Smooth bow transitions

January 18, 2010 at 09:18 PM ·

I am working on the Faure Sonata in A major.  In the first movement, the melodic line needs to be as smooth sounding as possible and I am having trouble with my bow changes.  My bow changes are "sounding" when I don't want them to sound.  I would like to play the melodic line and make it sound as though all the notes are on one bow rather than being broken up.  Does anyone have any tips, techniques and/or exercises that I can do to help eliminate this problem?  I have been working on this with my scales every day but I am sure there is more that I can do.  I would like to master this technique so that I don't run into this problem with other pieces!  I tend to be a strong player so perhaps this is my problem?  I have tried to lighten up my bow (and vibrato) for a sweeter sound and it seems to help but I am still frustrated by the melodic line being broken by my bow changes.  Any and all help is much appreciated!

Replies (39)

January 18, 2010 at 11:35 PM ·


there are sort of two schools of thought on this.  The first is explicated by Galamian who states in his book that immediatley before the change the bow is lightened and lsows down.   The other group takes a more minimalist psoition that the change of bow shuld be exactly the same speed and weight.   I tend towards the firts position but actually don`t think there is very diffenrece between the two at the end of the day.   Both highlight the fundamental point that for a bow chnage to be smoth you cannot speed up in the slightest in either direction. 

A bow change thta lacks smmothness is veyr often the reuslt of an over application of a technique that Flesch introduced as an exercises in his Urstudien in which the fingers only play short up and down bows.   He found that this wa staken to an extreme in changing bow resulting in a gulp sound and wrote that he greatly regrteed emphasizing the importnace of this finger action. Nonetheless many players with a smooth bow stroke have cnsicusly worked on finger action to continue the stroke as the arm changes direction.   The imporntat thing is to keep this to an absolute minimum. Milstein argued that however well you did it you would always have a gulp.

There is a way of working on bow change which does to some extent contradict the currnet thinking as described above. (Finger s continue as arm changes).  This is that it doesn`t relaly matter what you do with wrist and fingers (within reason) but that it must be done -after- the bow has changed direction.  Furthermore ,  during the change of direction the player must consiciously focus on a feeling of complete ease and lightening in the right shoulder.  I have heard this from two reliable sources as how Oistrakh explained he changed bow and it doesn`t get much better than him.  You might try experimenting with this appraoch.   If you are using too much in the wya of finger sand wrist it does help to take them out of the equation and think of everything working as a singgle unit,  paying maximum attention to the speed at point of change.

Incidentally, ther eare many good exericses in Basics fr working on both speed and weight at the heel and point of bow.




January 19, 2010 at 01:07 AM ·

I asked my teacher once on how to accomplish this as well.  The answer I got was to simply keep the speed of the bow exactly the same on the change of bow.  After giving her an incredulous look, she recommended visualization exercises.  Surprisingly this helped quite a bit, though I'm personally not able to accomplish this feat yet.

January 21, 2010 at 09:19 PM ·

Think about the gesture you make with your bow hand when you change direction.

It's akin to seeing how Olympic swimmers do a turn in a pool...they don't smack the wall head on and turn around, they swim in a very specific *curved* path.

The advice regarding maintaining bow speed is excellent...however, in order to accomplish that your change of bow direction cannot be on a straight line, but rather a curve. You'll see accomplished players from the entire past century do this with either a horizontal or vertical stroking pattern...I tend to prefer the vertical one in order to preserve the consistency of the point of contact.

Happy experimenting!

November 27, 2011 at 08:12 AM · I have struggled and struggled with this. One of the biggest problems for me is that it sounds just fine to the ear but when I play back a recording - there it is the dreaded GULP!

What I found on my own was that the generous finger action that I've been taught to do makes this much WORSE, as mentioned by Buri above. I finally figured it out - the fingers slow the bow before the change and then cause an accelleration so that the bow can catch up with the hand after the change - the better your finger action, the bigger and worse the gulp. And trying to compensate by pressure differences (which is, I think, the oval action) just makes things worse. I'm not saying these ideas are wrong but its obvious that their precise sequence and degrees are critical for a smooth change.

