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Violin – Practice Tips To Keep Bow Straight

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the bow, so I thought I’d start to make some bow videos. In this video, I discuss some tips for how to start practicing with a straighter bow!

Learning to play with a straighter bow is difficult. As one plays, it is hard to tell whether or not the bow is actually straight just by looking from the player’s perspective. Keeping the bow straight is primarily based on muscle memory, and can be difficult to gain in the very beginning.

To keep the bow straight, it is important to pay attention to the upper arm. There should be no sideways upper arm movement – the movement of the upper arm should primarily be an up-down motion to change strings rather than a side-to-side motion. Having the upper arm move side-to-side is the primary reason why the bow will be “crooked” when playing.

Controlling the elbow and wrist are the main components to playing with a straighter bow. As the elbow opens outward in a down-bow, the wrist needs to curve out away from the player to compensate for the elbow movement. As the elbow closes inward in an up-bow, the wrist needs to curve in towards the player to keep the bow in a straight position. Learning the fluid motion between the up and down bows is difficult and needs to be practiced.

The first idea for practicing this fluid motion is to not use a violin bow at all! Pick up any light object and pretend to play an imaginary violin. This will give you a similar placement for the real bow. Next, you can solely focus on the object. Try moving it away from you and towards you in as straight a line as you possible can, with minimal upper arm movement. You will notice that any upper arm movement will actually mess up the straight line movement that you are trying to create.. This will force you to use the elbow and the wrist to keep the object coming directly towards and away from you.

The next tip is to lean your shoulder and upper arm against a wall while practicing. This will prevent the upper arm from moving too much “back” as you play. It is very comfortable to play with the upper arm slightly back, but it will cause a crooked bow to develop. This can be a very frustrating way to practice, but it helps a lot if your upper arm tends to creep backwards like mine!

The third tip is to use straws! You can connect two straws together and use them in the f-holes as a bow guide. It’s a cheap and very effective way to learning how to bow straighter, and entire practice sessions can be done using the straws!

The final tip is also the most-known — and it is to use a mirror. It’s important to play something that you don’t need to focus on your left had for – I usually use scales or open strings. You can make corrections to your bow as you play to make sure you are playing with a straight bow.

These tips helped me learn how to play with a straighter bow, and I hope they help you, too!

Thank you for watching, and happy practicing!

~Katy

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Camera used: Canon 70D
Video editing software used: Final Cut Pro X

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