Why don't teachers teach the Russian Grip?

April 7, 2004 at 04:48 AM · I guess you could call it the Russian bow grip, but not all Russians use it so I called it the Heifetz grip. The tendency towards the index finger worked very well for him and it can be done without forcing. Also the same balance principles of the FB grip of taking weight away from the index finger at the frog and adding it as one nears the tip can still be used, but still keeping the grip like Heifetz did. I don't know any American teachers that teach this and am wondering why? Does anyone intentionally try to play using a bowgrip similar to that of Mr. Heifetz?

Replies (59)

April 7, 2004 at 05:26 AM · heifetz's bow hold has many disadvanteges that showed somewhat in his playing (not that i wouldnt love to have, even, his "disadvantages") It allowed him to to his staccato very fast and very accuratly, but he basically cut off the use of his pinky and ring finger so you will never see him play at the frog. For him, i can safely say that this grip had many more positive effects for him than negative, but this obviously varies person to person. He had instinctive reflexes and control over the bow which is why he was able to do staccato the way he does it, the bow hold just kinda helped him out on that.

April 7, 2004 at 06:02 AM · Kuzuyuki's comment could applies to Oistrakh as well. Nobody else, to my knowledge, had this systematically lifting of the index finger/ pinky at bow extremities. I don't like Milstein's bow grip,aesthetically speaking, but actually mine has the same appearance. So bow grip has more to see with physical than with school. Milstein and Oistrakh were different however they both came from Russian school (same period)

April 7, 2004 at 09:49 AM ·

April 7, 2004 at 10:45 AM · speaking of bow grips, i was wondering whether people in here used a variety of different bow holds. Not a number for each person, but a bow hold that is different to one that a teacher showed them, or one that they have seen other violinists use

For example, I have over rotating joints. My thumbs frequently will fall into the "double jointed" position (although I have learnt to overcome this), and my pinky finger will often lock. Also, I have rather odd shoulders which have been called double jointed as well. My current teacher says that I am tensing up my shoulder when playing but it doesn't feel tense to me, but when I'm playing it feels like i have to take the shoulder almost out of the joint to play with it "relaxed"

was just wondering whether anyone else was like this, or had other problems to do with their physical body and what effect it has on your playing

April 7, 2004 at 11:21 AM · I'm very tall...as in like near 2 meters tall...and thus my arms are quite lanky...it sometimes is weird when playing...(rarely) and no I have not thought of viola and nor do I intend to...HeHe

April 7, 2004 at 11:37 AM · Greetings,

Adam, who needs a viola when you can play the double bass...?



April 7, 2004 at 07:49 PM · Sheila's site has some photos of bow holds. The problem w/ such photos is that they are static and partial (i.e. you don't see how the thumb bends throughout the whole bow and the rest of the arm is out of view).


April 7, 2004 at 11:20 PM · Well as my teacher says whenever I (usually by accident) do things that these masters (Heifetz, Milstein, Szering, etc.) do he says: Well if you can play like _______ then I could care less if you eat peanut butter up your nose....or something of that sort. lol But the point obviously I don't think anybody would care if your bowhold was like Heifetz if you could actually pull it off.

April 8, 2004 at 02:13 AM · thats true - ultimatly whatever truly sounds good is due to good technique, but were not all heifetz...so we have to do things systematically while violin playing was basically in his blood from day one. If youre someone like that...youll be brilliant no matter what way (school, system, etc) you choose to go technique wise

April 8, 2004 at 03:07 AM · lol Not that it matters but actually what my teacher says is I don't care if you eat peanut butter while standing on your head. Kinda hard to stuff peanut butter up your nose especially when you get the chunky kind.

April 8, 2004 at 03:43 AM · Greetings,

prunes, on the other hand , adapt freely to any orrfice..or so Mattias tells me,



April 8, 2004 at 03:48 AM · It's true!

Please read my report (27 pages, no pictures)


April 8, 2004 at 01:35 PM · Could someone please tell me the difference between the French grip and the Russian grip and describe it or tell me the best books to read on it or some good websites.

