in front of everyone, and it made a big difference.

But then again, I haven't seen a Scott Cole masterclass. I'll have to remember to go next time he's in town.

October 9, 2007 at 01:29 AM · Greetings,

Nate, maybe tilting the bow doesn`t prevent the shakes for you.

However, it is a tehcnique advocated by Applebaum in his book The Art and Science of Violin Playing and , like it or not, it -is- used as an emergency measure by players in performance.

Easy enough to check.

October 9, 2007 at 02:13 AM · For everyone's edification, here are two quotes from the Samuel Applebaum book, the first, in response to the question: "Why do we use less hair as we approach the frog, particularly on the violin?"

Answer: "We remove the inner edge of the hair from the string to compensate for the natural increase in the weight of the bow. If we use the full width of the hair at the frog, too much of the surface of the string is covered, which could possibly prevent a free vibration of the string.

It also helps to preserve a straight bow a little more readily. Another reason is that it can be helpful in developing a slight bending of the wrist at the frog. It also contributes to the flexibility of the hand in the wrist joint.

Many teachers ask their pupils to use the full width of the hair, even at the frog, for the sake of additional bow discipline. There is much justification for this on an advanced level, particularly on the lower strings."

The second quote is in response to the question:"How can one avoid the trembling bow arm when playing long notes that are played softly?"

The answer Applebaum provided: "One of the manifestations of nervousness is a trembling of the bow, particularly around the middle. it is important that you attempt to determine the cause. This lack of bow control may be the result of insufficient bow technic, or it could be just mental. Much of the difficulty can be avoided by practicing the hand and finger stroke in different parts of the bow: at the frog, six inches from the frog, in the middle, six inches from the tip, and at the tip.

Sometimes the difficulty might be traced to holding the bow too tightly or even too loosely. The player must examine the bow grip. Trembling may frequently be eliminated by making sure there is a slight, inward turning of the lower arm in the elbow joint in a rotary motion when playing around the middle of the bow. When experimenting with the bow hold, try to apply a bit more upward pressure of the thumb against the frog. Sometimes the trembling can be eliminated by lightening the pressure of the two middle fingers on the bow stick. It may be helpful to practice slow whole bows in whole and half notes with the two middle fingers removed from the bow stick.

Faulty breathing or lack of breathing should be carefully considered.

Try using a little less hair throughout the entire bow stroke. In order to do that, however, you may have to slightly tighten the bow hair, and, while I am not particularly happy about doing this, it may be worthwhile if it avoids the trembling.

In public performance it may be better to change bows more frequently in order to avoid long sustained tones. Many fine players do just that".

October 9, 2007 at 02:56 AM · From his book , "Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching", Galamian's thoughts on tilting the bow are:

"Moving up- bow from the square to the frog, the stick of the bow should tip gradually and slightly toward the fingerboard. This tilting accomplishes three things: (1) it preserves the straightness of the bow stroke as the frog is approached, since the arm is foreshortened as the hand gradually drops from the wrist; (2) it removes the inner edge of the hair from the strings, thus compensating for the natural increase of bow weight and pressure on the strings at the frog of the bow; (3) it contributes the correct type of bend and flexibility to the wrist-action.

One should take care not to exaggerate the tilting motion, since it can cause too high a wrist at the frog, which is very undesirable."

A little further on he adds:

" Equally injurious will be an excessive lateral bend of the wrist at the frog, a curving of the wrist toward the player's chin. This type of inward curve in the wrist is bound to tighten and cramp the functioning of the entire bowing unit. It is often encountered with players who have been taught to keep the wrist completely flat at the frog."

October 9, 2007 at 05:39 AM · "But then again, I haven't seen a Scott Cole masterclass. I'll have to remember to go next time he's in town."


Thanks for the insult. Much appreciated. Unfortunately, you haven't really read my posts. It seems you assume that I advocate tilting the bow all the time. My point has always been that there are times to have more or less tilt. If you're playing a solo in a masterclasses, or performing the Brahms concerto, fine, use flatter hair to get the maximum volume. But (for the nth time) if you're playing a very delicate ppp passage in an orchestra--where most people reading this are going to perform anyway--you're not going to keep the hair flat all the time. But What do I know? I'm only Scott Cole.

October 9, 2007 at 06:29 AM · Scott... like I said, ppp isn't that differnet. It's more of a sounding point, but whatever.

October 9, 2007 at 07:46 AM · How can anyone subscribe to the notion that flat hair is the only way to go? It's like saying angled hair is totally unacceptable, forever and always, the eleventh commandment that shall never be trespassed against without risk of eternal damnation.

Let's think about it. Obviously, flat hair and angled hair produce two different sounds. It is up to each musician to be able to:

a. Completely control this variable in his or her playing.

b. Fully recognise the textural and tonal differences in the amount of hair being used.

c. Make educated decisions regarding the amount of hair they will choose to use in each musical circumstance.

The amount of hair you use affects the sound. Decide what sound you want, and adjust accordingly.

October 9, 2007 at 01:22 PM · What I have been trying to say for months is that changing in bow tilting is the natural consequence to give and remove weight and not something not dependent on the weight (or I don't like "pressure") we give to the bow.

The mechanism of transmission of pressure starts from back arm rotation and transmits on wrist and fingers which respond like shok-absorbers, like springs (I like this expression).


It seems that when Mosè brought down the tablets with commandements one of them felt down and broke so the last commandement cited above fortunately doesn't exist anymore

October 9, 2007 at 04:19 PM · Emily,

Some of us think that tilting the bow is a color, and it's something you kind of just do instinctively... if you think about it too much, it starts to creep into your playing. I'm going to studio class now and will see too much bow tilting...

