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Bow Trouble
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scottishlass
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June 11, 2019 - 2:56 pm
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Hi Folks,

I'm a week into learning the violin and I have a bow hold problem. I have started to get cramp in my bow hand and spent today checking my hold.

I appear to be keeping both my thumb and little finger straight and rigid. I am aware they both need to be curved. I can't seem to get my thumb to curve at all without nearly dropping the bow. When I curve my little finger it slips down the bow and won't stay on top. My thumb and little finger seem to be the two points that grip the bow.

Any advice would be most welcome.

Louise

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 11, 2019 - 4:40 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 14807

It would be very helpful if you posted a picture.

Welcome to the forum by the way. 😁

Bow-hold-picture-no-1.jpgImage Enlarger

Start with the pinky on top and your thumb in the right place with all your fingers together, then twist your hand counter clockwise. Make sure to be as relaxed as possible.

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scottishlass
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June 12, 2019 - 8:35 am
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scottishlass
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June 12, 2019 - 8:37 am
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Sorry rubbish photos but that is how my hold is at the moment.

 

Thank you for the reply.

 

Louise

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bocaholly
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June 13, 2019 - 11:53 am
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Hi there, Scottishlass,

Very cool move to post photos of your actual bow hold. Just for context, I began playing violin a year ago. When I switched teachers 5 months ago, 80% of what we worked on was relaxing my bow hand and bowing. About 3 and a half months in to that, we actually started to hear the sound improve. So, for me at least, I'm somewhere along the line in what's hopefully going to be a long and fun process.

I hope for the same for you too! ... maybe not so slow though 🙂

Concretely, on your bow hold photos, it looks like both your thumb and pinky are straight (even hyperextended.) All 5 fingers need to be bent and relaxed.

I think you mentioned, above, that when you relax your hand, you feel like you're going to lose the bow. Yup, I get that... to the extent that I actually have had my bow fall out of my hand a couple of times. Luckily I'm not too bothered by a small scratch here or there.

My teacher offered some hand strengthening exercises and that helped me a ton in relaxing without dropping the bow. Here's one exercise:

Hold the bow at the frog and orient it vertically (tip up)
Imagine your hand is a spider and wants to crawl to the tip
      (Keep all 5 fingers bent... that means your thumb too!)
That was the easy part...
Now crawl back - spider style - towards the frog.

If your hand starts getting cramped or sore, stop and shake it out. Sounds so simple but I had to work for weeks to achieve some hand strength, ease and relaxation. I haven't done that exercise in a while but will again now that I've touted how useful it was to me 🙂

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
June 13, 2019 - 1:04 pm
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That's a great exercise @bocaholly !

@scottishlass - from one of your images that shows where your thumb is - I would try two things - 

(1) move it back towards the frog somewhat as it seems to be almost adjacent to your index finger - and if/when your pinkie is off the frog (which it can often be while playing) you are balancing the entire weight of the bow at that single point.  Moving the thumb back (or moving the index finger forward) would ( I imagine ) give a better lever-action.

(2) also (a tad like the death-grip on the neck which plagues us beginners! ) I would go with the advice above - relax that hand, roll that thumb back - it doesn't need to wrap around all the way under the stick to the point where it is almost touching any of the top fingers.

I know it can be a little disconcerting - feels like your going to drop the bow.  Yes it can happen, but use the exercises Holly mentioned and you'll gain confidence.

Disclaimer - take all that with a pinch of salt - it's just what I see, and has nothing to do with any specific correct hold - we're all different - and I've had an "unusual hold" for a while - doesn't stop me !  Just get comfortable !

All the best 🙂

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Jim Dunleavy
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June 13, 2019 - 1:33 pm
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Hi @scottishlass . 🙂

The main thing that I noticed is that you are holding the bow on the pad of your thumb. Really you should have the 'tip' of your thumb against the stick where the frog meets it. Your thumb joint needs to be bent 'forwards' to achieve that - yours looks as if it is almost straight or even bent backwards slightly. I get a slight indentation in the end of my thumb after I've been playing, where the corner of the frog has dug in.