Is the French way really self-disciplined like the Germans are in their dressage (horse) riding, or is it different? Are the Russians really self disciplined in their bow hold or is it just a method they use because it is comfortable for students to learn?

What method did Galamanian use and all those famous violinists like Yehudi Menuhin and Stern etc. I know Menuhin studied with Enesco at one stage, so what did Enesco use? Sorry for the long question. Thankyou in advance, in case anyone writes back.

April 8, 2004 at 01:43 PM · I meant to ask what school is Kreutzer? I love his studies. I find one can get creative in them and think about how to do more than he says. I mean add more detail and grow from them.

April 8, 2004 at 04:15 PM · Kazuyuki,

I do know teachers who teach the "Heifetz" bowhold. A husband and wife team--Igor and Vesna Gruppman. He studied with Heifetz as well as Leonid Kogan; she studied with David Oistrakh, Yuri Jankelevich and Igor Bezrodny. Together the two of them have come up with their own unique system of pedagogy that absolutely encompasses the "Heifetz hold." I wish you could see them play or hear them teach. I'm sure you would find it fascinating. I've never seen anyone else play or teach in an even remotely similar way.



April 8, 2004 at 05:12 PM · Kuzuyuki:

Here are some of my humble insights into Russian bow grip

My violin studies were with an old Russian teacher who, many years ago, studied with Leopold Auer at the St. Petersburg Academy. During my studies I listened to a great number of his stories dealing with technique as well as personal anecdotes. He told me that Leopold Auer looked at a violinists arm and told those students who had long arms that they would profit from holding the bow in the more flexible Franco – Belgian style: which had the right hand fingers holding the bow somewhat closer towards the tips of their fingers with all fingers gently covering the stick. This Franco – Belgian style allowed great wrist flexibility and was excellent for flowing cantelina style.

Auer also told his shorter armed students that in most cases (when bowing towards the tip of the bow) the stick should gradually gravitate in the opposite direction to a location almost underneath the right hand knuckle. This way of holding the bow gradually got to be known as the Russian grip. During this movement towards the tip of the bow, the thumb also slowly gets straighter but is still very limp. At the tip some of Auer’s short students only had contact with the bow grip using only the thumb and first three fingers (the right hand actually looked like a flattened out lettuce leaf). At that point you could easily bow past the tip. My teacher used the Russian grip and had a very powerful sound with great bow contact and volume (flat hair and close to the bridge).

Auer explained that, in using the Russian grip, the Index finger pushed down, while the thumb acted as a bottom support, and the other fingers just rested gently on the bow grip. Other violinists have often asked me to show them what I do to produce such volume. I still have some of Leopold Auer’s comments scribbled in practice books and scale manuals which were given to me as part of my training by my former teacher.


April 8, 2004 at 11:48 PM · Greetings,

Jenny, there used to be three disticntive schools of bow hold -although thinking in terms of hold alone can be misleading since anything you do with the fingers automatically assumes you are doing something differnet with your arms. The three are German, Russian and Franco-Belgian (not French). The German school held the bow near the fingertips and used a very hooked bow arm. One was suposed to practice with a book under the arm. This school is dead.

In the ARErt of Violin Playing Flesch explains the basic difference between the other two and there are some rather fuzzy photos at the back. But you should rea dhtis book anyway,. It is the classic work on violin playing. In the book Flesch argues for the Russian approahc becaus e of the huge volume of tone it allowed, espcially at te point. He also said that the future of bowing will be decided by which one reigns supreme . Later in life he chnaged ot the Franco Belgian becuause it is more flexible and easier to play ta the heel. Players like Heifetz tended to avoid the heel until they were very well warme dup. Flesch taught the Franco Belgian hold to Szeryng and yhthis is a perfect example.

Sorry, the other major differnec is in the tension of the bow hair. In the FB it is very tight and the bow is use d at an angle. This is the way Oistrakh played. The Russian school uses a fairly loose bow hair which is kept flat. The loosest bow hair of anyone was Enesco but his style was somewhat eclectic anyway. Menuhin is closer to the FB but eclectic and actually rather stressful in the long run.

