Learn to Play the Violin 3/3

Posted on February 3, 2013 by Dr. Daniel Broniatowski

How to Hold the Violin and the Bow

Welcome to the third and final series called “Learn to Play the Violin”. In part 1, we examined the parts of the violin. In part two, we covered the parts of the bow. In part three, I will take you through a step-by-step guide how to hold the violin and the bow. Please note that nothing replaces actual lessons with a qualified teacher but this is a great way to read up on the topic before your first lesson. Remember, when learning to play the violin, patience and persistence always pays off!

Sometimes, a picture is worth even more than 1000 words. In our discussions, you will find this to be the case.

So, let us learn to play the violin! First, see the video below and then you may use the text that follows for additional help and future reference.

1. Stand in rest position. Notice that my feet are together and the violin is tucked
under my right shoulder. The instrument is cradled under my arm and is held
loosely with the upper arm over the strings just above the tailpiece.




Violin in Rest Position 2  2. Now place your right foot to the right so that it is under your right shoulder. Lean
ever so slightly on your left foot. Then, pretend that your left hand is a hungry
crocodile and make a pinching motion (without chomping tightly) with the fingers
and thumb. Your hungry crocodile oddly likes to eat violins. Take your left hand
and “bite” the lower bout of the instrument (that is, the “shoulder” of the violin
that is closest to the floor).


   3. Make sure that the left thumb is touching the top of the back of the instrument, just below the neck.





   4. Then, use your left hand to remove the violin from under your right shoulder and hold it
straight ahead right in front of you.




5. Next, turn your arm (the one with the violin) counter-clockwise so that the button (that is the tiny black part that is on the very bottom of the violin) points upward toward the ceiling (or at least as close as you can get without feeling tension in your arm). Note that most people (including me) cannot turn our arms around fully unless you are double-jointed.




  6. Then, bring the violin “in” so that your chin rests just above the tailpiece (NOT
the chinrest!
) Remember what we discussed in the first blog post about the chin
not going on the chinrest? Well, this is the time to get it right, lest you develop
bad habits. Also, remember how we discussed needing a proper fitting for a
shoulder rest and chin rest? This step will not work properly if you haven’t yet
done so.

And that is how you hold the violin!

Let’s now cover how to hold the bow.

This is a little more complicated.

Please be patient with yourself when doing this. Many students get frustrated when learning how to hold the bow. Furthermore, when playing, it is very easy for beginners to lose the proper bow hold. If you can, try to spend a few days focusing only on how to hold the bow before you attempt to play. You’ll be happier in the long run!

Bunny rabbit Violin bow hold1. We’re going to make bunny rabbits! Try your best to replicate this “pose”.
Note how the thumb is gently curved under the first joints of the two middle
fingers. This is the nose of the bunny. The ears, or the other two fingers, are
nice and curved. Make sure that your entire hand is loose and nothing is
tight or clenched.


Bunny rabbit Violin bow hold side   2.  Here is how it looks from the side.



Violin bowhold thumb view3. Holding the bow vertically on the stick with your LEFT hand (we’ll call
this the “helper hand”), make your bunny rabbit in the right hand. The tip
of the bow should be at the top, toward the ceiling As we spoke about in the
parts of the bow, remember not to touch the horse hair! Very carefully with
both arms straight out in front of you, turn your bunny rabbit sideways, so
that the thumb is closest to you. In your left hand, make sure that the bow is
being held with the hair away from you.

You may wish to do this part in front of a mirror. We are now going to
deconstruct the bunny rabbit and reconstruct it with the bow on the inside
of the bunny. Take your right thumb and let the center of it touch the corner of  the frog. The corner is the top-most protruding part of the frog that meets the stick.

Violin bowhold finger view
4. Now, with your thumb curved, place the bunny’s nose on the other side of
the frog. Only the first joints of the two middle fingers should be touching.
Now, place your index finger on the stick so that the side of the finger
touches, just above the middle joint. Then, rest your pinky ON TOP of the
stick and try your best to keep it curved.


Violin bowhold horizontal 5. If you can, try to move the bow horizontally. And that is how you hold the
bow! Good luck!

For more lessons on how to play the violin, be sure to check out my violin videos at

– Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Violin teacher serving Baltimore and greater Boston, MA