Bow Basics

The Bow:

The bow is what gives you your sound. Therefore it is essential that you use the bow properly. You have to start out right with a proper bow grip.

We have a tendency to grab the bow like a sword when we first start. We must fight this desire. I will lay out the steps and principles of holding the bow.

  1. Remove the bow from the case. (Do not touch the bow hairs)

The hairs should be loosened. (They should be loosened at the end of every time you play before you put the bow away or it will wear out the hairs)

  1. Tighten the hairs so that they move away from the stick but keeping a curve in the bow. There should be some play in the tension of the hairs. You should with some slight effort, be able to press down on the stick and the stick will touchdown on the hairs/strings; or bottom out. If it is too loose it will be very easy. If it is too tight, it will feel choked and will be difficult to touch the stick to the hairs/strings

Apply rosin if needed. See the Creating a Sound section below for how much rosin to apply.

Put the thumb underneath the stick between the frog and the pad between the hair and the stick.

Lay the 2nd and 3rd fingers over the thumb and frog. The thumb will usually touch near the crevice of the first joint of the 2nd finger. (first from the tip)

The stick should lay in the crevice of the 2nd joint of the 1st finger (2nd from the tip) like you are hugging the stick with your finger.

The tip of the 4th finger should rest on the top of the stick and should be curved out.

The thumb should be curved out as well.

The wrist should be somewhat pronated in relation to the bow. (Wrist is turned like you are looking at your watch with palm away)

Repeat the process of holding the bow so it is a smooth, easy, natural feeling action.

As an exercise, hold the bow out with the hairs facing down and the bow crossing in front of you. You should feel the weight of the bow on your 4th finger. Flip the bow over so that the hairs are now facing up. You should now feel the weight of the bow down on your 1st finger. Repeat this several times like a metronome/clock/windshield wiper.

Making a Sound (Bowing):

Before we discuss how to make a sound ourselves, let?s talk about how it works. The sound is made by the bow hairs rubbing on the violin strings and the friction causes the string to vibrate. The bow hairs need to have rosin applied in order for the string to actually vibrate. If there is no/not enough rosin, the violin will sound very airy and will not make much sound. The violin will not sound or respond as quickly and clearly if there is no/not enough rosin. The question then comes of how much rosin to apply. When the rosin is new it will need to be started. Use a rough surface like sandpaper to break up the smooth new surface if just rubbing the bow on the rosin is not enough. You will notice that the rosin is a white powder when it is rubbed onto the hairs or broken up. With some pressure, rub the rosin evenly on the entire surface of the bow hairs. When rubbing on the hairs rub in the direction 90 degrees from the other way when you apply rosin the next time. This will begin to show an ?x? pattern on the surface of the rosin and will save you rosin in the long run. Apply until you get a good solid response and tone that is not airy or until you start to feel a grainy consistency between the hairs and the rosin. If you apply too much rosin, you will likely see a cloud of white powder when you play and the tone will become grainy. This will need to be wiped away and you will need to remember to apply less next time. Remember, rosin is rather fragile and chips/crumbles/shatters; protect it from hitting/dropping it by keeping it in its protective packaging. Only have the bow and the rosin in hand when applying it and then immediately put it away.

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