The second step is to hold a straw with the left hand while forming the bow hold with the right hand. This can also be done with a pencil, but straws work great to prevent squeezing with the thumb.

1) Bend and flex the thumb. Touch THE TIP of the thumb to the straw as shown in Image 3.

2) Place the FIRST JOINT of the middle and ring fingers on top of the straw as shown in Image 4, opposed to the thumb.

3) Turn the straw over so you can see thumb (Image 5). Lay index finger on straw next to middle finger. Continue to bend and flex the thumb. Flex and bend the fingers.  Make a "Come here" type of gesture with the index finger.

Turn straw back over. For violin and viola, tap little fingernail on the top of the straw (Image 6). Cello and Bass, place pinkie next to ring finger. Note the placement of the pinkie is next to ring finger. A curved and relaxed pinkie is essential for bow control and it must be taught at this stage.

Note the slight spacing between the fingers. Finger windows are thin. Fingers should be bunched together or widely spread.


Problems to check for while the student is holding the straw: A hyperextended thumb is INCORRECT (Image 7). A hyperextended thumb will cause inflexibility in the wrist. Often, if the the thumb is hyperextended, the TIP of the thumb is not touching the pencil.Thumb should be bent at the first joint. If the tip of the thumb is touching the straw , the student can roll the straw back and forth.

Problem no. 2 - The tips of the index, middle and ring fingers should NOT touch the straw (Image 8). This will result in a loss of bow control. The first joints of the middle and ring fingers should touch the straw. The index finger should touch the straw between the first and second joints, as shown in Image 4.5. One way to help students is to draw a contact point line on their fingers to remind them where to touch their fingers to the stick.

Movie 1 demonstrates forming the shape of the hand, forming the bow hold on a straw, and common problems to address before trying to hold the bow.

Image 1


Preparation for learning to hold the bow should be approached in several steps. The first step is to practice making the shape of the hand. Remove tension by shaking out hand and by wiggling the thumb. Form a circle with the hand (Image 1). Ask students to pretend they are picking up an orange or tennis ball. Play the jellyfish game, pretending the hand is a jellyfish. Bend and Flex the Thumb.

Bow Hold Bunnies

The bunny game is fun and gives students imagery they can use to remember the role of the fingers. While thumb is bent, touch it to the middle and ring fingers at the first joint (Image 1). Flex the thumb and these two fingers. This is the bunny chewing. Bend the wrist. This is the bunny taking a bow. Wiggle the index and pinkie fingers. This is the bunny wiggling its ears. Turn the hand over and inspect the bent thumb (Image 2). Practice having the hand change from a bunny to a fox (hyperextended thumb and straight ears) so students have a sense of correct and incorrect.

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

Image 6

Image 7

Image 8


Finger flexibility and wrist flexibility are essential for producing a musical tone with the bow. Kansas & Colorado is a game that you can play with your students to help develop finger flexibility. Holding a pencil, flex the fingers and thumb as shown in Movie 1, without rolling the pencil. Practice until students demonstrate flexibility in their fingers, thumb, and wrist before learning to hold the bow.


Movie 1