Help on Bowing Straighter

October 28, 2007 at 07:24 PM · Hi guys, do you have any methods or tips on how to bow straight for a violin? Sometimes when I see myself playing the mirror its not straight sometimes its crooked. Is there a way to help me bow straighter? Thanks.

Replies (23)

October 28, 2007 at 08:04 PM · Hi Kevin. The technique that has helped me tremendously has been bowing while using your bridge as a guide. In other words, bow as close to the bridge as possible. Two things will result from this. 1) You will begin ingraining into memory a more fluid bowing action that is straight. 2) It will also begin to train your eye to notice the bow's position on the E and A strings.

One thing I had noticed is that for some reason on the E and A it is very difficult for me to bow between the bridge and the fingerboard and determine if it is straight. When I think it is, it is not. For me, it appears very different in a mirror. When I am bowing, if I start to see the bow moving from right to left at what seems to be a 45 degree angle then I am actully parallel to the bridge when I glance in the mirror. It is the strangest illusion. I hope this helps.

October 28, 2007 at 08:08 PM · The time tested and most efficient way is to practice in front of a mirror. It's almost impossible to determine from the player's perspective. Once you've done it long enough, you'll get used to how it sounds and feels, and be able to adjust accordingly.

October 28, 2007 at 08:26 PM · "It's almost impossible to determine from the player's perspective"

Not so! For example, play on the D string and check that the hair looks equidistant from the bridge on both the G and A strings. I think this comes to me from Dorothy DeLay via Oliver.

October 28, 2007 at 09:07 PM · 1. Play with the bow right on top of the bridge. If it falls off in either direction you know your direction is off.

2. Play long bows with very light pressure, if the sounding point (proximity to the bridge) changes, then bow direction is off.

October 28, 2007 at 10:20 PM · Thanks for your methods on helping me! I'll try them out tonight thanks!

October 28, 2007 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

I have found veyr often with studnets (and myself) that establishing the parameters of what I don`t want on the violin is often the fastest route to where I wnat to be. So with this problem I teach evn beginners to learn to move the bow between the fingerboard and bridge at a controlled rate bu holding it at a slant in one direction. Then I reverse the procedure. this builds up sensitivity to what is and isn`t straight very rapidly . It also has the advanyage that stduents can begin to see how to phrase well form the beginning. Of course htis is combined with bowing straight. But this latter is not actually the be all and end all of violin playing. You have to be able to do it but that doesn`t mean that is how you -have to play- all the time.



October 29, 2007 at 02:34 AM · How about the position of the violin on the left shoulder? I like to place it all the way to the left, but then, in order to maintain a straight bow, i have to jut my right shoulder forward and out. If I bring the violin to the front a bit,then it slides down my chest, and my left elbow crunches up on my belly. Not exactly the picture of violin elegance.

October 29, 2007 at 02:59 AM · 1. How is your bow hold?

2. Have you been shown how to suplinate the wrist when at the tip?

3. Have you been shown how the wrist raises as you approach the heel?

4. Are you bowing with a tilted bow?

Given that you understand all the above, start bowing at the middle third of the bow, and stay there for awhile (Incidentally, I've come to call it controlling the bow rather than straight bow---straight bowing is only the precursor to using your sounding points) until you can bow straight in that third.

Now as you expand your bowing region, you will have to have a clear understanding of the wrist's action (see above). I found the tip easier to control the bow than at the heel but everyone is different.

Then: don't look in the mirror, look at your bow on the strings until you can bow a couple bows straight, and feel the sensations--then Stop!. Think about that feeling and don't look at the bow for a few bows--then stop again; and, reaffirm by watching your bow that your are controlling it in a straight motion--and reinforce the sensations again--and again.

When your bowing in the middle third becomes confident, start doing very very slow long bows heel to top and back. After a couple months doing this:

a-start doing your etudes in the middle, at the tip, and at the heel while controlling your bow.

b-Learn to do legato runs heel to tip and back, deconstructing the given bowing as an exercise to learn evenness of your confidence in the whole bow--use the above (stop visualization) as you do this and check yourself.

Note: It's easy as you go along to regress to bad habits, which sounds like you've done. So, in learning to control the bow, it is important to 'sense' the correct feeling in your bow arm and check it 'all' the time.


Go to violinmasterclass dot com and,

1. do the bow speed and pressure exercises.

2. learn about colle and martele. (Practice in all regions of the bow)

3. view and understand the legato exercises.

Practice these 3 minutes a day for at least two months.

October 29, 2007 at 03:40 AM · Remember, a straight bow stroke is a series of elipses, not straight. On down bow your hand goes in a crescent away from you and up bow your hand is drawing a partial circle, elipse, towards you. Your upper arm on down bow is moving then stops and the lower arm takes over otherwise you will be playing over the fingerboard going down and bridge going up. On up bow the lower arm and hand do the work until close to the frog then the upper arm comes into play.

Hold the bow with the left hand over the strings and move your fingers, hand and arm up and down the bow stick and watch and feel what happens with your hand and arm. Interesting, huh?

October 29, 2007 at 04:05 AM · Greetings,

Ray has just mentioned one of the most importnat bwing exercises around. I actually teahc it resting the screw on the music stand though. I fifn it less akward. Bets is to have someone willing to stand their for ten minutes and do nothing except hold your screw.

Perhaps this is a working definition of true love?



October 29, 2007 at 04:57 AM · At the risk of sounding like an idiot: in the exercise mentionned above, where exactly is the left hand? Are you making a bow stroke with it? And then where is the right hand?

