Can you reach the tip?

May 11, 2012 at 04:43 PM · Can you play at the tip of your bow, with a straight bow, and not pull your right shoulder out of place or hyper-extend your right elbow?

What about your students? Can they all play at the tip of their bows comfortably?

I see all too often players of all levels that have to make adjustments to reach the tips of their bows, or they simply avoid the tip.

Doesn't it make sense to place the violin in such a way as playing at the tip is easy?

Replies (36)

May 11, 2012 at 05:07 PM · Personally, I think it is more important to hold the violin in such a way that the left hand can do all that it needs to than to compromise that posture to accommodate a bow that is too long for the player.


May 11, 2012 at 09:59 PM ·

May 11, 2012 at 10:03 PM · Andrew,

Why would they have to be mutually exclusive?

Shouldn't holding the violin comfortably make bow usage comfortable?

I'd like to understand what you are referring to..I have never had a problem with students positioning the violin and bow so that the left arm isn't twisted, can shift with ease, play on the upper G string, and still play at the tip of the bow.

May 11, 2012 at 10:06 PM · Andrew,

I have never seen a bow too long for a you mean a small child with a full size bow? If a player can use a full size violin, my experience has been they can use a full size bow and play at the tip.

I've had students all ages and all sizes...

May 11, 2012 at 11:04 PM · Only too often the problem is trying persuading the pupil to get away from the tip and use the other end!

I know one such pupil very well indeed ;)

May 11, 2012 at 11:22 PM · I have shorter arms (as does a rather petite friend) and we use bows that are slightly shorter than your average full-size bow (but they're still longer than any 3/4 size bow - Is there such a thing as a 7/8 bow?). I didn't even notice for years that my bow was shorter than normal until I put it next to some other bows. I bought it because it felt right and sounded good.

Whenever I've have a new teacher and they try to get me to hold the violin in the "correct" position (which is interestingly slightly different for each teacher, but I digress), I can't reach all the way to the tip with a true full-size bow.

May 11, 2012 at 11:50 PM · I have short arms, so I have a very hard time reaching the tip comfortably. It normally end up going over the finderboard if I am at the very tip of my bow.

May 12, 2012 at 12:11 AM · If it's a struggle to reach the tip of a full-size bow one important solution is not to force it. Another one is to hold the bow about an inch further up the stick away from the frog. Yet another one is to use a replica late-baroque bow (1750-ish), the sort of bow that Haydn and Mozart would have been familiar with, which is a couple of inches shorter than the standard bow. I regularly use such a bow, and for me it is ideal for virtually all music before the Romantic Period.

May 12, 2012 at 12:43 AM · I never have problems. If one of my beginners struggles with this, we go back and examine how they are positioning their violin, making adjustments until this is no longer a problem.

May 12, 2012 at 12:49 AM · "Can you play at the tip of your bow, with a straight bow, and not pull your right shoulder out of place or hyper-extend your right elbow?"

No problems here. In practice sessions, I start tuning and do the first long-bow warm-ups with up-bows -- right from the tip.

May 12, 2012 at 12:52 AM · I like to describe 'hugging a tree'...round your arms in front of you, centered, as if hugging a tree, then turn your right arm down comfortably without changing the elbow bend, and then turn the left arm up to hold the violin..if you retain the position from the 'hugging' your bow tip will be on the violin without effort.

Seems very strange to accept not being able to play at the tip...

Milstein had tiny arms, a full size bow and violin, and he managed to make it....easily...

May 12, 2012 at 02:32 AM · A center mount chinrest fixed this issue for me instantly.

May 12, 2012 at 03:23 AM · First, I'd like to say hi to Dylana and express my respect for you!

I have long arms and basically getting to the tip is not a problem for me. That said, I think that the issue must be unpacked a bit. At what point are we at the tip? At what point are we at the frog? Are we not in those respective places unless we are at the last 1/4 inch of the hair? I think that the nature of the music played determines this, and that usually it is not at the very last bit of the bow to qualify. And is getting to the tip the same, whether we are on the E or on the G? The G, being further and higher, requires a little more effort.

Many great players and teachers have advocated rounding the bow to get to the tip, and not being concerned with a super straight line of the bow. I basically agree. Just how much or little rounding would depend on the situation and the length of the player's arm. The elbow shoudn't be locked straight to be at the tip; there should be at least the slightest bend. You can play with more strength and ease that way. And certainly, nothing funny with the shoulder should happen. The arm, hand and fingers should look and feel natural and comfortable anywhare along the length of the bow.

I also agree with Trevor that more often students avoid the frog. I call it "phrogo-phobia"!

May 12, 2012 at 01:01 PM ·

throughout this clip, ms. ida haendel steers cleer of the end of the bow hair at its tip by around two inches.

i think if its not a reasonable thing for someone to do, then it shouldn't be done. if itll work against your body limitations. i would imagine that the focus should be on using as much of the bow as is feasible...and correctly pacing the bow within your limits is what is paramount. right?