I've watched many violinists on youtube and my teacher too to help solve the mystery of the bow change. The logic is that you need to get the bow speed exactly the same ASAP - as Mendy stressed above (and others elsehwere on

If you try to do that without any extra action its actually much better than the (mis-timed?) finger releases. However then you get a 'crunch' (which is actually much better sounding than the Gulp). Hillary Hahn seems to use a refinement of this method - her hand appears to do nothing at all at the bowchange, except sometimes on the upstroke (and I've seen others do this too - francescatti, for example) there is a pronounced flick of the fingers, in particular during slow bow actions.

Right now I'm trying to unlearn my errors by staying with, and trying to soften abrupt change - living with the crunch - but would appreciate any more ideas!

November 27, 2011 at 09:45 AM · Hi Elise, try following the curve of the bow, instead of the curve of the bridge. Another way to think of it: at the frog, keep the tip high for smooth bow change, dip the tip for articulate bow change. At first you can actually play a double stop with the higher string as you approach the frog on an up bow for a smooth bow change, then make a slight string cross motion without actually touching the higher string, and finally keep the feeling of crossing without any visible crossing motion. In this way you train the pinky to maintain support and balance the bow through the bow change. To help the pinky, you might also 'twist' the bow with the thumb and second finger (+ 3rd and 4th fingers) in a clockwise rotation -- this is analogous to applying pressure when you're bowing at the tip, in which case the thumb and 2nd + 1st fingers twist the bow counterclockwise. Finally, pay attention to how your arm reacts at the moment of change at the frog. How it should react will depend largely on your bow hold, but there should be a feeling of lightness through your upperarm. So if you have a relatively high elbow, it should stay high at the change. If the elbow is level with the wrist, it should stay level. If the elbow is below wrist level, it should rise slightly at the bow change. But in each case there should remain a feeling of floating the elbow through the change (later you can adjust the weight of the arm for dynamics and density.)

Hope that helps,


November 27, 2011 at 10:37 AM · Here's a different way of looking at it. We generally think of it as a up and down finger movement to raise and lower the arm. Instead think of it as an arm movement to lower and raise the hand. So the arm crontrols the finger movement and hand height. The finger muscles follow the arm movements. Practice; 8 strokes with no finger movement , and then 8 stokes with finger movement. Keep bow parallel with bridge and it helps to keep the eyes close to feel the change.

November 28, 2011 at 01:45 AM ·

November 28, 2011 at 10:35 AM · Jeewon - they are great visuals, I'll certainly give them a shot - I love the 'follow the bow shape' illusion!

Charles - you are right, I tend to thing about the fingers. I'll give that a try too.

Eric - but thats where I got into trouble. If you use your fingers to slow the bow on the upstroke and change and then 'catch up' on the way down, the bow has to accelerates at the beginning of the down bow - and thats what gives you the dreaded GLUP. The undercurrent of both Jeewon and Charle's posts is (as I interpret it) to achieve the acceleration as quickly as possible (reducing the gulp to an minimal crunch during the abrupt change, combined with a reduction of pressure to then reduce the amplitude of this change to an inperceptible level.

November 28, 2011 at 12:00 PM ·

November 28, 2011 at 06:50 PM · I think you are right on the money for me with the fingers being too active.

Actuall I think I had a major epiphany this morning. I was playing with different ways to improve the stroke, based on the advice above. then I realized that for smooth transition the fingers are not about bow movement at all (even if they contribute to it) but function as two dimensional shock absorbers. Yes, the 'jelly fingers' transformed my bow changes. Not kidding. I now focus onmaking the fingers as loose as possible and not only the GLUMP but even the abrupt change noise goes away (verified by recording).

Not only that but what an improvement also in tone! For the latter I've been focusing on bow speed and bow contact - but not on finger floppiness (and I mean that because its not that I grip, its finger 'tone' thats changed.

I just hope it was not a one-off and I can do it again when I get home tonight...

