Finger Placement on Bow

  • To find a balanced and flexible bow hold natural to the individuality your own hand.
  • If you feel that you have no choice but to hold the bow tight, you need to organize the grip to find better balance and flexibility. Expect during the undoing process to temporarily feel loss of control. The bow grip described in the video will help you organize your hand and place your fingers; you will be able to hold the bow more loosely.
  • Every fine cellist will tell you that their bow hold has evolved over many years of subtle change and from continual experimentation. Balance, flexibility, organization and comfort are all interrelated goals; the smallest change can make a huge difference in the execution of articulations, sound production and in expressive control.
  • Drop your hand open, letting it fall from your bent wrist. The space between your fingers will be natural and tension free.  This position is  the basis of a healthy bow grip. If your fingers are bunched, your hand will feel weak. If your fingers are too far apart, your hand will feel tense.
  • Thumb joints should be movable, not indented or locked. Musical situations require various degrees of firmness in the grip. The thumb must work more as you move away from the frog. When at the frog, be sure to release the grip.
  • The more engaged the thumb, the more you block wrist and finger motion–be careful not to ‘over-squeeze.’
  • Index finger should feel lazy and heavy in big playing. (“Lazy” is imagery used to keep from actively pressing or squeezing the bow.)  This is the primary finger for transferring arm weight into the cello.  In certain strokes and for the bow changes at the frog, we may roll the weight to other fingers more towards the back of the hand.
  • Your quality of sound is directly related to how you hold the bow.
  • A tight grip makes it impossible to sink into the string or to craft bow strokes that can create variety in sounds, colors and moods.
  • A looser, more flexible bow grip will change the feel of bow strokes and may not immediately sound better. Use your ear to guide the new motion and to find the sound you want. Subtle differences in inflection and articulation become possible, but the ear and imagination must ask the hand for them.


Renowned violin pedagogue Shirley Givens also uses the same crew of a ship imagery in her wonderful 1993 method book “Adventures in Violinland”, Book 1C, “Meet The Bow”, available through Shar Products. …Balance and flexibility give us more bow control than gripping and squeezing; they are essential to mastery of the bow. Paul Katz

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