When we get to Galamian it is important to recognize that the state of information exchange , combined with eas eof transport had led to an amlagamation of elements of the style. The best of eveyrthing, supposedly. The trademark of Galamian was an extended first finger (further up the stick) for greater power and grip. For many this owrked. For other it caused tension and htye changed it later. Galamian was not dogmatic as far I can tell.

Disucssion of this topic is interesitng an d important but it can also be misleaidng. Ultimately, there are some very fundamnetal rules of how the bow works and can be used and after that there is going to be a great deal of individual variation.

The ultimate guide is always the sound you are prodcing. One of the golden rule sof violin playing is almost always that if it looks clumsy and inefficient , it sound s that way, too. Galamian should be credited a great deal with ramming this point home.

In spite of hi s name Kreutzer did not really play German style like Spohr. He was at the Pais conservatoire with Baillot and Rode and they wrote a fundamental treatise on playing which is available in English and still interesting and informative to this day. Violin plaing really never changes that much...

The Kreutzer etudes are what Heifetz called the violnist manual and this principle was very much taken to herat by the emerging soviet school. A great deal of work on this is compulsary. In the heifetz mastr class videos Heifetz even tells very advanced players to go back to specific etudes for some problems.

A lot of heavy duty players (Aaron Rosand for one) are still working regularly on these etudes in their 70s and 80s. Along with Rode, Dont and the Paginini Caprices they are pretty much all one needs...

Not forgetting prunes,



PS check out the archives. there is a lot more detail on this .

April 9, 2004 at 12:08 AM · Rosalie, how interesting. With whom did you study with in college and where do you live now? I only know those teachers you mentioned by name, I would love to see them teach sometime. All the best to you.

Ted, very good post. Are you interested in selling those books with the Auer scribbles in it?

Life is too short. Too bad we can't study with 25 teachers instead of 3 or 4.

April 9, 2004 at 06:11 AM · Buri thankyou very much for the very helpful information. I have my notes from my lessons, fundamentals on technique, so I will go through them again to check against what you have written, what I am doing as I am very interested now to see what I am doing with the bow hold. I think I will buy some more books too. You really know your violin stuff. Also to the others who write in, your discussions are really helpful and top notch too. Jenny.

April 9, 2004 at 06:25 AM · Greetings,

Jenny, the easiset way to sort out what you are doing with your bow hold is to read Basics by Simon Fischer.

I learnt everything about the violin from labels on prune cans,



April 9, 2004 at 07:19 AM · Thankyou again Buri. I have that book so will look into it more. Sometimes I think I can't see the trees for the forest, or is it the other way around? I wish I could learn everything by reading labels on a prune can too......my husband is an expert on reading labels.....I betta get him to see what is in this prune business.....has it made you rich???????

April 9, 2004 at 08:38 AM · Buri would indeed be rich, if it was not so that I am the owner and he is the slave =:-)

April 9, 2004 at 11:22 AM · Greetings,

I suppose if I have to be anyone"s slave after my wife you are the best option,



April 9, 2004 at 01:04 PM · Oops, then there is not much over for me :)

April 10, 2004 at 06:13 PM · Kazuyuki,

To answer your question, for most of my undergrad years I studied with Nell Gotkovsky (student of D. Oistrakh and Galamian), and then finished up undergrad and master’s with Igor and Vesna Gruppman (described above).

I think there might be a way for you to see what I mean about the unique playing/teaching style of the Gruppmans for yourself. They're starting up a violin school by way of internet, if you can believe it. They have some new state-of-the-art technology they're trying out. Some of their students have had lessons over the internet for months now (as opposed to flying to them every two weeks). So I'm sure you could observe a masterclass or even take a lesson yourself if you wanted. It's still a work in progress, from what I understand, but I could certainly let you know more as it progresses.


As for me, to answer your other question, I live in Utah. Still play the "Gruppman way"--or the "Old Russian way" or the "Heifetz-hold way" or whatever one may call it. I've heard it called all of the above. It was a massive change from Franco-Belgian, I must admit, but well worth the effort, as I’m sure Ted can attest.

Do you play this way yourself, Kazuyuki? Are you experimenting? Where did you hear about the Gruppmans? Best of luck to you, too!

