Balancing the Bow Hold #2 (with the bow)

Balancing the Bow Hold #2

This lesson is a good continuation of Balancing the Bow Hold #1. You can do this in sitting or standing, or even kneeling on one knee with one foot standing, alternating sides…experiment with your position to see if you open up some new possibilities with movement. This time you will need a bow!

Find the balance point in the bow by holding it lightly between your index finger and your thumb with your palm facing downward, somewhere towards the frog side of the middle. With some bows, it might be almost 1/3 of the length away from the frog. Experiment with the lightest hold you can find, bringing the bow parallel to the floor, and think of it like a balance scale, or a lever shifting over a fulcrum. Find the place where the frog and tip balance equidistant from the floor with no effort on your part. Here roll the bow a tiny bit between your finger and thumb to feel that your hold is such that you can move easily without disturbing the bow. Now also roll the bow so that the hair is facing the floor, and notice the position and orientation of your thumb and finger. Roll it so the hair goes away from you. Roll it so that the hair faces you.

Repeat the above sequence between each of your fingers and your thumb individually, noticing the relationship between each of the fingers and the bow at each orientation, and also noticing how the fingers and the thumb coordinate to act as a passive fulcrum for the bow. Rest as needed as you change fingers.

Now use all of your fingers and thumb to hold the bow at this balance point, and see if you can discover an easy relationship between your thumb and fingers that allows your hand to act as a fulcrum with no strain on any individual finger or the thumb. Where does your thumb want to rest? Is it across from your index finger, or your middle finger, or somewhere in between? If you are not comfortable, move your thumb and fingers until you find the best balance with the least effort…this might even change day to day, or as you grow or change yourself.

Roll the bow a little between you thumb and fingers and notice how they bend and unbend as you do this. As you roll the stick, can you find an easy way to also orient your bow hair toward the floor? With the hair facing the floor, push with your index finger to tilt the tip downward, and then stop pushing and allow the bow to “ride” back up into balance. Do the same thing with your pinky; if you play violin or viola, use the tip of your pinky on top of the stick to do this, and if you play cello or bass, use your middle joint. Feel how you can get out of the way to allow the bow to rebalance itself. Go back and forth pushing one end down and then the other, always allowing the bow itself to ride back into the balanced position with no work from your hand.

Rest for a moment.

Hold the bow at the balance point with all of your fingers and thumb, noticing how you can do this with the least amount of interference, and bring your right arm out to your side, extended, parallel to the floor. Hold the bow with the tip pointing to the front and the hair facing the floor. Now begin to tilt the tip down toward the floor by rotating your whole arm forward, all the way to your shoulder, like your arm is a long rolling pin or dowel. Rotate as far as is comfortable, and then come back up to parallel. Do this 5-6 times. Then rotate your arm in the opposite direction to take the tip toward the ceiling, and then slowly return to parallel. Repeat this noticing the differences in your hand, in your shoulder, etc.

Rest for a moment.

Extend your arm and bow, held at the balance point again out to your right side. This time as your rotate your arm to point the tip toward the floor, fold forward as though your wanted to take the top of your head toward the floor. Feel how this changes things in your shoulder blade and ribs and assists in the rotation. Do this a few times, returning to upright each time. Then, as you begin to rotate your arm to point the tip upward, lengthen the front of yourself and look up toward the ceiling. Can you rotate farther? Can you feel why? Repeat this a few times, and then alternate between bending forward and rotating down, and looking up as your rotate the tip upward. Can you feel how your entire arm carries the weight of the bow as your rotate in each direction? Imagine that the bow itself is just another bone joined to your arm through your hand and fingers.


Return to your balance point bow hold in front of you. Rotate your fingers and thumb to find an easy way to orient your bow hair downward without effort. Bring your instrument into playing position. Set your bow directly at the balance point on one of your middle strings under your hand and begin silently crossing strings by tilting the bow to each string level. Feel how you can allow your fingers, hand, arm, and whole body to cross strings maintaining this balance with minimal effort. Where do you feel you want to work? Where can you let go to allow the bow to balance naturally in relation to your whole self?

Try drawing some bows on each string from your balance point to the tip, observing the variety of sounds you can create when you let the bow do most of the work. This can be especially useful if you are “frog shy”!

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