Why does the thumb on my bow hold hurt and after practicing looks squishy?

June 8, 2012 at 01:07 AM · I don't know why but lately my thumb on my bow hold is starting to hurt and after I finish practicing or a take a break, I see that it looks squashed and like a raisin and I don't know why. I try loosening the grip on my bow but some how it still hurts. Is it over practice?

Replies (46)

June 8, 2012 at 02:14 AM · I am so glad you posted this. I have been having the same problem lately and was thinking of asking advice here.

In my case I have been playing for just under 15 months and I am starting to feel some confidence in my playing so I am relaxing more. I am also playing harder and longer than before.

I really think in my case that I am just squishing my thumb longer than it is used too. I might also be letting the bow slip sometimes since it looks like I may be developing a callus.

I also would appreciate any advice on this issue.

TIA

Pat T.

June 8, 2012 at 03:23 AM · I used to have this problem too, but it's getting better. I'm developing callus on my thumb too, that might help a bit, but I think in general I'm not gripping the bow too hard now.

when you start practice, try just bowing with relax hand (for example when playing scales). pay attention when you start gripping it too hard. play your piece slowly and keep checking if your hand is still relax, and stop if it start to tense. It took me a few years to stop hurting my thumb after practice. But I should have done more of what I just suggested above too :)

June 8, 2012 at 03:23 AM · Your bow hold should not be a death grip. There is a professional violinist that I sometimes see playing in recitals and chamber concerts. His bow hand looks so relaxed, as though it's the hand of a corpse, and yet all his articulations are clean and his playing is very expressive. Make sure your bow hold is not too "spread out" with spider-fingers going this way and that. It creates tension.

June 8, 2012 at 03:30 AM · You might be holding your thumb to stiffly. If you need to change the angle of the bow when you get toward the tip, bend your thumb. Or- leave it loose and let it bend naturally as you draw the bow.

Contrawise, you could be locking your thumb in the bent position, which would also cause pain, but I think maybe more in the wrist?

It's hard to diagnose pain from afar, but it sounds like your problem might be stiffness, not tension.

June 8, 2012 at 05:30 PM · I have the similar problem but I did notice something. I don't have the squishy thumb problem when I play with a flexible bow. However, when I play with a stiff bow, I have a lot of tension in my hand and sometimes forearm. I guess I am gripping too hard as well?

June 8, 2012 at 06:09 PM · When the bow is held correctly somebody should be able easily remove it from your hand. The bow should be held in a relaxed manner with no locked joints and no squeezing at all. A squashed thumb is a symptom of too much tension as is developing a callous on your thumb. Your fingers should all be soft, rounded, and tension free.

Cheers Carlo

June 9, 2012 at 12:45 PM · I had this problem too (still having a bit of trouble), but I found this video, which seems to have helped:

Basically, you're putting more pressure than you need with the thumb to balance out your index finger.

June 9, 2012 at 01:15 PM · Are you pressing with the pad of your thumb instead of having the thumb bent and "bumpy?" If it's bent and properly counter-balanced by the also bent pinky, your bow hand should be relaxed. Like an earlier poster said, the bow hand should ultimately look totally relaxed.

June 11, 2012 at 03:05 AM · Agree to everything, Peter, except the last part. Do NOT attempt to use rubber tape as a contraceptive. It's fine going on, but getting it off is another story entirely.

In all seriousness, don't put rubber tape on your bow. The adhesive could damage your bow. More importantly, the rubber will allow you to grip the bow even tighter, which will cause pain (and possibly damage) in the center of your palm and your wrist. Your best bet is follow the advice of most of the people here: loosen your grip and make sure your thumb remains flexible throughout the stroke.

June 11, 2012 at 06:20 PM · @John. That would be a very interesting thread.

When to use Semtex in violin playing.... conductors? or "composers" starting with W?

Cheers Carlo

June 11, 2012 at 10:42 PM · The edge of my right thumb where it contacted the edge of thumb leather was prone to developing callus, and it was becoming painful after a while (BTW, I had 3 excellent teachers looking at my bowing, and they did not find me gripping too hard), so I have tried inserting gel pencil grip (cut in half) and surgical tubing to cushion the contact area. They both worked - since I started doing this, callus was a thing of the past.