April 10, 2004 at 08:52 PM · For what it's worth, I try to not teach any particular bowgrip unless there's a compelling reason to do so. A compelling reason, for me, is a pre-existing bowgrip so ill suited to the player (or, in the case of beginners, to playing the violin at all) as to make further progress with that grip impossible.

But I've only rarely found it necessary to completely re-do someone's bow hold. For me, it was essential to change to a version of the Heifetz hold as my arms are relatively short and so the Franco-Belgian or Galamian wrist-bend at the tip of the bow meant unnecessary tension in the forearm. Also, my thumbs are rotated in a pretty odd way; when I hold out my hands, palms down, the thumbnail points upwards, in the same direction as the other four fingers. As a result, if I'm to hold the bow across the tip of the thumb, the rest of the hand is forced into a radically pronated position.

As for what I've gained since switching over to the St. Petersburg grip back in my late teens:

1) Far greater control at the tip of the bow

2) Ability to draw the bow completely parallel to the bridge up until the tip

3) Better control of upbow starts and upbow accents

4) Eliminated all tension in the right forearm

The issue of finger flexibility with the Russian grip never reared its ugly head for me. Just because the fingers are draped diagonally across the bow from the second knuckle and down doesn't mean that the base knuckles, the ones where flexibility is essential for cole and so forth, are in any way impaired or restricted.

Mainly, though, if a student asks me to switch over to such a grip, and/or if there's a good reason to do so, I'll do it. If a student wants to switch over to the Galamian or the Franco-Belgian grip, I try to direct them to a colleague since I've never found a way to make those grips work satisfactorily for myself. Rather than teach something poorly, I'd much rather someone else taught it well.

April 10, 2004 at 10:22 PM · Greetings,

I don"t know if it counts as converting to a Russian grip, but I am finding something closer to that much more comfortable these days. It helps to avoid the danger of squeezing simultaneously with applying first finger power which I tend to get with somethign more like the FB school,



April 11, 2004 at 09:47 AM · i find this odd and someone might be able to explain it to me, but it seems that it's restricted to music people in particular how they say they learnt from so-and-so, who learnt from so-and-so, who was a student of this famous person, who was friends with this great composer.

Personally I don't think it's all that useful and (taking buri's phrase) think they need to eat more prunes. What makes a good teacher is they way that they teach and how effective they are at getting across a point, not whether they are a 4th generation friend of Brahms or not.

April 12, 2004 at 12:20 AM · Greetings,

When I got up this morning I felt like a fourth generation friend of Brahms. Prune juice is definitely safe than organic beer. But I have been musing a lot on this bow hold stuff over the last year or so since Kavakos wrote about the naturalness of the Russian style hold and how he changed (the Strad)

I may be wrong, but is it not fairly common in teaching to use the expression `the wrist leads` and this expression has assumed some kind of status as a hard and fast rule?

Yet, when I began observing what the `wrist` actually does in real life in terms of leading it is really very little. For example, I am sitting at my desk and a prune stone is stuck to my hand. I wish to throw it into the bin next to my right foot. There is a reflex dropping of the wrist but the actual positon of the wrist as I move the arm is actually neutral.

Other fields of body use would also argue that the fingers lead and the wrist is most comfortable in a neutral position from which it performs rather reflexively. Looking at what happens during a down bow with `wrist leading` it seems to me that perhaps as a consequence the forefinger is actually being dragged towards the tip on the bow on that sliding space between first and second joint, and that the more you drop the wrist the more you pull the finger away from the bow, but at the same time you need enormous amounts of finger pressure so the situation actually contains a contradiction of sorts. However, if you do the opposite, allowing the finger to slide towards the the second joint (actually into it) then that is very powerful and there is little or no wrist bending, it is simply in a comfortable neutral position (at least for me).

But then there is the critique that playing at the heel is difficult. This does not make much sense to me either since in the process of squaring the hand in relation to the stick (supination) and tilting the bow hair, the bow slides back down the fore finger between the joints and one is in a playing situation that can perfectly well be described as Franco Belgian or any other name one pleases.

