How to Get Good Bow Sound

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by CoolGuyBassist, Oct 12, 2021.

  1. CoolGuyBassist


    Oct 12, 2021
    Hi, I’ve been playing upright for a few years but only jazz and therefore I’m terrible with a bow. I’m really having trouble getting a good clean consistent sound. Does anyone have tips as to how tight my bow hair should be, where on the string I should be playing, how much bow to use, etc.? (I play German hold)
  2. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark

    the hottest advice anyone will give you is- get a good teacher.

    There are quite a few variables in arco sound production, the most noticeable would be the triangle of weight/pressure, position (closer to bridge vs closer to fingerboard) and bow speed. All this in relation to the actual pitch you’re playing. Especially the last sentence makes it difficult to answer your indeed very good and detailed question in general terms.

    Then there’s the actual bow hold which IMO shouldn’t really be a hold but mostly “preventing the bow from falling down by providing balance points where parts of the bow lay on”.

    String crossings and shifts provide the next challenge. As does microtiming between the left hand and the bow arm. So there’s a lot to take a closer look at and IMHO this is almost futile without an extra set of of very experienced eyes and ears.

    Lastly, and quite important, is a very precise idea of what a “good sound” is. What constitutes that? Knowing that will get you far eventually, while not knowing it will almost certainly hinder you in reaching your goal. (What you can clearly hear in your head, your body will find a way to produce eventually).

    best of luck
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
  3. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    The best thing to do to understand and internalize the pressure/position/speed trinity is to bow slow scales, where you use the whole bow from frog to tip, from tip to frog. Then just keep slowing down your slow scales, while adding different bowing exercises to your practice. Slow scales are the cornerstone, though, that's what teaches you how to make a good fundamental tone. The slow scales with bow also help your intonation, pizz tone production, left hand endurance, etc., so it's not wasted effort for any DB player to do slow bowed scales every day.
    mtto and garrett2 like this.
  4. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    True, not wasted effort ... but having been in the same situation as the OP, I can't possibly imagine that I would have made anywhere near as much progress without a teacher.
    HateyMcAmp likes this.
  5. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Of course, getting a private teacher is best. Bowing isn't one technique, it's a whole world onto itself. But, some people need something easy to make some progress on before they invest in lessons.

    Slow scales make you smart, powerful, and irresistible to the gender of person you are attracted to.
  6. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Don’t forget about open string long tones.
    mtto likes this.
  7. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    ...or if lessons aren't an option (no teachers where I live, which however means i get all the upright gigs so it's not all bad).
  8. logdrum

    logdrum A person! Supporting Member

    A teacher is good but first make sure you have good hair in that bow. It may need a rehair and that you have rosin that works - something that a teacher can tell you as well bit your first lesson may be him/her telling you what kind of setup you need, Also a good idea to ask this teacher if he/she is okay that you have a German bow. There are some who will only do French or force you to do French.

    If you don't have access to a teacher - I am sure there are youtube resources to help with setup. Consider enrolling in one of the courses

    Or you can just start bowing now too. Open string and vomit exercises/ Vomit exercises -- look it up
  9. mtto

    mtto Gold Supporting Member

    May 25, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Get weekly lesson with a teacher if you can. Either way, David Allen Moore has a German bow class on and since you have a German bow, I'd highly recommend the class, in addition to lessons.

    Online resources are a marvel of the modern world, but a recording can't see you bowing and correct your bow hold, angle, speed, weight etc.
    marcox and AGCurry like this.
  10. chilensko


    Sep 27, 2010
    Yes, angle, speed, weight, close to the bridge or the fingerboard , bow stroke staccato, detaché, everything counts and you can learn a lot from cello and violin players. Don't use to much rosin and try to get a mirror in from of you when you practice to check if you are bowing parallel to the bridge.
    You can even try to count how many seconds can you do in one single bowing without breaking the sound. I even heard that you can try to write your name or whatever with your bow in the air for bow grip control ...good luck !
  11. marcox


    Dec 10, 2007
    Many (most?) teachers offer remote lessons these days. I started my bowing journey a couple of months ago with Zoom lessons, then transitioned to in-person when my teacher came back to town. Happy to provide a referral if anyone's looking for a teacher.
  12. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Oct 28, 2021

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