German Bow Technique

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by viking_456, Feb 17, 2002.

  1. viking_456


    Jan 14, 2002
    Irvine, CA
    I have a question about proper bow technique. First, let me say that I am taking lessons from a professional section player. However, he plays French style. My question has to do with wrist flexibility and proper German grip.

    I have looked at pictures (Gary Karr in Smandle for example) and watched orchestra players in action and it looks like the end of the stick passes between the crook of thier hand (the low spot between the thumb and first finger) and thier first knuckle. However, this seems to lock the hand to the bow and reduce flexibility. If I allow the end of the stick to pass between the first and second knuckle of the first finger, there is much more flexibility in the wrist, but I practically drop the dang bow like this! I think this is an improper way to hold it.

    Which way is correct? And is the wrist more rigid in German style than French?

    My teacher is a fantastic player and has really helped me to understand alot about playing bass, but I think he really doesn't know alot about German bow technique. I'm considering going to another teacher only to resolve this problem.

    Appreciate any words of wisdom.
  2. timre


    Jul 9, 2001
    Vancouver, BC
    Hold the bow like you would grip a baby tomato or whatever size you need to imagine. You don't want to squish it so hold it tight enough to grip. I'll pull out my old sheets and see what else he said. My teacher was an orchestral player who DID play the German, if that helps.
    Sorry if that was a waste of time. Good Luck!
  3. rodrigo rojas

    rodrigo rojas

    Jul 3, 2002
    the fact is: there is no right or wrong, there are several standard grips, and many personal variations upon each one. We are all different, different fingers, different hands, length of arm, different frogs for the bows etc....however there are some guidelines:
    Further towards your fingers is more flexible and with a clearer tone, however it is softer sounding for aggressive orchestral playing.
    More inside your hand has much better spiccato and volume but perhaps not such great sensitivity.

    Flexible wrist or stiff wrist? The NY school (Zimmerman, Orin O´Brien, Don Palma etc...) believe in a very firm wrist. Paul Ellison who places more students in orchestras than anybody else believes in flexibility without exess. In Germany a great deal of wrist is used, and even though it sounds incredible it requires a lot of training with a good professor.

    So dear friend, the conclusion is that there is no right way but many paths that can be taken.
  4. having studied both the stiff wrist and the loose wrist techniques, I use a bit of both depending on what I happen to be playing. I find that for the most part in orchestra playing and slower more legato solo parts, the "stiff" technique is feels more proper and lends itself to better overall tone production. I should note that even though the wrist is sort of stiff, it shouldn't be tense and ridgid, thats just a good way to hurt yourself. I find that the "loose" wrist technique, works well for me in faster, lighter music and more uptempo parts. I got a lot of good insight from Streicher's book. I use it mostly in my solo playing. As far as which knuckle the bow rests between, I think it's pretty much accepted that in the "stiff" technique it goes in the crook, behind the first knuckle. When I play with a looser technique, I find that it sort of floats into either position, depending on what I'm playing. Maybe this would be considered bad technique, but it seems to work well for me. My advice to you would be this: Seek out teachers in addition to the one you study with now, specifically because of the methods they teach. Take a few lessons from them, and learn what you can. Then you should have some knowlege of the basics and be able to choose for yourself what works best, possbily finding a new teacher in doing so. Or if you really like the teacher you're studying with now, why ont play french? I think it can be every bit a functional as german, and you can always switch later. it can't hurt to know both...
  5. viking_456


    Jan 14, 2002
    Irvine, CA
    Thanks for the replies on this thread. I have switched to French style bow. I didn't find it that difficult to make the transition - at least in hindsight it didn't seem difficult. And in addition, I found that I can take some of the knowledge I learned on German style and apply it to French. I think I was far too reluctant to try this. I would encourage anyone to make a relatively small investment in time to learn the other bow if they haven't already.
  6. i have only heard of two grips...the swedish grips
    1)standard (my bass teacher from Bradetitch)
    -first two finger tips on stick , 3rd finger in space , pinky under ferrule , thumb tip on stick
    2)swedish-only difference* thumb goes flat , on top of stick!

    I started working on the 1st but whichever one i find will know the rest...
  7. What you're calling 2)Swedish sounds a whole lot like Viennese grip.

  8. If I were going to go for orchestral playing, I would for sure go for both disciplines. It seems there are some pretty good deals on decent bows out there too.