What You Need To Know About The Bow Hold - Part 2

Hi there! In my last blog post, I wanted to tackle the question, “Why is the way you hold the bow important?” I’m going to continue with more on this, as this is a question that so many students of the fiddle ask, and the answer is so fundamentally important. In my last post I addressed some good places to start: observation and reflection. Beginning with observation and reflection gives you a good idea of the variety of ways to hold the bow and allows you to consider a few important factors that can have a big impact on how you decide to hold your bow, including the style of music that you would like to play and your hand physiology. 

The next step as you move through this process is that of fine-tuning your bow hold

Playing without a great bow hold generally leads to four issues that I have seen over and over again in my travels: 

  • Difficulty producing great tone; 
  • Difficulty playing quickly; 
  • Difficulty playing smoothly; 
  • Pain in the bow hand and arm. 

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, my friend, read on, because this is a totally fixable kind of issue. It just takes some insight and dedicated practice. 

I’m sure by now you’ve read about the important aspects of the bow hold, and I addressed some of them in my last post. They are: 

  • Rounded fingers and thumb without points of tension or locked joints; 
  • Flexibility in the wrist and finger joints of the bow arm; 
  • The top of the right hand is oriented into the bow, so that the weight of your hand is transmitted by your index finger to the stick of the bow. 

Each of these points of technique plays a key role in determining how your arm, hand and bow work together to create and reduce tension on the string, for the creation of beautiful, nuanced tone. 

I’m going to share an often-overlooked key to bow hold success with you right now as well. Ready? 

When you are holding the bow to the string, hold the bow as gently as if it were a living thing. 

In fact, Yehudi Menuhin was said to say that “…It is absolutely vital to hold [the bow] as lightly as possible - rather as one might pick up a newborn bird…” 

Each of the four issues that I discussed above can be traced back to a bow hold that is too firm and joints that are locked and tight. I tell my students not to “choke the bow.” It should be treated as a living, breathing thing. Once you are able to hold the bow in this way, your tone will improve significantly, you will be able to play your tunes quickly and with greater ease, your notes will be lilting and connected, and you will not experience pain in your bow arm. Doesn’t this sound like something you want to invest in with some practice time? Absolutely! 

In my next post, I will talk about some key ways for you to begin reinforcing this new way of holding the bow, so that it becomes the way that you most naturally pick up and hold the bow as you play. 

Yours in music, 

Shamma

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