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Types of Violin Bow Holds

A good bow hold takes practice to master.
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Proper positioning is important when learning how to play the violin correctly. As part of proper positioning, not only holding the instrument, but holding the bow properly determines how comfortable it is to play and ultimately the type of sound that you can produce. The four main violin bow holds are the German, Russian, Franco-Belgian and Galamian bow holds.

German Bow Hold

The German bow hold is one of the older forms. It involves holding the violin bow with the first, or index, finger resting on the bow such that the underside of the top joint of the first finger is touching the bow stick. The rest of the fingers are placed close together on the string with the middle finger directly across from the thumb. This bow hold allows for moderate tension to be placed on the bow hairs.

Franco-Belgian Bow Hold

Using the Franco-Belgian bow hold, the violinist curves his fingers such that the tip of the thumb touches the upper inside crease, or knuckle, of the middle finger. The index and other fingers are then placed on the bow so that there is some space between them. Additionally, the top inside crease of most fingers are touching the bow stick near the frog, or the lower part of the bow. The pinky finger should sit on top of the bow. The index finger is placed so that it touches the stick of the bow between the first and second crease. To practice this hold without a bow, the violinist can simply make a "C" with his hand by curving the thumb so that the knuckle bends outward. Then, the inside crease of the middle finger is touched by the tip of the thumb.

Russian Bow Hold

This hold allows a player to move the bow very quickly on the string. The bow hairs to touch the strings lightly. This hold involves the index finger resting on the bow at the finger's middle joint. This finger is placed in a sideways position. The rest of the fingers hold the bow using their tips, with a tiny distance between the index and middle fingers. The little finger only touches the bow when playing toward the frog, and the index finger guides the bow. Additionally, the bow is held so that the bow hairs are flat on the string, not at an angle.

Galamian Bow Hold

Named after the famous violin teacher Ivan Galamian and considered a variation of the Franco-Belgian hold, the Galamian bow hold is similar to the others in that the middle finger and the thumb are across from each other on the bow. The index finger rests on top of the bow in a sideways position. As the violin is played with the bow, the wrist is turned outward the closer the violinist gets to the tip of the bow. Conversely, as the violinist moves the bow toward the frog, the wrist goes up. This hold is meant to make playing with the bow comfortable and natural. The individual way a violinist plays is determined by her own body. There may be changes that a player may make to her bow hold, regardless of the type of hold, based on what is comfortable for her.

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