November 28, 2011 at 11:22 PM · It took a few tries and a few confusions and panics - but I think its clear now: smooth bow transisions (at least at my stage) are achieved by the arm, not the fingers. All the latter do is to 'cushion' the bow action they do NOT conribute to the forward and backweard action.

So maybe its a genral rule that slow bowing is arm and fast bowing is wrist-fingers??

November 29, 2011 at 05:48 AM ·

November 29, 2011 at 02:04 PM · the real challenge is doing these minimal energy arm actions while playing into the string so that you don't skim. Thats where the separation of arm action from wrist/finger action come in - and I now think its the essence of the violin mystique.

November 29, 2011 at 02:58 PM · My approach:-

Weight goes into the bow through the whole hand - first finger and little finger control that weight around the fulcrum of the thumb. Unless you have lifted your little finger; then it is the third finger that does that job.

To get a smooth bow change, you soften the whole hand momentarily at the point of change, No extra motions of the fingers etc, just a softening of the hand. Makes the gulp much less audible to teh player, and almost inaudible to the listener at ten or twenty feet.


November 29, 2011 at 04:13 PM · Thanks Graham - thats a further refinement of what I'm now playing with - and very excited about. ITs affected all my tone production and in one step got rid of much of my squeaks and jerky bowing.

Relax (even more) at the bow change...

November 30, 2011 at 12:03 AM · Greetings,

I have never been able to verify it, but ther eis a well known player (name forgotten) who says that Oistrakh told him ` doesn`t matter what you do, as long as you do it =after- the bow has chnaged direction. The main focus during bow change should be paying attention to and relaxing the right shoulder.`

That advice can be extremely useful in some cases, irrespective of its provenance.



November 30, 2011 at 03:13 AM · Oh! I'm leaning towards the OPPOSITE - you have to complete your hand/finger actions before the bow change. Oh dear....

If you do it after you get a changen in the speed of the bow and I think thats what gives you the gallump. Hillary Hahn has outstanding bow technique and for most slow bow changes you don't see a darn thing but every now and then at the heel she does a flick of the fingers before the change - I saw Zino do it too. Its as if they wanted to uncurl the fingers for some purpose - but it was definitely before the change.

November 30, 2011 at 04:23 AM · Greetings,

you may be right aboutafter the bow. What is usually taught (I know becuas eit was quite standard when I wa s astudnet) is that the right hand fingers carry on the bow in one direction while the arm changes: IE everything befor ethe change. I pracitce this diligently for yeras before I found out that it wa sbased in large part ona misreaidng of Flesch who inadvertently implied this was the way to do things. I am now ccertain that this does cause a gulp and DeLay has commented to the same effetc so I feel reasonably secure in my judgement.

Why on earth anyone would do a finger action after chan8igng bow direction I have no idea . That would be adding a small up bow movement to a bow travelling in the opposite direction.



November 30, 2011 at 11:00 AM ·

November 30, 2011 at 12:02 PM · Here's a way to coordinate the 'flick.' On up bow approach the frog with the arm + 'up-bow-hand' but stop with about 1" to 1 1/2" of hair left before you hit the ferrule. From there play 4 short staccato notes with your fingers. Note that to finish an up bow, i.e. to finish an up-bow-hand with extended fingers/flexed base-knuckles, you have to curl or flex the fingers/extend the base-knuckles. So e.g. you can play open A-string for 3 beats and finish the stroke with 4 staccato, sixteenths on B-C-D-E before you change bow direction. Also note that as you finish the stroke on an up bow with the fingers, you'll be extending at the wrist, pushing the elbow away from the finger tips; in other words the arm changes direction as you finish the stroke, before the bow changes direction. Everything is reverse at the tip but perhaps not as crucial for a smooth motion. Once you're comfortable you can remove the staccatos, but still actively measure the finish; and finally just finish smoothly with passive fingers and hand.

For a smooth sound, the fingers still have to balance the bow, depending to a large extent on dynamics and speed; the 'gulp' is caused by lack of balance rather than finger motion per se, although any finger motion which suddenly pivots the bow vertically will upset the balance. Of course the above presumes the idea of changing shapes of the bow hand for up bow and down bow. A lot of students can't be bothered with fine tuning finger control and for them the idea of following the curve of the bow seems to work just as well; but even doing such finger exercises a little, releases the them enough.