October 29, 2007 at 05:34 AM · I think they're saying something besides the right hand holds the bow in playing position and the right hand goes up and down the stick and feels the sensation of some of the movements it needs to make if it was holding the bow. Just guessing.

October 29, 2007 at 05:51 AM · Greetings,

good guess.

The right hand moves up and down the stick and alters shape as though it where playing normally. The straight stick frces all the righ side of the bbody appendages to move in the correct combiation of elipses., Try it. Its fun. I think it is in Basics.



October 29, 2007 at 06:34 AM · Something holds the upper part of the bow over the strings in normal playing position, possibly your left hand in 20th position, possibly your beloved nut holder which may be your music stand, and your right hand starts at the frog and moves loosely up and down the bow stick, not moving the bow. If it feels strange something might be wrong.

October 29, 2007 at 06:37 AM · Often bowing at an angle is caused either by the right hand moving in the wrong direction or by pulling back with the shoulder.Assuming that you are holding the bow correctly in the first place think of the hand going ahead to the right forming a diagonal line.If you fix an object such as a table, a piano etc at the correct angle and aim to move your hand towards it you should be ablle to get straight detachè going in no time at all.

October 29, 2007 at 08:03 AM · Ahhh light bulb ... you mean the elips is in a horizontal plane. I kept seeing it in a vertical plane and so the imagery made utterly not sense. and now, after nearly 4 years, I finally get it.

I'm now bowing straight about 90% on pieces I know, but boy the integration can get a bit goofy when I am concentrating on something new. My right elbow gets tight and the bow frog comes to sit in my pocket. Mirror and the hand up and down the straight bow wsp were the best ex's for me.

October 30, 2007 at 02:41 AM · There are limits to the advantages of the "bowing parallel to the bridge" technique.

As your skills improve, you'll find it necessary to move AWAY from the bridge to achieve certain dynamic effects (like pianissimo in passages where, for one reason or another, lightening bow pressure won't do the trick).

Bottom line is, if you want to use the bridge as a frame of reference, just make sure that you don't get too dependent on it.

MY OWN PERSONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING PROPER BOWING (great when you're away from your instrument, like on a bus or someplace else):

1. Get a good-sized ballpen and hold it as you would your bow.

2. Sit or stand straight.

3. Imagine yourself playing your instrument: move your right hand up and down along your LEFT side.

4. Make sure that your ballpen "bow" is always parallel to your LEFT side.

What this exercise does is it encourages your right arm to extend just that little bit to keep your bowing straight. I think this would complement Buri's "stationary bow resting with its screw on the music stand" exercise outlined above.

IMHO, the most common reason why violin students' bowing isn't straight is because the right arm tends to pull back, causing the tip to wander toward the fingerboard.

Best wishes,

Timothy James "I don't know why the hell I'm using so many quotaton marks but here's a few more """"" Dimacali

October 30, 2007 at 04:03 AM · Timothy,

Your ballpen exercise looks brilliant.

I'm going to try it out forthwith with some of my students. I'll let you know how it goes.


October 30, 2007 at 04:10 AM · When I switched teachers many years ago, my new teacher at the time (i have since switched many times... such a hassle!!) was very picky about having absolutely straight parallel to the bridge bowing. my mom purchased a "bow right" contraption for me off shar or something, and boy, it worked wonders. its really an underrated tool for learning straight bowing. Not to brag, but one thing I can do now is bow a darn straight bow.

October 30, 2007 at 04:55 AM · There seems to be an aversion to contraptions here sometimes. But the other suggestions here are contraptions themselves; the pen one even uses a special device. They all serve the same purpose it seems to me, to show you what a straight bow should feel like, until it isn't necessary. Could be the "bow right" is the best of all, because it instantly leaves no possibility of anything other than a straight movement (or else you'll break something I assume). It seems to me the stationary bow exercise and the other might do just as well, but with a little more bother, and a little more margin for error (divergence from straightness).

October 30, 2007 at 06:34 AM · Jim,

You're absolutely right! The best way to learn to bow properly is to just keep on bowing until it happens correctly and instinctively.

Furthermore, I believe a large part of learning the violin in general is retaining key concepts until they become instinctive. I'm not talking just about "muscle memory" here, but also one's own overall way of thinking and approaching the instrument mentally.

That's why I advocated the ballpen trick I mentioned above, because it allows you to mentally experience the instrument in a different physical context.

From a practical perspective, you also get at least some practice done when you're away from the violin and/or in an inconvenient location.

October 30, 2007 at 06:43 AM · Roy,

Glad I could help somehow :-)

November 2, 2007 at 01:17 PM · I teach the bow hold and exercises using a ballpen. And I encourage the children to practice when ever they are holding a pen.

The ‘stationary bow exercise’ is the same as I read in ’six lessons with Yehudi Menuhin’. A must read for any fiddle player. Kato Havas’s ’The 12 lesson course’ also a very good read . This exercise I read in ’The Simplicity of Violin Playing’ by Herbert Whone. To avoid the natural bow stroke of the beginner ( ’ bowing around corners’) we could practise whole bows which are made to veer slightly outwards in a direction contrary to the natural curve. All other aspects to be considered of course. Another exercise I thought useful in gaining flexibility was to move the bow sideways along the string between the bridge and finger board, ’ the shuffle motion’. And rapid whole bows resting at each end of the bow stroke. But you really should read these books because it took me years to understand and apply these concepts to my practise routine. Another good book by Barry Green and Timothy Gallwey called ’ The inner Game of music’. I hope this helps, good luck.

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