Pencil grips are cushier, and they come in different colors in one pack so it's fun to try different colors on the bows, but they split after about a week of use for me, so it became a hassle (and environmentally unfriendly at that rate). So I switched to surgical tubing - it lasts a long time (I just replaced once after more than 6 months of use - it deteriorated and became loose) but it's ugly (I'm still trying to find black tubing of that size).

The way it's done is that you unscrew the nut to detach the frog from the stick, then insert the grip/tubing to the stick and pull it up to the desired area, and reattach the frog. I would recommend using just enough to cover the area and not more - you don't want it to overlay the thumb leather. If you use surgical tubing, be sure to reverse it, i.e. the grippier side out, so it's easier to apply.

Oh, I also bought this - it's a piece of junk, so just because it's a commercial product for the very purpose doesn't mean it works better.

PM me with your mailing address if you would like to try surgical tubing (make sure your parents are okay with it if you are a minor, and also you don't have latex allergy).

June 11, 2012 at 11:42 PM · Just found this - the inside diameter might just be perfect (What I have is 3/8", which seems a little on the large side):

http://www.ebay.com/itm/221046161713

(You only need < 1" every 6+ months, so 1 ft will have you covered for at least 6 years for one bow.)

June 12, 2012 at 05:58 PM · John, it's made of hard rubber, and almost feels brittle. It's probably designed for bows that don't have thumb leather. BTW, I have two. If anyone thinks that they can use it, please contact me.

Oh, I realized that I already tried the 5/16" tubing (Thanks to bow maker Mr. Ken Altman!), but it's too small for my bows...

[Edit] I just found black 3/8" tubing here.

June 13, 2012 at 03:52 AM · I just had an idea. You could take your bow, or a pencil, and try and hold it in your bow grip, keeping the minimum amount of contact as possible, and focusing on keeping relaxed joints. You can either hold the pencil with your other hand or entirely in your right hand. You could hold this and use it as a kind of meditation. The idea is to find just how light you can make your bow hold, and getting an idea for this feeling may help to loosen your hold.

Another little exercise you could do without the bow is to bring your hands together so that the corresponding fingertips of each hand are touching each other. Make sure your arms are relaxed, close your eyes, and focus on the sensation of the touch, trying to lighten the contact as much as possible. As you sit and meditate, you may find the sense becoming magnified, and it will be good to develop that very fine tactile sense. The more sensitive your right hand is, the more information you can get from it, and the harder you squeeze, the less sensitive your right hand will be.

Let me know if you find this exercise worthwhile :)

June 13, 2012 at 05:11 PM · Susannah, does your bow have thumb leather? Why do you need it if your bow hold is so relaxed? Unless one is holding the bow very high, the thumb barely touches the leather, if at all (I believe the location of leather is a compromise due to the bow tightening mechanism). The edge of the leather was the source of irritation to my skin, and I found thumb leather to be hard and uncomfortable.

Using pencil grip/surgical tubing was actually suggested by one of my teachers, who is a professional orchestral violinist and a LMT. She uses them herself. My main teacher didn't like the idea of any extra stuff on the bow, but she trusted that I knew what I was doing. Of course, the OP should examine her bow hold (the thumb looking like a raisin is definitely not right!) and look into tension in her bow hand first, but if she has sensitive skin like me, using surgical tubing to alleviate discomfort is a viable solution. I'm sure lots of players have this issue, otherwise Ken wouldn't have stocked up with tubing (I asked him whether it would be bad for the bow, and he said no).

June 13, 2012 at 05:48 PM · It obviously wasn't that cryptic! I can't believe I am watching people debate the merits of various rubber grips.

Angelica, you are free to take whatever advice you would like. I would recommend taking the advice of people who are professional musicians and teachers.

The bow is designed to fit in you hand. You ought to be able to practice for long periods of times without pain. Pain is a sign that you are doing something wrong. If your leg hurts because your walking incorrectly, you could get a pair of crutches and your leg would stop hurting. However, you aren't fixing the problem. If you put a piece of rubber or tape or old chewing gum or whatever else, you aren't fixing the problem.

If you aren't holding the bow properly or if you are holding it too tight, then fix it. Holding the bow too tightly is a habit that you must break if you want to progress. Rubber grips can't help you do that.

