Monday, February 23, 2009

The Violin Bow - How to use it

It’s really important to learn about the violin bow before you first hold it as it’s a complex piece of equipment that can change the whole sound of the violin.

The stick is just the main wooden frame that holds the length of the violin bow.

The pad is a guide for where your index finger should be placed and is there to SUPPORT the finger, you wouldn’t want to have it pressing against wood =P.

The screw tightens the horse hair so more sound can be created. A good way to check if your bow is the right tightness is to put a pencil half way down the bow and it should just fit through the gap between stick and hair.

The frog is the place where the 2 main parts of the bow join together. The circle is a rough place where the ring finger should sit in a violinists bow hold.

The violin bow is dreaded by so many people because of its complex shaping to hold it correctly. What you should do is place the index finger “leaning” inbetween the metal and rubber grip. Then place the thumb just underneath the black rubber (the thumb nail should be almost hidden behind the hair). Follow the middle and ring fingers down onto the back end of the violin bow(they should be flat on the right hand side). Ideally the ring finger should be placed on the circle. Finally place the little finger on its tips.

Using your bow to play the violin!

As a general tip before practising, it is essential to add some violin rosin (tree sap) as it helps the bow stick to the violin instrument more. Violin rosin comes in blocks, is very cheap and will last for a long, long time (I have had the same block of rosin for 5 years and only used half of it!). Apply it by pressing it lightly against the bow and pull it up and down about 3 or 4 times across the whole length of the bow. If too much violin rosin is added, the sound will be squeaky.

So now that you have mastered the bow hold, while holding your bow in your right hand, bring the violin to the shoulder. Make sure the violin bow has the right tension, and the place the bow on one of the 4 strings. Now, rearrange the bow to be touching the string inbetween the bridge and the fingerboard – this will be where the best quality sound will come from the violin. The bow should be flat on the violin string and not at an angle; do not press the bow on the string too hard, or a clear tone will not be made. Always ensure that the elbow of your right arm is positioned at a right angle as you move the bow across a string and not “drooping” down. The violin bow should glide across the string.

How to maintain the quality of the Violin Bow

Some precautions do not touch the horse hair with your fingers as the oils from our skin will damage the horse hair. If a hair splits in half or becomes loose, place your thumb crossing the frog and the horse hair and pull; otherwise, other hairs may become damaged. After practising the violin, loosen the horse hair by twisting the screw anti clockwise until the bow looks loose.

That’s all that really needs to be known about holding and using the violin bow!