9 Tips to Stop Violin Bow Shakes or Unwanted Bounces | Violin Lounge TV #349

by | Jan 29, 2020 | Bowing Technique | 24 comments

Learn how to stop your bow from bouncing or shaking when you don’t want it, so you can control your violin bow during a performance when you’re nervous

You’ve practiced very hard on a piece and at home it goes all right, but stage your bow suddenly starts shaking and your violin makes a strange noise

These 9 tips help you to get control over your violin bow in a concert, so you can enjoy your performance without being afraid

#1 Practice performance

Just as we practice everything on the violin, performing is another skill to practice. In the video I tell you about the shock therapy I gave myself in the conservatory by giving free concert in homes for the elderly.

Learn how to handle you body when you’re nervous. Don’t pray to stop getting nervous. Just learn to play violin while being nervous. That makes you invincible.

Play for a bunch of friends or imagine playing for an audience.

A good bow technique in general gives you control over your bow

Here are some technical tips to stop unwanted bow bounces and a shaky bow.

#2 Bow hold with curved pinky and thumb

With a relaxed and flexible bow hold your bow won’t shake that quickly. Also you can easily transfer weight into the bow, which fixes the bow shakes. In the video I show you what I mean.

#3 Finger action in bowing

At the frog you can either lift your wrist or curve your pinky. Lifting your wrist puts weight off the bow and the bow may start shaking. With an active pinky you can prevent a shaky bow.

#4 Weight in the bow

Don’t press the bow into the string. Transfer the weight of your arm through your index finger into the bow. If you make a superficial tone, you’ll quickly have shakes and bounces.

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

#5 Tilt the bow a bit

When the stick is above the hair, your bow has most jumping qualities. By tilting the bow a bit in the direction of the scroll of the violin, it will not jump as quickly. However, don’t make this a habit and learn to control the bow when the stick is above the hair anyway.

Don’t tilt the bow when playing forte as you need all the hair to make a large tone.

Identity for your bow what’s the spot where the bow jumps easily and tilt the bow when you bow on that spot or divide your bow in a different manner.

#6 Relax your body with special attention to your right shoulder

When teaching adult beginners, I discovered that if they experience bow shakes often this is caused by tension in the right shoulder. I know that sounds weird, but it helps them tremendously to keep the right shoulder low and relaxed.

Especially be aware of your right shoulder when performing.

#7 Jump on purpose!

Practice sautillé and spiccato to get to know your bow

By learning jumping bowing techniques like sautillé and spiccato you learn how your bow responds and how to control it.

#8 Learn to switch between bow techniques

In Sevcik’s 40 variations you learn to switch between bow techniques, for example in variations 8 and 10. When you know how to switch from a jumping bow technique like spiccato to a bow technique like detaché, you are in control!

#9 Avoid coffee, cigarettes and drugs in general 😉

They might make you a bit shaky and that’s not handy when you go on stage.

Let me know in the comment what tip helps you most!

… or share other tips that have been useful to you!

24 Comments

  1. Thisbe

    Hi Zlata, for me the bouncing has to do with nerves, like you are mentioning in your first tip. A great idea to practice performing. A good friend of me is paralysed and living in a care-home, so it is easy to find a willing audience. Why I have never thought about that before?
    Also relaxing and pushing down the right shoulder has a large influence on the sound because only if relaxed I can use the weight of my arm instead of the pressure. And no, to relax you do not need alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or whatever (one espresso is the max :-)), a good breathe is all you need!

    Reply
  2. Eugenie van Zyl

    Thank you once again Zlata for the very useful tips on handling the bow. By the way, I like the your neckline of your maroon outfit and the lip colour that matches it! Although I am a lady in her late sixties, I still admire beautiful & classy ladies! I liked it when you said Go slow on coffee, and do not smoke cigarettes and do not use drugs, I wanted to scream out out loud, Amen!

    Years ago I started with pipe organ lessons at the students’ Dutch Reformed Church in Stellenbosch and my teacher started me on the foot pedals. It was so boring and sounded so ugly that I quitted my lessons after a few weeks which I still regret up to this day.
    And now I want to say something very important: Although I find your Bow Like A Pro lessons especially the different bow strokes intimidating and often challenging, I should not quit. I must carry on and not get desponded. It is the bow which actually brings out the beautiful and harmonious sounds and not as much the left hand pressing down on the different strings. You can do magic with the bow and right arm, fingers and wrist.

    I want to make a video of my playing in general and send it in to you. And hear your comments?

    Your tutoring is very professional and I salute you for going the extra mile with us while your two little ones are growing up behind the scenes!

    Reply
    • Violinist Zlata Brouwer

      Haha, thank you for your compliment! I used to drink a LOT of coffee, always thought I needed it and brought it down to one cup a day when I was pregnant. Yes, it was difficult for a week, but after that I thought ‘why did I ever need coffee’.

      You are most welcome to send in as many videos as you want! It’s not magic I do, just learnable skills 🙂 and I’m happy to guide you as a Bow like a Pro student.

      The beautiful thing is: thanks to the children I finally had the courage to close my violin studio and violin shop to focus on the things that bring me most fulfillment: Violin Lounge and Bow like a Pro, for which I now even have more time than before the kids :).

