Picking up the violin after a few decades I am unable to keep my bow from "bouncing" or shuddering while bowing steadily on its lower half.

Here is a video of me illustrating a full stroke with three different bows (to show the problem is me, not the bows), playing each both close to the fingerboard and then close to the bridge.

What am I doing wrong? Any exercises to rid myself of this?

  • 2
    Try experimenting with the source of your bow pressure. Imagine it as coming from the shoulder. Also, maybe your wrist could be more flexible and fluid. That might help. – Jomiddnz Jul 31 '19 at 21:59
  • @Jomiddnz – I just spent some time with that and it really did help! I tried to imagine my hand as floating (thereby relaxing it) and weight coming from upper arm/shoulder. I wonder if the resulting change is enough to detect in a video like this, or if it's too subtle to see. – anon Jul 31 '19 at 22:42
  • You've tried dif't bows, but have you tried adjusting the hair tension? Less critical than proper shoulder-arm positioning and moving weight from pinky to forefinger, but might contribute. – Carl Witthoft Aug 1 '19 at 12:36
  • @CarlWitthoft: Yes, I've gone from tightest to loosest reasonably playable and it doesn't have a clear effect – any effect is probably getting lost in more significant problems of my technique. – anon Aug 1 '19 at 14:46

You are aware that you have a pinky? It's typical for fiddlers not to use the pinky and not to use the lowest quarter of the bow where the balance of the bow shifts most. If you are playing classical violin, you are expected to be able to make use of the full bow. That means that there is significant change of weight and contact when getting near the frog. Your middle and ring finger and the thumb are the principal hold and pivot for the bow, index finger and pinky are for weight control. If you let the pinky hang in the air, you don't have a counterbalance for the index finger and have to do everything with the index finger.

Have you tried controlledly and quietly closing a door with a sticky latch? The most reliable way to manage that is to pull it close with one hand and push with the other. That way when overcoming the yielding point, you don't need to counteract with the pulling hand but have the pushing hand balancing it. It's not impossible to close a door even with sticky latch well with a single hand but it is much more prone to accidents.

In a similar manner, if you have only the index finger putting on pressure without a counteracting control from the pinky at the other side of the pivot, adapting the pressure when approaching and leaving the frog just doesn't work as well. And when you have to take too much weight off because you are missing the counterweight, the stick slips out of control and your index finger is displaced when you move back to the tip.

Make no mistake: there are also some classical violinists making no use of their pinky but it's not making things easier. And the typical pinky-free fiddler will just not play near the frog and will thus have less need to adjust the pressure.


Looks like you applied too much bow pressure. Contact point is how far your bow is from the bridge. The general concept is far from bridge - fast bow low pressure and close to bridge heavy and slow bow.

  • I've heard that concept, but perhaps not paying enough attention to it. However, since I get the lower-half shudder whether I play near to or far from bridge, and with both slow and fast bow, are you saying that I am applying too much bow pressure for any location and speed? – anon Jul 31 '19 at 22:40
  • The problem is that when we apply large force it is difficult to stay consistent over the whole stroke. It requires a lot of practice to obtain steady muscle control skill. So first try lose your finger and let the gravity do the work then little by little add pressure and see when the bounce happen. – moonshade0227 Aug 1 '19 at 0:08
  • 1
    Also your index finger is not in the right place. For powerful bowing (high bow pressure), press the stick using joint(2nd joint) closer to palm which is commonly called Russian bow hold. To be expressive and light bowing, drive the stick close the 3rd joint similar to what you did, which is called French bow hold. However you are putting it at your finger tip. – moonshade0227 Aug 1 '19 at 0:18
  • This video might help : youtube.com/watch?v=PSBMI1ITe6U This is a good excise video for relaxing fingers youtube.com/watch?v=BYRJKRdwvrw – moonshade0227 Aug 1 '19 at 0:49

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