Straight Bow Exercise (?!)

January 17, 2018, 2:24 PM · As a ‘new hatched’ (wannabe) violinist I’ve found that trying to keep the bow straight and to not let it slide all over the place which is a contributory factor in producing screeching and squealing (not from me - the violin) is really very difficult – that’s an understatement :-)

So, I’ve thought of an exercise (which I’m sure is not original) which maybe sounds a bit ‘eccentric’ but which may just be of some use (?!) and I wonder what others think.

Stand close to two walls which form the L shape. Have the violin strings running parallel to the upper part of the L. The bow, hand and right arm are parallel to the lower part of the L. The fingers of the right hand are very close to and almost touching the wall.

Obviously the idea is to make long down bow and up bows keeping the fingers as close the wall when having first set-up.

Thoughts please and if this sounds a mad idea take into consideration that I’m an ex golfer – and all golfers are borderline crazy.

Replies (17)

January 17, 2018, 3:22 PM · Upper and lower?
They're on the sides...
Plus how can your right hand be almost touching the wall?
Edited: January 17, 2018, 3:36 PM · Will, yours is a similar idea to the exercise my Suzuki-trained teacher taught me. This involved standing next to a smooth wall, facing it at an angle of 45° with the left shoulder touching the wall, and extending the right arm to its lowest extent so that the knuckles of the hand touch the wall, and then drawing the hand up towards the face with the knuckles gently brushing against the wall. This replicates the hand and arm action necessary to bow a straight bow. When doing this the right hand should be in a relaxed position as if it were holding a bow. It worked for me and a couple of weeks later I was bowing straight bows with no trouble at all.

When this level of bow control has been accomplished then the student is ready to proceed to more advanced bowing techniques under the guidance of the teacher.

Edited: January 17, 2018, 3:45 PM · Yes Trevor but how does the OP's description work? He has the violin, a bow and two walls forming an L. Yours is just a wall. Am I missing something?
January 17, 2018, 3:56 PM · Maybe! But either the "Bow Right" or "Bow Force" teaching aids for about $15 each will force the player to bow fairly parallel to the bridge and allow "dynamic" adjustment of violin angle and/or bowing arm to help self-learning of "straight bowing."

These devices provide instantaneous feedback. With any luck and a bit of concentration the player will learn what to do quickly and not need the device for regular practice - but it will always be available for rehab if that is needed.

January 17, 2018, 4:06 PM · Another idea...draw two long perpendicular lines on the ground. Install a light bulb directly over the point of intersection. No other light source. In playing position, standing on that point, align central axis of the violin's shadow to one of the lines . Now align the bow to the other and play keeping bow shadow aligned to this other line :)
January 17, 2018, 4:37 PM · Thanks everyone for the feedback - appreciated.

Tammuz, sorry I didn't make it clearer. I used the L as from a bird's eye view i.e. from directly above to represent the two walls.

Think of it his way: the lower part of the L __ is the wall in your hallway. The 'Upper part' is the door to your living room. Your violin is close to the open door and just inside living room with the strings running parallel to the door. You are just outside living room and in hallway with bow,hand arm close to the wall.

Does this explain it?

Trevor, if the left shoulder is against the wall how can your right arm be against the wall? I guess you made a typo and meant leaning/touching wall with right shoulder. Right? Hmmm. But I'm struggling to see how either could promote straight bowing?

Andrew, I'll do a Google search for the items you mentioned - thanks.


Edited: January 17, 2018, 5:22 PM · Parallel to the open door leaf (which is parallel to the side wall of the hallway aND orthogonal to doorway)...meanING that you can't be on one side of the doorway with the violin on the other?or do you mean parallel to the doorWAY ...thus your hand brushes on the doorframe? Hopefully the corridor is wide enough :) you don't want to break your bow head on the other side.

There is no upper or lower here. I think I understand you, but your description complicates things. By contrast,I find Trevor description quite clear. He didn't say right arm against the wall by the way.

Edited: January 17, 2018, 5:32 PM · Will, I'll try another way to describe it: stand at right angles to the wall with your left shoulder touching it. Now turn 45° to your left so that you are more facing the wall and your right side has come closer to it. You'll find that you can reach with your right hand, and a straight arm, down, across and away from your torso so that the back of the hand touches the wall. Then follow on as in my previous post.

This is one of those things that are a lot easier to demonstrate (as my teacher did) than describe; as with the proper way to strike the cue ball with a billiard cue, which involves a very high degree of control and very close attention to posture.

