How To Hold The Violin Bow
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.