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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: What makes holding the bow "correctly" so difficult?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/55122

soppinthegravy - Posted - 04/20/2021:  11:27:57


I've seen/heard a lot of people discussing having pain resulting from a flaws in their bow grip but I haven't seen/heard anybody discussing why holding the bow "correctly" is so difficult. What are your thoughts?


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 04/20/2021 11:34:06

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 04/20/2021:  12:14:15


You have to hold it simultaneously gently and firmly, grasping it at a spot where the thing is decidedly out of balance. And, of course, your position must constantly adjust so that the bow is kept at a 90% angle to whatever string(s) you want to set in motion.

Yeah, no problem!

TuneWeaver - Posted - 04/20/2021:  12:17:25


Good to see you back on the Hangout... Anyway, I'm thinking that the 'correct' way of holding the bow is the Classical way...However, at least in my case and probably in the case of many of us Antiquated Fiddlers.. Arthritis or other ailments necessitate making changes in our bow holds.. Then, I think of Michael Cleveland!!! Ok.. Maybe there is No Rule??
I doubt that Pain comes from a correct bow grip but rather, pain REQUIRES a non 'correct' bow grip.. I can't imagine a correct grip Causing one's pain...Does this make sense?

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/20/2021:  12:43:58


quote:

Originally posted by TuneWeaver

...

I doubt that Pain comes from a correct bow grip but rather, pain REQUIRES a non 'correct' bow grip.. I can't imagine a correct grip Causing one's pain...Does this make sense?






I think the pain comes from players tensing their hand and finger muscles while holding the bow. Beginning players or players with performance anxiety often have a tight grip.



A good bow hold allows the wrist and fingers to move easily without any tension. A bad one can lock up the fingers, wrist, arm, and shoulder.



Although there are many aspects of violin playing that are rather unnatural, the bow hold is one that seems much more natural and intuitive to me. Relaxing the hand makes a big difference. 

DougBrock - Posted - 04/20/2021:  13:01:33


The classical bow hold has been developed from hundreds of years of many (millions?) of students and musicians playing challenging exercises and repertoire for long hours per day. It SHOULD be pretty safe and minimize hand pain and injury. That being said, even classical players and teachers have some variations in what they use or recommend.



With fiddlers, I have no problem with the idea of doing what feels ok to each fiddler. If your hand hurts, try something else. :)


Edited by - DougBrock on 04/20/2021 13:06:41

TuneWeaver - Posted - 04/20/2021:  13:16:18


quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

quote:

Originally posted by TuneWeaver

...

I doubt that Pain comes from a correct bow grip but rather, pain REQUIRES a non 'correct' bow grip.. I can't imagine a correct grip Causing one's pain...Does this make sense?






I think the pain comes from players tensing their hand and finger muscles while holding the bow. Beginning players or players with performance anxiety often have a tight grip.



A good bow hold allows the wrist and fingers to move easily without any tension. A bad one can lock up the fingers, wrist, arm, and shoulder.



Although there are many aspects of violin playing that are rather unnatural, the bow hold is one that seems much more natural and intuitive to me. Relaxing the hand makes a big difference. 






I THINK we are on the same page.. A correct bow hold should not cause pain, BUT at least in my case, arthritis is aggravated even by the 'correct' , relaxed bow hold.. I have a Very relaxed bow hold..!  hence my comment.. If there is pain FIRST, then a new bow hold may be in order..  



I"m not theorizing about a correct  bow hold that has become painful.. I'm  EXperiencing a bow hold that has become painful due to arthritis.... The bow hold can't cause arthritis, but arthritis CAN make virtually any bow hold painful.... Let's not get the cart before the horse..smiley



  


Edited by - TuneWeaver on 04/20/2021 13:20:45

Swing - Posted - 04/20/2021:  14:18:21


I just had this discussion with another fiddler about a similar topic... the biggest problem as I see it is that fiddlers try to do it all themselves, additionally they only want to learn 'the tune' and not learn the instrument... no, I am not recommending that we all get classical training and ignore the music that we aspire to... the violin is an ergonomic disaster and a few well pointed bits of guidance helps us to avoid pain and in some cases permanent injury is worth it. Besides that fact that you may be holding the bow too damn hard and thus causing the pain over time, the less obvious thing to look at, is your fiddle set up well and plays easily... fighting the instrument always leads to some negative reaction.

