Bow Hold

Edited: February 19, 2023, 5:16 AM · Is there a bow hold where the wood is contacted fairly close to under the first knuckle? It kind of feels like it's directly beneath though isn't - it's in the crease.


Replies (26)

Edited: February 19, 2023, 5:39 AM · I think that's the Auer hold, wrongly known as the Russian hold (because the Russians mostly use the Franco-Belgian) and mostly avoided nowadays.
February 19, 2023, 10:11 AM · I don’t think there is any common bow hold that positions the stick at the base knuckle as shown.
Edited: February 19, 2023, 10:42 AM · Thanks. I didn't bother to research it. There's so much collective knowledge here I felt sure you folks would help me get a handle on it.
February 19, 2023, 11:23 AM · I believe the FB hold is positioned near the last distal knuckle whereas the Russian is near the second knuckle. The FB is the most widely used today. But many successful and talented players use the Russian. I have never seen anyone position the stick at the base knuckle.
February 19, 2023, 11:30 AM · I used to think that having the stick right on the first knuckle would be inherently unstable, but since I now do something close to that, I have not found it to be a problem.
There are a number of discussions about bow holds on the archives, including my own.
An alternate way to find your personal bow hold; Place the hair on the D string at the middle of the bow. Not the exact mid-point, but where the right elbow forms a 90 o angle. Straight wrist. Only the thumb and second finger on the stick. Extend the first finger about 1/2 inch, well in front of the second finger. 4th finger curved,on the next facet over from directly on top. Spreading the fingers too wide only locks up the hand and forces you to use too much wrist-bending.
A factor not mentioned often is that the bow hold changes the angle that the stick makes coming out of the hand. To keep the bow parallel to the bridge, those that have the violin far to the left will prefer the "Russian" hold. Early music specialists that have the violin more to the front will not.
Edited: February 19, 2023, 12:50 PM · no, sorry Bud, but I think you're on the wrong track if you're having your bow at the place shown in that photo. one knuckle up your finger is fine, that's the Russian hold, but, most people have it even higher, close to the last knuckle, that's the Franco-Belgian hold. but I think it makes sense to really discourage you at this point (I understand you are a beginner) to continue a hold like the one you're showing on the photo.
Edited: February 19, 2023, 1:03 PM · Thanks Jean for the clear message. I sometimes have to lead the orchestra (amateur) believe it or not! So more intermediate? Can I be a bit facetious and ask why not? Due to my perculiar piano technique the distal joint of my right index finger often complains. Having the stick so close to the palm gives it a rest.
February 19, 2023, 2:04 PM · Lack of control in dynamics and bow changes I'd imagine
Edited: February 19, 2023, 2:48 PM · Bud, maybe you can run this experiment and see if it tells you anything:

Rotate the hand slightly (like turning a knob) so that more weight comes through the index at the tip of the bow, and then so that more weight comes through the pinky at the frog. This is needed to impart more force at the tip and keep a solid sound, and it's needed to lighten the force at the frog so that the sound doesn't break from being over-pressed.

Can you do so with the hold you are contemplating? Can you keep an even sound? Can you do it without losing grip of the bow? I would think not if you don't have a certain amount of leverage with the index, but then again, Spivakovsky was able to make his highly unorthodox hold work.

Edited: February 19, 2023, 2:51 PM · I tend to hold my cello bows that way. I always have, since my first lesson back in 1949. I think my cello teacher** did that to me at my first lesson, when I was still holding it like a violin bow, which is extremely awkward for cello playing. I have noticed a wide range of bow holding by professional cellists.

That hold doesn't work for me with a violin bow UNLESS my essential tremor is acting up so badly that I have to position my right thumb under the frog to keep the bow from shaking, which often happens when I start a playing session but improves after a while.

** My cello teacher was a retired professional who had played in the Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta Symphonies so I don't think he can be faulted for that.

February 19, 2023, 2:53 PM · That happens Christian because I've always been on the edge of the hair at the frog. Must google Spivakovsky.
February 19, 2023, 2:58 PM · I guess what I mean is, if it sounds good and you can play any bow-stroke you need to, then why not? However, often times something that works suddenly doesn't when faced with a particular new technique.
February 19, 2023, 3:09 PM · As I said, it all comes about as I need to rest my distal joint - any further up the finger and it complains. Which Spivakovsky?
Edited: February 19, 2023, 3:21 PM · (Stolen from Trevor Jennings posting in another thread)

Tossy Spivakosky

That's all I got. I have no knowledge of how to get such a bowhold to work, or even if it's what you have proposed.

Edited: February 19, 2023, 3:42 PM · Wow! I take it that's his brother on piano? What a pair! They don't make musicians like that any more. Pure amazing delight. His left thumb is always under the neck where mine always is :) Very hard to make out his right hand though. Thankyou Christian and Trevor for that. Reading down the page it seems the pianist is Leon Pommers. Who needs an orchestra when you have someone like him around!
Edited: February 19, 2023, 3:55 PM · "The pressure point from the index finger emanates from the third joint, that is, at the knuckle."

Of course that should read first joint as it's the beginning of the first phalange.

Edited: February 19, 2023, 4:16 PM · spivakovsky

February 19, 2023, 4:43 PM · Interesting, Bud.


February 19, 2023, 6:51 PM · Since Spivakovsky had a who different bowhold, not just the bow deep in the first knuckle, the mechanics of that bowhold are totally different from the FB or Russian. Is that what you’re doing?

If you’re playing with a FB or Russian thumb and pinky placement with the bow on the first knuckle, finger flexibility to manage the bow seems like it would be tough. Can you do true sautille with it?
How is the efficiency of your bow strokes? Are you relaxed and able to bow quickly easily, or is it a lot of hard work?

Edited: February 20, 2023, 4:01 AM · I've just learned about Spivakovsky. My fingers (and wrist) are certainly flexible enough to do his very dynamic hold. I'll give it a try out.

Anyone interested you can download Yost's book here:

February 20, 2023, 4:31 AM · my apologies Bud for thinking of you (unfounded) as a beginner!! what I don't see in the "Spivakovsky" hold is how you can have fine control on the pressure you are exercising on the bow, in terms of articulation for example. but I guess everything is, in principle, possible, as long as it is not physically impossible. still I honestly think it is a wrong path to take for 99.99% of us.
Edited: February 20, 2023, 5:06 AM · I'm not understanding what the 'pressure point' does for the bottom half of the bow but this morning I've been adding it as you go towards the tip. I think it works. As for being a beginner- I can't play for toffee. I'm just loud, confident and have the best posture. So what does that make me? Labels, what are they about?

Edit: yes, as I get toward the tip a distinct aw sound now appears.

Dare I conclude Spivakovsky has freed the upper part of my bow to sing? Maybe the upper part is more the soul of the instrument?

February 20, 2023, 5:26 AM · Spivakovsky has his partisans, but conventional wisdom is that he was quite off-center, however brilliant.
Edited: February 20, 2023, 6:39 AM · I've had a migraine all morning so not been able to study the text. What I have taken away is as I go toward the tip I've always added more hair. What I'd not done in the past is add more weight. The new pressure point seems to combine the two automatically.
Edited: February 20, 2023, 6:20 AM · Ah, evolution - therefore Spiv is the most evolved?
February 20, 2023, 7:54 AM · I don't think anyone can presume the extent of bow holds over the last 500 years. In a distant village, in a country far, far away...

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