Good Luck!

June 13, 2012 at 10:07 PM · Joyce,

My bow does have leather. The leather doesn't function as a cushion. It functions as a grip. The leather grip is what allows me to change the angle of the bow hair without changing the angle of my whole hand. I can roll the bow to make the bow hair flat or angled and it doesn't disturb my grip or my stroke. If I tried to do that on the wood, I think I would be slipping all over the place.

I measured all three of my bows (I really shouldn't have days off- I obviously have way, way too much time on my hands :)

The bow I use most often has a 5 mm gap between the frog and the grip. The other two bows are 7 and 8 mm. My thumb is 2 centimeters wide. Most of my thumb contacts the grip, not the wood. To be honest, I'm not sure if that's a standard bow measurement or if it's the way my luthier rehairs my bows. But there's no irritation because my thumb isn't rubbing against anything.

June 14, 2012 at 06:02 AM · Angelica and others with thumb problems.

I fully support what Susannah and Peter have thus far said. Please think twice about using bits of rubber or tape (or god forbid 'innocent' foam) as a crutch, because that's what it becomes in the long run. My thumb tip sits halfway under the grip, and halfway under the wood of the bow. It is nicely bent so that the back of the knuckle touches the bow hair. There is no callous and never was one, even though I practice a lot. It's really just a balancing act with the pinky steadying the weight of the bow, and the thumb being the fulcrum. The last two finger tips rest near the bottom of the frog for stability (no hard gripping) and the index finger rests lightly across the wire twist.

Something is definitely wrong with your bow hold if you are developing a callous and pain. Check your hold often, when your mind is on difficult playing, to see what you are really up to.

June 14, 2012 at 08:56 AM · Peter,

I don't know how sensible I am- I gave up a career as a professional out of work violinist to be an out of work english major with a Latin minor. I'll never be the greatest violinist, but I've had very good teachers over the years who taught me that if you get in the right position, you can't not be a decent violinist.

As to your leaving...No, you can't leave! I've been stalking you and Buri here for a long while and learned quite a bit actually. Also, I always enjoy your very English (one could say pervy) comments. I would have never thought of doing THAT with the leftover roll of tape.

I refuse to get sucked into the SR debate, although maybe someday I will point out that attaching something with rubber bands to the back of your violin, homemade contraptions that you stick under your jacket, or wadded up cloths ARE shoulder rests- they're just poor ones.

June 14, 2012 at 10:15 AM · I would agree that one should not use tape/rubber to mask faulty technique, and one should work with one's teacher to sort out the root cause and fix the problem. However, assuming that callus can only be caused by faulty technique is misinformed. Also, the thinking that "Since I don't have this problem, you must be doing something wrong!" is flawed. Here are some facts:

1. Callus is caused by friction or pressure.

2. Callus can be painful.

3. Holding and moving bow causes friction and pressure to the thumb.

4. Some people have a natural tendency to develop calluses because of their skin type (i.e genetic predisposition).

5. Everyone's hand anatomy is not identical.

6. Everyone's bow hold is not identical because of #5 (let's leave out Russian vs. Franco-Belgian, etc. for now.)

7. Everyone's bow is not identical.

So, in addition to looking into technique, it might well be an equipment issue, eg. the thumb leather is too short, at the wrong place, too worn, too thin (BTW, I don't think Susannah's argument that thumb leather only serves as a grip is correct, otherwise the winding underneath will give you more grip) - these problems can be fixed with tape/rubber very cheaply. Or perhaps one's anatomy just calls for a different bow (e.g. lighter, etc.)... What if the only thing wrong is one's genes (i.e. #4/#5)? Should one just quit instead of using a "crutch"?! In my case, I had worked with three highly qualified teachers to try to solve this issue, but they did not find anything wrong with my technique -- that piece of rubber was the thing that helped keep me playing instead of quitting...