Play Happy

Swing

TuneWeaver - Posted - 04/20/2021:  14:32:12


quote:

Originally posted by Swing

I just had this discussion with another fiddler about a similar topic... the biggest problem as I see it is that fiddlers try to do it all themselves, additionally they only want to learn 'the tune' and not learn the instrument... no, I am not recommending that we all get classical training and ignore the music that we aspire to... the violin is an ergonomic disaster and a few well pointed bits of guidance helps us to avoid pain and in some cases permanent injury is worth it. Besides that fact that you may be holding the bow too damn hard and thus causing the pain over time, the less obvious thing to look at, is your fiddle set up well and plays easily... fighting the instrument always leads to some negative reaction.



Play Happy



Swing






Swing, you might recall then there was the topic of "trying to Mimic'' other people's bowing technique... I watch how HARD some people hold their bow, or how Stiff their wrist is etc.. I'm not perfect.. but just trying to mimic what others do was virtually painful...Yes, the instrument is hard enough to play without using good bowing techniques..!!! 



 

Woodcutter - Posted - 04/20/2021:  14:36:26


To me this is kinda like asking why using chopsticks is so difficult. The simple answer --- if you started using them when you were 2 years old it's not difficult at all.

For those of us who started playing fiddle later in life some of the 'correct' techniques are never going to feel comfortable. So what! We're never going to become concert violinists anyway. I say just adapt and have fun.

Swing - Posted - 04/20/2021:  14:42:06


Lee, let me respond to you, I am guilty of watching other peoples bowing!!!! Eventually I learned that it really depends on which end of the bow you watch... I am fortunate that I spent a lot of time (sessions) with a marvelous fiddler, a true dance fiddler... his bowing was a fluid as it gets... it is what I aspired to... over time I really had to develop my own bowing to get the smooth and rhythmic sound that he produced... what that really involved was to learn to let the bow make the sound and not force it...FYI, I don't break hairs on any of my bows... keep at it and you will be the one that others look to.

Play Happy

Swing

ChickenMan - Posted - 04/20/2021:  15:41:28


quote:

Originally posted by Woodcutter

To me this is kinda like asking why using chopsticks is so difficult. The simple answer --- if you started using them when you were 2 years old it's not difficult at all.






This is a good analogy but I come to a different conclusion. I learned to use chopsticks as an adult, not much younger than when I started fiddling, and am very adept with them now. My conclusion would be something like, "if you have to use chopsticks, you'll come up with a way to get the food to your mouth with them even if it's not exactly how they were meant to be usedwink



Honestly, holding the bow correctly isn't too hard, but using it adeptly while holding it that way is not really intuitive and takes practice, like using chopsticks. The 'proper' use of the bow also ultimately involves the wrist, elbow and shoulder too, thus complicating the chopstick analogy. Imagine having to hold your elbow up like that while eating with them. laugh

farmerjones - Posted - 04/20/2021:  20:18:27


I see a subjective assumption that a correct bow hold is difficult. I don't think so, but that's my point of view.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/20/2021:  20:53:14


I would say that a correct bow hold is not very difficult to learn.

To Lee’s point, arthritis complicates things because it makes it painful to do many things that would not be painful for a regular player. There isn’t an easy solution for that scenario, although I have heard a few people with arthritis suggest using something to increase the diameter of the object being held. Some players will slide foam or rubber tubing over their thumb grips. It looks awful and can affect the balance point of the bow, but it allows the player to compress the hand muscles a bit less.

