A. THE BOW HOLD – finger-by-finger
- Step 1 – Prepare: Grab the middle of your bow with your left hand. Make sure the frog is pointing to the right as you look at the bow. Hold the bow parallel to the ground comfortably in front of you. Take care to avoid touching the bow hair.
- Step 2 – Thumb: Curve your thumb (on the right hand!) and place its tip on the bow so that it rests comfortably against the raised part of the frog. The thumb joint should be roughly 1/4 inch from the bow hair.
- Step 3 – First finger: Curve your first finger and place it over the stick at the first joint (the big knuckle).
- Step 4 – Middle fingers: The middle fingers should curve around the bow and rest gently next to one another opposite the thumb.
- Step 5 – Pinky finger: Curve the pinky finger and place it on top of the bow.
B. An explanation:
The thumb centers the hand on the bow and stabilizes the bow hold from the bottom. Keeping your thumb curved is vital because it allows your bow hand to be loose and fluid. If your thumb is locked straight as is common with beginning violin students, your bow hand will become rigid and in responsive. A loose, fluid bow hand is absolutely vital to the production of a beautiful sound.
The first finger directs the path of the bow and helps apply the appropriate amount of bow pressure onto the string. Keeping the first finger curved around the bow will help maintain a straight line as you bow from frog to tip and back. Weight applied to the string from the arm and shoulder should be directed through the first finger.
The middle fingers should rest easily over the stick (or bow) opposite the thumb. The middle fingers should be totally devoid of tension. Use your middle fingers as a barometer of hand tension! If you sense tension in your middle fingers, there is too much tension in your bow hold.
The pinky finger provides balance to the bow hold from the top of the bow. As with the thumb, a curved pinky finger is vital to a loose, fluid bow hand. A straight pinky locks the bow hand in place and obstructs the smooth movement of the bow. A curved pinky will be immensely helpful as you strive to control the bow and make a beautiful sound.
C. A deeper explanation
Have you noticed the emphasis placed on creating a loose, fluid bow hold in the explanation of the bow hold above? Why might this be? To answer this question, you must begin to understand the relationship that exists between the bow and the violin.The bow hair vibrates the violin strings, which in turn creates the sound your violin makes. A deep and undeniable connection between the bow and violin is evident as you bow back and forth. And as you play more and more you will find that you develop an intuition for changing that connection- the source of the sound you make- to suit your musical needs in the moment. The longer you play the violin, the more it will become obvious to you that changing your bow stroke in small ways- whether by varying bow speed and pressure or changing the placement of the bow on the string- can lead to big changes in sound production.
Thanks to the ingenious design of the violin, there is a breadth of nuance possible on the violin like on almost no other instrument. The expressive possibilities that come from mastering the nuances of the bow is very likely the technical explanation behind why it is you love the violin and want to play it. Consider the following paragraphs as you contemplate your bow hold.
- A loose, fluid bow hold allows you to change the various aspects of the sound your violin creates. When considering the various aspects of sound production like bow speed, weight and placement, the possibilities on the violin are practically infinite. But when you lock your bow hold, when you permanently straighten your pinky or your thumb, you remove the ability of the bow hand to react and change. When the bow hold is locked, no matter how, you can hardly change at all. Your sound will be essentially the same no matter what you do. Contemplate the implications of this statement!It may feel more comfortable to play with a locked pinky or thumb.
It may feel like you are able to assert more control over the bow. But believe this: you are not gaining control. You are losing control! When your bow hold is locked in place, your hand is literally stuck. It cannot move. It cannot react. When the music changes, your sound will not be able to lamy violin bow change with it. But this dire situation can be easily avoided! Focus on achieving the loosest bow hold possible. Focus on eliminating tension from your hand and from your mind. Find that fine line between a loose, fluid bow hold and dropping the bow. Seriously! When you can find that line and stay near it, you will understand much of what it takes to play the violin. Your bow will enable you to turn your music into metaphor, into a living musical translation of whatever is inside you.
- Execute the bow hold step-by-step as directed in Section A of this chapter. Take care to place each finger individually, reminding yourself of the precise positioning and shape of each individual finger.
- Once you feel comfortable with creating your bow hold finger-by finger,practice creating your bow hold in one smooth motion. REMEMBER! Focus on a loose, fluid feeling. Relax your hand!
- Experiment with the balancing your bow hold. Move your bow arm up and down, left and right, clockwise and counter-clockwise (Wax on,wax off). Feel how each finger (especially the thumb and pinky).