The ‘Almost’ Silent Bow

When we don’t want to be heard …

Maybe we are in the Green Room surrounded by all those ‘great’ violinists, maybe we are waiting for an audition or lesson, or everyone in the house is asleep, or maybe we have just started to practice and can’t stand to listen to ourselves before we get our bearings.

We could start to tune the violin quietly at the tip like the polite pros do to get the feel …
or maybe we can just start silently with …

That Important Up Bow

  • Gently rest the bow at the tip on A string. Did it bounce when you put it down? Do it again until it behaves itself and you are in complete control. Check that the bow is parallel to the bridge.
  • Now, lift the bow and put it down at the middle on the same string, the same distance from the bridge as before. Check that the bow has remained parallel to the bridge.
  • Again, lift and rest the bow at the frog. Without turning your head, can you see or almost see the tip of the bow or … is it closer to your left ear?

What went Up bow must come Down bow

  • Lift the bow again, returning to the middle of the bow.But before you complete the down bow … remember that the upper arm will move forward as you move to the tip.
  • As the bow rests once more at the tip, is the bow still parallel to the bridge? If not, go back to the middle and repeat that challenging motion from middle to tip, watching the elbow closely until you see how your arm must move to maintain a parallel bow.

Onward, Upward and Downward

Try this on your other strings as well. If your arm is too short to go all the way to the tip, don’t worry, just adjust according to your arm length and stop short of the end of the bow.

If you repeat this simple 2 minute exercise when you first pick up your instrument, you will automatically program your bow to move correctly for the remainder of your practice. And if you have more than two minutes … you can have some fun deciding where you will touch down next, maybe in the middle on G, then at the tip on E, wherever you determine … go for it.

If someone is watching, all the better. They will know you are practicing fine bow control and be a bit envious.
Your real reward will be a beautiful sound as well as greater confidence in your control of your bow. Enjoy!

To see more super focused practice tips, visit

Seeing a parallel bow

Let’s put first things first …

To practice and perform effectively we have to be able to see through our own eyes when our bow is parallel to the bridge. This is not an easy task, everyone’s eyes are different and we need to find our own way. At the same time, we need all of the help we can get.

Mirrors and double mirrors are distracting as we have to turn our head to use them. Video is excellent feedback but is not always accessible.

Here is a highly mobile tool, on your instrument. It may help, particularly if you have a teacher or someone to give you feedback as you learn to use it.

  • You will need some ordinary white or light coloured chalk.
  • Apply the chalk to the end of your fingerboard.Don’t worry, it will rub off when you don’t need it and is almost invisible to anyone else.
  • Look at the two pictures below. Both bows are placed at the tip on the D string or, if you have a viola, on the G string


  • The bow on the left is crooked, not straight as we say, not parallel to the bridge. The bow on the right is parallel to the bridge and the hair forms a perfect + with the string.
  • If you were to seesaw the bow on the right between the lower and upper strings, you would see that it would remain equidistant from the bridge on all strings.
  • As you look closely at the pictures, you will see a dark crescent shaped shadow between bow hair and the chalk marked edge of the fingerboard. This crescent shape can also be used as a frame of reference as you gaze through the bow hair and stick when you are playing.
  • After you have mastered how a parallel bow looks on the D string you will want to transfer that knowledge to your other strings. The angles will be similar but not exactly the same.
  • Your final step will be to use these methods of seeing as you are playing, initially with another person or video present to give you feedback as to what is straight and whether this method is working for you. Good luck.

To see and hear yourself in a new dimension, contact

Practice makes Performance

Practice Makes Perfect. Right?

We wish. The amount that we practice is not the most important factor. It is how and what we practice that predicts our future performance.

How to Begin

We have the violin on our shoulder, hopefully it feels good today. We pick up the bow.
We are ready to play. But wait …

For a beautiful clear tone we need to move the bow so that it travels parallel to the bridge. However, when we start at the frog of the bow, unfortunately our arm will tend to naturally move in an arc towards the tip … not in a straight line.

What if we reverse directions and we practice starting at the other end of the bow? Will it be easier to move from tip to frog in a straighter line and then, perhaps return by the same path to the tip?

  • Try it, start at the tip – parallel to the bridge -play to the frog,watching closely that the hair of the bow maintains the same angle with the string throughout.
  • Then reverse the direction and travel back to the tip, again keeping close watch on the relation of the bow hair to the string. If you hear a nice sound, you know you are on the right track

The professional usually starts by tuning their violin quietly at the tip. That is how they can both hear themselves tune in a group and also update their ‘feel’ of their extended arm connecting to the violin at the point of the bow.

Be like the Pro. Begin by finding where the tip of your bow really is instead of just careening down the string from the frog to tip, not knowing where you will land and hoping for the best.

Practice tips from

Vivian Waters

Vivian Waters