• Bowing on String Instruments

    Bowing on string instruments is a major skill.  String players spend many years developing this technique.  Once the basic movement is established there are many different styles of bowing that string players must learn.  Here are some things that young students must develop in order to successfully execute music with the bow.  There are two parts to learning to bow.  The bow hold is where our students first start.  When holding the bow, students must learn to place the fingers in the proper place on the bow.
     
    Bow Hold
    • thumb position:  On all string instruments, the right thumb joint must be flexed (bent).  The thumb connects with the thumb at the tip, right near the thumbnail.  The thumb should not be straight and should not be jammed into the space between the lip of the frog and the stick.  The flexed thumb helps to cover the entrance into this space. 
    • first finger:  The first finger holds the bow between the first and second joints, the rotate the hand to the left so that the side of the first finger is in contact with the wrapping on the bow
    • second finger:  forms a circle with the thumb, should be placed in the curve of the frog near the space where the lip on the frog exists
    • third finger:  Placed on the frog; if there is a dot on the side of the frog, the ring finger can be placed there
    • pinkie (violin/viola):  This position is different for upper and lower strings.  Violins and violas bend the pinkie and place the tip of the pinkie on top of the stick.  This is crucial for it provides a counter balance to the bow and helps to prevent the bow from unwanted bouncing.  Pinkie should not be stretched towards the screw and the joints should not be collapsed. 
    • pinkie (cello/bass):  The pinkie should curve down over the stick similar to the other fingers.

    Bowing Execution Hints

    • make sure that your bow is rosined and tightened properly
    • keep the wrist flexible
    • slightly lift the wrist before starting a down bow
    • bow at the sweet spot between the bridge and the fingerboard
    • bow from the elbow, not the shoulder--think of the lower forearm as being a gate and the elbow as being the hinges
    • keep the bow perpendicular to the string like a plus sign
    • use the first finger and the weight of the arm to apply pressure to the strings
    • the bow should not just slide on top of the strings but rather should press into the strings creating a full tone quality
    • it is acceptable to hear a small scratch sound when starting a bow stroke
    • good tone requires good speed and pressure
    • don't forget to rosin the bow; if your rosin isn't working then use some sandpaper to remove the shiny surface
    • wipe the rosin off the bow and loosen bow hair when practice is complete
    • learn how to divide your bow into full bows, half bows, above the middle, below the middle
    • know how bow use applies to rhythmic note length