Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

French Bow Hold

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Johnny L, Aug 7, 2003.


  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    When the French bow is held, is it done so with the fingers and thumb at all times or is the palm of the hand used in some manner? Are all the fingers used to hold the bow as it is drawn?
     
  2. Gabe

    Gabe

    Jan 21, 2003
    I always use just the fingers and thumb.All the fingers help to hold/balance the bow.

    It is very much the same grip you would see a violinist or violist or cellist use.
     
  3. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    The best I've had to go on before now, recommendation-wise, is curving the fingers and thumb and using the index finger, little finger, and thumb to hold and guide the bow. The 2nd and 3rd finger just dangle.

    I don't mind that way of doing things, but I've been searching for other ways. I have seen violinists pretty much ignore their little finger and simply place it on top of the bow rather than using it to grip the frog. Also, I've seen bassists let their little fingers lift up off the bow on occasion. Am I right in understanding that your little finger doesn't do much for you then? Do you keep your fingers and thumb curved too as you hold the bow, or do they straighten out for you?
     
  4. olivier

    olivier

    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    My teacher says to hold the bow pretty much like a glass of Champagne, with all the fingers, but in rather relaxed way (remember Dustin Hoffman learning to shoot in Little Big Man ?). The thumb should be folded, with the tip resting on the corner of the frog. Do not over stretch out index and pinky for better balance. It is important to realize that you have to learn to feel and hold the bow ON THE STRING, producing sound. It involves hand, wrist, entire arm, shoulder and back. Don't worry too much and be patient: it takes years to get it right. Watching others playing is helpful too.
     
  5. Gabe

    Gabe

    Jan 21, 2003
    For me, the little finger doesn't do much of the actuall holding of the bow, I rest it slightly bent a little bit on the same side as the other finger. I keep my other fingers and thumb curved and my second and third finger helps to hold the bow in position and provide a little extra "umph".

    Oliver described the grip that I would consider "correct" very eloquently.

    Oh, be careful not to tense up the hand; it will hamper your bowing in the long run.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    For me, the middle finger and the thumb form a fulcrum point for the hold and are the primary fingers involved in drawing the bow. The other fingers balance the bow and adjust the angle of the bow relative to the ground and the strings.

    Oomph should come from the arm, not the fingers.
     
  7. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    What exactly is the thumb doing with the French bow hold? Is it that pad of the thumb that is gripping the bow somehow, or is the tip of the thumb pushing the bow towards the fingers, where the real "gripping" of the bow stick is happening?
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    http://users.lvcm.com/mariani/bass/bow.html#french

    There's no gripping going on. Think of it as lightly pinching the stick between the tip of your thumb and the inside of your middle finger, and using the other fingers to prevent the bow from rotating around this point.
     
  9. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Thanks for the illustrative link and the additional commentary. I think I understand much better now.

    I haven't tried to use a French bow in over a year, deciding instead to focus on the German bow and my teacher's guidance. But since I have now taken on the challenge of assisting another local double bassist who wants to learn to use the French bow, there were things that I had not explored before. It's very hard for me to discourage this person from picking up the French bow after seeing Francois Rabbath live in concert and getting inspired...that, and advising him to purchase another bow of my kind when it may not be necessary.

    I'll share these learnings, and I appreciate any further advice.
     
  10. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I confessed to my teacher about helping this guy out without really having much understanding of French bow technique, and then I proceeded to opine the clear superiority of the German bow in all things arco.

    So then he proceeded to show me (in great detail) the French bow ropes, strongly recommended that I incorporate the French bow in my practice, and then demonstrated weaknesses in my German bowing that deserve attention.

    I guess the moral is that only a fool thinks he can get away with two lessons for the price of one.

    I've been going at my French bow a little for a couple of days now, and I can't believe how much rosin I thought I needed when I started trying to do arco. I don't think I'll have to rosin my French bow for a year!
     
  11. Gabe

    Gabe

    Jan 21, 2003
    Yes, I phrased it poorly. I meant to help support the other fingers, giving oomph to the grip.
     
  12. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    One thing my teacher says is that your "gas pedal" in getting volume from the bass is the torque that should naturally be generated by a proper French bow grip.

    My grip is what Christopher describes. I'd add that (at my teacher's direction) I actually "wrap" the stick with the end of my index finger (contact at about the "9 o'clock" position, with the center of the nail being "12 o'clock"); and my middle finger (contact at six o'clock). My third and fourth fingers are on the frog, about an inch for the 3rd and 1/2-3/4 inch for the fourth. All the fingers are angled slightly backwards, not at right angles to the stick.

    The effect of this grip is to "torque" the bow into the string without any sense of applying force through the arm or hand. For me, it really improved my tone when I started using it.

    Finally, I recommend NOT balancing the fourth finger on the end of the stick or lifting it off. The finger might as well be gone in that case. Yes, some violinists play that way, but they're using 60g bows and strings the diameter of dental floss. The fourth finger can help you a lot if you use it.
     
  13. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    The prior post was supposed to be a reply to the "French Bow hold" thread, but I must have pushed the wrong button. Can the moderator move it?
     
  14. I'm on vacation. Ask Chris.:D
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    DONOSAUR,

    Sorry to hear your moderatorial superpowers don't extend from London to the US. Hope you're having a good time though.

    Let's see if there's any Kryptonite in the vicinity...


    Ahh......That's better.
     
  16. I was taught a great way to develope a great bow hold...stick your hand out limp wristed...with your other hand , put the bow into your hand adjust so that a SLIGHT amount of finger pressure exists...the bend your thumb so that the tip is touching the stick...then you will be holding the bow perfectly...it will take you some time...but eventually you will be able to bow with almost no pressure in your hand...also when bowing , dip the tip of the bow downward at the end of an upbow , and extend your elbow fully.....it might feel funny but it will help overall...
     
  17. and also , the fingers should feel how the bow should move , and the movement and pressure should come from the shoulder and arm weight..