November 30, 2011 at 01:07 PM · fantastic Jeewon - I really want to nail this as its the difference between very good and excellent legato. The quicker and gentler the change of direction the softer the sound of course, but also the longer and more stable the ensuing bowstroke - and thats something that really adds quality.

November 30, 2011 at 03:30 PM · Update:

The light pressure works well - but the problem is a loss of weight into the bow and hence, power. Obviously you can lighten up at the end of each bow stroke but the danger then is of getting a swing-like bowing.

I did make one discovery though: A lot of the problem is eliminated by simply using as slow a bow speed as you can get away with. This can be done with little effect on tone - infact in my case improvement since I tend to use too much bow in slow passages. Perhaps this is key: don't create the problem that you then have to fix...

December 1, 2011 at 03:11 PM · Hi Elise, I'm of the opinion that a smooth bow change is best executed by using the same pressure and speed going into the frog as coming out. Here are some further things you might try:

Practice controlling the pressure of the bow against string with pinch/release, staccato, parlando.

a) pinch/release: use middle third to start; pinch the string with enough pressure so that the bow will not move easily; as you suddenly release the pressure, simultaneously draw the bow in mf (then mp, p, pp; make the bow float after the release) slowly and evenly. Make sure the attack at the balance point sounds the same as at the upper third. Once comfortable, practice other divisions of the bow, make sure the attack sounds the same at all parts of the bow, whether up or down bow. How you achieve the pinch will vary according to bow hold and coordination between fingers. Here's Todd doing a similar (but not identical) exercise:

b) staccato: similar to pinch/release, except with less pinch and less release, i.e. a more uniform sound. Play middle of each staccato stroke with uniform speed and sound (i.e. not like a martele in which the sound decays.) Play various divisions of the bow. Make the middle of each stroke sound the same, as well as the beginning and ending; i.e. make each segment sound exactly the same. Someone in the audience listening with eyes closed shouldn't be able to tell what part of the bow you're in, or what direction your bow's moving.

c) parlando: similar to staccato, but the motion of the arm/bow never stops; instead of a pinching action in the hand, it's more like an undulating. No matter what anybody says about pressing, controlling pressure of the bow against the string is the only way to develop fine control in tone production (just as long as you don't squeeze the fingers into the stick of the bow, or against each other.)

After you have control over making every segment of the bow sound the same everywhere in the bow, and lots of practice with even divisions of the bow you can start uneven divisions. E.g. play 8 divisions, but use 2/3 of the bow to play 4 divisions and 1/3 of the bow to play the other 4; keep the dynamic the same for each segment, in other words the longer segments will have less density (more speed) but same volume as shorter segments. Of course you'll be fine tuning your sound point control as well. After awhile you can just think 'use less and less bow towards the frog,' or whatever the case may be.

This naturally leads to practicing dynamics in all combinations at all parts of the bow (including fp, and sfz.) Coming back to bow changes, learning pressure control should train the hand to control the sound and keep it consistent through the bow change. One last thought: make sure the shoulder muscles don't seize at the moment of bow change. (I'm not exactly sure, but I think bow changes would involve pecs and anterior delts for up bows, lats, teres major/minor and posterior delts for down bows.) I think most of us have the tendency of contracting opposing muscles at the same time (especially when we get nervous) but it's good to be aware of keeping the passive muscle released until the moment of change in direction. Learning to use opposing muscles in sequence will help with controlling speed and making strokes even.

Happy bowing!


December 1, 2011 at 03:49 PM · i've also been working on this. i think that, given a reasonable bow hold, i find that a big role is played by the elbow and upper arm/lower arm junction. if i have any tension there, the transition is not smooth. sometimes my fingers do play a role sometimes they dont...but i didnt have the impression that thats teh necessary and sufficient condition for a smooth change. i find that if the upper arm to elbow is made to feel ready for a transition before it does, it helps a lot. but perhaps there are different approaches to this that differ in involving different elements.

