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Switching bows

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Steve Boisen, Dec 20, 2004.

  1. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I don't intend to stir up a pointless "French vs. German" debate, but I'm couious to hear from any bassists who switched from one bow to the other after they had been playing for a while. What led you to make the switch and how did you proceed?

    - Steve

  2. bdengler


    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    I switched from German to French bow. I felt I had more control with the French over German, although the switch at first was tough. It's a different feel and my right thumb had to get use to the new grip. The switch primarily was driven by a change in teachers. But recently, I went back to the German, which I feel is a more natural grip and its easier to get a big sound out of it.

  3. I first learned french, but switched to german when reviving my bass playing two-three years ago, after a twenty-plus year layoff. turns out that for me german works, french didn't. the reason is interesting.

    I discovered that my thumb joint (the second joint in from the tip) doesn't bend much compared to most people's, and consequently I could never feel comfortable getting my thumb to oppose my fingers efficiently on the french bow. strange that I or my teachers years ago never noticed this before.

    anyway, it was a real revelation to me, with implications far beyond the bow: Everyone's hands (and bodies !) are different, so there can be no such thing as a single, universally correct, "best" position for bow grip, stance, left hand, etc, etc, etc. What works best with my body and hands will not necessarily be right for you.

    as far as german/french thing, I believe that the fact that there are so many great players on each type is sufficient evidence to claim that either tool will get the job done. what's right for you depends on your hand and arm, and your teacher's expertise and preference.

    on how to manage a transition, (either way) my advice would be to include plenty of low, slow bows at the beginning of your practice regime for the first few months, using the mirror, and work on finding a nice sensitive, soft-but-controlled bow hand and arm.
  4. After being a strictly French-bow player for 20+ years, I've been seriously experimenting with German for the past three or four months. Its starting to feel very relaxed now, but there are still things I can't do on German (chiefly spiccato) that come pretty easily on French.

    For some reason, I can swing a little better with the German when I'm improvising with the bow. Prolly just psychological, thinking some of PC's mojo is rubbing off.

    I admit that most of my German technique is self-taught, and I've gleaned some valuable tips on German bow hold from the Q&A forum Gary Karr has on his site.
  5. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    From what I can gather as well has been much the same. I bought a french bow, although my teacher uses german, and he didn't fuss over the difference. Today I asked a guy at work who has experience with the bass but more with baroque instruments. He told me he knows plenty of pro players who break all kinds of rules. Seems like there are general guidelines but no hard and fast rules just like anything else when it comes to the bass (except for getting a teacher! :)).

    Although my thumb is bent the wrong way according to some pedagogy websites, I won't feel so weird anymore as long as I'm relaxed and my hand is comfortable. My teacher certainly didn't make a fuss about it when I showed my grip to him.
  6. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    About 20 years ago, I was playing tennis with a friend and in my exuberance to reach a shot I couldn't(shouldn't?) I slipped and fell on my right hand, which knocked my elbow out of it's socket and broke the little crown it was knocked out of. Even after months of rehab, I still couldn't regain all the mobility it once had although it was pretty close to new. What I can't do is turn the arm enough to play German bow, at least not on the E string, if I had the yen to switch. Maybe if I went in the direction of Dragonetti and played 3 string?
  7. I recently switched from german to french, as I have some carpal tunnel in my right wrist. At this point I play german on gigs but practice french at home. I won't get into the debate that this could cause, so I'll just say that some things are different, I like some more and some less. I do think I'll stick with the change though.