The Bow Hold

In itself, “bow hold” is a misnomer, and can be at the heart of tension in cello playing. If you have tightness, tension, or pain in the right hand, thumb or wrist, most likely it is the bow “hold” that is responsible.  To relieve this tension, it is necessary to “rethink” our relationship between the hand and the bow.  Instead of “bow hold”, let’s use the words “cradle,” or “support” or “hand to bow interface” to describe our hand’s relationship to the bow.  We will Imagine the hand as a relatively passive participant in the relationship – the hand is a mere conduit from the body to the instrument, and is not “in charge” of the bow.  We will discover that when we truly understand the role of the hand to the bow, much of our tension will be released, and thumb pressure drastically reduced to a mere necessity and no more.

The evolution of the hand is based on the use of “oppositional force” – the ability of the thumb and fingers to work in opposition for grasping.  Grasping an object in our hand is a natural instinct, and yet this “grasping” use of the thumb in the bow hold is the very thing that sets us up for unintentional and unnecessary tension. We must rethink the job of the thumb in relationship to the bow in order to have the most efficient and “relaxed” bow hold.


You will find further information about the placement and role of the thumb on the page Rotational Force.

3 thoughts on “The Bow Hold

  1. Lee

    Thank you so much for this video and explanation! I have RSI in my right wrist and forearm from typing, and have found it nearly impossible to find a comfortable bow hold without adding strain to my hand and arm. As a learner cellist I was about ready to give up – but now have something new to try!


  2. Octavius

    This is awesome! 😀 I finally learned a way to hold the bow right! This really makes my playing much easier than how it during my orchestra years. Thank you very much!

    I was wondering if you can make a video about how to switch strings ergonomically. Or is it just an easy arm forward and let the wrist take care of it? 🙂



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