Bowhold Training Aids

Patrick said: Jun 24, 2011
 Shaker Heights, OH
1 posts

I'm a parent of a 9yo beginner who's having trouble with his bowhold. A couple of parents have recommended a training aid called the BowMate ( and swear by it. I was wondering if anyone else out there has used it and what their results were?

Ruth Fry said: Jun 24, 2011
 Violin, Piano, Viola
Port Huron, MI
3 posts

I have not used the bowmate, but I have used the bow buddy. I have two students using it now and their bow holds are pretty good although once in awhile I have to remind them to put their pointer finger over the stick a bit further.

Christine Faught said: Jun 24, 2011
Christine Faught
Suzuki Association Member
Fort Worth, TX
6 posts

I haven’t used the bowmate or bow buddy, but have used pinkinests with great success.

Louise said: Jun 24, 2011
 6 posts

The teachers in our program start all our beginners with the bow buddies. We tried them about two years ago after they were what all the string folks were talking about at the NYSSMA music teacher conference. The two pieces provide a custom fit for different sized hands, and they really help students acquire a good bow hold very naturally while they progress nicely through Book One. Some students continue to use the pinky support (the fish part) for a while after they no longer need the part that makes sure their thumbs are flexed and in place (the frog part). Parents, students and teachers alike enjoy the at least 95% reduction in nagging about bow hold corrections. They’re fun, they work and kids love them—its all about the joy.

Cynthia Faisst said: Jun 25, 2011
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
126 posts

I have been looking for something that supports the hand for children who have double jointed fingers with out making their hand ridged. I have tried placing many different kinds and sizes of balls under their hands.

  • memory foam balls, trimmed to fit the size of the hand
  • ping pong balls
  • small super balls—Twinklers
  • yellow practice golf balls
  • silicone squeeze balls with a loop that fits over at least one finger so it stays in the hand, which seems to work the best for most small hands

I found a stretch glove like device that is still soft but keeps the fingers from sliding every which way called a Miracle Frog. Made of soft silicone with a small flexible ball under the fingers, it was developed by physical therapist to help strengthen muscles in the hand. It could easily be worn while holding the bow on the frog for a beginning bow hold. The soft ball inside the hand provides a scaffold to support the joints of the fingers and keep them from falling in and becoming stiff.

I only wish that it came in more sizes. This seems to be the main draw back with many of these devices. They are often one size fits all.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 26, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

That’s true—one of the two complaints I have with the bow hold buddies is that the frog feels like it separates my first and 2nd fingers too widely (how much more so for smaller hands?)—I want it to come in a narrower, smaller size.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that the “bowmaster” by supersensitive ( ) does come in different sizes. I’ve never used it, though, so not sure how well it works.

That bowmate looks interesting—I hadn’t seen or heard of those before. A drawback would seem to be that the finger is not resting on the bow stick—but then, from the bowmate’s website, it looks like it wasn’t designed as an aid for beginners to take off after they’d learned to play but as an aid for a more seasoned player to ease discomfort in the bow hold…

In the area of things not designed to be taken off, there is a soft plastic (silicone rubber?) frog/stick/thumb leather protector that is designed to protect old, expensive bows from wear over the years of playing. (I can’t remember the name of the person who created it at the moment). It has a little indentation for the thumb and is “grippy” so fingers, once placed, tend not to slide around so much. One of my colleagues in the suzuki program I work with uses it frequently for her students as a bow hold aid.

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 26, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Oh—and I just came across this:

Which seems to be a bowmaster-type device that does come in different sizes but which allows the person to touch the bow stick.

Teri said: Jun 26, 2011
Teri EinfeldtTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
West Hartford, CT
368 posts

I personally do not like to use any external “helpers” for my students’ bow holds.
Each hand is different and each student may need a different explanation or 7 of how to make a a reliable and satisfactory bow hold. Fine motor coordination is needed and sometimes it just takes time to develop the bow hold.

Putting the thumb half on the metal and half on the hair, with the middle finger across from the thumb creates the balance. A pinkie with two bumps and strength against the stick with a light, guiding pointer finger is what we are after. I would suggest that you the parent place the bow on the A or E string for the child and hold it while s/he sets the bow hold without the added weight. In my experience, aids don’t usually provide the follow through to allow the next level of advancement to happen.
Teri Einfeldt

Jacob Litoff said: Jun 26, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
46 posts

I agree. I don’t like using any helpers on the bows to teach my students the proper bow holds. There are many bow exercises that work. And the more dependent students get on any external helpers the harder it will be for them to learn to play without them. Just taking the tapes off the fingerboards is something they find heartbreaking and makes them unsure they’ll ever be able to play in tune without them.

