For a very long time now I've had a hard time bowing, and it seems like I'm seeing a lot of contradictory instructions that don't make sense or add up.
Here's my problem, in short: my bow bounces a lot (mainly on downbow) and doesn't make good, even contact with the string.
Just so you know, I'm making finger contact with the first joint
Part of my problem originally was that I wasn't bowing straight. But using a mirror and lots of patience and reading/watching a lot about the mechanics of bowing, I've managed to correct that.
But my bow still bounces.
A lot of people talk about how you need to have no tension. I simply cannot grasp this concept. If you do anything with your muscles, they contract.
I've tried bowing while keeping everything as relaxed as I can which still having horizontal motion of the bow. Using this method, I can't even play on the G string, the bow just slides on top of the string. It barely makes a tone with an excess of rosin.
I've heard one person say that your index finger should be pressing down on the bow while your thumb should be pressing up, leaving the other fingers loose. At the same time, rotate your forearm into the violin. He that the gap between the hair and the wood should be reduced by half while playing in the "middle lane". This fixes the contact problem, but require a very substantial amount of force. This clearly produces quite a lot of tension in the rest of the fingers, although I can still bend them.
I've heard that you can't bend your fingers or tap your pinky if your bow hand is stiff. But this is clearly not true. I can squeeze my bow really tightly and still do both.
Interestingly, when I use my index and thumb to push into the string, or even squeeze the bow tightly, it doesn't actually look or sound worse. Smoother and better if anything, but very inconsistent with the idea that you should be relaxed.
I've heard in said that you should use arm weight to play into the string. But if you think about it, you either have to transfer that weight using your wrist, hand, or fingers. So what do you not tense up to accomplish that?
The most helpful thing has been to think of bowing as a single reaching motion, and this is what I've been focusing on. But I'm still struggling with with contact and bouncing.
Part of the problem seems to be similar to a problem I had while learning to drive I car. I would pay a lot of attention to exactly where I was in my life and try to make a lot of microadjustments to stay in the right place. I think I'm doing this and my bow speed is being uneven and bouncy as a result.
After enough time practicing, by the end of it I can generally bow pretty smoothy (but slowly), although it's still a bit shaky. And then the next day it's like I have to start over from scratch.
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