December 1, 2011 at 05:28 PM · Hi Tammuz, I agree with you about finger motion, that it's not necessary for a smooth sounding bow change, especially in softer dynamics, slower bow speeds (where finger motion can do more to destabilize the bow.) I do think finger motions help with fluidity and efficiency in louder dynamics, faster bow speeds, but again not necessary as long as the bow is balanced (as demonstrated by many concert artists.) Regarding the elbow, as with the shoulder joint, to keep it fluid we have to learn how to use the opposing muscles, biceps/triceps, in series, always keeping the passive muscle as released as possible until the moment of bow change (of course the faster the stroke, e.g. fast detache, the more generally tense the upper arm becomes.)


December 1, 2011 at 06:20 PM · Wow, my own bowing course... just wish I was home now and not at work !!

I think the clunk is worst at intermediate bow speeds - it seems like the bow is hesitating before catching up with the arm. Thats probably why the original suggestion of 'just keep the speed constant (without fingers) is an improvment. But I (nor my teacher) don't think its a solution to all bow changes, once you get faster the fingers seem to have to get involved - I just can't adjust pressure changes that fast.

Anyhow, I will try the excersizes you suggest above, they are a great idea in any case...

December 1, 2011 at 06:55 PM · " seems like the bow is hesitating before catching up with the arm."

I would guess that for this bow speed your arm moves too fast at the change for the speed of the bow (or it accelerates into the upbow then maybe gets stuck, doesn't carry the momentum into the down bow which might indicate a seizing in the shoulder at the moment of change.) To apply an exercise from above, small segments into and out of the bow change would help. At the lower 1/4 of the bow, play four segments in and out of the frog, with absolutely even sound (use a metronome to regulate bow speed, gradually increasing to the speed you want to work out); then play lower 1/4 in and out with even sound (still measuring the 4 segments in your mind); then incorporate into 1/3 bow, 1/2, 3/4, full bow.

"I just can't adjust pressure changes that fast."

I agree, which is the reason I think it's easier to train for consistent sound through the bow change, rather than a slight lightening of pressure; train the bow arm by listening for tonal continuity rather than feeling for pressure change. I do think training fingers yields the most efficient motions, but if you want a quick solution to smooth bow changes at faster tempi/louder dynamics, you can simply focus on moving the upperarm much more in the lower third of the bow (balance point to frog.)

Do an extreme exercise like (almost) hitting your ear with the side of the upperarm on up-bows a few times until it feels very light. Do rapid detache with lower third of the bow with very active motion from the upper arm (train the path of the hand through the C-bout slowly before speeding up to avoid any nasty crashes playing on the E-string.) Anything to free the motion at the shoulder will help control the motion of the upper arm.

Next, feel leverage from elbow to tip of pinky; don't let the wrist or pinky collapse when you pivot the upper arm -- i.e. if you lower the upperarm (as in a string cross motion to an upper string,) the motion in the upper arm should translate exactly into the motion of the bow across strings. Feeling this kinetic chain will help balance the weight of the bow.

Finally, at the moment of the downbow make sure the pinky doesn't actively push into the stick to stabilize it (i.e. don't let it become rigid,) rather balance the bow by passively resisting the force of the bow against the pinky. It's a subtle difference: kind of like leaning against a wall and supporting your weight by pushing the wall with your arm versus resisting your weight with a flexible arm; concentric vs eccentric contractions. You can then vary the flexibility of the pinky (hand) according to speed and how much arm you want to use in your bow stroke. The less finger motion the more you have to compensate with the arm. Also, depending on the size of your hands, it might help to widen the grip (spread the fingers) to stabilize the bow for rapid strokes near the frog.

Just thought of one more issue: make sure you maintain the same amount of pronation through the bow change. In other words, don't let the forearm rotate through the bow change (e.g. pronate into the frog, supinate out of the frog or vice-versa.)

December 2, 2011 at 12:00 AM · If you missed it, Simon Fisher has just made a relevant post on a related thread.

He offers some very simple technical advice, and warns about over-complicating the bow change.

