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Loose wrist epiphany!
Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 (2 votes) 

May 9, 2015 - 2:58 pm
Member Since: August 28, 2013
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Loosening up my wrist is something I have to continually work on.  Sometimes it's loose and fluid and sometimes it is just not!  I determined to really pay attention to mechanics so as to see what it was I was doing when.  Turns out it's an issue with my pinky!  If I have my pinky on the bow, it wants to to be straight and I know it is supposed to be slightly bent.  I can't seem to keep it from locking into a straight position unless I am paying specific attention to it, so I worked a bit on just keeping my pinky off the bow entirely.  Guess what, wonderful flowing, graceful wrist!  WOOT!  

Does anyone know of a specific problem with not using your pinky on the bow at all?  I feel like I am still able to apply enough pressure without it.  


Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.


Alaska, the Madness; Bloggity Stories of the North Country

Jim Dunleavy
United Kingdom

May 9, 2015 - 3:35 pm
Member Since: April 19, 2015
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It's always nice when you make a breakthrough isn't it. smile

I've also been working on loosening my wrist up, and when it works right it makes such a difference.

I'm no expert on bow holds, but I have a feeling that if you take your pinky off you will have a problem controlling your bow pressure near the frog - you need your pinky to lift off some of the pressure caused by the weight of the whole bow above the contact point.

Russia, Tatarstan rep. Kazan city

May 11, 2015 - 4:56 pm
Member Since: October 7, 2011
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Nice to hear about your progress!

A specific problem with not using your pinky - is loosing control of the bow pressure playing with the lower bow part, lifting and putting the bow back on a string, varying dynamics during one bow stroke (those are only my observations - might be different for others). I'd suggest to continue using pinky, definitely, and as You do, try to relax it and keep it bent.

Problems with the wrist (in my case at least) is not in the hand itself mostly. There's an exercise that helped me extremely:

1) Put the bow on a string - in the middle of the bow approx.

2) Relax your right hand as much as You can (there must be a feeling that You're gonna drop the bow if relax a bit more ;)).

3) Wave your hand up and down - do it, using the wrist (arm from the elbow to the fingertips is absolutely relaxed).

4) Take off all fingers from the bow, let it rest on the thumb only.

5) Wiggle those fingers in the air and put them down in the relaxed state.

6) Draw the bow =)

7) If feel tensed - repeat 1) to 5) again.

Helpful or not, but i don't have a lot of problems with my right hand right now =)

Fort Lauderdale
May 12, 2015 - 8:24 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 16063

Yes as stated above. The pinky never applies bow pressure, rather relieves pressure. Most useful at the lower half to the frog and especially when trying to play very softly at those locations.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

Honorary tenured advisor

May 12, 2015 - 11:07 am
Member Since: January 19, 2014
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If your pinky is staying straight or not contacting the bow at all, my guess would be that your entire grip is rotated slightly too far counter-clockwise, i. e. tilted too far in the direction of your index finger. This will result in a couple of undesirable effects.  First, it  means that you're putting more weight on your index finger. Secondly, you can't counteract the weight applied by your index finger by pressing down with your little finger on the top of the bow.  That won't necessarily be a bad thing on the upper half of the bow, but as others have pointed out, it will lead to problems when playing on the lower part of the bow.  I know this, because I have the same tendency. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright


May 13, 2015 - 4:46 am
Member Since: August 28, 2013
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Ok ok, put the pinky back on the bow lol.  Thanks guys.  Back to work I go.  


Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.


Alaska, the Madness; Bloggity Stories of the North Country

California, the place of my heart
May 14, 2015 - 7:47 pm
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LOL... facepalmI have heard a few people mention that the pinky could lift off the bow at certain times.... NOW don't quote me on that. LOLexactlyBut I did hear it. 

I know that my pinky is on the bow.. but there are times it achieves lift off. facepalmTrue story.exactly

I am happy to hear Pierre note that there is " no pressure on the bow with the pinky.. it  relieves pressure... "   Some of the bowing exercises  (NOT here on this site but other places lead me to believe the pinky was some strong helper)dunno

You know then there are those that play like that Celtic woman with her hand no where near the frog... you know.. those folks.... they have MAGIC!!!! 

hum... Toni "wonders how good I have to be before I can do something different without the rolling eyeballs.. "  LOLOfish

When I would take lessons my teacher would say.. ".............one thing......."   and then  I would get critique here on the forum and a world class violinist guy would say.."...... the opposite thing......"    One time I made the mistake of asking her.... in a really nice... non threatening.. NON disrespectful way.   She didn't even give me an explanation for her way she just pulled the ..." Well I am your teacher right" card.. pie_in_the_face-2223

Go get em at the recital tomorrow.. Have a ball!!!! banana

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato


May 15, 2015 - 1:08 am
Member Since: May 4, 2012
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The easiest way I know of to study what each finger does in any bow hold is to lift the fingers off, one at a time, and play a few pieces while keeping each one lifted off.  A few notes or even one piece may not be enough to notice the difference.  When I made the experiment for myself, I found that in the hold I currently use (Franco-Belgian) they do all make a difference in at least some portion of the stroke or some tempo and etc. 

At least for me, I feel they make a difference and have a job to do.  I can't say if that will definitely be true for you, though, since we don't have the same hands and etc.

There are also other bow holds.  Russian is about the only one I ever found enough info and playing examples of to try.  Didn't work out better for me than the Franco-Belgian most folks use.  I found I tended to tense my wrist too much with a Russian hold.  I also have *heard* of a German hold, but haven't actually ever found enough info on it to try it. 

I think that anything that you hear of or think of is at least worth a try to see if it maybe works better for you.  Heck, a lot of teachers have students begin with holding the bow with the thumb under the frog.  For some children or adult beginners, it can be a less awkward way to hold at first while the hand develops strength and dexterity.  It does not seem to hurt their later development at all, from what I hear. 

The pinky finger, some people just don't use much in everyday life.  Our world is set up to be able to dodge around using it most of the time.  But it *can* be very useful, once it has had enough practice and work to be a "productive member of the team".  A non-violin example most of us here are familiar with is typing.  Some type with just their first fingers, some use maybe the first two fingers and thumb, etc.  Touch typists who have practised using all the fingers of both hands can usually type considerably faster and surer, though.

With violin, the pinky floating up off the bow is very common, especially early on.  Enough so that there are exercises and assorted gadgets to train the pinky to rest in a particular place on the bow.  So you definitely have a lot of company.  My bow hand pinky used to "levitate" quite often, and eventually I used a home-made version of a gadget called a "pinky nest" for about a month to fix that. 

Anyway, experiment, try different things, and if something seems to work for you at least right now.. go with it.  But I suggest you keep experimenting at least every now and then, especially when you run into pieces that are being a challenge.  Maybe at some point you will find places where you want that pinky doing a job.

And maybe not.  I recall reading that some of the old masters kept the pinky definitely lifted off the bow, and they obviously could still play well.  But I don't know enough details on that.  They may have been holding it a little different, their bow might have been balanced a little differently, there may have been some trick to it.  Or maybe a lot of years of many hours of practice. 

But I personally don't believe that there is some one perfect way of doing things that is just always best for everyone.  We all have different hands, wrists, arms, fingers, etc.  Explore, experiment, learn, use.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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