“You feel like you’re going to drop it, but you don’t”
Now it’s time for us to get started on the bow hold. First, take a good look at your bow, your frog, and your screw. I’ll be referencing these parts by name to help you know where to place your fingers. Before we get started, don’t worry if you never quite feel like you have full control of the bow. A famous saying concerning holding the violin bow is, “you feel like you’re going to drop it, but you don’t.”
The bow hold
There are 5 main points on the bow hold and they are all related to the 5 digits(fingers) you have on your hand. Each plays a vital role in making your hand stable, responsive, yet loose enough to allow for fluidity in bow techniques. I’ll break this down a bit to help us know exactly where the fingers should be placed.
The 1st finger is placed on the grip. It sits on top of the winding, for the most part. However, it is also directly next to the leather part of the grip. When placing the first finger on the bow, make sure that the bow stick/grip sits between the first knuckle/joint of the first finger, and the second knuckle/joint of the first finger.
Next, the 2nd finger is placed on the frog, and slides closer to the grip, but not too close. Basically, you want your 2nd finger to be across from your thumb.
Your 3rd finger should be on the frog, but covering the dot that most frogs have. I have made this a game for my younger students called “hide the dot with your 3rd finger.”
The 4th finger should be on it’s tip on the end of the bow, near the screw, but not on it. It should also be curved. In fact, throughout most of the bow motion, each of these fingers should remain curved, to a certain degree. Never let the pinky place itself on the metal screw. Always try to make sure that the pinky is on top of the stick, and never down or underneath the bow stick.
There’s two ways I teach my students to hold the thumb. The first is what I call the “Suzuki Hold”, which I use on our first day of violin playing and for a short time afterward. The next step is the Franco-Belgian bow grip.
Your thumb should be on the bottom of the metal ferule. It should also be on it’s tip. Throughout the majority of the bow stroke, the thumb will be on it’s tip to one degree or another. Only when you’re at the tip of the bow will the thumb(and the other fingers) straighten out. The same is true of the pinky finger.
Franco-Belgian Bow Grip
After the Suzuki Hold, we progress to the Franco-Belgian bow grip. In Musimethod, the only thing that changes here is the thumb. Instead of on the bottom of the frog on the metal ferule, the thumb will now be placed in the space between the frog and the grip on the bow stick. You will notice the gap between the grip and the frog just above the bow hair on the bow stick. It’s small, but that’s fine because again, we only want the tip to be placed in this location.
Tilting/pronating the fingers
Once you’ve achieved a relatively secure bow hold, it’s time to tilt. What do I mean? I mean, tilt your fingers/hand slightly towards the tip of the bow. This allows you to better control the bow and make it go where you desire.
Follow these instructions for a head start on the right way to hold your bow. A good bow hold is important. It allows us to perform more advanced techniques more easily. Remember, try to have the best bow hold possible so that you don’t have to break bad habits and learn good ones later on in your development. Music is magic, and keep practicing friends!