As a follow up to my post about Bow Arm Mechanics, I have been looking for more information to help keep my bow straight all the way through, and I have uncovered a few hacks and tips.
From our position as players, it is not always easy to see if the bow is parallel to the bridge. While using a mirror is good for immediate feedback in so many areas, keeping the bow straight is not one of them. Facing the mirror while playing will not give a good reflection (pun intended). To see if we are bowing straight, we have to sit at a 90 degree angle to the mirror with the bow going into and away from the mirror as we bow. Then, to accurately view the action of the bow, we have to turn our head 90 degrees towards the mirror. This maneuver is not only uncomfortable, it is not conducive to playing the violin. Short of using straws or one of those straight-bowing attachments that looks like orthodontic headgear, here are a few of hacks that might help.
The Chalk Hack
The first comes from another blog called ViolinSync, and the author offers this advice:
- You will need some ordinary white or light coloured chalk.
- Apply the chalk to the end of your fingerboard. Don’t worry, it will rub off when you don’t need it and is almost invisible to anyone else.
- Look at the two pictures below. Both bows are placed at the tip on the D string.
- The bow on the left is crooked, not straight as we say, not parallel to the bridge. The bow on the right is parallel to the bridge and the hair forms a perfect plus sign (+) with the string.
- If you were to seesaw the bow on the right between the lower and upper strings, you would see that it would remain equidistant from the bridge on all strings.
- As you look closely at the pictures, you will see a dark crescent shaped shadow between bow hair and the chalk marked edge of the fingerboard. This crescent shape can also be used as a frame of reference as you gaze through the bow hair and stick when you are playing.
- After you have mastered how a parallel bow looks on the D string you will want to transfer that knowledge to your other strings. The angles will be similar but not exactly the same.
- Your final step will be to use these methods of seeing as you are playing, initially with another person or video present to give you feedback as to what is straight and whether this method is working for you.
The Big Clock Hack
The next hack I found on an online forum. I don’t even remember where now.
When bowing, imagine the violin is the center of a big clock and that the ends of the bow are the hands. When down bowing on the D string, imagine the frog is reaching out to the 3 on the clock, when upbowing, the tip reaching out to the 9. When bowing on the A string, the bow reaching out to the 4 O’clock and 10 O’clock positions. (You can figure out the other strings.)
This image helps to keep the bow straight all the way through the stroke and not curve inward, or outward, at about the half way point. It forces to reach and push out with the wrist, instead of it pulling inward.
The Go to the Corner Hack
Todd Ehle, also known as professor on YouTube, has an interesting hack, but you’ll need to find the right type of corner.
Some Practical Tips from professorV
In the above video, Todd mentions his other two videos on straight bowing. With some good information, here they are.
If you find Todd’s videos helpful, here is a list of his Video Violin Lessons.
So, that’s it, a few hacks and tips for straight bowing. If you are a seasoned player, how did you conquer this affliction that strikes all beginners? And, if you are a beginner, what are your thoughts on these hacks and tips, and do you know of others?
Added on April 13, 2019: In case you don’t read the comments below, one of my viewers, Joe, has a link to a Katy Adelson video about straight bowing. I think it is a very good video, so I’m adding it here.