difference in RH position upbow vs downbow?

February 8, 2021, 4:08 PM · hi all
Sorry for the beginner question once again. I've spent far too long trying to find something online and hoping you can help.
Can anyone point me to an image (or even better, practice exercises) which will help me to understand the difference in how the RH should be for upbow (wrist up? fingers curved?) vs downbow (wrist lower? fingers straighter?) This is something I'm struggling to understand and can't even find a YouTube video about it?!
MAny thanks

Replies (15)

February 8, 2021, 5:28 PM · You might be over thinking it.

Get a comfortable grip with your fingers, then let your wrist relax. Think of your hand as hanging comfortably downward from your forearm. This is, more or less, the starting position when you are touching the string near the frog and getting ready to play a down bow.

Now think about drawing the bow down by MOSTLY rotating about the elbow joint. What you should find is that the hand will naturally lift up to a neutral position to the forearm, and then lift up relative to the forearm as you near the tip of the bow.

I found I do not have to think about my RH position at all and just focus on pulling or pushing the bow parallel to the bridge by having most of the hinging action at the elbow and keeping the shoulder relatively quiet.

Edited: February 8, 2021, 5:46 PM · As long as you don't get too caught up in the idea, you could think of your hand on the bow being as if slightly turning a doorknob. Coming towards the frog, you slightly turn the hand clockwise, so that a little more weight and balance comes to the pinky side. Coming towards the tip, you go the opposite way, with weight coming off the pinky and coming into the index finger more.

The reason this is necessary is because the tip is too light to make a healthy sound, so a LITTLE more weight is necessary at the tip - It's like you are adding weight to the bow. At the frog, the weight of the bow is too heavy, which will choke the sound, so the weight of the pinky allows you to reduce the pressure of the bow, since you can use it as a bit of a fulcrum.

But it's very subtle, and it's really more of a slight lean than anything, so don't get caught up in the idea too much if it throws you off. What's really important in how you hold your bow is not to grip in any way, and the real weight to the bow should come from the elbow hanging rather than any kind of pressing down.

The hand should really look pretty much the same (no "Swan's neck" at the frog!) throughout, and your fingers should be supple and never locked straight. Don't paralyze yourself trying to get it perfect all at once - This is a long-term project.

February 8, 2021, 8:13 PM · Greetings?
try a site called violin class by Julia Bushkova. the beginning bow lessons will answer all your questions superbly.
February 8, 2021, 8:41 PM · My prof, Tim Ying, said to me in a lesson that you should just barely feel the skin of your fingers shift upon the bone when you change direction. If your fingers are sliding along the stick, there's too much motion.
Maybe it will help to keep this in mind.
February 9, 2021, 4:05 AM · Anita you hold the bow lighty, so, when you play a downbow, you pull the bow, and when you play an upbow, you push the bow. If you would grip the bow very tight, that would not have an effect, but since you hold the bow lightly, it can move a bit between your fingers, so it will be positioned slightly different when pulling than when pushing. So put otherwise, it is not your hand that you should expressly position differently or change every time you change between upbow and downbow and upbow again. That would be unworkable. It is rather the bow itself that slightly (just slightly of course) drags behind. A good exercise is to hold the bow as you would play before you, without violin. With your left hand, grab somewhere the left end, and gently pull and push, and feel how that pulls and pushes with your right hand fingers.
February 9, 2021, 1:11 PM · I highly recommend YouTube videos by Julia Bushkova and Todd Ehle.
February 9, 2021, 2:44 PM · Hi all
Thanks so much, this is very helpful. I do agree that it's not necessarily helpful to consciously think about changing the hand position. It didn't seem right to me to think that way. i feel like the subtle hand changes on the down and upbow should arise naturally as a result of something else.
What you say resonates with something I read/watched (can't remember what) which was talking about the hand really just gently pulling the bow along the strings - might have been a Julia video (thank you for the advice, I had stumbled across her videos already)

I might be getting confused with something else my teacher was trying to get me to do, about curving and straightening the fingers flexibly. I can't quite work out how that relates to up and down bow. After googling forever I wonder if it's related (or is) something called collé? Anyway - one to check with my teacher....

Thank you all so much, as ever - brilliant to have the wisdom of the crowd!

