Height of upper arm - right side

March 13, 2006 at 05:17 AM · Does anyone know anything about differences in schools of playing when it comes to the upper right arm? I seem to recall in Flesch's book, he insists that the upper arm must be high in the lower half of the bow and descend as one approaches the tip. Nevertheless, Fischer's Basics claims that it is up to the comfort of the player.

I'm interested in everyone's opinions!


Replies (5)

March 13, 2006 at 06:31 PM · To ascertain an arm level for an individual string, simply pizz. on that string, first without the bow in your hand, then with the bow in your hand. Your arm should go to its natural level. To discover the difference in arm level on up and down bow, play down bow on the A string, up bow on the D string several times. Then stay on the A string and do the same elbow movement that occured when you changed strings. This is called the 2 levels of the elbow. The motion is actually eliptical.

March 13, 2006 at 11:26 PM · Hi,

Hmmm... A lot of factors go into this. First, the plane of the violin. If the top is held high and flat (like Heifetz and Szeryng) the elbow will be naturally higher, then if the violin is slanted (for example, Oistrakh).

What Flesch is talking about is something different. The high elbow he talks about in the lower half is mostly as a reaction against the old German school of the time, which advocated an unusually low elbow. In essence, Flesch talks about the elbow and hand and wrist being aligned in a straight line. He is against the angular wrist. I think that this is important. That way the weight is properly balanced. Szeryng is probably a good example of what Flesch advocated.

Hope this helps...


March 14, 2006 at 12:31 AM · I like to keep it elevated because there's nothing that annoys me more than watching someone else play with their elbow glued to their side...I'm thinking "Open up and don't be so constricted!"

On the other hand, don't keep it too high (too high is when you're at the frog on the G-string and your arm blocks your whole head) because you need that arm weight to get a louder sound, and need it to pull the sound, not brush over the strings. Maybe pull isn't the right word...but I can't think of anything right now that sounds better. Ideas?

March 14, 2006 at 02:47 AM · Christian properly says, "That way the weight is properly balanced." This is the key to a fine bow technique. I believe that the old German (Spohr) arm level is due to using a much lighter bow at the time. The Baroque and Classical violin bow were lighter and in order to balance the weight, a lower arm level was utilized.

In my extensive experience playing Baroque violin, I used the derogatory "chicken wing" arm level due to the lightness of the bow and it worked very well to get the necessary leverage on the string. When playing with a modern bow; however, my arm level is much higher to balance the weight of the bow. I think that with the change of bowing equipment, the German teaching school stuck to the tried and true and did not adjust the peagogy to the new and heavier devices available. Just my thought. Bruce

March 14, 2006 at 10:23 AM · Thanks for the info everyone. I think it is important to distinguish in my post the difference between a high elbow and a high upper arm. It is my opinion that Flesch was talking about a raised upper arm at the frog - the elbow would consequently also lift as a result. I have to check into this further but I wanted to clarify what I was refering to. Back in my teenage days, I used to play with the upper arm quite high in the lower part of the bow but after a while was told that my upper arm didn't need to move soo much. Then, I was told the exact opposite a few years later (a la Flesch)...Currently, I'm back to less upper arm movement to conserve energy and arm weight. It seems to work very well. I'll note that Flesch's bow arm was slighlty different than what's commonly taught by some Russian teachers today. I think Flesch's bow arm is even more pronated with the stick touching the index finger even lower toward the hand than most other schools today. This might make a difference in the upper arm's capabilities.


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