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What makes holding the bow "correctly" so difficult?

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Apr 20, 2021 - 11:27:57 AM
1311 posts since 7/26/2015
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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

Apr 20, 2021 - 12:14:15 PM

1790 posts since 12/11/2008

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!

Apr 20, 2021 - 12:17:25 PM

9054 posts since 3/19/2009

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?

Apr 20, 2021 - 12:43:58 PM
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389 posts since 3/1/2020

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. 

Apr 20, 2021 - 1:01:33 PM
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138 posts since 4/2/2019

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

Apr 20, 2021 - 1:16:18 PM

9054 posts since 3/19/2009

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

Apr 20, 2021 - 2:18:21 PM
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Swing

USA

2014 posts since 6/26/2007

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

Apr 20, 2021 - 2:32:12 PM

9054 posts since 3/19/2009

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..!!! 

Apr 20, 2021 - 2:36:26 PM
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185 posts since 11/28/2018

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.

Apr 20, 2021 - 2:42:06 PM
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Swing

USA

2014 posts since 6/26/2007

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

Apr 20, 2021 - 3:41:28 PM
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5117 posts since 9/26/2008

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

Apr 20, 2021 - 8:18:27 PM
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2265 posts since 10/22/2007

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

Apr 20, 2021 - 8:53:14 PM

389 posts since 3/1/2020

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.

Apr 21, 2021 - 4:08:59 AM
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RichJ

USA

439 posts since 8/6/2013

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.

Apr 21, 2021 - 7:11:24 AM
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boxbow

USA

2628 posts since 2/3/2011

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.

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:10:32 AM
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Earworm

USA

192 posts since 1/30/2018

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

Apr 21, 2021 - 10:26:38 AM

3091 posts since 6/21/2007

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.

Apr 21, 2021 - 4:47:58 PM
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2265 posts since 10/22/2007

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.

Apr 21, 2021 - 5:23:19 PM
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DougD

USA

10063 posts since 12/2/2007

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

Apr 21, 2021 - 6:00:12 PM
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marcusb

USA

39 posts since 11/27/2011

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.

Apr 21, 2021 - 8:06:23 PM
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2265 posts since 10/22/2007

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.

Apr 22, 2021 - 4:57:45 AM
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2340 posts since 10/1/2008

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

Apr 22, 2021 - 6:42:38 AM

Peghead

USA

1607 posts since 1/21/2009

One common souce of discomfort is a locked thumb.

Apr 22, 2021 - 10:22:08 AM
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3091 posts since 6/21/2007

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)

Apr 22, 2021 - 2:18:24 PM
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gapbob

USA

745 posts since 4/20/2008

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

Apr 23, 2021 - 8:42:35 PM

27 posts since 4/20/2014

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?

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