Edited: January 17, 2018, 7:39 PM · That's awfully confusing. Just rest your elbow on a table with your forearm pointing upward. Move your hand (forearm) down to the table and back up. That's the motion you need to do. Transfer that motion onto the horizontal plane if you wish resting your elbow against a wall.
Edited: January 18, 2018, 9:13 AM · That sounds like a great idea . Original ways to overcome problems are part of what violin playing is all about .
Carl Flesch the great teacher had a long winded but fool proof antidote to this problem.
Stand facing a large mirror hold your violin in playing position , hold up your instrument by supporting with your left hand on the upper bouts , heal of the hand underneath . Adjust your feet till strings parallel with the mirror. Starting with a down bow six inches from the frog and the bow hair adjacent to the bridge and no light visible between the hair and the bridge draw your bow slowly enough to make a quiet and unbroken tone with only the weight of the bow . While performing whole bows from the frog to the point and being careful not to miss even a couple of millimetres of bow watch yourself in the mirror making sure that the bow is at right angles to the strings . Draw the bow from the point by opening and closing the elbow when you come to the end of this movement usually past the middle of the bow let your elbow drop and complete the movement with a pendulous swing of the upper arm . This is a very demanding exercise that forms the begining of bowing and tone production . Stick with it and you will play with beautifully angled bows and a wonderful tone control . Flesch says that it is a mistake to check your position visually except by use of a mirror as described . Good luck and have fun .
January 18, 2018, 12:22 PM · I remember that what worked for me was using a mirror so I could watch the bow and my sounding point. I didn't worry at all about my right arm; I concentrated on memorizing the feeling of my right hand moving forward. I still think of bowing primarily as a motion of my hand, not something my arm does. The elbow moving forward etc all takes care of itself as it follows the path of my hand away from me.
January 18, 2018, 5:32 PM · Trevor, as you say it's much easier to demonstrate than to describe in words alone but I sat down and envisaged it and the 'penny dropped.' I can see how it worked for you. And so I guess it will work for me and others too.

The only drawback is there is no 'draw-back' :-)of an actual bow whereas in the method I've (tried to) describe the bow is used.

Tammuz, let's start afresh. Stand at the corner of two walls which are at right angles. And as Trevor says in his post you stand at an angle of 45 degrees. You're holding your bow in your right hand in the bowing position and with your fingers lightly touching/brushing against one wall and with the bow parallel to and very close to the wall. In your extended left arm is your violin with the string running parallel to the other wall. Put your bow onto the strings - er, no - only one string and draw back the bow keeping your fingers lightly touching/brushing against the wall as your arm extends. In doing this the bow must travel in a straight line.

Has this made it clear?

Assuming that I've explained it more clearly this time to everyone the big question is: will it work? Or is this just a 'gimmick' with no practical effect?

Ken, thanks for that tip which I'll try.

Thanks to everyone for input.

Has anyone a suggestion for which recording device to use to playback and listen to the 'notes' I've played? I was using a Sony recorder that I used for dictating letters and when I played back my efforts I nearly decided to stick my violin into its case and throw it into a cupboard to never again let it see the light of day - the noise was horrendous. But I realised that the device wasn't designed for this particular task.

Edited: January 18, 2018, 7:55 PM · Edited: I still don't get it :

Here are two scenarios with you standing at 45 degres, actually they're 4 scenarios if you note that the person is drawn in two.opposite positions in each of the scenarios. The sketches are rough[user]=147042622&filters[recent]=1&sort=1&o=0

Oops in scenario B I forgot one of the figure's arms.

OK here's another one with the violin/violinist at a 45 degree angle relative to each other (the violin was held more orthogonally in the above scenarios)..but the bow is far too far from the parallel wall.[user]=147042622&filters[recent]=1&sort=1&o=0

January 19, 2018, 10:22 AM · Tammuz, I don't have an account with that website.

Here's my email address to where you can send attachment of your drawings.

January 19, 2018, 10:33 AM · Will, copy paste the link adresses into the adresse box of your Internet explorer.
January 19, 2018, 6:14 PM · Tammuz: Okay, your diagram loaded at the 3rd attempt.

Look at your drawing, okay? You have the violinist standing in the wrong place. You have him standing between two walls with his left shoulder close to and almost touching one wall and with the violin scroll end pointed directy at the other wall.

Move your violinist out from between the two walls. Have him standing on the other side of the wall at the point where the two walls join i.e. at the right-angle 'junction.'

Now have him pointing the violin scroll aimed at where you have written 45 and with the strings running parallel to that wall.

The Bridge and FingerBoard will be a few inches backwards from the corner of the wall allowing the violinist to place the bow on the strings AND with the bow close to and PARALLEL to the other wall and with his fingers close to and brushing against the wall.

So, when he makes down bows and upbows by keeping his fingers lightly brushing against the wall he performs a straight bowing action. Right?

January 24, 2018, 11:06 AM · hi will,
I understood your point after reading your post following my last sketch. i should have placed the figure on the other side of the corner. thanks for that :)

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