May 12, 2012 at 02:30 PM · Have you looked at bow grip?

I'm trying to improve on my bow grip...but then I lose 'bow range'.

It might yet come as I get used to gripping the bow the 'better' way and new muscles develop...we'll see.

May 12, 2012 at 02:35 PM · I have both 4/4 violin and a 3/4 one. The reason for the 3/4 is that after several years away from the 4/4, when I started playing again I found that my arthritis had worsened to the point that the 4/4 was very uncomfortable for me to play. The 3/4 is working much better for me. I seldom try to play the 4/4 any more, but when I do, I still need to use a 3/4 bow. An old (40-some years ago) horseback-riding accident and some work-related repetitive stress injuries resulted in a shoulder problem that hurts like blazes if I try to put my shoulder in a position to be able to use the full length of a 4/4 bow.

May 12, 2012 at 03:46 PM · If you have short arms, simply hold the violin more over the tailpiece and push the scroll to the right.Here is an image of a violinist that uses an over the tailpiece chinrest to help.!i=1220025136&k=Y3Wcb

I imagine that if the person in the photo was performing the first page of Ravel Tzigane, the scroll would be pushed more to the left in order to make the left hand difficulties easier. I don't think the person is using a shoulder rest, so it would be easy to do this; (not that it is very difficult to move the violin around "with" a shoulder rest.)

May 12, 2012 at 05:18 PM · I always thought Milstein's russian bow hold (I assumed that was it) is easier to reach the tip in nature, than the typical frenco-belgian. Lots of students developed the russian bow hold when trying to reach the bow tip, but many of the self developed "russian" bow hold are rather "incomplete" without bringing out the optimum strength of that bow hold.

May 12, 2012 at 06:09 PM · All rather interesting..yes, Milstein did arc his bow, I do too, but I can play straight if I want, as he could.

Perhaps being careful of the violin placement to start with..Suzuki had a nice set up..and also the shoulder rest removal always helps...or better yet..start without one.

May 12, 2012 at 09:38 PM · Hi Dylana, nice to see you on here. I enjoy your playing a lot!

Aaron Rosand suggests (for students with shorter arms) to bring the violin a little bit out in front (towards where the audience would be) as opposed to having the violin way to the left. He feels this brings the violin closer to the bow and gives leverage at the tip, without having to fully extend the arm.

My teacher, Erick Friedman held the violin pretty much to the left (parallel to the audience), like Heifetz. Friedman was about 6'4 and built more like a football player. He had really long arms and could reach the tip without fully extending the right arm. I also don't have much trouble holding the violin this way and reaching the tip. I keep my bow parallel to the bridge at the tip and my arm doesn't fully extend either.

And I agree about the shoulder rest. I think those things make playing much more difficult!

May 13, 2012 at 12:43 AM · Rosand is a strong proponant of the violin right in front of your nose. Players with long arms need to pull the right elbow back a bit to keep it from getting crooked. I've modified this slightly, but still feel that it's a very good default position.

For my complete basic approach please visit my website Go to "writings" then "basics".

May 13, 2012 at 02:43 AM · NATE: "I agree about the shoulder rest. I think those things make playing much more difficult!"

Nate, I don't doubt that this is so -- that is, for some players, including you. But it was the opposite for me. I played restless in elementary school, grew up restless, then tried some SR models at 18-19 y/o. Liked the results -- never went back to restless.

DYLANA: "… start without one."

Agreed. To me, the key word is "start." Time will tell.

May 13, 2012 at 07:11 AM · I'm amazed that there are still people ignoring the fact that both ways of playing, with or without a sr, are ok. It's a matter of choice. Any child can see that there are great players successfully using both methods. After many years, I'm tired of being proselytized.

May 13, 2012 at 08:07 AM ·

"throughout this clip, ms. ida haendel steers cleer of the end of the bow hair at its tip by around two inches."

It could be even more than two inches, maybe three or four.

I imagine that Ida has short arms, but this Beethoven Kreutzer movement calls for playing mostly in the middle of the bow and there are few places where the use of even three quarters of the bow is called for.

Good pionts made by Jim, Nate and Raphael as well as the OP. An interesting discussion whch I nearly missed!

P.S. Dylana - - did you know that the link does not seem to work for your website?

May 13, 2012 at 03:57 PM · Here is a photo(4thfrom the top left) of Leila Josefowicz who is 5' 5".

In the picture you see that she is holding the violin over the tailpiece and has the instrument pointing in front of her. Notice that she is playing in the upper part of the bow, and can easily reach the tip.

In a previous post of mine is the image of a mystery violinist who uses a similar technique of holding the violin.

May 13, 2012 at 08:36 PM · Another interesting topic..

