Bendy Bow Thumb


Elizabeth Ortiz said: Aug 20, 2008
Elizabeth Ortiz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Cary, IL
14 posts

Does anyone have any tricks, games, or execizes for getting a student to keep the bow thumb bent? I’d like ideas for any age or level, but right now my particular concern is a 10 year old book 5 student who manages to play beautifuly despight locking her bow thumb into a stiff and strait position. She and her parents are aware of the issue, and we’ve been trying to corect it for some time now.

Gabriel Villasurda said: Aug 21, 2008
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

Some treatments for this common ailment.

  1. Mark the inside corner of the thumb with a colored magic marker. We’re talking about the top corner of the thumbnail closest to the index finger. Be sure the student knows that the bow touches this CORNER of the thumb, not the whole meaty pad of the thumb.

  2. Construct the bow hold on the wood of the bow about 8 inches up the stick from the frog. Supporting the screw end of the bow with the left hand, remove the right thumb and return it to the stick. One should hear a clicking sound as the NAIL of the thumb contacts the stick (not the fleshy part which will not make a sound).

  3. Construct the bow hold as normal in the normal location viz-a-viz the frog. Remove the (right) pinky and reach it down along the inside face of the frog. (1st, 2nd, and ring finger will be on the outside[normal] side of the frog, but the pinky on the inner side). Now, by pushing outward with the pinky against the frog, the thumb is free to be removed. Flex the thumb in the air while the other fingers hold the bow. Bring the thumb back to the normal spot, but be sure the NAIL of the thumb arrives first. Remove and replace the thumb many times checking that the thumbNAIL touches first. Finally leave the thumb in place and return the pinky to it’s rightful spot.

  4. Construct the normal bow hold just above (towards the tip) the wire and leather/plastic grip; all fingers are on the bare wood. Maintain the right shape of the bow hold as the teacher gently pulls the stick through the fingers. The shape should stay, and the NAIL of the thumb should ride all the way along. Pull the stick back again. The form of the hand stays in the proper shape.

  5. Why do we bother with a bent thumb? There are at least three reasons.
    (1) the corner of the thumb makes a more refined fulcrum on which to balance the bow than the much broader fleshy pad. Our bow is after all a lever. A more precise fulcrum makes for better control.

    (2) A bent thumb (with a gentle force pushing upward) can hold the bow securely quite easily because the energy is focused. A straight thumb can hold a bow, but requires more force since the energy is not focused. Less work is better than more work.

    (3) The thumb doesn’t remain stationary as it holds the bow. It comes and goes along a left-right axis. A truly well-trained thumb moves so that the fulcrum can relocate closer or farther towards the pinky. We’re talking about small measurements here— millimeters not inches. So we rebalance the bow not only by adjusting weight on either side of the fulcrum, but also by slightly repositioning the fulcrum. Straight thumbs with joints locked cannot move as easily (or in as many directions) as thumbs with bent knuckles (which can extend quite long distances and very easily). These thumb changes are the much-discussed PANDA motion Dr. Suzuki brought to our attention.

Comments and arguments always welcome.

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 21, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Speaking of this, there’s an article about PANDA in the latest issue of the ASJ (Volume 36, #1).


Elizabeth Ortiz said: Aug 27, 2008
Elizabeth Ortiz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Cary, IL
14 posts

Thank you Gabriel for your detailed reply. And thanks Jenny, I’ll look for that article in this months journal.

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