Straight Violin Bow Technique

I think it's time to take a little best friend quiz. If you pass, you can stay if you don't then maybe it's time we part ways. Ready? Okay, here's the question; 

If you saw a picture at an art museum that was slightly crooked you would....

  1. Not even notice and keep walking. You're just here for a bag of chips out of the vending machine anyways. 
  2. Shrug your shoulders and figure, "slanted lines.....that's modern art, right?" 
  3. Cringe inside and as your reflex muscles start twitching. You look around to see if there are security cameras or guards, then using your best secret spy moves, reach out and tip it the right way until it is perfectly straightened.

Pick #3. Pick #3! 

I sure hope you all answered with #3 so we can keep being anti-sloppy-picture-frame friends. Just kidding we can be buddies even if you picked #1. Also, full disclaimer I would never ever touch a painting in an art museum. BUT I would totally find the museum curator and let them know that it needs to be fixed right now!


There are just some things in life that should be straight: picture frames, teeth, a surgeon's scalpel, all roads (carsickness anyone?), and porch steps to name a few.  However, there is one thing that takes the cake in my violin obsessed opinion and that is having a straight violin bow. When I see one that isn't, my fingers start to twitch and my mind can think of little else. Maybe even more then when I see a crooked frame.

Crooked bows bad. Staight bows good. Pretty simple right? Wrong! It's easy to say but quite another to actually do. Here is a really simple technique to do while practicing to help you keep your bow straight and sounding beautiful!

Sidenote: There is a slight angle that is acceptable and often encouraged by some teachers and methods. But that is another post for another time. Beginners aim for straight bows.

Straight Violin Bow Practice Technique

With violin and bow in hand, line your right scapula, also known as the shoulder blade, on a wall. The back part of your right hip may also be lined up against the wall. Use the wall to stabilize your elbow. The wall will prevent you from doing too much of a swinging motion in your shoulder and upper arm, and forces your wrist and forearm to work together to keep the bow straight.    



Check out this video of Isaac Stern playing the 1st movement of the Franck Sonata. I may or may not be in love with the Franck Sonata. My husband tries really hard to not be jealous of the time I spend listening to and playing it....swoon. Anyway, check out Stern's long straight bows. Pretty darn good. His movement is also pretty limited in his bow shoulder and through his upper right arm. This helps to keep your bow straight and is a good place to start. When you've got straight bows down and you become an advanced player we can talk about getting all fancy pants like Joshua Bell. He has a lot more shoulder action, which seems a little less conventional but hey, it's Joshua Bell he can play however he wants and it works.