Playing At The Lower Half Of The Bow

October 25, 2018, 6:16 PM · Hello,

I am having difficulty playing at the lower half of the bow, especially if I try to play quick bow strokes. My right arm feels uneasy when I try to make this motion. I am told by my teacher that the movement of the bow should be performed by my fingers, but I can't quite get the hang of it. If anyone could give me some advice, or send me a website/video to help me improve this technique, it would be much appreciated.

Much thanks

Replies (10)

October 25, 2018, 6:35 PM · Post a video of your bow arm playing 1/4 notes, 1/8 notes, and 1/16 notes at the frog please. No need for anything but open strings.
Edited: October 25, 2018, 6:46 PM · The modern bow can't do terribly fast strokes at the frog. It will lose balance on the string. Fast strokes are best past the balance point of the bow.

The problem could also be that your bow is too top-heavy...
Generally, when you're having strange issues with bowing that you can't resolve or have to really overcompensate for, the bow is the problem.

October 25, 2018, 6:55 PM · Still should be able to play quick strokes at the frog regardless of whether or not it's ideal. That's a technical element. And here we're not even talking "frog" but just "lower half".
October 25, 2018, 8:31 PM · No point in speculating until we see a video.

"Quick strokes" could mean a million different things, and we also don't know the advancement of the player, so hard to give practical advice until a video is posted.

Also, OP, please include in the video a demonstration of you trying to do what you consider "quick strokes".

Edited: October 25, 2018, 8:58 PM · I keep a 1/4-size bow in my studio and hand it to my students to use when they are spending too much time in the upper half.

Bow control is a complicated skill to learn and I would never jump to "the bow is the problem" right away. Most of the time it is a technical struggle on the part of the student.

October 25, 2018, 9:30 PM · Haha.. I literally went over this exact thing in my lesson today. Teacher said the same about more motion needing to come from the fingers, rather than the shoulder. She suggested thinking of the weight of my arm as settling down into my hand, and to let this relaxed weight provide all the pressure on the string, rather than any pushing down. Also she suggested trying to become more conscious of how engaged my shoulder muscle is while doing things other than violin, and that thinking about the muscle more often would help me change the tensing habit on the violin more quickly.
October 25, 2018, 10:15 PM · OP's post history indicates 7 years of playing, and RCM Grade 7 (which would roughly Suzuki book 5 or early book 6 level).
October 26, 2018, 10:29 AM · Hi Sejune,

Can't really give specific advice without seeing you play, but here are a few things to consider.

Playing at the frog requires your hand to be suspended, which means your upper arm has to float across the strings in the lower third. I would think of using the weight of the hand, more than weight of the arm. One way to think of it: use hand weight for lower third, forearm weight for middle third, whole arm for upper third.

In the lower half for fast strokes, the shorter the stroke, the more the bow stroke comes from the hand (it's not easy to actively move the fingers very quickly in isolation, so think of it as a flapping of the hand at the wrist, which must still coordinate with the rest of the arm.) That means the coordination with the fingers is backwards compared to an arm stroke: that is, for a hand stroke, the wrist closes, the base knuckles close, the fingers straighten for a down bow and vice versa for up; for an arm stroke, the wrist opens, the base knuckles open, the fingers curl for a down bow and vice versa. You have to think of mobility in 3D, the wrist has to pump up and down to allow the hand to flap back and forth (unless your elbow is higher than the wrist.)

Finger motion must move the bow across the string. To do that you have to 'throw' with the fingers, like throwing a dart, or using a billiards cue, and so the fingers curl and straighten diagonally to the stick, not around it.

Lastly you need the pinky to counterbalance, which may require some strength. Think of keeping the tip up at the end of the up bow (let the path of the bow follow the curve of the stick of the bow, not the curve of the bridge--i.e. don't 'dip the tip' unless you're trying to bounce.)

October 26, 2018, 11:24 AM · May I add to Jeewon's clear account that I use both the pinky and the ring finger to balance the bow at the heel, with the pinky on the first facet on "my" side of the stick (rather than on top). This way my ring finger does its fare share of the work, and the pair of them both stabilise and steer the bow.
October 26, 2018, 1:44 PM · Agree with Adrian. Infact, it helps to tilt the stick into the pads of the fingers, so you use less hair, the bow hangs on the tips of the curled fingers, and the pinky, being on the inside top facet of the bow handle, is vertically on top, in the 12 o'clock position.

It's good to use any detache etude (do triplets, and also start up bow.) Sevcik Op. 3 var 1 is great for working out the finger stroke and colle.

But for a bigger work out use string crossing etudes (like Kayser 10 or Kreutzer 13) but start up bow using at most an inch of bow, at the extreme frog.

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