Monday, January 07, 2008

State of the bow hold

January is Bow Month at The Stark Raving Cello Blog, and this is my entry.

My bow hold is still a work in progress, and a major topic of discussion at my lessons. The primary change T- initiated was the thought of a "bow change motion," where the wrist, hand and fingers flexibly respond to the change in bow direction initiated by the arm. T2- used to say "hand motion is reactive, not generative," so this was a continuation of the same general principle.

My thumb is curved, more when at the frog than when at the tip, and tends to straighten, especially when I am trying to hold on too tightly. My major fault is that the bow comes out of the string when I change direction. That's much, much better than when I started on this path, so I am hoping that when I repeat this experiment next year I'll be able to see the progress I intend to make.

Other things I note are that the back of my hand remains relatively parallel to the floor, and because there is little obvious pronation (which T- calls "the P word"), my thumbnail tends to be perpendicular to the bow rather than parallel. One advantage of this angle is that it really hurts to grind the edge of my thumb against the sharp edge of the frog, so I am rewarded for relaxing. A disadvantage is that, particularly since I have a very tapered thumb tip, my thumb tends to slide between the frog and the thumb pad. It's something I constantly struggle with, and because it's not easily seen my teachers haven't been able to help much with that directly.

My little finger lies near the button on the frog, and T- teaches an upward lifting on the frog with the 3d and 4th fingers when the bow is at the tip in order to add weight to the bow without excessive pronation.

Isn't it fascination how many different variations there can be of doing essentially the same thing? Dragging the bow back and forth across the face of the cello seems like it should be such a simple thing... until you try to do it!

At the frog
At the tip

And here is the bow in action, just playing an open G string.


Unknown said...

I am really glad you posted this. I practiced tonight for the first time in a while and my biggest frustration? Always my bowhand. I could just scream. I never can get it right. It's funny how you say there are so many ways to do the same thing. So true.
Yours looks really relaxed.

Anonymous said...

Thumb position on the bow. My teacher and I spent a long time talking about that at my lesson yesterday. My thumb doesn't want to stay curved. It starts out well and then slowly flattens out and sometime even slides right through the bow. I don't find the frog comfortable. Could I tape it in place?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post and the shots of your bowing. I get very sore on the side of my thumb and use a rubber thumb shield for most pieces, but it is not so good if there is any pizzicato. It goes on my thumb up to the first joint. Jacqueline du Pre used to use rubber tubing, so I've heard , so I don't feel too much of a coward! (I think the tubing was fixed over that pointy part of her bow, not on her thumb like me)