How to Teach Beautiful Violin Bowing

We admire and compliment string players on the dazzling speed, dexterity and accuracy of their left hand on the fingerboard, yet it is the right arm, the bowing arm, that is the living instrument for expression of the music’s soul – the shape, colour, tone, volume, connections, rhythm, accents and the like – how sound is transformed into music.

And the way you move the bow – the unique motion of your arm –  is the visible trademark of your musicianship. As much as the sound you produce, it defines your character and personality as a violinist.


Takako Nishizaki

What are the key characteristics of Beautiful Violin Bowing and how do you teach or learn them?

In this post I’ve included a few of the methods and games I use to teach good bowing. Like all teachers, I’ve borrowed, copied, modified and invented lots of ways to teach good bowing. As soon as I write one down for this post, another comes to mind that would be just as effective, or more suitable for particular students. The point, I suppose, is to begin with a clear idea of the desired outcome: the skill that the student needs to learn to have the greatest effect on their bowing, and to work out an accessible and hopefully enjoyable way of teaching it.

I recommend that you do the same: take and modify these exercises and games to suit your own situation and needs. Here’s my take on the ABCDE of Beautiful Bowing:

A. Straight Bows

One of the first bowing skills beginners learn is to play with straight bow strokes – parallel to the bridge. This helps to produce a pure tone and keeps the bow hair at the optimum place of contact with the string. The five basic rhythms are all played between bow tapes in the middle to lower half – where straight bows are easier.

Initially the hair is flat against the string and later students learn how to tilt the bow slightly away, to control the amount of hair contacting the string, create tone shape and play at the best sound point near the bridge.

How I Teach Straight Bows

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