Since Susannah mentioned Buri, she might be interested to read this:

On thumb leathers

June 14, 2012 at 08:29 PM · It's not my argument, Mimi Zweig's. But whatever. I wish you guys both the best of luck. Amateurs and neophytes will remain amateurs and neophytes until they quit trying to convince everyone that their ridiculous theories are correct and listen to people who are more experienced. I would guess that between the people who told you guys that you're full of it, we have over a quarter of a century of education and over a hundred years of experience between us. Put me down for a degree in violin performance and 30 years of playing. But what do I know? Cover your bow in rubber and hold it like a screwdriver. Better yet, tape the bow to your hand and you won't have to worry about properly distributing the weight of the bow across the thumb so that it doesn't hurt.

June 14, 2012 at 10:54 PM · Susannah, I really like your recommendation to tape the bow to your hand- can you please post a diagram or a blog showing what kind of tape to use and exactly where to put it? Would you tape the fingers open or closed? Or ignore them and tape to the palm from underneath? I can imagine it making everything so much easier!

June 14, 2012 at 11:50 PM · Tom, Unfortunately, I can't provide you with a diagram on the advise of my counsel, as I am currently in the process of applyng for a patent. I can, however, describe the basics and let you know when it comes on the market.

First, you go to Home Depot and buy some copper tubing that is a little wider than your fingers. Copper tubing is flexible but not overly so, which makes it great for our purposes. Cut the tubing in finger lengths then solder them together. Don't forget to add 1 'dummy' finger to account for the space between the index and middle fingers. Use an elbow connector for the thumb. Bend the fingers to the desired position. Slip your fingers into the copper tubing just like you would slip your fingers into a glove. Check for fit and make the necessary adjustments.

Now here's where my exciting invention differs from most other methods of taping your hand to the bow (and therefore eligible for patent!) . Instead of using tape, which must be reapplied each time you practice (what a hassle), you use an adhesive suitable for use on wood, cloth, and metal. Ask the folks at Home Depot, they can point you in the right direction. You're going to glue squares of velcro onto the glove and the bow. Whenever you're ready to practice, put the copper glove on, then velcro the bow to the glove. Make sure to buy industrial strength velcro like they use at NASA rather than the ordinary crafters velcro. It's more expensive, but this isn't a place to cut corners. During the trial phase, three violists were killed when the bow flew out of testers hands during a particularly rollicksome passage of Tchaikovsky.

The best thing about the glove is that you can't clutch the bow, you can use too much tension, and your fingers are always properly positioned. I'll let you know when it's available for sale. Maybe I'll let v.com members buy first. Don't worry, I'm offering it at a very competetive price point.

I'm also currently working on an bowing machine made from windshield wiper motors. That is still in the early planning phase, but should be available by late 2013. By 2020, I hope to have engineered an entire bio-mechanical suit that takes all the thinking out of music playing. You just step into the suit and play Sibelius on your first day. It's the shoulder rest of the future.

June 15, 2012 at 08:43 AM · LOL Susannah, you are a scream. Very funny. But I think we have to be careful that all the 'moths' that love tape instead of light aren't attracted to it all at once or we'll be 'stuck' with em forever.

Thanks for your gracious comments Peter. I too love your sense of humour and look for it at the end of some very trying days so please don't disappear for good. We need the sensible voices in this forum otherwise poor unsuspecting youngsters might get 'stuck' with the wrong crowd.

But seriously, Joyce, how hard is this really. I fail to see how a callous can develop on the tip of the thumb when the bow only gently rocks from side to side, millimetres at a time. Mostly it is gently resting there. I'm sure the right thing to do would be to check the bow hold thoroughly with a competent teacher, and the problem would be gone. If someone had a nasty and permanent thumb injury which made playing difficult, I might be persuaded to think about allowing the player to wear a soft homemade little 'thumb cap' or something. But it must be checked out to work right by a teacher. And never to attach anything permanently to the bow.

Maybe we should do a survey on how many violinists have ever had a thumb callous, and if they did, has it gone, and if so, why.

Now that should sort out the sticky from the tape!

June 15, 2012 at 08:58 PM · Millie, my teachers are all very competent - they are current/former members of major/top orchestras in the U.S. and highly respected teachers in my area with excellent track records. Two of them have deep knowledge in anatomy and kinesiology. I'm not the one that needed advice in this thread, but thanks anyway!

BTW, am I crazy or Itzhak has surgical tubing on his bow?!