May 14, 2012 at 04:49 AM · "Doesn't it make sense to place the violin in such a way as playing at the tip is easy? "

IMO, NO. I teach my students to hold the violin at a 45-60* angle so there isn't much more room to move forward. If they are unable to reach the tip with straight bowing, what's going to happen when they get to crescent bowing where the arm gets farther away. If they can't get to the tip, than so be it. I feel someone will be prone to injuries holding the violin at a 60-80* angle.

May 14, 2012 at 06:09 AM · I personally have no problem playing at the tip. The problem is that I too often play at the tip so I'm currently practicing staying at the frog more often.

May 16, 2012 at 02:14 AM · GREAT question, Dylana. Many teachers sadly don't know how to deal with this problem because the solutions are quite varied, and often are based on the individual anatomy of the student.

The major variables involved are the size of the frame of the shoulders (ie: width or lack of), the size of the forearm, and the length of the fingers.

For the most part, if one has long fingers and long arms, it is easier to reach the tip and less pronation is necessary in the hand. On the other hand, those of us with more "average" builds need to take our pinky off the stick to reach the tip - at least with a Russian bow hold.

Another problem many face is the lack of flexibility in the wrist, which should allow the hand to gently move after the forearm/hand combination is fully pronated.

Then, there is another major issue, which involves the breadth of the shoulders. If one has wide shoulders, it is necessary to hold the violin farther from the center of the body. If one has a smaller frame, it is more advisable to hold the violin closer to the center. If one makes changes, the ensuing adjustments would then result in the necessity for a repositioned chin rest and/or new shoulder rest.

So, as you can see there are MANY variables and it is easier to diagnose you in person. I go into even more detail about all the above on my website, in Lessons 3 and 4.

Best of luck!


May 16, 2012 at 12:13 PM · When young players first move to full size, they can't always reach the tip w/o pulling back at the shoulder. There is a Suzuki trick for figuring this out. Have the student form a good bow stroke, then place your hand around theirs and pull a slow down stroke on E or A, keeping the bow contact point consistent. When the player's arm is straight, elbow straight but not locked back and wrist extended down, that's it. Wrap a little colored tap where the bow has stopped on the string, the "stop sign". Sue

May 18, 2012 at 01:41 PM · @Sue that is what I did with my daughter when she went up to 3/4 size. She is just not big enough yet to use the whole bow, but we work a little on her "reach" gradually. Straining is bad.

Watch a few videos of Isaac Stern. He was a man of very short stature, and his bow does not always pull perfectly straight at the end, and yet, somehow he managed to eek out a meager living playing the violin once in a while. Maybe that will make you feel a little better.

Dylana, your web site did not load.

May 19, 2012 at 02:28 AM · mmm...someone else told me the website wasn't loading..but I just tried and it worked..?

May 19, 2012 at 02:38 AM · Dylana, the problem is not your website, but the link in your profile - you need to edit your profile and add "http://" in front of your web address, otherwise the forum software treats it as a relative path, and the URL becomes, which results in a 404 ("Page not found" error).

May 19, 2012 at 09:31 AM · "Many great players and teachers have advocated rounding the bow to get to the tip, and not being concerned with a super straight line of the bow."

I ask my students who have short arms not to go to the tip unless the bow is perfectly straight. Sure there are famous violinsts who play with a crooked bow at the tip but they are aware of it and know how to control the sounding point. I think it's important for kids to learn what a straight bow looks like from the violinist's perspective. It's so much easier to tell from the 3rd person, but playing oneself, it takes a while to recognize what perfectly parallel looks like. If kids get into the habit of playing with a crooked bow without realizing at what point it becomes crooked, they are less able to control the sounding point, as it slides to the fingerboard.

Also, I am generally reluctant to change the setup of their violin, especially pointing the scroll to the right, as this can slide the violin off the shoulder to the middle and looks plain weird. I find that putting the chin nearer the middle (or using a middle chin rest) puts the violin more on the shoulder and slightly facilitates the right arm reaching the tip so that it is parallel.

May 8, 2016 at 12:36 AM · One need not get to the tip of the bow. Many violinists, great ones at that, preferred an economy of bowing, not having to use the full length of the bow at all. Even great violinists who can reach to the point do not always have their bow perpendicular to the string. You can watch videos of smaller players like Ricci and even Heifetz and Elman losing perpendicularity as they reach the end of the bow, as they run out of arm. It seems to make not a whole lot of difference even to the best players. Are they still getting good contact? My ears tell me 'yes'.

May 8, 2016 at 03:37 AM · Ole, re your comment: "It seems to make not a whole lot of difference even to the best players". Arn't the best players are the ones that can adapt to their body limitations, be it due to their precision in fingerboard use, understanding how to draw the bow to whatever length ...

I don't actually agree that we shouldn't get to the tip of the bow - the bow is shaped for a reason, it helps shape the sound. For most of us, we don't have the beauty in bow draw in the first place, so we would not benefit from emulating Ricci, Heifetz or Elman, I don't think.

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