William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Keeping your bow parallel to the bridge

Tips to improve your bow placement and your sound

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick teaches you how to have a perfect bow position (parallel to the bridge), which will greatly improve your sound.

Released on April 1, 2020

Post a Comment   |   Video problems? Contact Us!
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

I know that we are told quite often that our bows need to be parallel to the bridge, but why? Why are we told that our bows needs to be parallel to the bridge? Well, one reason is that if the bow is not parallel, if it's turned this way or that, we don't get the clean and clear angle and because of that we don't get a clean or clear sound.

Well, I remember when I was young hearing about the kind of circular bowing pattern like this. What this purportedly did was to make bow changes inaudible. Personally, what I think this did was just to confuse the sound enough so that it seemed like a smooth bow change. In my mind when it did was like what happens when you use a bad eraser, just sort of leaves everything fuzzy, sort of leaves a fuzzy mark. Well, enough about that. Let's move on.

I was taught that you had to push out with the bow like this. This is what I did pretty much all of my life as a professional violinist in a quartet. That is until I played this concert in Paris, France at the American Church. The concert was with an incredibly beautiful organ that had been built in Germany and transported to the church. My group, "L'Ensemble des Deux Mondes," had the honor of playing the inaugural in concert with the organ. And I played a recital with the church organist, Fred Gramann as well. I was stoked to say the least and couldn't wait to hear the recording of the concert. So the next day I turned it on and while I was listening, I kept hearing this voice saying, "It wasn't good." I would answer that, "No, no. That was musical." And the voice would answer back. "No, no. You just didn't know what you were doing, so you slid into the note to hide it, to hide the fact that you didn't know where, where you were going."

After this conversation went on for a while I was furious because playing cleanly had always been a challenge for me. That matter, playing in tune as well. Well, why don't we just say playing the violin. But this was the last straw and I decided to do something about it as I didn't have any concerts coming up for a month or so. My decision was to change something every day and at the end of the day I would ask my wife to look and see if I looked relaxed. I did give her a specific areas to look at it and it was incredibly helpful in determining if what I was changing was really working. This was a while back before videos were so easily accomplished on your cell phone or... Well, after a month, nothing changed, at least nothing had changed for the better as it still looked tight in places, in the places that I wanted to make looser.

Then it happened. You see, I had run out of possible changes and so this time I decided to take my shoulder rest off. Having done this, I placed the violin like this and kept noticing that it wanted to slide this way. I, of course, corrected it, placing the violin more on my shoulders as I had always done. That evening when I showed this to my wife, she said that I was still tight, so it was back to square one.

The next day I took off my shoulder rest again and moved the violin back and it moves of course downward like this again. But this time I let it stay there. Now as I had done all the days prior to this, I started by playing a piece that I was familiar with to try and orient myself to the violin. Today it was Sibelius Concerto, First Movement.

Now, in the past, whenever I played Sibelius, I had always had one or two notes that were out of tune in the first six lines or so. And on top of it, never the same notes, but to my utter surprise this time there were none. I was completely astonished. I almost dropped my violin. As well, I noticed that my bow placement with regard to the bridge was suddenly super, super parallel. And I hadn't done a thing to make this happen.

You see, a teacher, Ron Pepper told me when I was in high school and studying at the Sewanee Summer Music Center, you hold the violin between your collarbone and your chin. So I had suddenly discovered what he meant, as all of these things happened because I had changed the placement of my violin from my shoulder to between the collarbone and my chin. Since that moment, I have used this information that I stumbled upon to help my students find that place to hold their violin that does not interfere with having the bow being parallel to the bridge. Oh yeah. All those pictures of these wonderful, wonderfully famous violinists that I've shown you. Well, I do hope you've observed where they put their violin.
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login  or  
Otherwise, fill the form below to post your comment:
Add your name below:

Add your email below: (to receive replies, will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Dean on May 21, 2021 @6:41 am PST
You're a treasure. :-)
Linda Jones on April 22, 2020 @11:37 am PST
I am a 70-years old student who has been playing the violin for about ten months. Thank you for this video. I have a shoulder rest and often I find my violin moving slightly to the right. I am trying to play parallel with a bow but when I read music I cannot watch the bow too.
Eugenie Van Zyl * VSM MEMBER * on April 9, 2020 @7:56 am PST
You tell your tutorials in such interesting ways - I am almost 70yrs old and I listen like a child to each and every one of your YouTubes. Thank you Professor William!
William - host, on April 9, 2020 @11:34 pm PST
Thank you so very much!
Eugenie Van Zyl * VSM MEMBER * on April 9, 2020 @7:39 am PST
Thank you, once again, Prof William Fitzpatrick for this excellent lesson! If I happened to sit in your classroom at this moment, I would have applauded what you said about where to make your violin sit - neatly under the chin above the collar bone and whalla - A more straight bow! The bow arm automatically wants to play parallel with the bridge! Baie dankie!
William - host, on April 9, 2020 @11:34 pm PST
YEAH! Thanks!
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.