Basic violin bowing skills by Sue Hunt, Music in Practice
Beautiful bow hand, beautiful tone.

Does your instrument have a lovely sound?  Actually it doesn’t, not all by itself, without being coaxed into life by the bow.  Now, we all know that this can’t happen successfully, unless you practise your violin bowing.

When you compare the responsibilities of the bow hand with those of the instrument hand, you will see why it is so important to develop good violin bowing technique. The bow hand is in charge of the tone (quality of sound) and the dynamics, (loud or soft).  It lets you play rhythms and can make the music smooth or jumpy.  It also lets you shape musical sentences. The violin hand is only responsible for changing the pitch of the note.  So, developing a good bowing technique is the most important aspect of playing a string instrument.

The first challenge is to learn to make a lovely tone.  Learning good bow control is fundamental, but tricky.  Assuming that a violinist can already make a good bow hold and hold the instrument well, he has to learn how to use the all of the arm joints, the shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers, to achieve effective violin bowing.

There are three basic factors which need to be taken into consideration in bowing.  Get a good balance between these three and and even a beginner can make a great sound.

•  Bow weight: More weight makes a loud sound and less makes a quiet sound, anything from a raspy roar down to the barest whisper.  The first rule of good violin bowing is to give the bow to the instrument and let the instrument take the weight of the bow and your arm.  This empowers you to find the best sound you want to produce.

•  Bow speed: The second rule of violin bowing is that pulling the bow quickly across the string will make a loud sound and pulling it slowly will make a quiet sound.

•  Distance from the bridge: This is by far the trickiest aspect of violin bowing, as it is affected by the angle of the bow to the string.  If the bow is maintained an angle of 90% to the string, it will stay at the same distance from the bridge.  If the angle is different from this, the bow will slip up and down the string making all sorts of horrible whistles and growls.  The player needs to be able to keep the bow on that tiny part of the string which makes the fullest most ringing sound.   Once a player can do this, he can learn to change the angle fractionally and to move the bow towards the fingerboard (for a quiet sound) or back towards the bridge (for a loud sound).

My e-book 40 Great Games to Teach Straight Bowing has been compiled to provide a useful resource of violin bowing strategies and fun music games for teachers and parents which will engage a child’s imagination as well as the senses.  When learning violin bowing, children can become very frustrated, by the complexity of keeping the bow straight.  These games teach using three different senses, sight, hearing and kinesthetic.  Today’s child is used to being entertained, so you will find plenty here to make learning basic straight bowing interesting and fun.

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