      Reply
  3. Arantza Luaces

    Thanks Zlata! So kind of you to upload sevcik! Will follow your advice on this one too as I sometimes have problems with the bow specially from mid to upper bow shaking. Will let you Know how it went! Thanks

    Reply
  4. Mathilde

    Hi Zlata, excellent tips! My bow is very good at jumping and bouncing and has its own life. So I am famous (as a concertmaster of an amateur orchestra) for my shaking bow on the most precious moments. That was the first reason to become a student at your Bow like a Pro program.

    I noticed, with your help, that reducing the tension in my right shoulder is the main solution indeed. Your other tips are also great. A good curved pinky and finger movements, in stead of what I did before, i.e. lifting the bow at the frog. And knowing how to jump and bounce, understanding how the bow works on its own, and knowing how to go back and forth from spiccato to detache is also a great advise.
    On top of that, tilting the bow to get the control back when the bow starts shaking is a nice escape, and knowing that trick gives me the comfort when on stage. so now it jumps less!

    Reply
    • Violinist Zlata Brouwer

      You actually inspired me to make this video with tips and I’m glad they are helpful in addition to everything in Bow like a Pro. You made such great progress, of course thanks to the hard work you put it and being very open to learn.

      Reply
  5. Mathilde

    I just sent you my comment with all technical stuff. But, when thinking over it again, the most important tip for me is to accept the nerves and to learn how to play under stress. To stop thinking ‘ooh, I hope that I won’t be nervous’. Because I will be nervous when playing for public, I know that, so how to handle that and how to play good when being nervous?

    Reply
  6. Tonia van der Helm

    Thank you – this is very timely- just about to go to my lesson, and I always tense up – make scratchy sounds / short bouncy bow strokes when I know I can do it at home! Tips about relaxing, pinky finger, knowing the bow, tilting the bow – all very useful and relevant for me. I know it intellectually, physically transferring this is the tricky bit.

    Reply
  7. Anastasia Bastian

    This video is just what I need! When I played at my violin exams, I literally tried to imagine I am playing violin at home and not in front of the examiner, it worked really well for me, except for a couple of unwanted bounces on the strings! 🙁 And yes, I avoided coffee the day before my violin exam! So glad that I did! I love your videos- they are such a great help to me!

    God Bless you.

    Anastasia Bastian

    (Northern Ireland)

    Reply
  8. Gustav Nilsson

    Hej Zlata,
    Many Thanks for your tips on how to avoid bowshake. One thing I have notised when doning any type of performance is to be early on site, no last minute . So I can reherse properly , if possiblle on the ”stage ”.
    I must say you are a very good teacher.
    Kind regards Gustav

    Reply
  9. Guy

    Excellent tips. Getting to know my bow was the most useful for me given I am a beginner. I find this to be a problem even in my practice as well as when I play for others. I have so much to learn.

    Reply
  10. Allie

    Hi Zlata,
    Thank you for the tips to stop unwanted bow bounces! This is one of the areas that I struggle with. I have tried for a while to work on my vibrato with my left hand, but when I get in front of people that often goes out the window as I start concentrating on calming my natural right hand/arm “vibrato”. I know it has to do with nerves, but as you were giving the tips I started wondering if, in my nerves, I tense up and bring my right shoulder up more. I plan on trying this tip out the next time I play. I had noticed before that tilting the bow a little more does help with a little of the bounce also.
    My family would love the part of your first tip about running to get my heart rate up as they are all into running.
    Someone else said Amen to your comment to not use alcohol and drugs and I wanted to say Amen as well. I don’t have problems with the coffee or any of that, but hot chocolate is a different story. I will have to remember to not have hot cocoa that day. I also like your shirt in this video.

    Reply
  11. Ashley Hines

    Thanks Zlata for telling me what I suspected, but no teacher has ever taught me. That’s because I’m self taught, as where I live – Taiwan – its very difficult to find teachers. And also that I don’t play violin.
    Wait.. don’t judge me just yet.. I do play a fiddle – but just the biggest one – the double bass.
    And you advice is totally right for any kind of bowing. Really, it is.
    Especially performing and shoulder relax.
    Thanks again.

    Reply
  12. Pamela Santini

    Thank you Zlata, for taking your valuable time to share your knowledge and experience. Very kind! 🙂

    While I don’t shake … I DO start bouncing sometimes and just can’t seem to stop. As you advised – I will try to pinpoint what triggers this problem. I am experiencing a problem that no one seems to mention anywhere – and am wondering if maybe this is the cause of my bouncing: Namely, I keep losing my bow grip as I play. Somehow my index finger and pinky come loose from their moorings and I’m left with only my thumb, middle finger and ring finger in place. When my hand is relaxed like this I make nice sounds – when I tighten up to correct the loose fingers I lose mobility and sound quality … I am kind of at a loss about what to do.

    As for performing in public … when I was in High School Orchestra (a LONG time ago lol) I played the clarinet. Every time I played in concert I would “black out” during performance. I have done this in a large group, in quartet and in solo performance as well. My teacher, peers and family have told me I played well and right … but for the life of me I can’t remember if I did or not … I seem to vanish! LOL. I would love to be able to play publicly without that happening! Has this happened to you? And have you any advice for me about this?

    Thank you Zlata,
    Pamela

    Reply
    • Violinist Zlata Brouwer

      Hi Pamela, bow hold is a delicate balance between relaxation and control. It looks terribly easy, but certainly isn’t. I’ve just recorded a bow arm warm up video that will certainly help maintaining the contact points better. These tips could be helpful in the meantime. I suffered from stage fright to the point that I thought I could never graduate, not because the level, but because of doing it on stage. Here are some resources and books around that.

      Reply

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