Start Fiddling Now!

Pick Up The Bow

Now, let’s learn to bow. Plucking is a good way for a beginner to get started. But bowing is the main way we produce sound with the fiddle.

In this lesson you’ll learn:


  • How to hold the violin bow
  • Practicing the motion with “air bowing”
  • Placing the bow
  • Practicing the basic bowing motion on the strings

How To Hold The Violin Bow

The video lesson below covers the main technique. You’ll also find photos and short video demonstrations below.

Start by making a gentle fist with the right hand. Then open it slightly. Practice rotating to the right in space.

And then open it up to form the shape that your hand will take when you hold the bow:

Demonstration video: Right-hand form

Now try to hold the bow with this hand position. The right thumb is bent and tucked into the frog (bottom of the bow), fingers rest on top and knuckles point towards the tip of the bow. Notice that the fingers are relaxed and curved, just like they were with the gentle fist.

Here’s another way to learn the right-hand bow hold: Open your right hand.

Using the left hand, place the bow on the right hand with the thumb in the crook near the frog (bottom) of the bow:

Then curl the fingers on to the bow. The tips should be pointing towards the bottom of the bow and the knuckles pointing toward the top:

Place the bow on the strings. Allow the right wrist and elbow to be bent in a relaxed way.

Demonstration video: Holding the bow

Now practice lifting the bow up and down. Enjoy the motion. Stretch your arm in bow directions. Next, try moving it from side to side.

Demonstration video: Air bowing

Placing the bow

Place the middle of the bow on the strings.

Don’t move it yet. Try to breathe evenly, and relax the various parts of your body involved: fingers, hands, arms, back, face, brain, and heart. This is actually a useful and important thing to learn that is not often taught. If you can check in with your body in this way, your practice will be much more relaxed, easy and enjoyable.

Notice that my right-hand fingers are relaxed and curved. If this is hard to do, then set down the bow and make another gentle fist.

The bow should be roughly halfway between the bridge and fingerboard, slightly closer to the fingerboard. It should also run roughly parallel to the bridge:

We move the bow back and forth on the strings. If you use a lot of bow (length) very quickly it’s loud, and if you use very small bows it’s quieter. For beginners, I recommend starting with short bow strokes.

Let’s start bowing by simply going back and forth playing quarter, 1-2-3-4.

Quarter notes on the D string 

Note on sheet music: I include sheet music snippets for people who already know how to read. DON’T WORRY about this if you cannot read sheet music yet. You can learn the fiddle without reading sheet music. That said, once you learn and practice an exercise like this, just look at the snippets. Your brain will naturally start to figure out how to read based on the tabs and the audio tracks.

When I teach beginners, we first learn to play. If a student is interested in learning to read sheet music, we learn that later.

Demonstration video: Bowing quarter notes


When the bow moves to the right, we call it downbow. The movement to the left is called crrrraaazzzzyBowwwww. Just kidding, to the left is upbow. Practice bowing while saying down, up, down, up.


  • Use little bow at first.
  • Play in the middle third of the bow.
  • Play in front of a mirror.
    • This will help you to see and adjust the bow angle so it runs parallel to the bridge.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if it sounds scratchy at first. By the end of this lesson series, it will sound at least 10% better!


Got questions? Ask in the comment field below.

I want to encourage you to celebrate each small step. For each new lesson you take or exercise you practice, mark it as complete. Tracking your progress will make you feel good and will encourage you to play again tomorrow.

Continue on to Beginner Bowing Exercises >>

Return to top of Module 1.1 >>

Leave a Reply

33 responses to “How To Hold The Violin Bow

  1. I didn’t expect holding the bow to feel so weird. Your multiple views and repetition are really helpful. I feel like my wrist is not very flexible; in fact sometimes I feel like I’ve locked it. Concentrating on just trying to move the bow in a way that is relaxed and doesn’t hurt. Not hurting seems like a good goal:) Will be returning to this page.
    Overall I’m still really glad I’m doing this. Still smiling with each lesson. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for sharing your reflections, Claudia. Yeah, continuing to relax the body, focusing on 1 aspect at a time, can help so much. Tapping into the freedom our bodies can have while playing so important. The bow wrist being easeful and having flexible movement is a big one. You’re on a good path!
      Glad to hear you plan to revisit this lesson. Favoriting it can be a helpful tool for coming back to. 🙂

  2. Still plugging along and enjoying the practice. Using practice as a way to relax with the added benefit that I might be able to play a fiddle well and maybe with other people. I am not pressuring myself for getting to be an accomplished fiddler. If that happens it’ll be in the fullness of time.

    1. There should always be a bow in your bow and that curve should just be a lesser curve than when the bow is not tightened. After that it is personal preference. Rosen when things slip and slide. If things are really dusty and you sound super scratchy, it’s probably too much rosen.

  3. I thought i had signed up for free lessons for 1 week and you were going to ask me questions and determine where i should start. I have not seen free download for free book and questions. Did I do something wrong? Looked for a way to email you, don’t know how to communicate with you. How much is it to subscribe for lessons?

  4. Jason,
    I just discovered your website by chance.
    I’ve been playing piano now for about 3-4 years and loving every bit of it. The other day I woke up having the urge to play violin. Having not a clue where to begin, I started searching YouTube for information on playing the violin.
    I bought a violin online based on advice given for starting out. While waiting for the Violin to arrive, I started to do my homework on every aspect of what’s involved in playing.
    I then came across your website and subscribed to your site and started listening to your introduction. I instantly knew this is where I wanted to be. I now have my violin and because of your clear and concise direction, I’ve become real comfortable with it. I’ve learned so much just from the last few sessions.
    I’m going to sign up for your monthly membership to learn more.
    Although I do intend on eventually plan on playing classical, I know that the advise and direction Of yours will open a whole new world for me.

    Thank you Jason,

  5. Before the corona virus I had three terrible family tragedies. In the middle of grief I bought an old cracked and repaired fiddle from a friend. Now social isolation and you can bet I’m practicing an hour a day! I love your teaching and will be one who goes beyond the free week! Don’t forget me! Even though I accidentally Unsubbed and logged right back in. Thank you! Please send more! Stay safe everyone??

  6. Jason- really enjoying the lessons and your systematic approach to teaching so far. Apologies if this info is somewhere and I’ve missed it, but something that could be helpful to us beginners would be tips around setting up the bow ready to play. For example, how much tension to put on the hairs (and how to judge this), also how to apply rosin- how much, how often etc. Thanks in advance.

  7. I have been playing with my thumb more touching the pad than the “tip” like lodged between the tip and the under side of my thumbnail. I need to correct this to move forward? It’s for sure wrong, if I understand correctly.