Straight Bowing
One thing I struggled with for a long time is straight bowing.

There are so many variables (wrist, elbow, shoulder, fingers, etc) that it's difficult for the novice to track a straight line with the bow.  Both the angle of the bow relative to the bridge and the height of the bow above the bridge can vary widely from moment to moment.

I tried various techniques, at my teacher's suggestion -- bracing my upper bowing arm against a door frame, watching myself in the mirror, trying to feel the proper angle as my teacher manually forced my bow arm along the correct path -- but none worked very well.  Then she told me about the "Bowright" bow guide.


Two parallel wire guides, attached together with two plastic grips, held on by a rubber band that stretches across the back.

The two wire guides create a channel in which the bow can travel.  The object of the game is to minimize the amount of time scraping the bow against the guides.  This device provides immediate feedback when your bowing is crooked.  It worked far better for me than the mirror, where it was hard to judge the angle, and I always tended to correct "backward".

Using it, I discovered that you have to move your bow arm so that it feels as if your right hand is tracking an outward-curving arc away from your body.

Ultimately, of course, you hope that the skills you gain in avoiding scraping the brackets will transfer to your playing without the brackets.  (It is NOT considered "cool" to play publicly with a bow guide attached!)  In my case, this took place in a surprisingly short time.

This shot shows the bow in the channel between the two wire guides.  At first, it will look like this only a small percentage of the time, but it does limit how far off you can go, and that scraping feeling when the bow contacts the wire is a strong disincentive.
I am now to the point where my bow tends to automatically track a straight line, and the (originally highly unnatural) feeling of the required coordination between elbow, wrist, shoulder, and fingers comes naturally to me.  But I still pull out the Bowright from time to time to make sure I am not developing any bad habits ...
So, what makes straight bowing so important?  Several things, I think, including:
  1. It helps to maintain a consistent height above the bridge of the point of contact between the string and the bow hairs, which strongly affects the quality of the sound.
  2. Avoiding "vertical" sliding, where the bow slides upward or downward on the string, rather than across it.
  3. In general, it keeps all parts of the arm/wrist/hand/finger system in proper alignment for maximum control.
  4. It encourages a relaxed wrist, since it is difficult to track a straight line when your wrist is tense.

In an experiment, I tried to keep the bow height constant while bowing at a steep angle, and I couldn't do it.  When I try to make the bow contact point stay at the same location if the bow is not perpendicular to the strings, the bow tries very hard to crawl upward or downward.

Straight bowing is only one factor, of course.  This won't help you get the feel for proper bow pressure, speed, and such.  But one thing at a time!
For more information, here's a link to the BOWRIGHT inventor's web site.


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