I know a couple violin and bow workmen who have either replaced their tool handles with larger ones or added something to the handles to make them larger. Again, that allows them to work without closing their hands as much over long periods.

As the technology continues to advance, hand surgery is becoming a good option for players and offers less risk and invasiveness than it once did. I don’t like to jump right to going under the knife if it can be avoided, but it’s not as big a decision as it was even a decade ago.

RichJ - Posted - 04/21/2021:  04:08:59


Seems any time the word "bow" comes up in a FHO post it generates a bazillion comments. Here's mine after a measly 9 years of fooling with the instrument:

1. How the bow gets used is by far the most important part of fiddling.

2. Regardless of how or even where the bow is held most folks start off with a lot of tension in the right hand. This results in cramping of right hand muscles causing pain to develop in hand and finger joints and tendons. Underlying, age related changes, present before starting to learn how to play can make the pain worse.

3. This all adds up to striving for a relaxed bow hand regardless of where or how the bow is held.

boxbow - Posted - 04/21/2021:  07:11:24


And this all has to happen while doing everything else just so. No wonder we struggle. Honestly, you'd think I was trying to pick up a piano some days.

Earworm - Posted - 04/21/2021:  09:10:32


It's only difficult (to hold the bow it "correctly") because there are many correct ways to do it. If any one tells you the one true way to do it, you'll still have a lot to figure it out on your own. People have different bodies, postures, necks, and hands, after all, so the whole bow-hand interface thing is going to have different solutions. I think bow "hold" is not quite the way to think of it though - it's more like a bow "pivot." It's optimized for movement.



I find the variations empowering - you like to pivot in the middle? Go for it. Hold it at the tip? Ok, fine. The only real "rules" I know of are to keep the wrist, fingers & shoulder relaxed, and don't drop the darn thing.


Edited by - Earworm on 04/21/2021 09:17:01

BanjoBrad - Posted - 04/21/2021:  10:26:38


When I first started to learn the fiddle (at 60 years of age), I enrolled in a 6-week "Introduction to violin for parents/guardians of children who are interested in learning." It was to familiarize the adults with what was to come.

Anyway, it was taught by a music major from the University of Arizona (Tucson campus) who basically used the Suzuki method (beside the point). I found that no matter where I started with the "standard" grip, I automatically wound up holding the stick higher that the frog. It just automatically moved there. So, that's what I use.

FWIW, I learned the piano in 3rd grade, taught myself to play the bugle as a Boy Scout, classical guitar as a Senior in high school, and took up CH banjo in 2000.

farmerjones - Posted - 04/21/2021:  16:47:58


Okay, Cow-hide banjer? Chicken House banjer? Compton & Hooch banjer? Champagne & Haggis banjer? I've played banjer since '81, I never run across a Cattle & Hog banjer.

DougD - Posted - 04/21/2021:  17:23:19


I think he meant "clawhammer" banjo - or maybe "Church house," but that would be another story, at least in my life.

marcusb - Posted - 04/21/2021:  18:00:12


I heeded advice on here and I took a few lessons when I started, best thing I ever did!No matter what I try to do now, as soon as I get to playing and not thinking I go back to that initial training. I say take the time and learn how you want to play right off, because what ever you learn it stays with you.

farmerjones - Posted - 04/21/2021:  20:06:23


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

I think he meant "clawhammer" banjo - or maybe "Church house," but that would be another story, at least in my life.






Well there ya go. Proof that my brain is too smooshy for two letter acronyms. Did I tell you I play the smooshy? I meant banjer.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 04/22/2021:  04:57:45


Whew ... Part of a bow hold is in the size and shape of your hand ... length of your fingers, have you broken any of them do you have the beginnings of any of the "ritis" ailments. Then the bow has to be held tightly enough so it may be controlled but loosely enough to move freely. I am continuously working on easing my bow grip and still keeping my hand next to the frog. < sigh

Peghead - Posted - 04/22/2021:  06:42:38


One common souce of discomfort is a locked thumb.