In summary, I am wondering if the way of playing in which the bow actually moves deeper into the hand as one approaches the point is in conflict with the idea of `leading with the wrist` and may actually be a far more natural way of playing?



April 12, 2004 at 10:22 AM · I think I agree with you, Buri. While we are discussing bow holds I was wondering about my bad habit of letting my fingers slide up on the bow (toward the tip). This puts my thumb just past 3rd and 4th finger sometimes. I fix it as soon as I notice, but I was wondering 1.) why this happens, and 2.) what the drawbacks are of letting your fingers drift toward the tip.

April 12, 2004 at 04:20 PM · Kuzuyuki & Rosalie :

Thanks for your input about the Russian bow grip:

Fortunately for me my two teachers: Paul Stassievitch and Morris Gomberg used the Russian bow grip and interestingly enough Stassievitch studied with Leopold Auer and Gomberg studied with Carl Flesch. Apparently the Russian bow grip was a new and exciting technique which evolved in Europe around 1880 and onwards. Larger concert halls were being built and the demand for increased volume became a necessity.

Last year I heard a recital by famous concert pianist Alfred Brendel and later I spoke to him and told him that I had heard his teacher Wilhelm Kempf in a recital in Vienna while I was a soldier right after World War II. He told me that he and Kempf experimented in concert halls with different pianos in order to achieve the greatest range of dynamics from the various pianos which were available to them.

Brendel always took pains about his range of dynamics; the violinists of today must also strive for a greater volume and carrying power; soft dynamics are really no problem for most violinists. If you achieve a larger volume with minimum of effort you are more relaxed and you still have enough reserve to achieve the momentum and drive which is necessary in most final movements of romantic era and modern era concertos.

Heifetz and Milstein had this abundance of physical reserve and after playing a large scale concerto they were fit enough to play a few encores with ease. The Russian bow grip was largely responsible since it relied on the use of the larger components of the fore-arm and shoulder. Fluency and delicacy were relegated to minor roles in concert hall performances with orchestra. The Russian bow grip has the advantage of simplicity and comfort; on less thing to think about.

Sorry Kuzuyuki bu my Auer scribblings have a waiting line from my colleagues and students. I should give them to a good music school possibly the Heifetz studio at Southern Cal.

Regards, Ted

April 12, 2004 at 07:57 PM · The Russian school uses flexibility of the wrist and the Franco-Belgian uses flexibility of the fingers. Oistrakh is supposedly of the Soviet school, which is different from the Russian school. In his playing, I see both schools, which is perhaps the reason for the way he could be so dynamic. It seems that the Franco-Belgian school has been advanced more because the majority of violinists of today in America who are soloists or concertmasters of major orchestras are students of Galamian or Dorothy Delay. The other students had teachers who also taught the methods of these two teachers or some small variations of the methods. Of course, there is a difference between Delay and Galamian's approach to the bow hold, but essentially the bow holds trace their roots back to the Franco-Belgian bow hold. I'm sure in Europe and in Russia, the Russian bow hold is still taught to a great extent. However, in America, the Franco-Belgian is dominant. I remember one of my teachers asking me to name 3 soloists of the past who had Russian bow holds, and then 10 soloists of today who use the Franco-Belgian bow holds. I think it took me the same time to name the 10 soloists as it did the 3. He told me "I bet you in 30 years, there won't be a single violinist in the Philadelphia Orhcestra using the Russian bow hold."

April 12, 2004 at 09:13 PM · I'm sorry to disappoint you, but teachers don't teach russian grip because there is no such a grip :-)

Heifetz bow hand was not really correct (as many other great violinists). And may not be used as an example. It is very interesting that Auer students didn't have correct bow holds. As long as i know there is no such a thing like Russian, or German bow hold. Because all of as have different hands and the best thing to do is to find the most comfortable position for your bow hand. However, there are some special rules that applies for the russian bow hand school.

April 13, 2004 at 12:38 AM · Greetings,

Anatoly, if you read Spohr, Flesch, Galamian and a host of other writers you will find that there is a Russian bow hold. There is nothing wrong with having contrary opinions if you can support them but it sometimes better to do a little more research before telling the world they are wrong.

