How long is your ring/index finger?

May 27, 2016 at 11:29 PM · It's well known that there are individual differences in lengths of index vs ring finger. My ring finger is longer than my index. I'm sure that's a big handicap for holding the bow. Been discussed before? Any research been done?

Replies (22)

May 28, 2016 at 01:45 PM · The ring finger usually (sorry, often!) curves well over the stick, covering the decorative dot of mother-of-pearl), so I'm not sure why it's length is important..

And the tip of my little finger is on the stick, on the bevel on my side. So the 3rd and 4th fingers control the direction of the bow, as well as balancing its weight when playing at the heel.

May 28, 2016 at 01:47 PM · Yes, how is it a handicap? I just looked at my hand, my ring finger is a little longer than my index finger too.

Isn't that the most common orientation?

May 28, 2016 at 04:47 PM · I suppose I just think those writers/youtubers on bow holds should show their plain hand first - obviously there's thumb length too. I'm having trouble stopping my thumb sliding into the frog at forte and above. Also the proximal joint on my ring finger is prone to collapse in sustained loud stuff.

May 28, 2016 at 05:20 PM · Can I add that my little finger stays curved. It sounds to me as if you are tilting the hand to the left, to have a straighter 3rd & 4th finger. My hand keeps more of a "cat's paw" shape, with the back of theb hand more parallel to the stick than yours.

Also some folks want the fourth finger on the nut, which absolutely not compulsory.

May 28, 2016 at 06:51 PM · I would love to try the 'cat's paw'. Tilting the hand doesn't mean anything to me. Do you mean supinating?

May 28, 2016 at 07:36 PM · Hi Bud, from I've what I've read, most pedagogues don't spend much time explaining the posture of the 2nd/3rd fingers. Usually, they just say 2nd/3rd lay across the frog passively. While I think they do much more than that, I do think the most important aspects are a curved flexible pinky and your choice of which part of your index finger the stick contacts. I'm not sure what level you're at and I myself am not at a high playing level so I apologize if you're beyond what I'm suggesting but it sounds like there are general finger flexibility issues and this is something I've been working on diligently myself and have seen great improvement. I'm assuming you mean that your thumb is falling into the U-shaped cut-out of the frog (mine used to slip off the frog laterally towards my fingertips). Just make sure the left side of the thumb is sitting on the tip of the frog and the right side should contact some of the leather wrap (depending on the size of your hand, fingers, overall grip, construction of your bow). In other words, the meat or middle of the thumb sits on the stick in between the tip of the frog and the leather wrap. It's got to be bent at the joint.

I'd recommend practicing daily Collé exercises. I do this while I'm laying in bed watching tv, haha! I have a cheap unrosined bow on my desk next to it. You work on using just the fingers and no wrist to slowly move the bow vertically, 12-6 o'clock. You can do horizontal as well but it takes more effort to isolate the movement with the weight of the bow. At first, I couldn't really keep the fingers static on the stick. After some months now, I am aware of the subtle counter-pressure that occurs between all of the fingers (mostly the thumb) and everything stays put because everything adjusts thru the movement. Promotes overall "lightness" in the hand (all fingers) and curved posture for all the joints. It will ultimately and automatically improve bow changes and other accented bow strokes. Hope it's helpful.

There are some great pictures as well as useful information written in Galamian's Principles of violin: playing and teaching. It mostly addresses the Franco-Belgian grip and I think what Adrian means by "the cat paw" where the stick is brought up closer to the base joints by curved fingers as opposed to maybe the russian style where fingers are more elongated/extended.

May 28, 2016 at 08:59 PM · Yes, I think beginners are told finger 3 is passive but later when force needs to be applied i.e. fortissimo, it can't possibly remain so.

May 29, 2016 at 09:39 AM · May I put it this way - if you had to fence with your bow hold could you?

