Violin Bow Thumb

May 20, 2004 at 02:10 PM · Does anyone have a feeling as to whether the bow thumb pushes up into the stick (in a grasping "baby pincer" movement between thumb and middle finger) or pushes diagonally towards the screw (with the upper inner corner of the thumb touching the wood stick and the tip touching the edge of the black frog). I have heard different things and I want some clarity. Also in conjunction with this, I have been experimenting with thumb placement and have been experiencing some bouncing of the bow on the down bow. I am curious as to how the thumb position and power relates to this. Your thoughts are appreciated!

Replies (16)

May 20, 2004 at 12:45 AM · Greetings,

Stephanie, I tried the thumb pushing back diagonally both with and without the bow and created tension in the base of my thumb so I personally would not do it.

You might find it helpful to practice just balancing the bow between thumb , first and litlte finger as in a tripod. this is the most relaxed condition in which removal of any one finge rreesults in the bow falling. No tension is inolved. Then experiemnt with playing just using these three fingers. Then try playing using thumb, middle finger and little fringer only. The middle finger will have to be slightly higher up the stick than nornmal in this case.

I think these kind of exercises help to make the function and use of the thumb clearer.

The bow bouncing could have many different cause but a primary one is that the height of your arm is incorrect. It should form a plane with the bow stick whateever string you are playing on.

You might find working on wb martele etudes helpful for this,



May 20, 2004 at 01:31 AM · Good idea about the bow balancing exercises. I personally find it helpful to think of my little finger as being strongest, but since strong connotes pushing, I'd rather say--I think of its endurance and agility as vital components of my bow technique. I think of my thumb as a pivot with the second finger countering it, my fourth finger as a helper in the lower half, especially at the heel, and the first finger as extra help in the upper half. If the thumb is pushing too hard it won't be flexible--flexibility, and an ability to keep the hair into the string with minimum effort (by balancing the thumb and pinky especially), are most important I think.

Bounciness also occurs with incorrect tension on the stick, or if the bow is of poor quality.


May 20, 2004 at 01:29 AM · Many players have this idea of 'holding' the bow and this often manifests as gripping (in precisely the automatic 'baby' grip described). I often find it useful in these cases to introduce the idea of *enclosing* or *encasing* the bow rather than specifically holding it; very young students sometimes benefit from the image of holding a small animal (cute is good...). Pressure with the thumb is only really necessary as *counter*pressure; unless pressure is being applied downwards, the thumb may be thought of merely as a perch.

May 20, 2004 at 03:23 AM · Greetings,

`a perch` a fish?



May 20, 2004 at 03:30 AM · I've toyed with the idea of using raw eggs in the studio to show light round fingers--but I would like to avoid cleaning that kind of mess up at all costs.

May 20, 2004 at 03:37 AM · I wish I lived in Japan. Then I'd have no doubt where to go looking for a good teacher! Maybe great.

May 20, 2004 at 03:46 AM · Greetings,

as a Sufi poet once said:

Out beyond the ideas of rigthness and wrongdoing is a field. I will meet you there.



May 20, 2004 at 08:40 AM · Hard-boiled eggs! :)

May 20, 2004 at 12:23 PM · I've toyed with the idea of laboratory mice...

May 20, 2004 at 06:19 PM · hey thats a good quote

May 20, 2004 at 07:41 PM · bow hold is most efficient this way: hold is actually in the thumb and middle finger. pinky and index fingers apply pressure accordingly depending on where you are on the bow or what technique youre trying to use, and the ring finger is pretty passive and just sits there...maybe used for extra balance, but middle-thumb with interchanging pinky and index should be enough

the galamian hold has been greatly exaggerated and now teachers are telling students to spread your fingers out on the bow as much as possible with is very bad.

May 20, 2004 at 11:42 PM · I see that bowhold with new students who learned it in strings class. Yikes...

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think of the 4th finger as doing nothing, especially at the bow change at the frog and in the lower half.


May 20, 2004 at 11:43 PM · Greetings,

I wasn`t aware that this spread fingers thing was so widespread. But, for what it@s worth I think Galamian taught primarily a slightly extended forefinger. That is the only aspect of the hold attributed to him that is different from so many others. I also undertsand form a numbe r of his students that he had second thoughts about this later on. I have never believed Galamina wa sas dogmatic as some people often suggest.



May 21, 2004 at 01:19 AM · Agreed, Kismet... I actually believe that my pinky leads the flexing of the rest of my fingers at the frog. When my - often adult - students have stiff fingers, I target the thumb and little finger first.

May 21, 2004 at 04:18 AM · Sorry, it seems I'd polished off my keg of prune juice before my last post (must see a doctor about this)...I was referring to my ring finger, although I do agree with you Sue that it is the pinky, which, albeit in a concerted effort, leads the bow change at the frog. The ring finger I see as aiding and abetting in terms of sharing the weight.



May 22, 2004 at 01:32 AM · One of my teachers told me the bow is 'held' primarily by middle and ring fingers plus thumb. He claimed that if you can't feel the frog pressing against your ring finger there's something up...

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