June 16, 2012 at 03:46 AM · If anyone is trying to convince others of their theories, it would be those who insist that the issue Angelica mentioned is strictly a matter of technique. It may very well be, but from the original post, that can't be concluded. How do we know that her bow doesn't have a sharp edge on the frog? Or that the spacing between the thumb leather and the frog is acceptable? Or that the thumb leather is even of workable quality? Or, maybe Angelica is actually just practicing too much at a time - "Is it over practice?" Because of all the unknowns, perhaps we ought to be a little more scientific - a little more engaged with our critical faculties.

If John's suggestion of temporarily using a piece of self-amalgamating rubber tape -which means it'll only stick to itself- seems to improve the condition, then it suggests that maybe there is a problem with the bow's setup regarding the thumb leather, the frog, and the gap between the two, one of the hypothesized causes for the problem. It actually has been a problem for me - the gap between the thumb leather and the frog on my bow, in combination with the shape of the frog, ended up creating a geometry that would end up "pinching" my thumb, and with edge of the thumb leather pressing in uncomfortably near the nail. The solution was to reduce the gap between the two.

Susannah, you said, "The bow is designed to fit in you hand." Maybe it is, but perhaps it would be smarter to actually check that the bow does happen to fit the individual player instead of relying on such a categorical assumption.

The argument that one should avoid a proposed solution (or a test for a solution) just because violinists have handled the bow for so many decades, (perhaps centuries, though the design of the bow has changed) without the need for such "crutches" is at best a fallacy. Why then, is there a need for a thumb leather on the bow? If it is for the purposes of ergonomics, then is it not plausible that there are bows with poorly-situated thumb leathers? If we apply the same logic to the shoulder rest issue, then it becomes clearer that it does not hold up.

"Well, lots of professional violinists played without shoulder rests for centuries, so you shouldn't use one either, because it's a crutch. It's obviously a problem with your technique."

I hope I've made my point regarding intellectual rigor when attempting to diagnose a problem.

Regards,

Jeff

June 16, 2012 at 04:09 AM · You mean this guy?

http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/entertainment&id=6006917

Look, I love Perlman. He's a musical genius. But some of the things he does with his body aren't good for anyone but Perlman.

Joyce and John, and whoever else, I don't have a problem with whatever bow setup you choose to use. If you were my student, I would correct the problem that is causing you pain. I would not allow you to stick a band aid on it and then get stuck when you get to more advanced bowings because the left side of your thumb is holding too much of the bow's weight (That's generally what causes a blister on the thumb. Not the leather. Not genetics. It's almost always a sideways thumb, which needs to be addressed by your teacher if you're still doing that.)

To each his own. Like I said, best of luck. However, I do have a problem with the fact that you advised someone who is holding her bow so tightly that it is deforming her thumb to put surgical tubing on her bow. You aren't qualified to make these kinds of recommendations. You said your teachers understand kinesiology and anatomy as it relates to violin playing. Wonderful. I am saying you don't have that knowledge. When you guys throw out your half-baked ideas, what you aren't realizing is that someone could injure themselves following your advice. I have a problem with that. If Angelica's hand is that tight, there is no other solution besides loosening her grip. She could seriously hurt herself by continuing to hold the bow so tightly. If you have an opinion, share it. If you have a question, post it. Please do not advise people to do things that could cause injury. Please take responsibility for your advice.

Angelica, do not ever do bow exercises while holding the bow horizontally unsupported. If you do what John suggests, you could hurt your wrist. Any bow exercise you do ought to be done while holding the bow vertically or with the bow on the string or with the left hand supporting the tip. Also, you really seem to have a gift for asking provocative questions. Maybe a career as a reporter if this violin thing isn't for you. The middle east seems to be a lot less violent than violinist.com. ;)

June 16, 2012 at 06:25 AM · Susannah, I don't think anyone here mentioned blister... The wall of surgical tubing is only 1/16" - some people have meatier fingers and some bows have thicker thumb leathers - are you saying that people with meatier fingers and thicker thumb leathers will keep their death grips undetected and result in injuries? Please provide evidence.

I have a feeling that this is about face for you at this point! Some of us have professional reputations to maintain, therefore are unwilling to quarrel with people on the internet, including myself. However, I do take issue with the so called "professionals" who ridicule and insult those who take the time to try to help others here! It has driven many "qualified" members away from posting on this forum, so now most of the time people are reduced to receive advice from "unqualified" members such as myself...

