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Returning to the Bow, might be going crazy

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by mattwells, Mar 9, 2016.

  1. mattwells


    Mar 19, 2003
    I'm trying to get back into playing with a bow - I used to know how to do this (some, I was never great but passable), but am having trouble diving back in. I haven't played arco in probably 8 years due to...well...life happenings. I also missed about 4 years of playing upright at all somewhere in there.

    I had two different teachers previously and settled on German bow after trying both. Now I cannot seem to get the German grip right again. I don't know if it is age, out of practice, etc. but I cannot get my hand to soften up while still maintaining any sense of control. I have been working fairly regularly on it for a few weeks now and am getting nowhere fast.

    Meaning, I have practiced for weeks and have not once felt good about it even for a split second.

    It got to the point that I tried my German bow overhand and it felt...much better, more natural, and comfortable. Which made me feel like I was taking crazy pills.

    Has anyone had something similar happen? I am seriously considering buying a french bow and grabbing a few lessons with someone who plays french.
  2. I feel your pain. After playing bass professionally for 25 years in jazz and pop genres, this fall I decided to finally learn how to play the (French) bow properly.

    It's been 6 months of anguish and doubt, and I'm only momentarily seeing glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. In other words, the learning curve has been very steep indeed.

    I can only encourage getting a teacher again and holding on.
    Before I started with my current teacher I developed all sorts of misconceptions and bad habits that has taken a lot of work to get rid of.
    Reiska likes this.
  3. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    There are a few decent YouTube videos out there that show how to hold both German and French bows. There is some variation between schools and countries as well. You might find that either the bow hold you are using now is unconventional, or that one of the other variants would work better for you. If you want to keep experimenting on your own, that is a place to start.

    Lessons are definitely a good idea, although I wouldn't necessarily rule out German bow right away. It sounds like your German bow technique needs a lot of work which could be rectified by lessons. Switching to French bow would also require learning/developing technique, and tension is just as much of a possibility with French bow. Switching might be the way to go eventually and I'm not ruling out that possibility, but it isn't a silver bullet that solves technique issues, it just means you are learning a different technique.
  4. mattwells


    Mar 19, 2003
    I think I'm realizing that re-starting is going to take more work than the first time I learned to use a bow. I'll check out some variations on youtube - my teacher years ago taught there was only one way to hold the bow so there may be something there that can help.

    I have already put a call out to a few teachers around, but haven't heard back yet. Hard to find german players here.
  5. Watching new violin players learn to use a bow, I've observed that it normally took a full year before they could make a pleasant sound. I've been at it regularly for maybe 2 years now, and am only now starting to feel a little smooth. It seems that with your previous experience, it should progress faster for you, but I'm not sure.

    I'm learning on Spirocore mediums, which are somewhat difficult to bow, so my learning curve may be a little flatter than for some.
  6. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I'm in year #3 of learning how to bow French, and I'm still not at the point where I can do it as well or as easily as German but, hey, I'm planning to live to be 120 years old so I've got plenty of time. (I'm lousy at both, btw.)


    I find it interesting, although I guess it's not surprising, that even though I bow German only once a week with one of my students, my German bowing has improved just because I've learned to relax my bow arm more and things like that.

    Don't underestimate the importance of having at least a decent bow, too - needn't be fancy but shouldn't be crap, either. The Gollihur $150 sticks in both German and French are my go-to choices for starter bows.

  7. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Sitting or standing makes a world of difference IME, for me and my standing posture the french bow works better. I sound like s**t either way but hurt a bit less like that, or at least in a different way:rollno:. Still, there are times when I just flip the hold to german on my french bow, some stuff just doesn`t come out, or at least not yet, with french hold. My bow teacher is ok and supportive with my ghetto arco endeavors.
    Steve Freides and Who da Ville like this.
  8. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    :) An old thread, I know. Anyway, Spiro bottom / Garbo & plain gut top here. Fantastic combo for just about anything arco :) Tension is pretty even since the Spiros are the lowest tension ones possible but they`re high enough to produce some serious pizz tone. I can`t do that but I`m aiming for it. My main arco project is about improvisational stuff, non of orchestral or any style of soloing here, nor capability to execute some. Still, I love the bow and the endless spectrum of sound it gives. So much to love and hate and to get obsessive about!!!
    Who da Ville likes this.

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