BanjoBrad - Posted - 04/22/2021:  10:22:08


quote:

Originally posted by farmerjones

Okay, Cow-hide banjer? Chicken House banjer? Compton & Hooch banjer? Champagne & Haggis banjer? I've played banjer since '81, I never run across a Cattle & Hog banjer.






Sorry, in most old-time/old-timey circles, CH is shorthand for Clawhammer, even among fiddlers/violinists.  (grin)

gapbob - Posted - 04/22/2021:  14:18:24


It isn’t difficult to hold the bow properly. Hold your arm, relaxed, straight out, elbow at your side. Make sure your hand is relaxed, then tilt your hand a bit back, raising your knuckles, until your thumb meets your index finger.

The notch of the frog goes where the thumb is.


Edited by - gapbob on 04/22/2021 14:18:51

kragerin - Posted - 04/23/2021:  20:42:35


Michael Cleveland was mentioned in the replies above. I've watched him many times but haven't paid much attention to his bow hold. Is his thumb under the frog or am I not looking closely enough?

old cowboy - Posted - 04/24/2021:  05:51:39


I agree with Wood cutter!

ChickenMan - Posted - 04/24/2021:  09:17:50


quote:

Originally posted by kragerin

Michael Cleveland was mentioned in the replies above. I've watched him many times but haven't paid much attention to his bow hold. Is his thumb under the frog or am I not looking closely enough?






It is thumb under, but also just look at how he hamfists that thing. All this talk about flexible fingers.. there's none that I can see here, his fingers don't seem to at all.



youtu.be/yFBhwTLoG0Y



BTW, I only selected this for the good shot at his bowing hand, it quickly crumbles into too much jazz for my traditional bluegrass sensibility. smiley


Edited by - ChickenMan on 04/24/2021 09:18:27

farmerjones - Posted - 04/24/2021:  14:30:48


quote:

Originally posted by ChickenMan

It is thumb under, but also just look at how he hamfists that thing. All this talk about flexible fingers.. there's none that I can see here, his fingers don't seem to at all.






He also keeps the hair seemingly very tight. Looks like a hacksaw. All the time. But it's what he's used to.  Obviously going by feel. 

Peghead - Posted - 04/24/2021:  16:22:56


Michael is unique, his bow hold is his own and is perfectly suited to him. I've seen videos of him playing when he was in grade school and his grip is the exactly the same! I'll go out on a limb here and say that generally all versions of TUF (thumb under frog *credit to POGO) seem to produce maximum volume and that's great for Bluegrass and loud groups. A lot of top B.G. players, maybe most? use it. My intuitive reasoning is that with the classical hold TOS (thumb on stick* POGO again) the weight of the frog is hanging below the stick serving as sort of an indirect counter balance, until you're right over the frog. It seems to me that TUF brings the full weight of the bow to bear directly and plays "heavier" and that the weight gathers sooner on the stick as you get to the frog. I use TUF occasionally, it's very dynamic. Because of the weight you have to compensate and increase your bow speed (and hair tension) to avoid crunching, hence the overall increase in volume. All in all though, I find TUF difficult to modulate when less volume is needed. I personally would rather TOS and add pressure when volume is needed, than having to be constantly thying to lift off to be quiet. Lifting the frog seems more difficult for me than controlling the stick. I find TOS to be more "all- purpose" generally speaking. The type of music you play also dictates much of what,s required volume wise.   Just my opinions-


Edited by - Peghead on 04/24/2021 16:42:18

Dick Hauser - Posted - 05/18/2021:  07:46:36


To a certain degree, I think the type of music you are playing can affect how you hold your bow.

In my case, relaxation and allowing my bowing hand/wrist/forearm do what it naturally wants to do worked best. I start out each session playing some waltzes and let my bowing fingers/wrist/forearm do what works best.

