Saturday September 19, 2020
Silvio Dalla Torre
Chameleon Double Bass Double Bass as Solo Instrument? Tunings Playing Techniques I - Standing or Sitting? - Two, Three or Four Fingers? - Bow Hold - Bow Properties Playing Techniques II New Dutch School

Bow Hold

Hans Roelofsen
demonstrates the "French" bow hold.
Two basically different approaches to holding the bow are employed in playing the double bass:
  • The overhand, or "French", grip
  • The underhand, or "German", grip
Giovanni Bottesini and Domenico Drago-
were the most prominent representatives
of the two approaches, although these grips had become established long before their lifetimes.

The overhand technique was already becoming accepted as early as the 17th century, spreading out from France. Double bass players adopted the methods of dance fiddlers and held the bow like them, laying their thumbs firmly on the hair and four, or sometimes three, fingers on the stick of the bow. With the introduction of the bow screw, this grip became refined, principally by Bottesini, who popularised it in his tutor. Today it is used almost all over the world. The main exceptions are Germany and Austria, where the French grip did not become established and is consequently not practised. There are no sensible reasons for this, so there is hope that it will change and that highly talented players will not have to go out into the world with the "wrong" bow hold.

My variant of the "German" bow hold
The undergrip technique is the older bow hold, since it derives from the bowing technique of the viol family. It has, however, changed so much over the course of time that modern bow holds now have practically nothing to do with their origins. At the beginning of the 19th century, on the one hand a primitive grip, literally like sawing, was taught, while at the same time various recommendations for more refined techniques were offered by different schools. This has led to several different bow holds within the underhand grip system being in use in the present day. Adherents of the Vienna and Findeisen schools form the two main groups, which are by no means always on good terms with each other. The German bow hold has in the mean time become recognised almost everywhere. England, France and the USA, where it was until recently not accepted, have now become more open to it.