I've been playing on and off for a while now. At the beginning of quarantine, I played mostly every day.. took a break mostly during the month of may and have been playing again this week. Its like learning to ride a bike, every time I pick it up again, It takes less time for me to get back into my amateur beginner groove and actually improve. I'll probably post an update video soon, not that anyone really cares, lol.
Anyway, although I like the progress, I can't hold the bow without feeling any pain. To try and improve my bow hold, I bought myself a bow buddy - these two pieces of rubber that you attach to your bow. To my surprise, it actually works to a certain degree. However, now I feel as though I've become dependent on it, like they are sort of training wheels. The thing is, when I remove them, the pain comes back pretty quickly. My bowing hand even swells sometimes. I just feel a bit embarrassed by the fact that I need this tool.
So, I guess that what I'm seeking from you guys is to tell me that its fine, and that I shouldn't worry or to call me out on it.
Well ... where is the pain in your bowing hand. Are you over gripping the bow? There are more than a few established bow holds. If you need to use the bow buddy to play without pain use it. But check out the way other fiddlers hold thier bow. See a doctor. The way to learn how to fiddle is to play daily. Being patient is also a requirement. Have you consulted a fiddle / violin teacher about your bow hold?
Inquiring minds want to know.....
I had to look up 'bow buddy' - looks like some kind of screen for motorboats ... ! But the fiddle one doesn't look too intrusive - if it's not some bright colour, like the one in the video I watched a bit of. Buddy says that 'corn pads', available in any drug store, work as well ... so there are probably other 'hacks' that would work without being as obvious. But I would suggest trying other bow grips. Many, if not most, fiddlers do not use a 'Classical' grip of any description. Experiment. Howie MacDonald used only the thumb and forefinger, half-way up the bow, for many years of his playing career, as an example. There are top-level fiddlers who use the thumb-under-the-frog grip. Try to find a grip that gives you enough control without hurting. And if you're feeling strain, stop. Best to limit your practice sessions to a few minutes at a time, and/or lay off altogether until the hand heals up.
Just guessing, but I'd say your gripping the bow too hard or holding your hand in some strained position. It doesn't take much - the bow only weighs about 2 ounces. Maybe watch some videos of good fiddlers for ideas.
That said, I had the grip on by best bow built up a little when I had it rehaired once. It fits my big hands better and provides a little extra cushioning.
I would suggest talking to a teacher. If your hand is sore after playing without the aide, it could be that your fingers aren’t properly positioned when you play without it. A tight grip is deadly for playing, so be sure your hold is light. It should feel as though someone could just pluck the bow out of the air as you were playing.
I wonder about the rest of your arm as you play. A lot of problems come from bad upper arm and shoulder position.
I would say to have a look at how you're holding the bow and how your arm is traveling. I found that for myself, I can't hold the bow like you're 'supposed" to do, because I want the pressure of my shuffles or whatever to come from over top my hand...so...they used to call it TUF here on FHO...Thumb Under Frog...that way your wrist isn't at that awkward angle...to me too awkward if you're playing old time. Besides wrong angles for you own style bowing, also it does sound like too much tension in the arm. I don't know how the bow buddy is assisting you, but if you could watch closely the difference in your hand, wrist, arm alignments with and without, maybe you could get some clues as to what's causing the problems.
When I first started playing my fiddle again I bought one of those fiddle fret things you stick on the fret board that has little raised wire frets. People made fun of me. They said it was a crutch. They said it would ruin everything. I used it for a long time. I really liked it. It helped me a lot. It gave me confidence and helped me feel where my fingers needed to go. After about a year or maybe a little less I decided to take it off and see if I could do it without. I could do it pretty well. A lot better than before, but I still struggled sometimes so I put on some tape like kids do, only I put on black tape so only I could see it so nobody would tease me. This also helped a lot. I kept that tape on for about a year. The tape would start to peel off on its own so I started to remove the tape that I didn't feel I really needed until there was only one line left. Eventually that came off on its own and then I was free of it.
That's a long story to tell you that maybe you should not call yourself bow buddy dependent or worry about getting rid of it right away. Maybe let yourself use it for as long as it takes for you to really feel you don't need it anymore.
Tendonitis gave me "fits" for a while. Gordon Stobbe's DVD on bowing helped improve my bowing technique and make it more ergonomic. I started focusing on using the techniques he teaches. I start each practice session playing around 20 waltzes. I have found that when I really relax, the arm/wrist/fingers automatically assume the positions Gordon teaches. For example, when I am doing an upbow, and my wrist is relaxed, it assumes the same position as it would if I were looking at my watch.
Playing waltzes requires me to play slowly. So I am practicing "long bows". Maybe not a full bow length, but much more so than an uptempo tune. Playing slowly improves my ability to evaluate my playing. I maker periodic "checks" to make sure I am relaxing and letting my arm/hand/fingers function the way the want - naturally. Over time, the more ergonomic playing techniques "creep" into uptempo tunes.
I don't think there is a overnight cure for the problem. Developing the ability to relax seems to be the key. It is much easier to say things than it is to actually accomplish them. Relaxed muscles function more effectively.
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