Two things helped that most helped my bowing were (1) Gordon Stobbe's bowing instructional DVD (2) Playing waltzes and concentrating on relaxing and allowing my physical bowing components to relax and naturally react to my bowing needs. Given the opportunity, my fingers/hand/wrist etc. naturally do what is recommended. The one exception is my thumb. I purchased a device that solved my thumb problem.

Don't suffer from paralysis through analysis. Intense concentration can create tension, and tension can restrict natural movement.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/18/2021:  14:06:05


"What makes holding the bow "correctly" so difficult?"

Same thing that makes holding a pen, pencil, knife, fork, chopsticks or any other tool difficult at first. But most folk seem to get around it in their own way eventually, with perseverance, necessity, physics, science, magic, and/or learning from other folk etc....Or they don't....

i would say that if you are getting the sounds you want from your bowing you are probably holding it "correctly" for your immediate purposes. But if you want to sound like your teacher, or someone you want to sound similar to, its probably best to hold it like they do, even if you don't understand why at first.

Dick Hauser - Posted - 05/22/2021:  07:10:40


For me it was easier to say "relax" than it was to accomplish it. Gordon Stobbe's bowing DVD got me on the right path. When I relax, my fingers/hand/wrist forearm naturally assume comfortable positions. When I try to force myself to assume positions, it creates tension and tension reduces flexibility and bowing will not be comfortable and effective.

A fiddler's physical abilities may prevent them from doing everything by the book. I had to buy and use a simple device that corrected a problem I had with positioning my thumb.

Dan Gellert - Posted - 05/23/2021:  18:08:35


How you hold the bow isn't nearly as important as how you move it and feel it.

The "correct" grip has evolved along with the growing diversity and sophistication of bowing techniques used in the "legit" or "classical" violin repertoire, and if you're learning to play that style, you're likely to find that anything other than an orthodox bow grip limits your playing.

In any of the European-based fiddle traditions, there are a whole lot of the violinist's bow moves that are never used, and a lot more that are uncommon. ALSO, there are some techniques that are absolutely basic to a fiddler which most violin students won't encounter until they're several years into the instrument, and even a pro-level violinist might find odd, counterintuitive, or tricky.

IOW, a fiddler may legitimately find something other than the "correct" bow hold to be not just tolerable, but preferable.

Dick Hauser - Posted - 07/19/2021:  14:49:44


I think the term "recommended" should be used for a bowhold instead of the word "correct".
Different fiddling styles require different fiddling techniques. Players have different physical abilities and limitations. Relaxation is a critical factor in creating good tone, and if a person is not comfortable and has to consciously direct their bowing technique, some aspects of their playing will suffer. The human body takes the initiative and tries to do things the easiest and most comfortable way. So I practice longbowing, relax, and let my fingers, wrist and forearm
naturally react to pressures.

Relaxing is a heck of lot easier to say than it is to accomplish.

darolRanger - Posted - 07/26/2021:  15:11:25


This is a topic that EVERYONE wants to weigh in on. I think there are ways to avoid pain, and there are many small and effective variations on our bowhold which make sense depending on what music you're playing. Flexibility, relaxation, and change, are the key... easier said than done.
youtu.be/WiiucLJ5sXE

sbhikes2 - Posted - 07/31/2021:  07:49:07


I think that doing anything fiddle-related properly is less "difficult" than it is a measure of getting adequate training. I've been taking violin lessons so I can learn some basics. It is hard but things get easier and there are important useful things to learn that help a lot. My old hands and fingers have gotten more nimble. Even old-time fiddlers need to find their way around the fingerboard easily, need to learn how to do string crossings well, need to learn how to operate the bow efficiently. Like anything, if you can learn the basic rules you can then know when the rules can be broken. You don't necessarily have to take violin lessons, but some kind of lessons where they show you some basics is helpful. If your teacher only teaches tunes, that's not helpful enough.

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