December 2, 2011 at 02:25 AM · Thanks for hte link Geoff - I would have missed it and its VERY relevant. Funnily enough I was fooling around with Jeewon's excercises (which are great for their own sake, as expected) and continuing to tape and had just concluded that the only way I could get a clean bow change without any other concequences was to slow down just before. Now I have to look at the pivot.

Incidentally both of these were mentioned above in this topic.

December 2, 2011 at 07:08 AM · is it about slowing down? i think slightly slowing down gives you more time to be aware/prepare but is there something technically about slowing down that translates into smooth bow change? in fact, the fact that this is a point of contention between experts (whether to slow down or maintain the same constant speed) should be enough to exclude it as being THE paramount condition in dictating the bow change. here is a previous post

as a very very early work in progress, i find mysef agreeing with Jeewan about the shoulder as well as the elbow. i also recall reading somewhere, in regards to bowing in general, that Mr. Warchal disagrees with active finger/wrist involvement and also assigns importance to the arm and upper arm. here is part of his post:

" If you are able to lead your bow in the perfect directions you almost don't need even any passive finger and wrist movements (maybe except of sautille). I know, wrist and fingers need to compensate the hudge change of the angle of the bow and forearm during the way form the frog to top. But - as for the "visible" movements, the better job is done by shoulder and forearm, the less you need to utilize wrist and fingers. In the ideal case you do not need any. I could even dare to say, fingers serve as an imperfaction eliminator. Very similar to car construction. If you drived on absolutely even surface you would not need any springs in the chassis - theoretically :-)"


its an interesting point. i don't know what other people think about this in connection to smooth bow changes. i also read Simon Fisher's point about a small lighening of the bow at the heell, which i translate into defering the weight of the bow towards the pinkie and third finger rather than actually slightly "lift" the bow up with the whole hand? i could understand then understand that the bow change relies on the mechanics of a well cooordinated macro shoulder-upper-lower arm motion with the hand and fingers playing the part of a balance weighing scale.

another interesting thing is that there must be different mechanisms invonved in a smooth bow change at the tip from that at the heel. i don't thing its as simplistic as simply inverting a formula...don't the pinkie and third finger still play a balancing out part in the transition at the tip for a smooth transtition at the same time that the index finger and second finger are pronated adding weight?

i'm just adding more questions..

lastly, i think that with people who have reached a very advanced stage, their playing might not be exactly in keeping with the pedantics of prescribing specific movements, they probably feel things out differently due to their knowledge of the bow and more importantly their arm/hand.

December 3, 2011 at 02:09 PM · Deleted original post - I don't believe what I wrote anymore!

What I have found though is that I have a too agressive 'bite' even for a single bow stroke and I think that is factor. I tried a different (?softer) rosin - Melos - and that may help...but a work in progress still (grr...)

December 4, 2011 at 05:23 AM · This is one of the most important things my teacher have taught me. The concept is quite simple: raise your wrist. What is happening is that you are pressing (not releasing) with the bow during bow changes. Try once playing with your wrist high above your hand so that you are not applying pressing by pressing, and the only thing causing the bow to sound is the gravitational force.,%20Jascha.jpg

You will dramatically improve when you master legato(this technique).

December 4, 2011 at 09:07 AM · Schradieck #4

On first appearance, one might think Schradieck is mainly for left hand/scalular accuracy in the positions, however;

The entire book is 2 measure of sixteenth notes (C time) on one bow. You can't rightly play it as you should without addressing the bow arm!

Here's the syllabus:

1. You MUST practice Schradieck with a metronome to gain the advantages. I recommend starting at 72 for quarter note, working up to 100.

2. Play the first 3 etudes and #6 and #7 (all 1rst position exercises using from 1-4 strings and in different keys). Then play #4... it is all bow changes on the D and A.

3. follow the instructions in the book for #4. Mine says, "Exercise to be practiced with wrist-movement only, keeping the right arm perfectly quiet." Get this one as even and smooth as you can, especially at the slower metronome markings. Don't be easy on yourself!