Anyway, I have said all I wanted to say, and I trust that most members can judge the quality of posts here. I shall now take my dear teacher's advice, and stop posting on this thread. Good luck with your inventions!

June 16, 2012 at 06:49 AM · I'm not sure why you keep calling me a so called professional. I never claimed to be a professional. I have a degree in violin performance. I've been playing for a long time. I teach a little. I do right arm clinics at schools. I never claimed anything else. I had an accident in my early twenties which destroyed my left hand. I can't do the things i used to be able to anymore. On the plus side, it's forced me to work on my bow arm. Nothing else to do, right? I know a lot about bow arms. I gave valid advice to Angelica. I have seen what she's described before in students. She got good advice from other teachers and professional violinists. What made me angry is that you are arguing with several more experienced people and I don't understand why.

I apologize if my invention hurt your feelings. It was meant to be funny, not hurtful. If you would like me to take it down, I will. As far as advice goes, I think people ought to stick to what they know. When it comes to body mechanics, conjecture can be harmful. On a side note, I'm really more upset by John's advice. He has posted on this thread and several others exercises that could hurt the people who try them. That is completely irresponsible. As I said before, I think your surgical tubing is a little weird and I probably would tell you not to do it if you were my student, but to each his own. I lumped the two of you together, and that wasn't fair. Again, I hope you can understand that from my perspective, advice from a novice is not always helpful. Sometimes no advice is better than bad advice. I also hope that you can accept my apology. I did not mean to hurt your feelings.

June 17, 2012 at 11:50 AM · Hi,

Peter and John: you have summed up my thoughts exactly. Peter, the problem is that when professionals that are qualified try to give an impartial, good and researched answer, it is often overlooked in this site in recent times or cast aside in favor of opinions. So one can choose to post and in the end, one just hopes that people give it at least a reading and that it won't get lost in the sea. And John, I often wonder that very question.

Cheers!

June 17, 2012 at 03:39 PM · it is funny how these things go- and too bad ganging up on Susannah cause she has a sense of humor. The issue raised by the op has everything to do with bowgrip/technique, and nothing to do with tape or surgical tubing or whatever. If someone hasn't developed a good bowing technique, no bandaid is going to fix it. If someone has a good bow technique, they can put whatever they want on the bow (up to a point) and still sound decent. The only way to fix a problem of tension in the hand is to learn to play relaxed, which is difficult and does require a good teacher and time.

June 17, 2012 at 04:37 PM · "The issue raised by the op has everything to do with bowgrip/technique, and nothing to do with tape or surgical tubing or whatever."

Explain how you know with such a degree of certainty that it is entirely a technical issue, and how you have ruled out the possibility for a set-up issue with the bow. Like I mentioned earlier, it may very well be entirely a technical issue, and Susannah's experience has it that the most likely cause is technique. However, even that requires the assumption that the bow is actually set up reasonably well, and we are not given enough information here to make that assumption.

The fact that the OP mentioned that the issue has arisen -lately- suggests that there must have been something that changed -technique, bow set-up, practice hours- that is causing the problem. When she mentions that her thumb looks like a "raisin" after a practice session, it seems to be that 1)her thumb is being pressed into the frog and the thumb leather too firmly, which would be a technical problem, or 2)the current geometry of the frog and the thumb leather is ill-suited to her thumb. We have yet to rule this out.

In my own case, what was once a non-issue became an issue because I had gotten a new bow with a somewhat different set-up, and the humidity change going from spring into summer last year was enough that I had to tighten the bow a little more to get the same resistance from the hair. This led to the gap between the thumb leather and the frog being just wide enough to become rather irritating. Had I not identified the issue, and had posted the same question here regarding thumb pain, I would've gotten a number of well-intentioned but not-so-helpful suggestions from the experienced posters since they didn't bother to find out if the bow was set up properly.

This kind of reminds me of a parodied IT situation that runs somewhat like this:

User: "My monitor stays blank when I turn my computer on, even when I hit the power switch for the monitor."

IT Staff: "First, is the monitor plugged in to a power source?"

