What is the bow hold Mutter uses?

January 16, 2019, 1:27 AM · Could anyone analyze what the now hold of Anna Mutter is? And who have similar bow holds?

With my limited knowledge I would guess its some kind of Russian bow hold, but not pure Russian.


Replies (23)

January 16, 2019, 5:49 AM · The Mutter's bow hold
January 16, 2019, 5:59 AM · Not sure I understand. Sure its her own, but cluld anyone analyze it, please?
Edited: January 16, 2019, 6:08 AM · After extensive scientific analysis, I have concluded that she does in fact use the Mutter bow hold.
January 16, 2019, 6:16 AM · I know you are joking with me
but is it really a bow hold of her own? Is it a development from the FB or the Russian bow hold?

Because the pinky looks like a russian bow hold and the palm of the hand is high and the fingers are not curved as in FB bowhold, but still it looks different that the classical Russian bowhold.

So I wondered if there is a classification existing for a bow hold that she uses or not?

January 16, 2019, 6:30 AM · Hi,

It seems like a standard FB hold however with the index a little more extended than usual, but because of her hand geometry, she is quite pronated. Nothing too much out of the ordinary. I think people confuse the modern American hold with the FB hold, which are not quite the same.

Hope this helps...


Edited: January 16, 2019, 6:41 AM · Years ago I made quite a study of bow holds of the masters, which I developed into a large PowerPoint with the best pictures I could find online at the time. Mutter's bow-hold seems to be nominally Franco-Belgian, but in all the photos I could find her fingers look spread out and her index finger has a tendency to curl around the stick. The reason people are saying "Mutter bow hold" is because it's really not easy to classify. The spread-out aspect of her hand, however, is something that I noticed being much more common among women. I'm not wild about making such generalizations but that's what I observed at the time. The big problem with studies like that, based on still pictures, is that it's hard to get images of bow-holds whilst playing because the bow is moving and the image will be blurred. (From the still image, you'd swear her hand was a stiff as iron. From her playing, you know that's not possible.) Still, I tried to use pictures that I thought were deliberately posed, e.g., for album covers and other promotional use.
Edited: January 16, 2019, 7:15 AM · It looks like personified franco-belgian, it is a little bit like mine I think :D I must tell my teacher when she dislikes my bow hold "this is Mutter bow hold" :D

Or we can ask a computer if we are on Nostromo ship, but I would rather be somewhere else :-)

Edited: January 16, 2019, 8:17 AM · Paul, would be fantastic to see your powerpoint, this is such an interesting topic.

My own fingers are very very long and thin, so quite naturally I curve all my fingers quite a lot and my palm is quite flatter, but my daughters pinky is short, so it tends to be straighter and sometimes miss the bow alltogether. Ive got a long history with piano so that might also make my ingers curve naturally.

Now I wonder how much of the bowhold of the great masters is due to teaching and how much is due to the shape of their hand.

January 16, 2019, 8:25 AM · If a top soloist chooses to adopt an apparently idiosyncratic bow hold you can bet your bottom dollar this is because they know it works for them.

Thing is, don't copy someone else's hold "just because". Doing that without thinking first could cause more problems than it solves. But it is ok to try out a generic Russian hold (for example) to see how it pans out, and then modify it to suit your requirements and detailed hand and arm anatomy, which varies from person to person, ideally in consultation with your teacher.

January 16, 2019, 8:35 AM · Maria I'll have to check an archive disk for that powerpoint. I don't seem to have it on my "current" computer (which I have had for 8 years). I studied bow holds because at the time I was just "returning" and I wanted to improve my own bow hold. What I realized is that the best place to begin was basically the bow hold recommended in Suzuki Book 1, and then my teacher helped me adapt that for my own playing. My hands are pretty average in size and shape, so I have not needed to do anything unconventional. You need to remember that the shape of your bow hold is going to change, even if only slightly, the moment you start to draw your bow in either direction. Your fingers are a logical and necessary part of the energy-transferring and shock-absorbing system of your whole physiological bowing apparatus.
Edited: January 16, 2019, 9:09 AM · Paul, if you find it, would be super great.

Actually Im not trying to modify my own or anyone elses bow hold, I just like to analyze lol Maybe something comes up and I understand something better. I just fiind the fine differences in hand positions fascinating.

