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Bowing troubles (you've heard it all, I'm sure)

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by two_five_into_I, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. So this marks my first post on Talkbass! I've been lurking for many years, especially when I got my double bass almost a year and a half ago. Anyways, just recently I've gotten a double bass teacher in my area and have made the jump into arco playing. I started with german, which i could get a decent sound out of, but the economics of it just constantly confused me, I was always having trouble bowing the low E/ high G and getting my bow straight. so while that bow is being rehaired, I've decided to borrow a French bow from the shop that's fixing mine. I've used it for a couple hours now, and I have a cramping in my hand in that muscles that's behind your thumb, or between your thumb and index finger. If anybody had any advice for using the french bow, how to adjust your hold how to change tempo and speed, really basic stuff, that'd be a load of help!

    thanks for reading that wall of text!

  2. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Welcome Alexander!

    I bow German, and I find playing seated really helps me with access to the E string- the G is the trade off- gotta reach a bit for that! Ask you teacher about it!

    As for general bow stuff- do the searches, there is too much good advice to relate in a single post- that said, this is GOLD:

    Best luck!

  3. thanks! I've check out that video a couple times, and yah seeding definitely helps, but i have trouble seeding if I'm playing many notes quickly (obviously not too quickly cause I'm not that good, but you get the idea) i don't get how to say, bow staccato eight notes and have them all be nice and short and clean.
  4. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    This is very difficult to address in writing, especially since there are many ways to approach this- on the string or off, alternating bow strokes or hooked bows...blah blah blah. Hopefully someone more eloquent than I will be able to offer you some better advice, but the first thing I would recommend is to try this:

    Find the balance point of the bow- stay in the string and alternate between up and down strokes- just back and forth at the balance point..."brushing". Obviously you will go past the balance point on each side- stopping the bow on the string- this is what will stop the string from speaking and give you your staccato.

    I can't see your hand, or your arm, or any of the other things that will be very important to you pulling a good, clean, consistant sound- it's great that you have a teacher!

    Don't forget to keep relaxed, and don't be overly concerned with speed just yet. Set your metronome at a reasonable rate and go for consistancy.

    I hope this helps a little, and with luck, you'll get more, better advice from some of the other folks.

  5. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    You do have a method book that you are working in with your teacher, yes?

    Simandl, vol 1- Part III- pages 68-70.

    Also look into getting George Vance's edition of Sevcik.

    Good stuff!!! Other folks will recommend their favs too I hope...

    Now get to work! :D

  6. MandShef


    Jul 5, 2012
    Sheffield, UK
    Hi Alexander. I use French bow and this is a problem I have been dealing with too (I have a weak thumb joint from a childhood accident). I have had a go using my tutor's German bow, but like you I find it awkward on the low/E string. The best advice I've had is a) relax your hand, if you're getting thumb ache the likelihood is you're holding onto the bow too tightly. Remember that the strings will take the weight of it, so if you feel that cramping coming on, pause, take a deep breath and relax your hold on the bow. b) check the position of your hand. People hold their bows in different ways, but it helps if you make sure your 2nd finger is in line with the thumb, and that the thumb is curved like a hook, not collapsing in on itself. Sometimes when I'm practicing I will stop several times during a piece, just to check these points. I'm hoping by concentrating on bowing technique so closely it'll sink into muscle memory soon. Finally, search YouTube for instructional videos. There's some good tips out there. Good luck.
  7. Easiest way to be more comfortable on the E string with German bow: move the bass when you drop to the E string. If you're seated, just moving your left leg back a bit will drop the bass far enough.
  8. Thanks for all the replies guys! Now that I've got a couple days of french bow under my belt, I can safely say I'm getting a MUCH more consistent sound out of the french bow, my bows not slipping down, I'm pretty much staying at a 90 degree angle on the string. my hands still getting tired, but not as quickly as yesterday and the day before. Now I just need help play nice strong staccato notes and how to successfully change dynamics.

    Any advice?
  9. jwbassman

    jwbassman Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    I had the same problem when I first started with the French bow. The muscle between my thumb and first finger would cramp up after a few mins of playing. I had to just keep readjusting and refining my hold. If you're getting cramped your hold isn't correct. You'll know when you do get it. The bow will just rest in your hand and feel "right". I don't know any other way to describe it. Now I can play for hours and my hand never gets cramped or tired. Your hand should really be as relaxed as possible. Now I can just pick up the bow and in a second have a good hold and the bow just becomes part of my hand and I don't have to think about it. Stick with it and you'll get it. About a year ago I made the decision that I wanted to get serious about Arco. So now I spend 90+% of my practice arco. Whereas before it was the opposite. I still have a long way to go. My advice: Practice, practice, practice....sounds cliche but it really works ;)

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