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How to do a pencil bow hold on the violin

Feb. 1, 2023
Posted in: Violin
Use this training bow hold to learn how to better hold the violin bow.


Music Instructor | Sage Music

This is an exercise that I give all of my new students in their violin lessons. It gives you an easy way to learn how to hold the violin bow, and teaches you the fundamentals while you are building up your hand strength.

The pencil bow hold on violin

Time: 10 minutes
Supplies: Pencil

If you are a beginner who is learning how to hold a violin bow, we recommend that you start with this training pencil bow hold first.

1. Grab a pencil

Any pencil will do, as long as it is long enough. Wooden pencils feel more like a bow than plastic or mechanical pencils.

2. Place your thumb

Put your right thumb on the bottom of the pencil at its midpoint. The thumb should be turned so that the knuckle points to the tip of the pencil.

3. Do the Bunny Bite

Drape your middle and ring finger over the pencil, and voila! You have a bunny bite. From there, we’ll finish the shape and form a pencil bow hold.

4. Place your index finger

After the bunny bite is completed, then rest your index finger on the pencil. The pencil should sit in between the middle two joints.

5. Place the pinky

Curl your pinky so the fingertip is sitting on top of the pencil.

And that’s all there is to it! You’ve got a beginner’s bow hold.

When learning how to hold your violin bow, it’s important to be relaxed. It’s a bow hold, not a bow grip. Think of it like holding a baby bird. We want to hold the bird so it doesn’t escape, but don’t crush the bird!

I often see two main issues when people learn how to hold the bow. Either the thumb is too stiff, or the pinky is too stiff. The thumb should bend slightly, as well as the pinky. There should be a nice arch/curl in both fingers to allow for maximum flexibility. Any stiffness can cause bad habits and bad sounds!  Remember that tension is an enemy of playing music well.

Bunny Bites or Pencil Bow Holds should be practiced daily and often. Do 5-10 bunny bites/pencil bow holds for a week straight before even starting to hold the bow itself. As mentioned before, this shape is very unique. Holding the bow can feel unusual or even uncomfortable at first. With practice on the pencil, you’ll form some great habits and perfect the technique so holding the bow is less of a challenge.

Next step: Learn how to do a balance point violin bow hold.

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