French bow grip-thumb pain

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by drfrink, Oct 14, 2004.

  1. drfrink


    Sep 8, 2004
    hey ya'll-
    i've had this problem for a while... whenever i play a long etude or solo piece, that fleshy padded muscle (on palm) that connects my right thumb to my hand gets a flashing pain. then the pain creeps up into my forearm. any ideas?

    also, i try to use the weight of my arm to make the strings speak while keeping my wrist loose, but i'm just not able to do it. some physical disconnect. advice?

    one of those frustrated days... thanks, doc
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    I wanna know too cuz get it as well. Feels like that big thumb muscle is just cramping cuz I'm gripping hard though I try to relax as much as possible. It doesn't creep into my forearm tho, so I probably have a slightly different problem. Sometimes I can get it to go away, but i feel like I need apply a little bit of thumb pressure or else the bowing doesn't work. Some days I feel like I can play as light as a feather and it comes out sounding great, but after a while it ends up cramping.
  3. kontrabass


    Sep 29, 2004
    Not to contradict anything . . . but this is exactly the reason I switched to German Bow. I started out on french some time back, but the pain was unbearable. German Bow has a more relaxed grip, which in the end helped my playing in general.
    But if you are intent on staying with French, ask your teacher about the grip. Subtle grip changes can mean everything.

    Good luck!
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I used to get pain there until I concentrated on the placement of my thumb. Basically, it went; thumb pointing out towards the bow tip=pain, thumb slightly tucked in and pointing more towards the bow screw=no pain. YMMV.
  5. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    Any bow grip is a paradox. You must hold the bow with a firm grip and at the same time it must be relaxed. For french you must keep your thumb bent creating a "C" shape with your index finger. Try this bow grip on a pencil with the tip of your bent thumb and your index finger, hold the end with your other hand, you could snap it in half with the pressure from just those 2 fingers. This is fundamental to having a firm grip. make sure the fleshy part of your hand below your thumb is relaxed and not tense. oh and . . . . of course the disclaimer. get thyself a good teacher.
  6. Try German bow!
    Far more ergonomic bow hold; better access to your "arm weight", far less tension in the hand, generally a more powerful sound.

    NO THUMB PRESSURE REQUIRED in the German Bow hold. You'll sound better and you'll love it!

    Both bows can "do it all", as you'll see in other bow forums on, but German is healthier for the hand.
  7. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    IMHO, you and Savino are right on: I never got that pain, prollycuz my first teacher was particularly picky on bow hold (not grip, sorry). Tip of thumb rests on the corner of the frog, thumb bent. Yes, it hurts at first, and I now sport a comfy callous there. A good photo could illustrate that post (but I don't have one right now). Exercise was: hold the bow horizontaly with your right hand, hair towards the floor, then place your index-to-pinky fingers (the Scotch ones!!! ;) ) on the bow, turn the hair towards the strings, bent your thumb and place the tip on the corner of the frog. I hope you get it. The teacher I have now says alathat's fine, but suggests to keep RH fairly relaxed eg to be able to lift any of the fingers (xcept the thumb) while drawing the bow across the strings.
  8. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I always had the same problem and moved pretty quickly to the German bow. The last several months I've been working pretty hard at the cello and while initially I had that old familiar thumb pain I am starting to figure out how to use the French bow in a relaxed, painless way. Keep at it with a focused mind and it will come.