Bow Arm Mechanics

The past few days I have been reading a lot about bow arm mechanics. The problem with reading about this is it is like reading about golf swing mechanics. It all sounds good, but how do I put it into practice?

I also watched a few YouTube videos and one really stood out for me: Eddy Chen’s Violin Bow Arm Mechanics: Upper Arm and Forearm Movements. In this video, Eddy explains and demonstrates the primary movers of the right arm: the upper arm and the forearm, including fine control vs primary movers, the anatomy of the bow arm, shrugging of the right shoulder, and the mechanics.

Fine points of his video are:

  • Upper arm for String Level and Lower Half Bowing
  • Forearm for Upper Half
  • Triangle to Square to Triangle
  • Upper arm compensates forward towards the tip to keep bow straight
  • Keep elbow level aligned while the upper arm moves in the lower half.
  • Forearm begins to open several centimetres from the frog as the upper arm still moves. At the frog the forearm is relatively still, and the movement is primarily from the upper arm (think elbow), with finer movements in the hand and fingers for smoothing out bow changes.
  • Upper stays aligned with the bow and string level. Don’t let the elbow drop.
  • While forearm opens, feel the weight transition in your hand from pinky to index finger (down bow) and reverse for up bow.
  • When done right, wrist goes down on down bow, and goes up on up bow (should be natural and not extreme, rigid or forced).

I found this video very informative and helpful. Eddy has a talent for teaching in a straight-forward, easily-understandable manner. He mentioned that he would do a follow-up video about the fine motor skills in detail: the hand and fingers, and how everything ties in together for different strokes, but unfortunately he hasn’t posted a new video in about two years. Despite that, I find the videos Eddy does have on YouTube to be very good. If you haven’t watched Eddy’s videos, take a look at his YouTube Channel.

  3 comments for “Bow Arm Mechanics

  1. Joe
    April 9, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Eddy Chen individually put out some very helpful violin/fiddle instructional videos. The last one I see is two years ago.
    Subsequently her partnered with his pal Brett Yang and now publish on YouTube as “TwoSet Violin” which has turned out to be wildly successful, over one million subscriptions recently. Videos as not as instructional as when Eddy published on his own, but definitely more fun. They now tour internationally. They are a gas. Here is their video list:

    • April 10, 2019 at 1:51 am

      Thanks for that, Joe. I never realized that “TwoSet Violin” was 1/2 Eddy Chen. Personally, I liked Eddy much better when he did serious instructional videos.

      • Joe
        April 10, 2019 at 8:58 pm

        I agree with you. The more serious instructional videos much more helpful to me as a fiddle student than all the “fun” TwoSet Violin antics. TwoSet Violin’s goal of making classical music fun fro viewers is admirable, and helpful, but I need to lean how to play the instrument.

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