Elizabeth, about your bow fingers shifting. This is quite common . In the Strad last month there wasa photo of Robert Mann next to the review of his Bartok recording. The fingers are an extraordinary distance up the stick

Tossy Spivakovsky believed this was the correct way to play and wrote a method based onit which is out of print (probably not such a bad thing...)

However, i am not personally too happy with this particluar habit and I hve found one exercise in particluar helpful if it is bothering you. Taht is what is sometimes referred to as the `Thibaud Exercise.`

Play a short upbow with the fingers at the heel. Then whip the bow down to the point at high speed while controlling it one inch above the string. At the point play a short dow bow using the fingers and reverse the procedure. This takes immense control of the bow but the kind of contact with the stick it develops is not gripping but rather Gluey` which is the feeling one should strive for in the right hand fingers. Anyway, it is a classic exercise,



April 13, 2004 at 02:51 AM · Thank you. I will try it. It beats the heck out of saying, "There goes my fingers again" and sliding them back (which is all I've been doing to this point).

PS I hear that holding a prune between the index and middle finger helps, too.

April 13, 2004 at 03:07 AM · Greetings,

the prune helps a lot but use one without a stone. Other wise if you squeeze too hard people can get hurt,



April 13, 2004 at 05:07 AM · Hello,

Maybe there is Russian grip in where you lve, but there is no where i study... and however i'm studying in Russia. I can't believe that there is such a thing like Grip at all. There are some special rules in Russian bow school, but Grip? All of my friends have different bow grips. And i gave you the example of Heifetz, Milstein and Oistrakh (for example). Are their grips are the same? However they all are Russian school pupils (Peterburg and Moscow).

April 13, 2004 at 05:20 AM · Greetings,

as I mention in many postings over the last few years , talking about bowing styles has become a little irrelevent as everybody has access to the best of what is going on and this also coincides with a kind of sociological idea of doing what is right for the individual. That would also be true where you are now.

However, there are a number of distinctive features found in older players that are systematic enough to qualify as being called Russian style and these are extremely well understood by most people.

Galamian said , rather acidly I suspect, that his bowing wa sa combination of Mostras (IE Russian school) Capet and Galamian! So he clealry felt it appropriate to acknowledge boundaries between styles.

Flesch wrote about them, and one of his students discussed them in some detail with me and so on.

Of The examples you cite, Heifetz conformed to the basic ideas of a Russian style of holding and using the bow propounded by Auer. So did Milstein to some extent although I remind you that Milstein`s technique was formed in Odessa not Moscow or St Petersburg. This demonstrates that the Auer priciples were well enough defined to spread geographically.

Oistrakh is an interesting case but serves to illustarte a kind of transition from the fairly clear `Russian` method of Auer and the Soviet school which evolved in many different ways and the proponents of whom are quite chauvanistic in their argument that it is a distinct and independent school from the West. (Kogan claimed taht the Soviet school pioneered the technique of being between posiitons to perform Paginini in his Way They Play Interview. This is not true since the tradition was passed down from Paginini to Francescatti and independently advocated by players such as Hindemith and Szigeti- perhaps the `Soviet School` can legitmately claim to have made it systematically available?)

Oistrakh is actually using the Franco Belgian style of bowing as much as anythign else. I understand his tehcnical equipment was formed by Stoliarsky which makes him a product of Odessa to an even greater extent than Milstein.

But he is just Oistrakh too!

I think that is the point. Understanding and being able to define these bow strokes is extremely importnat as a start point, but a genius will find their own way, possibly resisting and rejecting the teacher. After a certain point it is much more useful simply to talk about the mechanics of what we are doing.

Personally I never use the word `grip` because I think it is the opposite of what we are trying to do with our `hold` .



April 13, 2004 at 05:45 AM · Emily,

i just thought i might add that i used to do that a bit, and the explanation my teacher gave me is this:

by sliding your fingers that way as you aproach the TIP, you are shifting the balance more to the back (pinky side) of the right hand, which is in fact opposite of what you want to do, which is to put a little more weight on the first finger so you can equalize out hte weight difference between the tip and the heel, whearas at the heel, it pays to shift the weight of the right hand away from the first finger to help neutralize the natural weight, and thus to make your bow strokes a little more even. I dont shift back at the frog by moving my thumb any more, but i'd imagine it would accomplish more or less the same thing. I might have mangled his idea there.

