The Bow Hold

There are three bow positions: neutral, down-bow, and up-bow. We’ll focus on the neutral position as it is your basic hold. Before picking up the bow, find the natural spacing of your fingers:

  1. Hold your right forearm parallel to the floor
  2. Relax your hand and let it dangle

Next, bring your thumb and middle finger together. When we hold the bow, we want to maintain this as closely as possible.

You’ll notice that we will be keeping our thumb rather straight – but not tense! This is unorthodox, but it is important. Whether we keep our thumbs more curved or straight depends on the size of the object we are holding. When grabbing a large object, such as a water bottle, our fingers tend to curl around it. When pulling a thin object, such as paper, the thumb tends to be straighter. We should treat the bow as a thin object that we are pulling.

You have to go out of your way to hold your fingers like this when pulling a thin book:

Now that we know the spacing of our fingers, let’s now practice our bow hold on a pencil. We start with a pencil since it is a smaller version of the bow-stick.


  • you should feel that you are holding the bow in your fingertips
  • the bow rests on your thumb for cello and more on your middle finger for violin; do not let it rest on the strings when you are playing
  • your first finger should be passive and resting on the stick at the joint
  • your thumb and middle finger are opposite each other and should be touching
  • your pinky should be very nearly on top of the stick
    • the advantage of putting it directly on top of the stick is that it is very easy to maintain a feeling of balance
    • George Neikrug placed his pinky just a little lower so that he could manipulate the bow much better; more on this later