How to Hold a Violin/Viola bow

The correct bow hold is something to get right from the beginning. It can be to easy to form bad habits that will have to be backtracked and corrected further down the line.

The basic bow hold - start by pretending you are holding a drinks bottle and then pretend you are slowing tipping it out – look at your hand position – this is the correct hand position!!  Hold the “water bottle” on the side – if the fingers are together, separate them slightly and pretend there is a small sweet between them – keeping the thumb bent.

Violin Bow Hold - One
Violin Bow Hold - Two
Violin Bow Hold - Third
Violin Bow Hold - Four
  • Don’t hold the bow too tight – you should be creating a loop on the bow between the thumb and middle finger. The little finger stays on top of the bow like a “look out” and should be able to be lightly tapping up and down to show it isn’t gripping.
  • Once the violin/viola is played with the bow the little finger remains on the bow.
  • Whilst playing all the fingers should be relaxed – children shouldn’t get aching fingers from bowing.
  • When a child is starting to learn limit the amount of time they spend using the bow – they should spend time practising the bow hold technique with a pencil too.

Bow Maintenance Pointers

  • Loosening and tightening the bow – the bow should be loosened when not in use and in the case. This is done by unwinding the bow at the end so that the hair is loose.  When tightened for playing you should be able to fit a pencil between the hair and the wood and the wood should always be slightly curved.
  • Rosin on the bow – this does not need to be applied every time the bow is used. Once or twice a week should be more than sufficient.  If too much is applied, it will damage the hair on the bow and wear the strings out faster.  Rosin should be evenly distributed over the whole bow.  Too much rosin will make the bow sticky.
  • When putting the bow back in the case ensure that it is the correct way up. It should have the wood at top and the point of the bow should go in the smaller end of the case.
  • Bows are fragile – they shouldn’t be dropped or use as swords or wands!
  • If there is a loose hair coming off the bow pull this off like a thread out of clothes – pull it gently from the end.
  • If the hairs are frequently falling out without encouragement – this is not a good bow! And will need repairing.
  • Bows can be re-haired if there are insufficient hairs on the bow.
  • You shouldn’t need to clean the bow at all but if it has got particularly sticky from too much rosin a technician will be able to clean the hairs for you – it is not recommended that you do this yourself.
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