April 13, 2004 at 12:19 PM · I think the "Oistrakh" bow hold is the most natural...and to be honest...Heifetz's bow hold doesn't look as nice as Oistrakh's. Oistrakh uses the balance of his fingers...and a real flat wrist. This kind of bow hold allows a nice, easy, and natural spicatto...and smooth bow changes. Perlman, Zukermann, Oistrakh use it...(and yes you can still achieve a very fast, accurate up bow spicatto with it)

April 13, 2004 at 07:54 PM · i've become a convert to the flat wrist lately

April 13, 2004 at 11:59 PM · Greetings,

the gay community will be distressed,



April 14, 2004 at 12:03 AM · Haha...good one Buri :)

April 14, 2004 at 01:41 AM · I keep running into the phrase "flat wrist" and don't have a clear picture of it. What about it is flat and when? And this is opposed to what?

April 14, 2004 at 02:06 AM · man, you have to be on your guard around here

April 14, 2004 at 02:06 AM · Flat wrist refers to the bow hold whereby one has a general flat wrist when bowing...it raises a bit when at the frog. The flat wrist bow hold uses the flexibility of the fingers..."wrapping" the fingers around the bow when at the frog...as opposed to raising the wrist. I know it's confusing and hard to explain...

April 14, 2004 at 02:56 AM · think of it as the back of the hand remaining horizontal

April 14, 2004 at 03:23 AM · So, the flat wrist would not work with the Russian hold, since the forearm is rotated. The wrist would be rotated, as well.

April 14, 2004 at 06:54 AM · Greetyings,

Emily, technically it is still @flat.` The flat refers to the relationship between the hand and forearm which does not change when you pronate the arm (turn it in). This is getting too much like a math class...



April 14, 2004 at 09:28 AM · Well...in conclusion it doesn't matter what bow hold one has...as long as it's comfortable, flexible. Whether one has a russian, FB bow hold...in the end it's what works that you should use.

February 6, 2008 at 12:14 AM · One other thing, there still are people who teach Russian technique, most studied with the old masters. My Teacher Dylana Jenson Studied with Nathan Milstein and Manuel Compinsky.

February 6, 2008 at 01:04 AM · Alex,

Oh my God, this post is almost as old as Auer!

Funny... dates are 2004, 2004 then, four years later, your post! But it still makes good reading.


I did not realize that your prune fetish was so long standing. Did I ever tell you that I'm married to a prunette?

Regarding bow arms, somebody made the point that the grip you use has to match what you do with the arm. A major sticking point for me in my early training was my lack of understanding that I was learning from folks who because of their varying bow arms, played violin with different accents so to speak. It would have cleared things up for me a lot if somebody had just sat me down and told me about this. As it was, I just figured that these differing bow holds were idiosyncratic (I think Emily mentioned being ashamed of her bow grip solution until she found out it had a name!) So, there's a lot said about this or that bow grip, but it would be interesting to hear people's view on what the arm does within various schools of bowing.

February 6, 2008 at 01:45 PM · How did I miss this thread? Anyway, a lot of very good ideas have already been presented. Rather than go into uneccessary detail about exactly where I agree here or disagree there, I'll just present a few thoughts from my angle.

Obviously, Heifetz, Elman, Milstein, Seidel, etc., etc., all knew what they were doing. Auer had loads of less stellar, but still highly competent pupils who carried on his approach to about a gazillian students. I was one. My first two teachers, Harry Fratkin and Vladimir Graffman, had both been Auer pupils. On top of that, Carl Flesch, no minor influence, also advocated the "Russian" method of holding the bow. In the pyramidal scheme of things, the violin playing world ought to be just inundated with close variations on the Auer approach to holding the bow. Yet it isn't. In just one generation or so, it all but died out. What happened?