I just found this Triptych for violin by Carlos Peron Cano, and I think it is great for teaching spiccatto. I just started using it with my students. And the piece is still free to download.
The students I’ve used it with have loved it. One of them played it at my student recital a couple weeks ago, and some others are looking forward to when they’re advanced enough to play it.

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 27, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

I also am not big on using the external aids with my private students if I can help it, but I work with a few teachers who do like to use them.

I think the bow hold aids are useful for helping train a student’s muscle memory in any situation in which BOTH of the following are true:

  1. the student has not yet acquired a better “habitual” bow hold than the external aid will “force” the student to use, (usually because they are an absolute beginner, but sometimes because of physical issues like double-jointedness or because of previous habits)

  2. the student is at that specific moment being asked to focus on something other than refining their bow hold OR the student is being asked to make the bow hold better, but cannot get the hands-on attention they need from a teacher or suzuki parent to do it.

For example, I just finished four months of team-teaching about 120 third graders in classes of 25-30 students each, at a local public school. We had the luxury of a very arts-supportive administration that was specifically wanting Suzuki style instruction, 2 Suzuki-trained teachers plus the regular classroom teacher (who functioned as the “suzuki parent”), but where we had the limitation of seeing each class once a week for only half an hour, and did not have enough instruments to go around for each student to practice on during the week.

Even with 3 teachers in a classroom of no more than 30 students, there was a lot of time when each student was practicing a bow hold that was less acceptable than the bow hold they would have had with an aid like the bow hold buddies.

I would have LOVED to have the budget to buy 30 bow hold buddies to use as “babysitters” for the student’s bow holds for those times when we were not able to give personal attention to a beginner’s bow hold.

Ruth Brons said: Jun 30, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

You will find Feedback regarding the patented Things 4 Strings® bow hold accessories for beginning violin, viola and cello students from 100+ private studio and classroom teachers, method book authors/editors, national and international string pedagogy leaders, young and adult students, and parents here.

These popular accessories are now widely available through a distribution network covering 20+ countries: Where to Buy.
Best Wishes,

Jacoline said: Jun 5, 2013
Jacoline Schot
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Violin
2 posts

I started using the bow hold buddies a few weeks ago, and I am soo relieved, I don’t have to nag anymore any of my students to keep a right bow hold. Now we can concentrate on other things, and progress faster. I highly recommend it, especially for beginners, or as remedial work for poor bow holds. I will use it with all new student also. It saves months of work on bow hold. And kids just love it.

Phankao said: Jun 6, 2013
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

I just use pencil grips and snip holes to make the “Pinky-Nest”.

The front grip is to guide the thumb placement, and the back grip near the screw is for the pinky finger.

Personally I prefer to use only the back one to remind on the pinky’s placement. Easy to take off/on. The pencil grip fits my little one’s slim small violin bow snugly. The Bow-Buddy one slips off my little one’s slim 1/32 violin bow—Doesn’t stay put at all.

For the Toddler Bow Thumb Placement, teacher just puts the round donut sticker (the corn ones). We buy cheap ones from the Discount Store.

Laura said: Jun 6, 2013
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Palm City, FL
105 posts

All of these are great suggestions and when I use bow hold helpers I make sure to follow through with the end result which is being able to hold the bow without assistance. I love Ruth Bron’s BowHold Buddies because all the fingers are only touching the bow not the accessory so when it is removed the hand placement is the same. I have also tried the Bow Master with my students. What works best depends on the student since each is unique.


Catherine said: Jun 8, 2013
1 posts

We’ve been using Dr. Scholl’s corn pads to make pinky nests. I like the idea of the Bow Hold Buddies, but $29.95 per set? (Or on Shar’s site $26.95.) Are they really worth spending that much per set?


Barb said: Jun 8, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

(Speaking cello here…)

I used String Vision’s Bow Grip with my students for a while. One student wasn’t very happy when it ripped to the point I told him it was time for it to come off. (It was distracting him; he was always trying to fix it.) I explained it was like a baby tooth. When it is falling out we don’t need it anymore. His bow hold felt insecure for about a week, but he did adapt pretty quickly and his bow hold actually became better after it came off.

