William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

How to Hold the Bow

Learn how to hold the bow correctly from the beginning

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick teaches you how to hold the bow correctly with easy and practical exercises.

Released on May 1, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Okay, so, recently I was asked if I could speak, if I could do a video on how to hold the bow. Okay, so, here's that video. But first, let me tell you a story. You see, I was sitting Stephen Clapp's studio at the Blair Academy of Music in Nashville, and I noticed that he had a book by Galamian in the studio, so I started to look at it, I started to read it.

As I was thumbing through, I noticed pictures on bow grips, so I started to do them with a pencil. Stephen walked in, and I boldly looked at him and said, "I want to change my bow grip to this!" And I showed him the picture in the book, showed him the picture in the Galamian book.

Well, Stephen looked at me and said, "here, let me show you how to do that." And with that, for a while, I held my bow like this. Took me a long time to understand fully what had just occurred. Stephen showed me how to do something that was in direct contradiction to what he had taught me. When I realized this in the years that followed, I was so impressed by his commitment to the student, and not the material. Okay?

So, let's move on. You see, it was in France, that I started teaching young children, say five or six years old. It all started when the director at the conservatory that I taught in told me that my students were getting older and moving on, so I would have to replenish my studio of approximately 33 students. He then said, "you see, we don't do it here like they do it in the U.S., you will have to start them from the beginning. There are no specialists to take them from the beginning to you, so you'll have to start them."

I said, "okay," but I quickly started thinking, "oh my, what am I going to do with this? How am I going to do this, with what materials?" It was frenetic in my mind, you know? And so, my teaching journey truly began. So, it was here, with regard to the right hand grip, that I developed this way of going about it, going about teaching the grip, which consisted of having the student raise their hand like this. I would hold it like that, and then tell them how perfect, or at least how almost perfect, the grip was already. We just needed to make one adjustment, and that was with the thumb, like this.

Once this was done, I would have them turn their hands over, like this, and voila. They had a bow grip. Now, what I would do would be to have them turn their hand back over again, and would slip the bow into their hand. This would give what you see here. I would make sure that their index finger was not on the grip, and their second finger was on the other side of the grip, and the pinky was on the last octagonal side, like that.

Now, when they turned the bow over, they immediately felt a lot of pressure on the fourth finger, on the pinky, but I told them this was normal, just let the fourth finger collapse, and the bow was not going anywhere, you see?

Now, to get them accustomed to this grip, I would have them put the bow on a table, and then pick it up again, like this. I would have them do this until they were comfortable with this new grip, this new way, of holding the bow. Again, we have to be careful not to place a finger on the grip, on that leather grip, because it doesn't allow things to move, things to slide.

Next, I would have them play a little game with me. Imagine an analog clock, you know, the ones that look like this. I would say, "let's start at twelve o'clock," and they would put their, follow it, twelve o'clock. Then, I'd say, "let's go to nine o'clock." Ah, but, the clock was facing the wrong way, so I had to go with the student, which would've made it this way. Or, let's see, what about three o'clock? And we would play this game for a couple of lessons. It really was a challenge for me to do the clock backwards.

Doing this had two effects. One, it established clearly that they could hold the bow, of course, and two, showed them one way in which we could get to the straight, which was like this. The other way, like this, I taught them at a later date, but, seeds had been planted. So again, this is what the grip I taught them looked like. I believe it gives a solid start to that incredible journey of finding out what we can do with the bow, finding out how to do what we can do with a bow, finding out how we can move our fingers to change the sounds that we hear in our head. That we hear in our body. That we hear and want to share with other people.

But, one has to be aware that this is the only grip that one needs to produce sounds. One has to understand that each grip produces one quality of sound, and just how many qualities of sound do I think one needs to have to be a really, really good violinist? Well, I believe easily more than a hundred. So, how many bow grips do you think that makes?
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