What happened, I feel, is that in the competing marketplace of ideas, and with the world shrinking, and more and more cross-fertilization taking place, more of an international approach emerged - one much closer to the Franco-Belgian approach than to the Russian. For many, it seems, the Franco-Belgians had built a better mouse trap. Some, like Gingold, were more influenced by the great Belgian master, Ysaye. Others, like Galamian, by the French pedagogue, Capet. I, myself, consciously came to respectfully repudiate the Russian approach as too awkward for the lower half of the bow, and too slanted, generally. It also lent itself to a wrist position that was too high. And yet, not everyone was entirely happy with the Franco-Belgian, either. Many developed their own synthesis. One of my grandmaster teachers, Aaron Rosand, did this in his own way. In his latest video he talks about it and demonstrates. I felt a need to evolve my own synthesis. Influenced to some extent by Dounis, I came to dislike the Franco-Belgian tendency to have the wrist sink down at the point. "How do you manage so well at the frog?" asked Efrem Zimbalist, the noted Auer alumnus, of his gifted pupil, John Dalley. "I don't know", he replied, "how do you manage so well at the tip?" This exchange succinctly and significantly epitomized for me the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches. I resolved to combine what I felt to be the best of both, equalizing and balancing the stroke from one end of the bow to the other with a pivoting technique based on the Dounis "paintbrush stroke". Exactly how I do it is described in my website, in my "fundamentals of the bow" section. http://rkviolin.com

One thing I'll mention here is that unlike this or that classic approach, which is partially recognized by where the 1st finger is set, there IS no "set" in my approach. The hand and fingers change angles - especially in the down-bow - subtly and fluidly, as the bow makes its way from end to end.

February 6, 2008 at 10:36 PM · Greetings,

I would also like to add the minor caveat that the question this exclelnet threa dis based on is erroneous. there are taecer steahcving somehtign akinf to what we belive the Russian `hold,` is. Perosnally I encourage a studnet to try soemthing similar if they have a very specific kind of physique. Rpoughly, short fingers and arms and very soft tendons and ligamnets. Sometimes this psoition is the only playign option and it worlks veyr well.



February 6, 2008 at 11:30 PM · Here's Flesch's good description of the bow schools:


The differences here are really interesting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mpxuR9nXE0 (Heifetz)


February 8, 2008 at 01:50 AM · Whew! long posts.

I read through rather quickly but I didn't notice that anyone mentioned the issue of forearm rotation. I teach that what happens with the hand depends upon what is happening with the rest of the arm.

I think the key to the bow hold is to be relaxed and maximally flexible so I don't like the bow to slip too far toward the hand and base knuckles. For the same reason I don't like to see an extended first finger unless it is done deliberately and temporarily (Gil Shahom does this beautifully).

If the bow hold is relaxed and flexible then the hand will react to forearm rotation and changes in weight and type of stroke employed.

It has helped my teaching to look a little further upstream as it were than just the hand, as many of you have already pointed out.

February 8, 2008 at 05:42 AM · I play with the Old Russian bow grip. I believe it makes for smooth bow changes and better bow control. Milstein always said to eliminate using small muscles to make small movements..better control using large muscles...back muscles..to make minute bow changes.

February 8, 2008 at 09:19 PM · My teacher doesn't consider the Galamian hold to be the Franco-Belgian hold so he makes all new students use the Russian hold. Later when they have mastered that (and they express an interest) he returns to his version of the franco-belgian hold. The index finger is never extended up the stick and there is no extension of the wrist past the palm at the tip.

He believes that beginners will almost always extend their first finger because it feels more secure to them. He abhors the tendency and any 'method" that blesses it. He advocates the Russian grip because it is not possible to extend the first finger.

February 8, 2008 at 10:52 PM · This thread reminds me of one photograph that I cherish of Mr.Galamian, his last picture; The famous portrait by Peter Schaff, with violin in hand sitting at the piano legs crossed. You look up and see all those violinists behind on the wall. There`s Corelli who taught Locatelli who taught Viotti who taught Bohm who taught Ernst and Joachim who taught Auer who taught Mostras who then taught Galamian.That`s 400 years and those are my ancestors. Surely they must all have had different bow holds.

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