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

Vivian Waters

Vivian Waters