User: "Oh."

Regards,

-Jeff

June 19, 2012 at 01:18 PM · Peter, so glad you didn't run away after all!

Susannah, I believe in you, stay strong.

John, I think you can stop now. Angelica seems to have been scared off right from the start.

June 20, 2012 at 10:24 PM · Okay I fixed the problem by the way. Part of it was my grip I was clenching way too hard and part of it was over practice. I had stopped practicing for a day and then came back to my violin and it worked. The Perlman video also helped. My teachers have never said anything about my bow hold but something I have noticed as a violinist is that for some reason there are times when your technique starts to slip. (Well for me that is and probably since I have been only playing for about only 2 years.) For me there are days when some simple studies seem immensely hard or when my posture goes all wrong. So I have to start again at the basics and come back to tutorials on how to hold the bow and such. Later the problems diminish for a long time until again the problems start. It's like a never ending cycle. Either that or maybe my teachers are right, I'm too much of a perfectionist.

June 20, 2012 at 10:30 PM · As for strength.... I'm strong mentally though physically.... Let's just say I look like a stick hehe.

June 20, 2012 at 11:36 PM · Angelica, there should be no tension in the right hand at all- best way to make sure is by listening carefully to your tone when you're tension-free, and also when you do have the tension. There's usually a big difference between the two tones, and when you learn to recognize it by ear in real time, you have a constant check. This takes time to develop, so be patient!

June 21, 2012 at 04:04 PM · haha thanks!

June 25, 2012 at 06:17 PM · Peter, would you stop bullying John? BTW, "wink" doesn't make something offensive less so...

I said that I wouldn't comment on this thread anymore, but now seeing that John had deleted all his posts after Peter's latest post, I have to jump in again (Yes, I only decided to jump in and post about surgical tubing after seeing John being ganged up, and was fully aware what I got myself into)...

Susannah, I accept your apology. Actually I was not offended by your invention post. I found it funny too, but I was offended by posts (by Peter, you and perhaps another one or two) that were condescending and that included personal attacks.

I'm appalled that some people actually approve of the behavior of belittling others, and consider it humorous! I hope your opinions would remain the same after being on the receiving end of it. Peter sometimes does have good contributions, but in my not so humble opinion, lumping Buri together with Peter is an insult to Buri, as Buri is always respectful while being extremely helpful and humorous.

Someone has to say it: Peter, you and people like you are creating a hostile environment that prevents free thinking and idea exchange on this forum. It's true that not everyone who comes here knows what s/he is talking about (Don't forget that it can also include people who happen to agree with you). I welcome gentle rebuttals and intelligent debates - "You are not qualified to speak" just doesn't cut it in my book. At best, it shows intellectual laziness; at worst, it's bullying!

I have been around and am comfortable enough in my own skin that I won't stop posting what I believe to be right, but there are many (especially young people) who are not as confident, and would be silenced by the bullies. I personally know several people who stopped posting or are too terrified to post on this forum (even high-level professionals) because of the bad behaviors here...

While I don't always agree with John, he is always a gentleman, and I'm sorry that he had deleted all his posts on this thread.

Finally, I hope Susannah would come back. I believe that she will be a valuable member after learning a lesson here.

There is no "wink" in my post. I mean every single word of it!

June 25, 2012 at 08:48 PM · If I may dip my toes back in at my own risk, I think the issue here is what people see this site as. Is it more of a school, where people go to the experts for what is assumed to be proven advice, or is it more of a laboratory, where ideas rule, regardless of whose they are. I like to offer my thoughts and ideas, treating them as experiments, even though I am quite the amateur. I hope that should someone read one of my posts, they will think critically and not just accept it or reject it blindly. A failed idea can still be tried and discarded, but an untested one is neither a failure nor a success.

I think, Peter, that the advice of the sages in places like this is of great value, but it is more helpful, if you are addressing some advice that has been given, to criticize it on its own merits. To fall back on the idea that certain people are not qualified to give advice shuts down what could be a great source of ideas. If you are here for teaching, then by taking people's ideas at face value and debating them, you can not only benefit the creator of the thread at the top of the page, but the advice givers. To be fair, it seems like you did address a good deal of the ideas put forth.

