A student named Arthur B. asked me during a recent office hours session, “How can I use my wrist to play faster with the bow? For example, what’s the best way to play the same note repeatedly, and very fast, such as in Liza Jane at full tempo? Since the left-hand fingering doesn’t change I can’t just slur these notes. Does the bowing motion at that speed come from moving the entire arm, or just the wrist?”

  • Use less bow,
    • Minimize arm motion.
    • Use more wrist.
  • The wrist leads the way. It points up when for up-bows, then bends back for down bows. For short bows, this will be hard to notice.
    • You can practice this with “air bowing”. Just move the bow in space. See this lesson: Pick Up That Bow
    • Practice this with long bows to get the wrist motion, and then short bows to prepare for playing fiddle tunes.
  • Practice with your right elbow against a wall or door.
    • This will get your wrist more involved because you can’t move your arm.
  • Relax as you go faster
    • The tendency is to tense up.
    • Notice the breath, soften the muscles.
  • Speed exercises on each string
    • G0-1-2-3, G3-2-1-0, G0-1-2-3-4-3-2-1, G0-1-2-3-D0-G3-2-1

This micro-lesson is an excerpt from an office hours webinar I gave on May 12, 2020. View the entire live-stream with indexed questions here.

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4 responses to “How can I use the wrist to improve my bowing?

  1. This is good advise all around. A while back a fellow fiddle player was watching me try to playa fast piece and commented “you need to relax your wrist”. I’m still trying.

  2. Great lesson!

    Love this subject. I am constantly working on my wrist and fingers. One of the people I admire who I think has a great flexible wrist and fingers is Bruce Molsky, and check out this kids wrist…a study of flexible wrist fiddle playing!

    And, of course, Bruce Molsky.

    Both have such “economy of bow” as I call it.

    I also work on “pulling” the bow in both directions. Never “push” the bow. Learn to pull it in both directions makes you have to bend the wrist.