4. Record yourself so you can hear the improvements as you go.

5. Play the other etudes again and see the difference, then play whatever piece you are working on.

When practiced correctly, #4 addresses the level of the arm, the direction of the bow, the consistent pressure of the 1rst finger, and the amount of wrist movement/finger control necessary at ALL the different parts of the bow.

Hope this helps!


December 4, 2011 at 09:18 AM · Thanks Jesse - wow after all this bow advice I will have no excuses!!

Back to the studio....

December 20, 2011 at 12:23 PM · I've revived this thread for one or more reasons.

I think we talk a lot on this forum about shoulder rests, rosin, chin rests and many other things, but we do shy away from talking about the more important things, such as bowing technique.

In the January 2012 Strad magazine there are one or two interesting articles, and even if you are still waiting for your copy to arrive, I think it useful to mention an article titled “The Motion of Emotion.”

This is all about a scientific experiment using motion sensors attached to the bow arm, and its possible relevance to teaching and the study of good bowing practices.

A key sentence in my opinion is about straight bowing – page 52 – last para. This also discusses the sound-point – in regard to straight bowing. Now we all know that a lot of emphasis is put on straight bowing by some (many?) teachers. It is considered good to have a bow travelling at 90 degrees to the bridge.

This is fine up to a point (no pun intended), and if you have found the “sweet spot” (not sure I like that term!) half way between the fingerboard and the bridge (and this is where a lot of people end up playing most of the time), then you will get a perfectly good sound providing you have the correct pressure and bow speed.

However, for those of us that like changes in colour, that is, moving the sound point nearer the bridge or further away – during a bow stroke – this causes problems.

Try it yourself, in front of a mirror, pull a long straight down bow, half way between fingerboard and bridge. (Try the A string for starters). This is probably a pleasant sound? It should be if your bow speed and pressure are correct , if not, adjust one or both until you get a perfect A natural on a sound lasting for 4 + seconds at about mf.

Now do the same thing keeping bow at 90 degrees (in other words straight) but try to move the bow sounding point nearer the bridge. Not so good now I think – as the sound has got a bit distorted as you change the position of the bow away from the middle towards the bridge. It will be the same going away from the bridge and nearer to the fingerboard.

So what have we learnt? Probably that changing the sound-point with a straight bow is not so good. Now do this with a bow that is slightly “not straight” probably the angle is curved a little away from the fingerboard so that at the point the tip is slightly nearer the fingerboard than it was when you concentrated on keeping it straight. Do this again, but this time gradually change the soundpoint as well , so you are playing near the bridge. You will notice that the change from the so called sweet spot to the more aggressive sound near the bridge has happened and is a little smoother - and a good bow contact has been maintained.

So the controversial straight bow? I will leave it to you all to decide if it is still a good thing at all times. Variation may be answer. The Strad article goes into this a little and is worth a read.

At least if some of you disagree, give me some good reasons. (I'm sure this has been covered before, especially by Simon Fisher in his books, but it does not hurt to re-state some of these things).

December 20, 2011 at 01:35 PM · Very interesting - but perhaps the 'next stage' after mastering the straight bow? Fischer does to into this in some detail (in the Basic's book if I recall right) and proposes angling the bow as the best method to change sound points.

I'm not sure what that does to your tone while you are shifting - if you watch just about any utube of one of the greats straight bowing is common but so is angled and curvy. Its another wonderful violin world!!

December 20, 2011 at 02:04 PM · Thanks for your response Elise, I knew I could count on you. By the way, most interesting things mentioned about actual bow changes earlier on this thread.

However, I wonder if we can get a bit too hung up on bow changes, so that we are thinking about them a bit too much when we do them. The violin is a very legato instrument, only eclipsed occasionally be the human voice with those singers that can change bow (note) in a seamless way.So maybe, just maybe, we should just change bow and be damned. It could be that if we don't think of it as a problem the problem might go away?

December 20, 2011 at 02:22 PM · I think Gene's description of the swimmer not slamming into the pool edge when they change direction is a good one.

By the way, I didn't realise that this thread is nearly two years old! But it is an interesting and important subject.

December 20, 2011 at 05:26 PM · [I dug it up - which is one reason I keep track of it ;) ]

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Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine