A few random thoughts for novice violins from Andrew Watkinson

DSCF8752It is extraordinary how us violinists, who have no difficulty steering a glass of something towards our eager gullets, find using the same limbs and muscles to draw the bow straight across the string so very difficult, but we do!

Amazingly well though everyone managed in the Grade-1-athon lesson, I don’t think any of the brave candidates would have felt quite ready to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto by the end of the afternoon. But I’m sure they’re all queuing up to play it now!



  1. Very hard to hold the bow comfortably unless the right thumb nail is short!
  2. You can tell how successful your bow hold will be by looking at it in the mirror. If the fingers/knuckles/hand/wrist look rounded and soft it will work well. If they look angular and stiff then probably not!
  3. Remember that it’s movement of the bow across the string that makes the string vibrate and produces the sound.
  4. Make sure that the right elbow joint is free to open and shut as the bow moves across the string.
  5. The feel of the bow on the string should range from planing wood (very loud!) to stroking a child’s hair (soft and delicate). Feel the string with the right hand fingers through the bow.
  6. To get a good sound on fingered notes the string has to be firmly and strongly held down by the relevant left finger. Feel that it is the end joint mostly doing that.DSCF8760
  7. Be aware of the big difference between placing LH fingers close for a semitone and wide for a whole tone. The semitones are very unlikely to be too narrow!
  8. Try to keep the left wrist from getting tight.
  9. Be ready to bring the left elbow a lot to the right (further under) when playing tohelp the fingers get into a good position on the string.
  10. Sing lots to help the sound!
  11. Shout lots to get rid of the frustration of trying to play the wretched instrument!


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