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Right hand technique with a French Bow

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by arpeggiod, Mar 23, 2006.

  1. arpeggiod


    Mar 23, 2006
    Hi everyone, I'm new to the boards. I'm a freshman in music college right now and my main instrument is electric bass, but lately I have been starting the upright.

    So my issue: Holding the French Bow.

    My thumb is incredibly sore right now. Is this normal? Does anybody have some suggestions, links of good pictures of people holding a French bow etc?

    I am not sure where to put my thumb on the frog, and in relation to my other fingers. (I have an idea, but my hand doesn't agree with me).

    Do I just have a weak thumb that I need to bulk up?

    Any advice or responses whatever would be great.

    Thanks again.
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Hard to tell without looking at your bow hold, but whenever I used to get pain with the French bow (in the beginning), it was because I was gripping too much, and not relaxing enough. Try just draping your fingers over the top, and make sure that your thumb is relaxed and tucked under a bit...pointing towards the frog end of the bow, not the tip. Make sure that your wrist is nice and relaxed as well. See if that helps.
  3. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    1. Use a sticky rosin such as Carlsson or Nymans
    2. Play close to the frog
    3. Play closer to the fingerboard especially on the E string
    4. Play quietly
    5. Use the weight of the bow only - No pressure
    6. Hold the bow as if it were as fragile as an egg
  4. chicabass


    Mar 18, 2006
    Longer-term, find a way to hold the bow that is most relaxed within your hand, and with no muscle conflicts.
    You should ideally be able to produce a clean note just using the weight of the bow onto the string, and not much more.
    Can hinder yourself and give yourself injuries if you play with a 'bad' technique! (Then where is there room for improvement?)
  5. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    If you're playing French bow, you should check out Francois Rabbath (www.francoisrabbath.com), he has a great video out now called "The Art of the Bow" (www.artofthebow.com).

    Some people dig his ideas, others are opposed...but if you go in with an open mind and try to learn something you'll do great. Take it with a grain of salt--not all of his ideas may be right for you.

    As for your bow hand, your thumb needs to not be straight at the first knuckle, but bent. It should be touching the frog where the stick meets it. I use a latex rubber grip for added comfort--Lemur Music sells them for $4 a pair. If you get that you'll want to trim it so that your index finger is not on the rubber.

    Your index finger should be extended out and curled around the stick near the leather grip (some bows have a siver wrapping--whichever yours has). Your pinky should be on the frog touching rougly where the dot inlay is. Your middle finger should be touching the silver ring near the hair, but not touching the hair. The ring finger in between the pinky and middle on the frog. You should be curling your fingers so that the bow won't fall if you let go of a little pressure. Don't be holding it so that your fingers are facing down, more like at you as though you are scooping in sand at the beach or something--sorry, it's hard to describe in words. Your index finger is your power finger....and make sure to grip with the pinky too. The middle finger grips the least, and the ring is close in grip to the pinky. Don't squeeze, try to relax and use the weight of your arm to keep it on the string.

    For more good info, please check out George Vance's site, www.slavapub.net.

    Good luck!!!
  6. TheJimster


    Feb 21, 2006
    Pensacola, FL
    Hmmmm....That's weird you're having thumb cramps?when I first started playing with a french bow my thumb was never sore! Well If you're thumb hurts then you might have this style of bow confused with French. Take the advice the other guys give you. BUt just remember never slash always a pendulum when you play upright.
  7. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Yeah, it's perfectly normal to have a sore thumb when you're starting out. After a while, you'll develop the muscle memory required to balance the bow in your right hand using all the fingers and without too much effort from the thumb - like anything technical, it takes time and practice.

    For now, your thumb is going to do the brunt of the "balancing" to prevent the tip of the bow from dipping. There are folks who suggest putting a bit of surgical tubing over the stick to keep the tip of the thum from getting sore, but that means removing the frog, which I wouldn't recommend off the bat.

    Thumb placement for french bow is usually where the frog meets the stick, a la cello technique. Some people put it in the "crook" of the frog. Check the stickies for links and pictures as to what it should look like.
  8. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    This is a great post. Simple and to the point.

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