The Down-Bow and the Up-Bow (S)

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The Down-Bow and the Up-Bow (MF)

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Emotion (VF)

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Playing With the Bow (VF)

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How to Stop the Bow from Bouncing (VF)

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When I use the bow, sometimes it bounces. Is that because of my bowhold?.

It's a really, really good question. It's one that comes up a lot. Why when you play the bow, sometimes bounces like that. So, the vast majority of the time, this is going to be down to tension somewhere where it's not meant to be. So why don't we all take our violin and our bow let's just stick with the D string for this.

Let's just circle around, and land on the D string, and if you do feel any bounce at all then instinctively, I want you to think back through your checklist, first of all, you want to check your posture, your body posture is right. So everything is really centred and balanced. You're absolutely making sure that you're not twisting or turning in a direction that you don't need to be.

And then particularly with the right side of the body, bring your mental focus to each joint one by one, because often what we'll do is we'll think, OK ... is it ... Is there any ... am I ... blah blah blah. You need crystal clear mental focus on which joint is doing what.

Let's do a big circle once again, and as you're coming into land, it's like, this movement here, imagine an aeroplane coming into land. Wherever those checks are before it touches the runway. Your checks are: is that free. Is that free? Is that free? Is this free here - the base joint of the thumb? And then you're just feeling that suspension system, sink in to the string.

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Circles (VF)

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We're going to familiarise ourselves with creating smooth down bow strokes by playing some circles.

Firstly, bring the right arm up in a big circle above your head, and then bring it down again releasing the bow onto the string with as much attention as possible towards the little finger counter pressure. This will allow a smooth landing to take place. Make sure that you land the bow as smoothly as possible when you are making the landing.

Repeat the motion several times, observing how you can use the little finger as a counterweight, which helps to provide a smooth landing.

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Resonance (VF)

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Resonance, Big Circles (T)

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The Weight of the Arms (T)

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Changing the Sound (P)

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Exercise: Long Slow Bows (P)

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Once you've tried the 'circles' exercises, you can then play down (to the right) and up (to the left) on long slow bows. Long slow bows are really good for beginning any practice session, as they help you to focus on the core sound that you're creating, without being distracted by other techniques.

Try down bows and up bows, and then try adding different rhythms too; -- once you are feeling confident with the sound quality, try adding a steady pulse to your bowing. For example, count four beats on the down bow, and then four beats on the up bow, and so on.

We Have Lift Off (P)

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Dynamics (P)

https://www.violinschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Dynamics-Lesson-P5-2.1.0-ViolinSchool.pdf

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The Up Bow (P)

https://www.violinschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Course-A-Parent-and-Child-The-Up-Bow-1.2.8-ViolinSchool.pdf

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The Down Bow (P)

https://www.violinschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Course-A-Parent-and-Child-The-Down-Bow-1.2.8-ViolinSchool.pdf

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Playing With The Bow (P)

https://www.violinschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Course-A-Parent-and-Child-Playing-With-The-Bow-1.2.8-ViolinSchool.pdf

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Exercise: Circles (P)

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We're going to familiarise ourselves with creating smooth down bow strokes by playing some circles.

Firstly, bring the right arm up in a big circle above your head, and then bring it down again releasing the bow onto the string with as much attention as possible towards the little finger counter pressure. This will allow a smooth landing to take place. Make sure that you land the bow as smoothly as possible when you are making the landing.

Repeat the motion several times, observing how you can use the little finger as a counterweight, which helps to provide a smooth landing.

Bowing (Arco) on Open Strings (P)

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Let's take a look at some basic bow strokes, so that you can get playing straight away!

In violin-speak, 'arco' means play with the bow (whereas 'pizzicato' means pluck the string with your finger).

Try resting the bow hair very gently on the strings of the violin, and then moving it along the string. The strings will vibrate and you will hear a sound. You need to keep everything as free and relaxed as possible, so that you are not pushing down too hard with the bow. This way you will avoid 'breaking' the sound by applying too much pressure.

Arco on open strings.

So, we use the term 'arco' to describe bowing on open strings. It's common to play arco all the time unless it's otherwise marked, so if you don't see anything in the music you play with the bow. If you see the word 'pizzicato' then you can pluck the string instead.

Switching between pizz and arco

Exercise: switch between pizz and arco in a set time/pulse

It's worth practicing changing from pizzicato to arco because that obviously takes some time, and you want to make sure that you're not using up more time for that gesture than is available in the music you're playing.

Exercise: Flop the Hand onto the Bow (P)

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Flexibility (P)

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The Function Of The Fingers (P)

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The See-Saw (P)

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Balancing The Bow (P)

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How To Make A Sound (P)

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Here's how we create a sound on the violin, using the bow:

  1. The bow hair moves along the string
  2. The string vibrates, which creates soundwaves
  3. The soundwaves go into the box and are amplified.

So, how do we actually make a sound on the violin, using the bow?

When the hair of the bow touches the string, the string vibrates. These vibrations create the soundwaves that we hear.

But where do those vibrations go before they reach our ear?

They go into the box.

This is really important, because the box is essentially an amplifier. Whatever you put in, you'll get more of it out!

If you push the bow really hard into the string, it will and press really hard, it will squash the vibrations and it won't sound very nice!

Whereas if you keep your arm released and relaxed, you'll create much bigger vibrations from the string, and the sound will resonate much better from the box.

If you do this, it might sound quieter under your ear than if you're pushing and pressing the bow into a string.

But when you're performing, a relaxed and resonant sound will project much more easily to the back of large room or a concert hall, so your audience will hear you better ... and it will sound much nicer too!

The important thing to remember is: don't press the bow too hard into the string! That's really counterintuitive, but it's also really important!

To achieve this, we need to keep the hand and arm as free as possible. Only hold as much tension in your muscles as you need to - don't grip and squeeze!

Then you'll be able to move the bow in a way that creates consistent vibrations in the string.

And that's what will create a beautiful, resonant sound.

Holding the Bow (P)

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In this section we'll learn about:

There are many different ways of holding the bow, and there are many different exercises that you can use to find a bow hold that works for you.

In a moment, we'll direct you to a series of bow hold exercises that you can use to find a balanced, flexible bow hold.

You can also be creative and invent your own (created a good one? Send it in... we might even feature it here!).

You should also be aware that exactly how to hold the bow can be quite a subjective topic. Everyone's hands and fingers are different, so logically, every individual person will have a slightly different positioning of the fingers on the bow.

Beware of people who tell you there is only one way to hold the bow!

When taking advice about how to hold the bow (whether it's from ViolinSchool or from anywhere else!), you should ALWAYS ask yourself:

"How does this advice work for me and my body?"

Or even, "does this advice work for me?"

The reason for this is that everyone's body is different. What works for one person is not necessarily going to work for everyone.


In this section, we're going to focus on the fundamental principles that will help you to create a reliable, flexible bow hold.

To achieve this, we need to understand the specific function of each finger (and the thumb).

Once you're clear about the job that each part of the hand and arm has to do, then you'll be able to measure whether your bowhold is 'good' by assessing how effectively it is (rather than by what someone else has hold you is good!).

A Golden Rule for the bow hold:

If it gives you more flexibility, it’s probably a good thing to do. If it doesn’t, it probably isn’t.

The reason for this is that the more flexibility you have in your bow hold, the more possibility you'll have for moving the bow in different, subtle ways. In turn, this gives you more options to create different shades of sound and different types of expression... all because you are not limiting your bow movement in any way!

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