And I apologize if I've mischaracterized your posts, but I took more or less that idea from what you said upthread, specifically regarding "quacks" giving advice and so on. It's an understandable opinion to have. I personally have a tendency to be arrogant, even in the face of expertise, so realizing that, I try and temper that tendency, but I don't take any offense to being called out. I guess I'm just interested in getting both sides on different issues - often ones that I am grappling with in my own playing. The experienced people often have very efficient methods for dealing with a number of issues, but I like the thought experiments and sometimes seemingly counterintuitive ideas that people may bring from their own experience. I find I often don't learn until I find a million sources on something, and really confuse myself. At some point, the correct information more or less arranges itself in my mind.

June 25, 2012 at 11:13 PM · Um I already fixed my problem so you don't need to give me anymore tips. :) but I don't know how to end a discussion so..... I guess it's just gonna be here

June 26, 2012 at 07:53 AM · Dear oh dear!

As another Englishman who still listens to LPs, I have to be careful with "breetisch" humour with my French colleagues and student's parents. They say they love eet, but it can go down like lead baloon! They just don't see how we can mix humour and seriousness in the same sentence. Many American friends are as easily put out, too.

I can probably be just as opinionated as Peter, and as original and as experimental as John! (I'm trying rice grains instead of foam..)

Angelica, I'm so sorry your thread got "squatted" by us excentric old brits, but I think we are not the only ones at fault.. Keep up the good work!

June 26, 2012 at 05:17 PM · To come back to Angelica's problem, (now solved), if my shoes are too tight, it may just be the fault of the shoes, not just the way I walk. If they rub and cause blisters, I can wear thicker socks, rather than stay at home. No need for physiotherapy or psychoanalysis.

I once tried a bow with avery sharp edge where I put my thumb: the maker suggested I change my bow-hold; I suggested filing down the ridge and was considered a philistine. Idapsy again!!

June 26, 2012 at 10:42 PM · Thanks Adrian!

June 27, 2012 at 07:40 PM · Drew Lecher believes that the thumb should never touch the frog, and both Drew and Buri prefer the thumb to be entirely on the leather, so it would not inhibit the freedom of the bow hand.

However, since my hand is extremely small (Angelica also mentioned in other threads that she has tiny hands), when my thumb is entirely on the leather, my 2nd and 3rd fingers can hardly reach the frog, which makes holding and balancing the bow difficult (maybe I should switch to the Russian bow hold!), so I have to find a middle ground. Susannah said that her thumb is 2cm wide, which is twice as mine, so without pencil grip/surgical tubing, my thumb has to be on the stick almost entirely, and it hurts if I clip my nail just a little short since the tip of my thumb has almost no padding (not to mention the edge of the leather irritates and causes callus), as John aptly pointed out the differences in individuals' hand anatomy (Which I also pointed out in one of my posts without going into details)...

Christian (Vachon) and John both wondered why the teachers haven't sorted it out as it appears that so many people on this thread have issues with their thumb. Judging from how the professionals and teachers reacted on this thread, it probably should not be a surprise: most teachers are first and foremost players, so when problems arise, they often focus on technique, and don't necessarily suspect or be able to diagnose issues with equipment and issues that stemmed from individual anatomical differences. IMHO, if teacher training covers basics in equipment, setup, anatomy and kinesiology, it would greatly benefit both the teachers and the students. (That's assuming that the teachers actually have had training in teaching. Many have not.)

This also brings up another point: good teachers acknowledge that they don't know everything - they recognize their limitations, are always ready to listen and learn (even from their lowly students), and welcome new ideas. They have the integrity and humility to refer their students to the experts if they cannot solve the students' issues. I feel lucky to be able to study with such teachers.

June 28, 2012 at 02:27 AM ·

June 28, 2012 at 01:18 PM · I don't know if this has been mentioned (I haven't read all the posts) and it might not be the problem here but I have found that most bow repairers (with the exception of my current one: Seery Strings, Bristol CT) don't make the hair short enough or don't leave much room for stretching. I was always finding my thumb on the wood of the bow and the thumb leather out of reach. This was such a consistent problem that for a while I would move my hand up to the leather rather than be next to the frog. As I say, this was on every single rehair, even at top London places, until I found Seery Strings.

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