For anyone is still following this, groan, I think I've finally found my bow hold: The thumb curls around the stick by the frog and the 3rd finger fills the space of the U. The little finger's nail joint presses against the inside of the octagon. Index and middle fingers touch the hair to some extent. Thanks all those who advised.

another edit an hour later: hold on, so the thumb can be perpendicular to the stick?? i.e. the thumbnail pointing at the tip? Sheesh, back to the drawing board.

May 29, 2016 at 05:33 PM · As I said, I'm no teacher but if pics are worth a 1000 words, this is where I'm at...

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May 29, 2016 at 05:50 PM · Me, I'm a huge Zukerman fan and someday I'd like to just look like this. So simple, relaxed.

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May 29, 2016 at 07:29 PM · Thanks for taking the time to do that Garrett. Here's where I am this afternoon - the thumb is in its natural place perpendicular to the fingers.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

May 29, 2016 at 07:40 PM · I hold my bow like Garret does. Bud, it is unusual for the index to touch the stick so near its tip: the middle or base bone (or the joint between) is more common.

May 29, 2016 at 08:18 PM · Bud, it looks like you're trying to use the cut-out of the frog as a platform for the thumb. I think most people here would agree that that isn't going to be helpful to you. Look at the first picture I gave you and you'll see that the left side of your thumb will just contact the edge of the frog (where the frog meets the stick). But most of your thumb will be on the stick, not the frog. This will force your thumb nail to be somewhere between 45 degrees and parallel in relation to the stick. Not perpendicular. I hope that makes sense. Here's one of the photos from the Galamian book that sort of shows thumb placement before the other fingers have come around the stick, and then the finished hold...

Screen Shot 2016 05 29 at 1 15 39 PM
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Difficult to show you my thumb placement at this angle while I'm holding the camera but should be something like this...don't pay attention to the other fingers

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May 30, 2016 at 07:14 AM · I have an old bow with no winding: the wood is thinned where the index finger has worn it away.

PS I have never seen anyone put the thumb in the frog - except a few students...

May 30, 2016 at 07:39 AM · To have the thumb other than perpendicular requires extra tension somewhere surely? I know it's never seen but having only the right hand side of the thumb touching the stick seems a good place to start. And it doesn't require 'wedging' into the frog - the hand can be as far up the stick as you wish. Is this position not the most relaxed?

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May 30, 2016 at 02:43 PM · Bud - from the picture it looks like the thumb is sideways, with the knuckle pointing out. This is I think the position most of our hands take at rest, but if you try to grasp something between the thumb and the fingers it leads to tension in the muscle at the base of the thumb and in the upper forearm.

If one turns the thumb, though, so the knuckle points downward (as if to make a circle with the first or second finger), your grip has much more strength and control with less effort. You can try squeezing your other hand with both grips to see the difference in exertion they require for the same result (also a good exercise to demonstrate the importance of keeping a bent thumb!).

May 30, 2016 at 03:27 PM · Thanks Jenny, I'll try out the pronation. You're right I don't use any.

Irene, I'm not sure the thumb needs 'much more strength'. Doesn't the power come from the index finger? (or other fingers when at the heel)

May 30, 2016 at 04:37 PM · The power comes mostly from the arm, through the index finger, but the more control you have over the thumb and the amount of resistance it provides the more control you have over the bow hold in general.

May 30, 2016 at 05:01 PM · The thumb's knuckle pointing more downwards means my "cat's paw" hold is not absolute: the 3rd 4th fingers are straighter than the 1st & 2nd.

May 30, 2016 at 05:01 PM · I'll check that out Irene. It's just I'm seeing that if my thumb is no longer perpendicular to the fingers it's because I've pronated (power from the arm) without noticing - initiated by the arm not the thumb.

Adrian, that may be where I end up unintentionally.

May 30, 2016 at 07:09 PM · Sort of Franco-Belgian with a Russian accent?

May 30, 2016 at 07:15 PM · More South-London :)

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