Incorrect Bow Hold ?

Edited: March 14, 2018, 9:56 AM · This is my bow-hold.

Seems wrong to me, since the ends up slipping to slightly below the middle joint of my first finger, regardless of how much I Force it to the upper joint. It falls between the base of the finger the middle joint naturally.

How do I fix this problem.

Also, when I tilt the bow towards myself, my curvature of the thumb ends up touching the bow-hair.

Do inform me about all my errors.
I’ve been playing for 1.5 years and I wish to fix it soon, before I get attuned to this bad habit and before it accentuates.

Replies (12)

March 14, 2018, 10:54 AM · Your bow hold is actually not that bad! Just one (most important thing) though ...

Your index finger is too deep into the bow. It should be somewhere either on the middle of second joint. With your current hold, the pinky is way too straight and causes issues like these:

1. elevated wrist, which messes with volume. With a flat hand on the bow, you can get 100% sound of your arm/wrist strength.

2. Makes playing at the frog impossible.

March 14, 2018, 11:19 AM · Hand shapes vary dramatically among people, and therefore so do bow grips. A big challenge is to find the one that fits your hand relaxed, comfortable and secure.

It looks like the top right side of your thumb tip, as you look at your thumbnail, is the point of contact with the bow. This causes the hand to angle towards the bow in such a way that if your index finger is allowed to fall naturally onto the bow, the point of contact will be more towards the base knuckle than the finger tip.

If you want the index finger to contact the bow further towards the finger tip, then try moving the thumb point of contact more towards the center or left side of the thumb. Then when the index and pinky finger are dropped onto the bow in a natural, relaxed position you will find the index finger contacts the bow more towards the tip than the base knuckle.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having the index finger contact the bow closer to the base knuckle. This is the hallmark of a grip sometimes called a "Russian" grip favored by many great violinists.

If you let it get too far below the middle joint, the bow has a tendency to get locked in the grip and you might find it challenging to perform bow actions that require a throwing at or bouncing off the strings. But even then, a supple wrist can compensate.

If you keep the bow at or just below the middle joint, you should be fine.

March 14, 2018, 11:52 AM · Just as a point of information, my thumb point of contact is on the right side of the thumb tip and my index finger contacts the bow between the first and second knuckles (closer to the second). I can't imagine how it would work to have the point of contact on the left side of the thumb.
March 14, 2018, 6:19 PM · You can try the following, maybe it works for you:
- Hold the bow at the tip with the left hand parallel to the ground
- Form a ring with thumb and middle finger of the right hand
- Place thumb and middle finger on the bow, at the place you have it in your picture, keeping the feeling of the ring.
- Place your pinky on the bow. Best spot is almost on top, but slightly toward you
- Check that your pinky is round and your wrist is about straight.
- Let go with your left hand and see if you can balance the bow with thumb, middle finger and pinky. In the beginning a few seconds is sufficient
- adapt thumb and fingers until you find a good balance.
- add the other two fingers, placing them lightly on the bow where you feel the least tension
- Try to bow with this hold. Start with a whole bow from frog to tip. The hold you just learned should be good for the frog. Towards the tip you can experiment with shifting the weight from the pinky to the first finger by turning your lower arm slightly inwards. From tip to frog return to the initial hold.
There are also a lot of internet resources, e.g.,
Hope that helps!
March 14, 2018, 7:40 PM · As another point of information, when I place the right side tip of my thumb in contact with the bow, my index finger contacts the bow at the middle joint. Again, different results for different hand shapes.

March 15, 2018, 1:02 AM · To put it simply, your bow hold seems fine. Yes, maybe having the index contact point shift towards the tip of the index by about 1/4" - 1/2" COULD be helpful. Yes, perhaps your pinky could be a bit more bent (by lowering the base knuckles).

But here's the thing:

Everyone's hands are different in almost every way you can imagine. I've taught many students, for example, that have odd longitudinal rotation of the thumb, so much so that if they laid their thumb across their palm, the tip of the thumb would end up on the opposite side of the palm from the base of the thumb. Just for reference, if I lay my thumb across my palm, it ends up pointing in the same direction as my middle finger.
So you can imagine that the bow grip that would be effective for someone with extreme longitudinal rotation of the thumb would NOT be the bow grip that would work for someone with a more "Standard" thumb rotation.

Another example: I recently started teaching someone whose pinky is very strange in that it sort of "locks" when you try and bend it and makes a clicking sound. So she can either have it fully extended or fully bent and nothing in between (and both pinkies do this, by the way).

Once again, I can't exactly try to make her hand into the same hand formation that works for me, because our hands are TOTALLY DIFFERENT. In teaching her, I need to realize that her hand is a totally different world than mine, and thus I can't exactly make it conform to my aesthetic idea of what grip should look like.

So let me gives you some rules to follow, without imposing strict ideas of what a bow hand "should be":

1) The best bow grip is one that allows you to relax while maintaining control. One way to relax your fingers is to set up your bow grip, then set the weight of the bow into the strings of the violin, and then lift one finger at a time. First the pinky, then set it down. Then the ring finger, then set it down. Middle, set it down. Index, set it down.

This reminds the fingers that normally, they shouldn't really be DOING anything. They should only be active when you want them to be.

2) Everything is a compromise. Find the compromises that work for you.

3) Your pinky should have some degree of bend, but it may add tension to your grip grip to try and bend it any more than it is right now. So some bend will do. The key is to have SOME bend, rather than none. If you have a locked-out pinky, then the pinky has no "movement potential" and thus can't do anything for you.

4) Did I mention relax? RELAX the bow hand! If you MUST have some tension, have it between between the thumb and middle finger pressing against each other, as this won't affect the bow much. But ideally, your bow grip should be free of tension. You may try experimenting with the feeling of "almost dropping the bow" while you play. Many people grab the bow too hard because they fear they'll drop it (you won't... probably).

March 15, 2018, 5:28 AM · I like the bow hold of Oistrakh and Paganini, which is more fronted than others, but I do not know which genre it is, maybe Russian...
March 17, 2018, 11:44 PM · Well everything has been told about bow grip/hold.
I just want to remain you a Paganini's rare advice to fix the correct shape and position of the hand:The main fingers to direct the bow are the index finger and the pinky so the player is adviced to let the major and ring fingers to take off the stick so that the index and pinky are automatically in best position and shape
March 18, 2018, 4:19 AM · Alain -can you provide a source for your Paganini quotation? I'd like to see it in context...
March 19, 2018, 12:28 AM · Hi Geoff
This quotation is one among many others as foot-notes in " Le petit Paganini" a French elementary Violin treatise.(Three books)
There is no special context. Like many Masters, Paganini only takes account of physical individuality instead of a rigid rules.
The so called schools is a theoricians'construction.
March 20, 2018, 11:14 AM · Right side, left side (of the thumb)? I think there is some difference of viewpoint between us!
If I look at the thumbnail facing me, it's the right corner which will touch the stick: once I am playing, this becomes the left corner.....
March 22, 2018, 9:44 AM · We normally refer to anatomical position:Standing erected ,arms alongside the body with palms facing forward (thumbs are outside).
Right-left is the observer's point of view.

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