Your thumb tip is the pivot point around which you control the pressure of the bow on the string and is crucial for getting a good sound. 

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
June 13, 2019 - 2:30 pm
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That's good advice @Jim Dunleavy - as you say

Your thumb tip is the pivot point around which you control the pressure of the bow on the string and is crucial for getting a good sound. 

in fact it sounds like the hold @Fiddlerman demonstrated in his pictures, a few posts above, and is indeed almost the same as I started with - although at that time, I had a broken top-joint on my pinkie, which didn't help, so I let it fly in the air (or even, at times, curved back, UNDER the adjuster on the frog.....  really - that way, at least I had some control !!!)

Personally,  even with the pinkie now painless, I find the position with the thumb right back at the frog somewhat uncomfortable, and I tend to shift my entire hand slightly up the stick, letting the weight of the frog end "ease" (for me) the overall balance point (in my hand) as *I* feel it.... and yes - the thumb-tip is still the pivot point of course.   And sure, I've had plenty of comments about my "somewhat high on the stick hold", but it works for me, for what I do.

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Mark
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June 14, 2019 - 12:56 am
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Scottishlass,

Here is a video which she's discusses the violin hold and towards the end of the video she discusses the bow hold, I find her instruction videos worth watching.

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
June 14, 2019 - 8:06 am
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Thanks for finding and sharing that @Mark - interesting....

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Mark
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June 14, 2019 - 7:19 pm
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Billy,

Jim Dunleavy first posted about her instructional video a while back thank him.thumbs-up

 

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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scottishlass
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June 15, 2019 - 3:11 pm
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Many thanks for all the replies.

Holly, that sounds like a great exercise which I will certainly be trying. Billy and Jim, I think my current thumb position seems to be the root cause of my poor hold. Mark, I will have a look at that video, thanks for sharing.

I have  managed to get a slightly better position over the last day or so following the above advice. I have got my thumb nail over one of the hexagonal ridges of the stick with my knuckle pointing towards the hair. It does give me a more rounded hold but I have to really think about keeping it as it does all tend to slide straight again after playing (such as it is!) for a while.21

Louise

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
June 16, 2019 - 4:41 am
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Mark said
Billy,

Jim Dunleavy first posted about her instructional video a while back thank him.thumbs-up

Mark

  Cool!   My apologies, and thank you, @Jim Dunleavy hats_off

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Pete_Violin
Utah
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July 9, 2019 - 6:48 pm
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@scottishlass 

It has been about a month into your playing now.  How is your bow hold?  Are you more relaxed now?  

Please let us know.

- Pete -

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scottishlass
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July 10, 2019 - 2:46 pm
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Thank you for thinking of me!

 

Yes, I think my hold is moving in the right direction. The thumb is now bent in the right direction and is much more comfortable. I think my hand is now slanting a bit too far forward and the little finger likes to fly in the air every now and then.

 

I will get my husband to take some updated photos tomorrow.

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Pete_Violin
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July 10, 2019 - 4:12 pm
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That sounds a lot better.  Just be careful.

The bow hold is a very important part of playing and early on, you will want to get this right.  Getting out of bad habits on this is really difficult and the bow hold can affect your tone and playing down the road.  

It sounds like you are making good progress!

- Pete -

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scottishlass
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July 14, 2019 - 4:40 pm
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Bow hold two. Again sorry for rubbish photos!

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scottishlass
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July 14, 2019 - 4:51 pm
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  • Sorry, photos might help!
  • 20190711_115945.jpgImage Enlarger20190711_120004.jpgImage Enlargerh
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Jim Dunleavy
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July 15, 2019 - 1:58 am
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That looks much, much better!

 

Your hand looks quite tense, but maybe that's just because you were taking the photo with your other hand?

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scottishlass
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July 15, 2019 - 3:56 pm
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My husband took the photos.  Do you think my thumb is in a better position? 

I have been trying a few bow hold relaxation exercises but it seems to be having little affect at the moment.

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