Sometimes it slipped and the thumb indent ended up in the wrong spot. One adult had stretched it out (unintentionally) and ended up with his thumb too deep. Also, in time, it broke down and left his bow gunky. It didn’t help to keep the bow out of the palm at all of course. The adult still felt a need for thumb support so he put a rubber band in the thumb spot. I haven’t been able to find any of those stretchy pencil grips here.

Now I like fingers/thumb on the stick from the start. I like the idea of an easy bow hold such as you might get from the Cellophant (especially in a classroom), but I wish somehow the fingers were in contact with the stick (and that it was affordable—the cost plus shipping to Canada is just too much).

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Mengwei said: Jun 8, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
124 posts

I have the student relax the right hand (actually starts with “heavy arm”, then “spaghetti” fingers, make your fingers soft, no squeezing) and let me place the fingers—hoping that muscle memory eventually takes over. I do the same for the parent and also describe the shape and position of fingers. I think learning the feel without a helper accessory is important but if needed use small round stickers to show where fingers go.

Eleanor Bennett said: Jun 8, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Villa Rica, GA
62 posts

I can’t Find the round corn pads anymore. Just the oval shaped ones that don’t stick very well
Eleanor Bennett
Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

SAA General Suzuki Forum Discussion wrote:

Eleanor Bennett

Phankao said: Jun 9, 2013
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

Aren’t there some unbranded or generic corn pads to use? I buy a pack of these from “Daiso” (Japanese Discount Store here). And they last for very long bc I don’t usually need a new one until my son gets a new bow!

Laura said: Jun 10, 2013
Stanton, MN
25 posts

I used Bow Buddies with two of my violin students this past year. Both students had a lot of difficulty with position issues. Both right and left hand. Both also struggle with learning difficulties. I was needing to find the balance between helping them find enjoyment in their music, but also continuing to make progress with their technique. I found that the Bow Buddies very successfully stabilized their right hand, allowing me to focus on violin hold and making beautiful music.

With one student, the mother bubbled over with relief that she didn’t have to keep correcting the bow hand. It removed much conflict during practice at home. This student has a beautiful violin hold with the left hand that solidified this winter. I transitioned her off of the Bow Buddy for my spring recital. The transition was very easy and her bow hold is very nice. I am contemplating adding a corn pad just to give her a small reminder.

The other student is still on the bow buddy. He is enjoying his violin these days, which is great as I thought I might lose him as the violin was so difficult for him. There is still a lot of work to be done on the violin hold before I remove the Bow Buddy. I have never seen a child with such tense/frozen muscles. He used to shudder whenever he placed his violin and bow in position. One of his accomplishments this year is that the shudder rarely appears. As he relaxes, he is enjoying playing music more. He has a good ear for critiquing his own sound. This is becoming a motivating factor to correct posture. I don’t see moving away from a bow aid in the near future. On this child, it has helped to stabilize the bow hold well enough to focus on other important issues that we still need to finish.

I like to teach a proper bow hold w/o an aid to my students. However, I am firmly a supporter of this product for students who have those extra needs. It allows the bow hand to stabilize while other aspects of technique are taught.

Laura said: Apr 1, 2014
Laura Dalbey
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Billings, MT
2 posts

I used to feel strongly about NOT using any aids—I really wanted them to learn it without having a crutch. But I recently had a middle school student, who I have taught since age 5, finally have a more balanced bow hold with the aid of a pencil grip. This student never practiced it correctly at home no matter what I did. Now she has no choice :)

I think that in this day and age, the ideal is to get them set up and balanced from the start. But sometimes a situation will arise where have a crutch makes a huge difference :) One issue I've noticed is that certain students need more support for success, and this often has to do with how much time the parents are able to put into practicing with the students. When a student doesn't have a lot of parental support, or even with that parental support things aren't working with the bow hold at home. sometimes extra aids can give that student great success

Chrysanthy Zhang said: Apr 21, 2014
 1 posts

I tried bow buddy and pinkinests. I prefer pinkinests.

Paul Reynolds said: Apr 27, 2014
 7 posts

I've had some good success with the bow buddies. a few of my students have definately benefitted from them.

Pia said: May 5, 2014
34 posts

I use different aids depending on wich problems the student has with his/her bowgrip. I also use bow buddies but they are definitely too big for young beginners! I think its a pity they are not produced in a smaller size since it's mostly the 3 and 4 year old ones that need them.

This topic is locked. No new comments can be posted.

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services