Improve Your Violin or Viola Bow Hold in 3 Easy Steps

Use this simple exercise to enhance your technical command of the bow

by Leah Hollingsworth

The proper bow hold is a key part of developing your own sound—it’s a fundamental that needs to be learned and then reinforced, not only at the beginning, but throughout your entire career. This sound is your musical voice, created, in large part, by how you use the bow.


st101_st173_11. While holding the bow vertically in your left hand—bow hair toward you—form a loose ring with the thumb and the middle and ring fingers of the right hand. The other fingers should curve naturally around as well, completely relaxed. Maintain this shape, and bring your right hand to the bow. Open the loose ring just enough to allow the stick of the bow to rest on the thumb, which should be in the place where the frog meets the leather bow grip.

st101_st173_22. Now bring the index and middle fingers loosely down over the frog so that the pads of those fingers (opposite the first knuckle) are resting on the frog. Place your index finger gently around the stick, at least a finger’s space away from the middle finger. Curve your pinky on top of the stick.

st101_st173_33. A healthy bow hand should feel comfortable while holding, but not gripping, the bow, with all of the fingers curved in a relaxed manner, and no stiff joints. The palm of the right hand should remain soft. A teacher used to tell me to imagine a soft, warm light hovering in this space beneath my knuckles, in the palm of my hand.


This article was originally published in Strings’ September 2009 issue.  Please help keep this article relevant by commenting below or by contacting us directly.