Making a great bowhold

Learning to make a great bowhold from the very beginning has great benefits down the track, enabling exquisite control of the bow techniques that determine shape and colour in music.  And practising it correctly during the first couple of weeks is crucial, as with any new skill.

I teach bowhold at the first or second lesson to both parent and child, first teaching the parent how to make it, then the student and finally teaching the parent how to teach it at home – going over it until I’m confident they will both get it right every time. Practised carefully every day, reinforced at the Saturday class and reviewed at subsequent lessons, it quickly becomes a habit.

Here’s the 5 steps I use:

  • Place child’s right hand, palm up, on my left palm;
  • Position the bow on the student’s hand with the two middle fingers at the leather;
  • Ask them to place place their thumb (corner) between these fingers and bend it;
  • Place little finger – curved softly – on the stick;
  • Turn over and rest the bow on left shoulder, checking that knuckles are flat and soft, little finger is curved, thumb bent and in position.

Why do I teach it with palm up? It keeps the child’s hand relaxed and the knuckles soft. Members can view a short video at this link – bow hold of me teaching it to a young child at the group class. If you haven’t already done so, please register as a member to view it.

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I hope you find this post useful.

Cheers, John

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  1. Heidi Illian says:

    Hi John – thank you so much for your posts! I have found them to be very helpful. I am wondering what would be your suggestion for a student who has learned to hold the bow incorrectly in a school group violin class and has been using that for one year now. She is double jointed and despite my using several finger-strengthening techniques (pushing down on a clothespin) she still has not learned to curve her pinky. Furthermore, because she has been pushed to play more difficult pieces in school, and has learned using this bow hold, she does not see the need to change it, although she complies. What strategies would you use? Her fingers really do collapse when she tries to curve them!

    • John Berger says:

      Hi Heidi, yes – it’s those little entrenched habits that are the hardest to change. My advice is to isolate and practise just one skill, in this case the curved pinky, before combining with other skills. Ask her to keep it curved – softly touching the stick – while she plays some long bows on open A. Congratulate her if she can do it, even if it sounds like exaggerated praise. Then try a simple piece (Twinkle?) saying, “How far can you play with a beautifully curved pinky?” Stop as soon as it slips back to the wrong shape, saying something like, “Well done, you reached such and such a place!” Increase the challenge until she can play a whole piece with a correct pinky. The plan for home practice is for her (and mother) to see how many pieces she can play correctly. In this way she can build her ‘repertoire’ of correct pieces. I hope this helps.

  2. Heather Laakso says:

    I can’t find the video you link to in the article. I’m curious to see you teaching the bow hold. I was taught to hold the bow at the very end with my two middle fingers on the frog and my pinky on the adjuster. Should I have been taught differently?

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