How to Hold a Violin Bow Correctly: Step by Step Guide for Beginners

Written by Catherine Kelman
Last updated

A violin bow may seem like a tool that can be held in any way, as long as the bow is used to play the notes of the violin. However, there is a proper technique for holding a violin bow, and doing it wrong can lead to problems as you progress. It can take a while to learn how to hold a violin bow properly, but patiently learning the technique will allow you to have more control over the violin bow and will also help you to refine your sound as you improve as a violinist. 

In this post, we’re going to cover how to hold a violin bow correctly with tips to ensure correct technique and several things that you should practice when you are learning how to hold the bow.

For more information check out our guide that covers how to hold a violin here.

Where Your Thumb Goes

Your thumb is the first component of your bow hand that you will need to address when you are learning how to hold a violin bow properly.

With your violin bow suspended in the air, bend your thumb to a 90-degree angle and place the tip of your thumb right onto the bare section of your violin’s bow that is positioned between the black leather grip of the bow and the raised portion of the bow’s frog.

This section serves as a guide for where your thumb should always be when you are holding your violin’s bow.

Make sure that the tip of your thumb, the same portion of the thumb that you use to type on a smartphone, is always held against this section rather than any other part of your thumb.

Using the tip of your thumb will provide you with better control of your violin bow.

Your Remaining Four Fingers

Your thumb will go underneath a section of the violin bow but the remaining four fingers of your bow hand go on top of the violin bow.

However, your index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and pinky don’t just go anywhere on top of the violin bow, each finger has a designated spot where it needs to be on the violin bow.

The index finger of your bow hand goes on top of the leather portion of the violin bow, where it will act as a guide for the bow and a fulcrum with your thumb and pinky.

Your index finger should be placed on its side when it is on the violin bow.

Your middle finger will also sit on top of the leather pad of your violin bow.

However, the end of your middle finger will sit near the U-shaped notch of your bow’s frog.

This will serve as another point of contact for you to control your violin bow.

Your ring finger has its own designated spot on your violin bow. If you look at the frog of your violin bow, you will see two dots, one on the side that will be facing you as you play and another on the opposite side.

The pad of your ring finger will sit on the dot that is on the side of the violin bow that won’t be facing you as you play.

Your pinky will sit on top of the violin bow as you play.

With a proper bow hand, the tip of your pinky will be placed right on top of the bow above the end of the bow’s frog.

The pinky and the thumb work as balances to one another in your bow hand when you play your violin.

If your bow hand is strong enough, when you remove your index, middle, and ring fingers, only leaving your thumb and pinky on the bow, the bow should remain balanced in your hand.

However, when you play with your violin bow, your pinky should not have very much pressure on the bow and should be almost easily removable from the bow.

When compiling everything together, your bow hand should be relaxed but firm enough to maintain control of the violin bow.

Additionally, your entire bow hand should sit on the violin bow at a downward sloping angle, towards the tip of the bow.

Your Wrist

As you hold your violin bow, you will need to keep your wrist flexible.

Your bow hand should remain firmly on the bow as you glide the bow across the strings of your violin, but your wrist should be relaxed and freely movable.

Keeping your wrist relaxed as you play will allow you to use the full length of your violin bow.

Your Arm

Your bow arm, like your wrist, should be completely relaxed as you play. 

Many violinists develop the bad habit of keeping their elbows high and their shoulders tense as they play.

However, this is unnecessary and can cause you to be fatigued much earlier than you should be.

Keeping your arm tense as you play your violin can also cause avoidable injuries.

When you are learning how to hold your violin bow, practice dropping your arm and placing the full weight of your arm onto the strings of your violin.

This will allow you to produce a powerful sound while keeping your arm relaxed.

This is a very important habit for you to develop early on as it will help you when you are learning difficult music that is challenging to you. 

Your Posture

Your body will act as a complete unit as you play your violin.

Therefore, your posture needs to be correct in order for you to hold your violin bow correctly.

Practice standing tall and upright while you are learning how to hold your violin bow.

As you are initially learning, you will want to make sure that your posture is proper at all times so that you don’t develop bad habits.

However, over time, you will learn how to maintain good posture as you also move and put emotion into the music that you are playing.

Additional Tips

As you are learning how to hold your violin bow, it will help to adjust your bow hand, arm technique, and posture all at once so that you can develop great habits from the start.

One of the first things that you will want to make sure of after you have learned the basics of holding your violin bow, is that the violin bow is moving perpendicular to your violin’s strings as you are playing.

If your wrist or arm is too stiff, your violin bow will not move perpendicular to the strings of your violin and may move outwards, away from you, as you play.

To master the feeling of your bow hand, wrist, and arm guiding the violin bow in a direction that is perpendicular to the violin’s strings, practice moving your violin bow across an open string with your arm and wrist completely relaxed.

Conclusion

Take your time as you learn how to properly hold your violin bow.

Unlike practicing your violin, you can practice holding your violin bow nearly anywhere.

You can practice holding your violin bow as you watch your favorite television show or while you are talking to a friend on the phone.

The more time you spend practicing these skills, the quicker you will advance as a violinist and the easier playing will become for you.