October 9, 2007 at 05:26 PM · I agree completely with Emily's post, I don't think there's anything wrong with tilting the bow if it creates the sound the player is looking for.

I'm also confused, because Perlman and Zukerman are two players mentioned on this thread, as advocates of flat bows in preference to tilted ones. However, if that's correct, they don't seem to practice what they preach whenever I've seen them. Watch the 1st variation of this clip for just one example.

October 9, 2007 at 06:06 PM · I realized that the bow hair is flat on the string after weight is applied with the bow, but I though that you and others were implying that the bow itself was supposed to be flat at all times. I'll have to read the thread again more carefully!

However, I personally think it's ok to have less than all the hairs of the bow on the string sometimes, because it's possible to get a different quality of sound, even though I accept that it won't carry so well in a large concert hall.

October 9, 2007 at 08:45 PM · Pieter, I do agree that violinists tend to get stuck tilting the hair as a default mode. I used to always tilt, and then I got addicted to flat hair. Now, it depends on the circumstance.

October 9, 2007 at 09:18 PM · actually, there is not one direction that a bow should tilt. It depends on the musical situation and what kind of sound you need to produce. One should experiment with the sounding point (location of the bow on the string) to produce the best possible sound that portrays the musical meaning. 3 things must be considered: the speed, location, and pressure. For instance, if I want a vibrant sound on the G string, I actually need to make the bow hair flat, so it is not tilting in any direction. Violinists should not get caught up in "rules" of violin playing. Instead, we should constantly experiment to produce the correct sound at each moment in the piece.


October 9, 2007 at 09:30 PM · Following on from Caroline's post, I remember my past violin teacher giving a reason for tilting the bow. He said that more pressure can be exerted into the string by tilting it slightly, and the weight will cause all the hairs to contact the string anyway. Therefore, it is possible to get a more piercing sound on the E string with a tilted bow for example, and a broader sound on the G string with a flatter bow.

October 9, 2007 at 10:28 PM · Exactly Emily, that's my issue. To me, titled bow isn't something you "do". You don't sit there and then suddenly say, "Ok, bow tilting time!". You just use your ear, and happens without thinking about it.

October 9, 2007 at 10:28 PM · Here is perfect example of when playing with flat hairs would be impossible:

The Scherzo to a Midsummer Night's Dream should be played with a delicate spiccato, and at about the stick's midpoint. If played with an untilted bow, the notes will not only be too percussive, but it will be impossible, given the physics of the bow, to land on the D in bar 5 without the bow bouncing away--like an airplane trying to land without shock absorbers. There are many other examples in the literature of having to land the bow gracefully without it bouncing away.


I do not agree that one can simply exchange sounding point for bow tilt--they are two different techniques that are used for different purposes. Give the above excerpt a try and change your sounding point instead of tilting the bow. It will not work.

October 10, 2007 at 02:42 AM · Hi all. Between starting to market my new CD, and contracting a trip to Greece in December, where I'll be playing a short solo with orchestra, I only have time these days to visit briefly and occasionally. But I have given this subject a lot of thought. My own basic approach to holding and drawing the bow is summarized in my website, if anyone is interested.

Go to

Cick on "writings", then "fundamentals", then "the bow".

BTW, I don't deal with the issue of trembling there.But if we're talking about an habitual slight tremble in a long bow as we pass the balnce-point (as opposed to nervousness) I find that my pivoting approach tends to obviate this. If nerves are the problem, drawing the bow more freely helps.

October 9, 2007 at 11:48 PM · Scott... I am talking about a regular core sound. Of course I dont play off the string (if it's delicate) with full hair, I deflect the bow...

October 10, 2007 at 03:37 AM · Scott,

that is exactly the point. you ARENT supposed to use flat hair for spicatto. Which just proves that each situation requires a different approach to how the bow will be placed. This is why I agree with Pieter

October 10, 2007 at 04:22 AM · For me it matters about the bow... different bows use different tensions. With a voirin, I'd do it flat... a Tourte style, probably on the side.

October 10, 2007 at 10:21 PM · Caroline,


I don't understand why you agree with Pieter. I was saying all along that different music requires different bow angle. From Pieter's posts, it really seemed as if he thought the bow hair should always remain flat.

Pieter--if you had simply acknowledged that sometimes the hair should be "deflected" it could have saved vitriol for both of us. Perhaps we both miscommunicated, or perhaps I haven't read every one of your posts. In either case, my intention is not to let these conversations spiral downwards to person attack (as so often seems the case with another member of this forum who shall remain nameless).


I suppose someone, with a certain bow (and with low hair tension) could do the Mendelssohn with flat hairs. I doubt most could, though, or that it would be effective in the heat of an audition. Now the Death of Tybalt? I could see it there.


October 10, 2007 at 10:31 PM · No, but when you're playing legato and concentrating on a basic "core" tone, I do believe flat hair works best.

I wasn't talking about sautille or up/down bow stacatto... just the bow stroke you use 90% of the time.

July 26, 2016 at 09:42 PM · I've been recently learning that in order to "attack" the strings at high position or for harmonics, I seem to tilt the bow a lot such that the stick wouldn't hit the string, but very small amount of the bow hair is actually touching the string.

It's focused sound I am getting, quite different from the "normal" sound I would be getting from flat, light bowing near the bridge.

Is this some sort of standard technique?

July 27, 2016 at 08:29 PM · In general, it seems that the tone is better when the bow hair is flat. Of course exceptions apply, but even cursory experimentation will show that the tone is much more round and beautiful when the hair is flat. Try it and see for yourself!

July 27, 2016 at 09:00 PM · See a similar discussion here, where yours truly contributed a lot:

Angelica Cantu

Should you tilt the bow when you play or leave it flat?

June 3, 2012 at 11:13 PM ·

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