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Lately I have been thinking more about my bow hold, and actually my bowing entirely as part of my playing.
This came actually to me early on when I was discussing the finer points of string playing with my best friend, a brilliant viola player.
We were discussing where I should put my focus and what is important. Keep in mind, this was early in my violin playing.. probably only 3 months of playing. She told me bowing is even more important than fingering to achieve good tone and a mature sound (by mature, I mean beyond the beginner sound of violin playing). Bowing is where you control dynamics, expression, and truly the beauty of the violin. You can, of course, decorate your sound with vibrato, glissando, trills, etc... but the bow controls the sound.
With that in mind, I have been thinking, studying, and trying to learn more about the bow hold.
I do have a good traditional bow hold. It does the job, meaning, I can hold the bow properly, control my pressure, and keep my bow in the right direction and position. This is what the bow hold should do as its basic function.
Now, I am wanting to bring it to the next level...
As I watch more seasoned players and talk to those players I know who have been playing a while and I consider to have excellent bowing skills, I notice they have a very natural hold. It is as though they have always held a bow in their hand and it comes to them without effort or thought. Whether playing a technically challenging piece or an expressive piece, they never seem clumsy or awkward at all with their bow hold. The bow is part of their hand, arm, shoulder. They are never at odds with their bow.
This is where I want to be. Not that I have an awkward, difficult hold, or feel at odds with my bow necessarily. But I want to have much more comfort and ease with it. I want the total relaxed feel and hold, along with the control.
I know it is a lot to ask, and it is really the goal of any player... but seriously... how do you achieve this?
Is there an exercise or a daily ritual I can perform? Is it meditation? Please... I really want to improve my bow hold.
Any advise is welcome... even if you don't have any idea. I'll take jokes, too.
- Pete -
Well, @Pete_Violin I think the people you are observing have been playing for a long time. It is natural to them. That is what I think is the reason for observing this naturalness, as if an extension of their hands. I think that comfort level is just from, or mainly from, having done it for so long, that the minute that bow touches her or his hand the body knows what to do, it actually is, in affect, a natural extension of their hands. Like picking up a fork, you know instinctively what to do.
I would bet if you watched the left arm and fingers that you would notice the same naturalist. That violin has become part of that violinist.
That said, maybe less stress about it. Try relaxing your hold. I read somewhere about imagining your bow as pulling the music from the strings or instrument not you pulling the the bow. I do this, when I remember. It actually does help. I really feel it with the up bowing. I wish I would remember to do that thinking more often. It also helps my bow hold. I was just doing it about 2 hours ago.
Now that I mentioned it here, maybe I will remember this more often. When I get my cello out, or grab a violin or viola, so much goes out the window because I just want to play it.
So play like your bow is making the instrument sing, the bow is pulling the sound out, not you bowing. Don’t think about it. And remember, it will take a lot of playing time, I believe, to achieve what I think you were describing. I have noticed it with long time players.
Please ignore any typos. I have bern busy playing cello, quilting, sewing and cleaning my kitchen today. Kind of laxed in spell checking right now.
Yes you are right about how long they have been playing! In fact, the ones I really watch are the world class musicians like Itzhak Perlman and Hilary Hahn... Clearly, they have been playing many years and of course I do not expect to have that level of playing for a while.
But I do expect to get there. 🙂
The analogy of pulling the music is really a great way to think of this.
I am also familiar with how the wrist should bend up coming up bow and bend back coming down bow. I do try to work on this.. Like you say, it takes concerted effort and focus to do this. But isn't this true for everything we do with these instruments??!! LOL!!
I have also noticed that I can play much more smoothly and more beautifully when I am relaxing overall. From bow hold on the right, to fingering on the left... when everything is relaxed, the music is much more beautiful.
Thank you, for your insights... You have a good way to describe things.
- Pete -