January 16, 2019, 9:13 AM · I think that almost all advanced players end up with bow holds that are modified and personal. Every bow hold has strengths and weaknesses, and the geometry of the right hand (and arm) is dependent on body proportions, personal preferences in what kind of sound they want to get out of the violin, etc. That's also part of why we all like different bows.
January 16, 2019, 10:17 AM · Bow holds have some elements of teaching and some elements of personal things that are interdependent with other things, including hand geometry, playing geometry, etc.. Also depends on the teaching.

The main distinguishing factors were traditionally where the index contacted the stick. In the "Russian", it was in the second joint, in the original FB between the two joints, but closer to the second, and the old German was at the 1st joint. The "Russian" hold also had elements of physique as well. Elman had short arms, and his bow hold was the result of him trying to reach the tip. Heifetz held his violin very far to the left and at the tip actually sometimes balanced the bow with his ring finger.

In this current day and age, I think that the terminology should be updated, as people tend to confuse the FB what should be really called the "American" hold. This "American" hold has the far separated index that we commonly see, as well as very bent fingers especially towards the pinky. Though often ascribed to Galamian, it came more from Dorothy Delay as Galamian's prominent students don't hyper-extend the index.

In the case of Mutter, all points to a FB hold with the fingers a little more spread.



Edited: January 16, 2019, 10:44 AM · Here's a bunch of today's violinists (coming from different places) in pictures that show how they're holding their bow:

Lisa Batiashvili:


Janine Jansen:


Julia Fischer:


Augustin Hadelich:

James Ehnes:

January 16, 2019, 12:51 PM · Christian, that is what confused me. I had thought that the American bow hold was the same as FB bowhold. I think that we were taught the American way and my bow hold is still that but my daughters bowhold has somehow unintentionally changed to something similar to the European FB bowhold in the 3 years she has played. So it must be that the shape of the hand makes these changes
January 16, 2019, 3:09 PM · See, from those five pictures I'm getting that the bow-holds of the men look more compact and relaxed than those of the women. The thing is, we don't know what they were playing, or whether the pictures were at all posed, etc. The women do seem to have more tendency to wrap extend their index finger and wrap it around the stick. I remember reading somewhere that a legendary player said he found that he extended his index finger less and less as he got older (I think it was Menuhin). I'll look for the powerpoint tonight. If you want it, send me an email (pdeck-at-vt.edu).
Edited: January 17, 2019, 1:48 AM · "The thing is, we don't know what they were playing, or whether the pictures were at all posed, etc"

It's interesting how few pictures there are of violinists playing. Most pictures (esp. females) picture the violinist cradling their instrument.

However I took pains to select 'action' pictures that weren't posed.

January 16, 2019, 3:55 PM · Hi Maria,

The terminology is strictly my own in terms of the "American" bow hold, but I also find that people tend to confuse that with the more traditional FB hold which doesn't have the "over-spread" index. That said, bow holds can definitely change in time with changes in body geometry or composition, or due to other factors. In children as they grow up, ratios change, and that certainly can change things in terms of balance.


Edited: January 16, 2019, 4:34 PM · This video of Heifetz performing Dinicu's "Hora Staccato" comes to mind:

Note how he completely changes his bow hold in places, e.g. at,
0.25 he starts the down bow right at the frog;
0.26 he changes his bow hold completely to something quite non-Russian so that he can execute the difficult down bow staccato passage with apparent ease;
0.27(-ish) he reaches the point of the bow and reverts to his usual Russian Hold for the next up bow.
A mini masterclass in bow control!

You can view all this in detail on You Tube frame-by-frame by pausing the music with the space bar and then using the "." key or the "," key to frame-forward or frame-back respectively. Note that on some keyboard layouts where the ">" and "<" keys aren't associated with the "." and "," keys then locate the ">" and "<" keys and use them instead.

If you're viewing a downloaded video then the above commands won't work so you will have to use a video viewer with a stop-frame facility. I believe the ubiquitous VLC has it.

January 17, 2019, 12:36 AM · Paul, sent a mail :)

Travor, woulds happen to knpw how the freezing of youtube pictures works with an ipad?

Im beginning to understand that the bowhold is much more complex than the left hand. There are much more spesific ways to use left hand efficiently than the bowhold, which varies so much more.

January 17, 2019, 5:57 PM · Maria, sorry, can't help you with your ipad question. Anyone out there know the answer?
January 17, 2019, 11:53 PM · Paul, is this your email id, pdeck-at-vt.edu? My Gmail account is not recognizing the address. My email id is kouskund@gmail.com. Please help.
January 19, 2019, 6:58 AM · Paul, I hope to see the presentation. Thank you!

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