HOLDING THE BOW AT THE BALANCE POINT
Before learning to hold the bow at the frog, the teacher may wish to show students how to hold the bow at the balance point (Movie 1). The weight is balanced on both sides of the hand, the bow can be held horizontally with greater ease.
If your student’s are older and have a 3/4 or full size bow, you can purchase an inexpensive smaller bow, 1/10 size or smaller, to practice forming the bow hold and making the first bow strokes. The smaller bows are easier to hold and control than the longer bow.
COMMON BOW HOLD PROBLEMS
A hyperextended thumb is common, as is the TIP of the thumb not touching the stick. The thumb should be bent at the first joint. If the tip of the thumb is touching the stick , the student can roll the stick back and forth, and can flex their fingers and thumb when holding the bow.
Problem no. 2 – Incorrect contact point of the fingers with the stick of the bow. The tips of the fingers should NOT touch the stick. This will result in a loss of bow control. The first joints of the middle and ring fingers should touch the stick. The index finger should touch the stick between the first and second joints, as shown. 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.
Stiff pinkie - A curved and relaxed pinkie is essential for bow control. Ask students to hold the bow vertically and to tap their pinkies. In beginning instruction, never ask a student to hold the bow horizontally without the support of the instrument or left hand for more than a few seconds.
Fingers too spread out. There should be a little space between the fingers, but not too much.
No pronation – the forearm must rotate slightly toward the stick of the bow (pronation) so weight can transfer from the arm into the stick of the bow. Analogies like pouring water through the first finger may help students get this idea.
Movie 3 provides demonstrations of the most common bow hold problems.
BOW HOLD GAMES
It is important for students to learn the role of the fingers in the bow hold. The bow can be thought of as a teeter-totter or see-saw. The stick is the see saw, the fingers of the hand are the kids playing on the see saw, and the thumb is the fulcrum.
From middle to tip, the first finger adds additional weight to compensate for the lightness of the bow. From middle to frog the pinkie adds weight.
Movie 4 contains demonstrations of common bow hold games.
FORMING THE BOW HOLD
FORMING THE BOW HOLD AT THE FROG
Hold the bow with the left hand near the tip of the bow so right hand can be free from any possible weight of the bow.
Touch the bent thumb to the bottom of the stick. Place middle and ring fingers on top of the stick at first joint. Turn the bow over. Lay index finger on bow between 1st and 2nd joint. Roll thumb until thumb nail stops bow. Repeat this several times to get the feel of the bent thumb touching the stick and the thumb nail touching the hair .
Turn the bow back over and hold with left hand at the tip. For violin and viola, tap little fingernail on the bow-on top of stick. This insures that it is curved. A curved and relaxed pinkie is essential for bow control.
For cello and bass French bow hold, the pinkie and index finger rest comfortably next to the middle and ring fingers. The pinkie does not sit on the top of the stick for cello or bass.
Note the placement of the pinkie is next to ring finger. It does not need to be touching the screw.
In general, there is a small amount of space between the fingers - finger windows. The fingers of the hand are not spread, as this will cause tension in the hand.
Flop approach from above: Hold the bow with the left hand near the tip of the bow so right hand can be free from any possible weight of the bow.
Do a chop-flop and lay the fingers down on top of the stick near the frog. Touch the thumb to the stick where it naturally falls, the move the pinkie up to the top of the stick.
Move 2 contains a demonstration of forming the bow hold at the frog.
A bow hold is critical to tone production so using a carefully sequenced step-by-step approach to teaching bow hold with daily review is very important. Please see Bold Hold Preparation Games for ideas on teaching the shape of the hand and developing flexibility.