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Bowhold: conflicting info

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Davidoc, Feb 16, 2004.

  1. I use a french bow. I had been instructed by my teacher to hold the bow with my thumb below the metal; on the very bottom of the bow. This seems very comfortable and natural.

    Then I go to an audition for college, and the bass instructor there said something to the effect of "get a new teacher", and that you must hold the bow between the two parts that split.

    Now, I like my teacher, and I like the bow hold he told me to use better.

    What's your opinion on this issue? Is it an issue of preference?
  2. sorry about the rude reply, i was in a bad mood. (due to the constant FREEZING of my old computer)... thanks for all your suggestions. and again sorry to cause such a fuss.
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I have heard of some teachers allowing younger students to hold French Bow with their thumb a wrapped around the outside of the frog as it allows smaller hands more control. I may have even seen one method book suggesting as much for children. But, I don't think it would be typical of an adult player.

    IMO, if you have the bow control you need and can get a good sound, it doesn't matter.
  4. i also heared that it's more important to hold the bow with the main contact on the center of gravity of the bow.... and for a lot of non expensive bows, it's more towards the middle onthe grip side
  5. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Check this thread: French bow hold

    I guess we're missing a photo shot of the bow hold from underneath.

    MHO: It takes years to shape up a good bow hold. The paradox is that it's something you have to try to improve constantly, and, at the same time, to forget about, since you still have to practice your bass with whatever bowhold you're able to acheive. In other words: relax, but be alert.
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    At the Edgar Meyer master class I attended, he addressed this a bit. He mentioned that he used a number of different grips, including the one you mention, as his hands get tired or he wants the bow to act differently. His general grip is much more traditional, however.
  7. From what I've seen there are a bunch of french bow grips that are commonly used. I played french for a few years when i started playing bass, and coming from a cello background my grip was very similar to a traditional cello grip. Which is also pretty similar to a violin grip, I think... I switched to german after a couple years, and never looked back. When I started playing in orchestras, I was amazed at the french bow grips I saw, some of them were really freaky looking. A lot simply looked like people just grabbed the bow and started playing with it, no technique needed... But they all seem to work ok, so I guess it's just a matter of what you're used to and what works for you. Personally I'd look at the technique good cellists are using, seeing as the french bass bow is more closely related to that than anything else, and people have been perfecting it on the cello for much longer than the bass...
  8. Robin Ruscio

    Robin Ruscio Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2003
    Denver, CO, USA

    I may be a bit more conservative, but I think you should be using the more traditional grip where the thumb is butted up against the stick and the frog. you may feel more comfortable in the short run choking up, but youy may reach a point where you are limited by your technique. The grip is just the beginning of a long journey with the bow, there are so many other thing to consider, like pronating your arm, using your whole body, developing suppleness in the wrist. The best single resource for bowing i've found is the rabbath Cd-Rom, it's really worth $80, as he breaks it all down, and you can really see and hear the fluidity that's possible with the bow- something most bassists are nowhere near.

    If you're not sure your teacher's qualified, go take a lesson with someone else- i'd recommend someone from a professional symphony, as they've had to back their approach with the bow with an actual audition to win their position, and that takes some serious understanding of the possibilities of nuiance that are capable with a bowed instrument. I think it will be apparent who is the more qualified teacher.
  9. Bassius


    Nov 6, 2001
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar amps

    Doesn't Edgar Meyer hold his bow this way??
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    At his masterclass he said that he does occasionally.
  11. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    yes - i saw him do it in a performance last year. but as ray said, it's not his primary hold. as i recall he switched quite regularly (every couple of minutes) into another of a few different holds.

    sean p
  12. newinthething


    Jan 30, 2006
    Edgar Meyer definetly does it, and you can see it clearly in the first two themes he plays with Mark O'Connor and Yo-Yo MA on the DVD "Appalachian Journey". Using the Zoom and slow functions you can learn a lot from him.

    One more thing is very remarkable: he doesn't use his wrist in any of his holding approches. To all appearrances it doesn't limit his amazing performance at all!
  13. Robin Ruscio

    Robin Ruscio Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2003
    Denver, CO, USA
    Edgar could probably play the bass standing on his head and sound amazing; I think i'd stick to what most of the mere mortals have done to surivive the 400 year old wrestling match . . . .
  14. newinthething


    Jan 30, 2006
    Ok; but he is almost a self-taught bassist and surely he adquired his amazing technique by practicing and experiencing freely to get the best from him, not by a gift of God, neither remaining sticked to traditions.

    Tradition are very valuable as general guide, but we are individuals and all what you need to know is that what is suitable for you also works very well for one of the best of us, and so, it'll doesn't stand in your way to reach your goal.
  15. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Self taught? He studied with Stuart Sankey at IU.
  16. I had an adult student who was having loads of trouble trying get the French bow hold. I took a cue from my kids' Suzuki violin teacher and had him hold it with the thumb under the frog until he felt secure, and then had him move the thumb up to the "proper" position after a few weeks. His bow hold now looks good and he tells me it feels comfortable.

    I stopped short of loading his bow up with Hello Kitty stickers and corn pads, though. :smug:
  17. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Yeah, and isn't he a 4th or 5th generation bassist too?

    Jeans or genes which one it's killing me
  18. newinthething


    Jan 30, 2006
    Johnny, his father was a bassist (not a classic one) and he studied with Stuart Sankey for a brief period, but as himself says he is mostly a self-taught. Besides of that, do you really think that was Mr. Sankey who teached him to hold the bow as he does????

    Dear Davidoc, what I'm trying to say is that we are musicians, not philosophers, and beyond traditions and words, and very intelligent speechs there is a reality: you can play or you don't, and what you play sounds good enough or not, and that's the only one relevant true in music. The technique that you asked for is used regularly for one of the best bass players in history (maybe the best alive). He hasn't nothing special in his hands, he uses a best quality bow not the Harry Potter wand, he's not specially gifted by God (unless you want to believe in this kind of things), so why don't try the same if you want and you fell good with it? and why could it be an impediment for your growth as bassist if it wasn't for him?

    Fear is a very bad advicer, and sometimes tradition could be a trap.

    Look for a teacher who respects you enough to give you a very good reason for advise against any technique used by someone like Edgar Meyer in his live performances.

    I don't think Mr. Meyer is trying to damage himself; do you?
  19. bassist14


    Oct 17, 2005
  20. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I don't know what Stuart Sankey taught Edgar Meyer, but if you look at his edition of the Simandl book you will find a number of suggestions on his part that indicate to me he was an open-minded teacher who wasn't above using "tricks" to make it through technical difficulties...and I woudn't doubt that if Sankey did have an opinion about how the bow should have been held that Meyer didn't at least try it (if not work furiously for a period of time to do it as Sankey suggested).

    My own teacher spoke highly of Stuart Sankey to me during one brief moment a couple of years ago, but I didn't know who Sankey was at the time.

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