February 9, 2021, 4:18 PM · I would not call violin bowing a natural motion. If it were,then a lot less of us would have problems with it. Whether you use Russian or F.-B. hold, or something in between, I would not try to change it while playing. Later on there are more advanced topics like using the fingers as shock absorbers at the change, figure-8 bowing, or letting the bow float inside the hand.
Edited: February 9, 2021, 6:37 PM · Greetings?
there are two opposite states of the right fingers and a spectrum in between. These are either straight or very curved like a claw. If you hold the bow with no pronation, that is without rotating the right forearm in from the elbow joint then the act of straightening and bending the fingers will simply be vertically. I strong recommend practicing this with a pencil so that you can create a mental/ physical imprint of this without straining your muscles. If you probate the right forearm , the finger movement is the same but because of the angle the hand is now set at the result is a horizontal movement of whatever you are holding. Thus, we can play short strokes on the stringin, in any part of the bow using only finger action. This can be either legato or staccato (stop between each note)
As an independent exercise this is very important because flexibility of the right hand fingers is crucial in violin playing. You can also play down bows starting with fingers in the curved position then straightening and bending them as you go from heel to point. On the up stroke do the opposite: bend and straighten the fingers about 8 times as you do the up stroke. This is a simple but invaluable exercise I do almost everyday.
Carll Flesch was a great believer in practicing bow strokes using only the fingers but his emphasis was over interpreted by many , many man y players in the 20c who came to believe a fallacy that the only way to do smooth bow stroke is to ‘continue the up stroke at the heel with the fingers only while the arm has already changed direction...’. My first teacher at the Royal College of Music told me to imagine a brush stoke in which the hairs were the fingers, still going in one direction while the stick of the berush had already changed direction.’. Unfortunately this is absolute rubbish. It was only when pedagogues like DeLay started saying ‘sorry, a smooth bow change is impossible using the finger’ that people started to wake up to the essence of a smooth bow change which is simply control of bow speed. (Galamian too was absolutely adamant about this)The fingers always create a small gulp sound because they automatically speed up the bow at the moment of change and this reaction is virtually impossible to control. It was the mythological holy grail of bowing for generations of violinists to their lasting detriment. Flesch himself expressed deep regret that his emphasis on practicing ‘finger only bowing exercises’ was taken as what should be done in performance.
February 9, 2021, 7:47 PM · I found this book by Harold Berkl
y interesting:
"The modern technique of violin bowing;: An analysis of the principles of modern bowing, and how to apply them to musical interpretation (with many exercises and examples)"
Published in 1941, out of print, listed on Amazon
February 10, 2021, 8:04 AM · Hi Anita,
of course check with your teacher but I doubt if the currbnt advice is anything to do with colle stroke. It sounds more like he/she just want your fingers to be a bit more flexible and reactive to what is going on. The colle itself is basically a pizzicato of the string done by the bow. That is the bow is lowered very slowly onto the string (depending of th especially dog the passage) and the moment it touches the fingers alone make the bow s engage with the string and lift off like a pizzicato.
This bowling is especially linked to the Galamian school and people connected with it. Galamian points out in his book that in a concert hall , i order to be heard we need o have a lot of consonant sounds in our bow strokes. The colle provides this consonsonant edge which gives a clear projection. So one can see it in heavy spicatto passages like the last movement of the tchaikovsky concerto where it gives the notes a very clear beginning. One develops a kind of pitching action with the fingers. This was how Rodney Friends students told me they were being taught it to begin martel notes when I was at RCM. For great demonstrations of using fingers for articulation spend time going through the Pinchas Zuckerman lesson sound bites that are now up on you tube . That is a master teacher in action and his knowledge of bowing is second to none.
February 10, 2021, 3:29 PM · Thank you very much, it's very intricate and not without controversy, it seems.
I wish I could take it all in but it's a little overwhelming for me just now as I have been in possession of a violin for less than two weeks! :-D So just trying to establish some good habits at the outset but without getting totally paralysed by the terrifying complexity of it all!
Thanks everyone for your excellent advice, as always.
February 10, 2021, 6:05 PM · Greetings,
2 weeks? Honestly speaking I think you have been overwhelmed by the horrible information overload phenomenon of the current age. I am not sure if it helping you at all right now : )
To put it in perspective, I have a beginner online student who needed to start forman the beginning. In the first half hour lesson we talked about how the violin needs to be placed from above , not lifted into position , how to rotate the head correctly so that’s the spine is not distorted and how to keep the left hand relaxed. End. Week 2 half an hour on using the simplest way of getting a natural bow hold which basically means working from a cello hold while supporting the entire weight of the bow with the left hand. The bow is too heavy for beginners so I never allow them to hold it unsupported in a horizontal position. I gave the Ss some vertical bow circle making exercises with the right hand fingers. You probably could do that. It’s a classic beginner bow exercises.
Right at the end of the lesson I showed her how to memorize the position of the strings by placing the middle of the bow on the d strin (for example, making sure upper arm, lower arm bow etc are all flat and on one plane. Hold the position for ten seconds and do a string etc. This exercise should be done three times a day.
I know its hard to follow this in writing when a video takes ten seconds.
My pint is not that you should do this, but rather within the first month you should avoid even thinking about advanced techniques. My studentisn’t even going to draw the bow a few cm until the third lesson and if IM not happy with over all posture and relaxation we will keep going on this basic work and I will give her really simple pizzicato things to do to develop her musically and stop her getting bored.
Time spent on the absolutely basics at the beginning without the distraction of this youtube video, or that group of teachers , all who do things slightly differently albeit using roughly the same principles, is by far the best way to go.
Information overload might get you off to a rocky start and that would be a terrible shame.
Best of luck,
February 11, 2021, 3:57 PM · Thank you Buri, I do think you are absolutely right and I was thinking the same thing. When I learned piano as a teenager the internet didn't exist. I just did what my teacher(s) instructed. Information overload really can be paralysing.

I think trying to begin to learn something so physical as the violin via Zoom is is faintly ridiculous but we mustn't let this virus stop any more music than it already has done....
Thank you for your advice :-)

February 11, 2021, 5:32 PM · Greetings
its interesting how fast the world changes. When I first came to this website (I think about 40 people were reading it and Vengerov used to send me emails ) an oft discussed question was ‘Is it ok to have two teachers?’ an issue which prompted much heated debate. Now there are so many teaching videos on the internet no one even bothers raising the point anymore as far as I can see.

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