How to Hold the Bow

The violin bow is a stick made of either wood or carbon fiber and horsehair. The horsehair attaches to the bow through a box shaped item that is attached to the stick we call the frog. The frog has a screw in it that can tighten and loosen the horsehair. The horsehair must be adjusted because it is so susceptible to temperature and environmental changes. When we play, the horsehair rubs on the violin strings and creates a sound. Be careful not to touch the horsehair with your hand because this will make it greasy preventing a good quality sound.

Tighten the Bow Hair


Take the screw of the violin bow and begin to tighten the bow until the middle of the bow width is about 1/4 of an inch or about the width of a pencil away from the hair. Do not tighten the bow completely. Over-tightening of the bow will keep it from bouncing correctly. After use, loosen the bow before putting back in its case.

Apply Rosin


Good quality rosin will go a long way to making a good sound with your instrument. To rosin the bow, rub from the top to the base of the horsehair until it is completely coated. Be careful not to apply too much as it will go flying off in a poof as you play and makes it harder to get a good quality sound. Also, be careful to put enough on or the bow will not make a good sound.

Basic Bow Hold

The purpose behind the bow hold is not a firm grip of the violin bow, but placing the bow in your hand in a way that allows the bow to freely move and make a good sound.  The bow does all of the work, the hand is only there to help it along.Begin by practicing this shape without the bow.


The thumb is curved into a C shape


Two middle fingers are over the thumb

Pencil Bow Hold

Keep your hand in the same C shape and place a pen or pencil in your hand.
Check to make sure your hand still stays in a C shape with the two fingers over the top of the thumb.
Rest your pointer and pinky on top of the pencil.
Over the next few weeks practice the bow hold with a pen or pencil until it becomes easy to do.

Two fingers stay over the thumb


Notice how the hand always stays in a C shape

Bow Hold

Now practice the same C shape bow hold using the bow. Make sure your two middle fingers go over the frog. The thumb curves into a nice C shape. Pointer and pinky set lightly on top. *Note- this is not the final place for the thumb to stay at. As we build muscle strength the thumb will move to resting on the stick. See Advanced bowing. *


Thumb rest on silver part of frog fingers just over top


Thumb always stays in a round C shape


Place the bow in-between the fingerboard and bridge. Gently pull the bow up and down on the string from the frog to the tip. Use long, smooth bow strokes. The more relaxed your hand and arm is the better the instrument will sound. Watch in the mirror as you play to make sure the whole bow is being used. Also, spend time watching the bow to try and get it to go across the string in one long, smooth fluid motion.


Gently pull the bow across the strings between the bridge and fingerboard. Avoid letting the elbow drop.

Common Bowing Mistakes

Collapsed C Shape

It takes time for the hand to build the required strength to play correctly. A common issue is fatigue from playing which causes the C shape to collapse. Check often to make sure the hand consistently stays in a C shape and to make sure the fingers are in the right spot on the bow as well. A good way to do this is to watch in the mirror as you play.

This is the correct bow hold always has the thumb is curved into a round C shape.


Collapsed C Shape


Correct C Shape

Elbow Drop

In order to make the best sound possible the elbow needs to be up high enough to create leverage with the bow to make the best sound possible. Avoid letting the elbow drop.


Dropped Elbow


Correct Lifted Elbow