Bow Division

The ultimate objective of our different choices of bow speed, pressure and point of contact together with our choice of bowings (bow directions) is to be in the best possible part of the bow at every moment. This “best” part of the bow is that part where we can achieve most easily both the musical (dynamics, phrasing etc) and technical (bounce, legato etc) requirements. This is the complex art-science of bow division.

Good bow division requires quite a lot of thought and forward planning: this is an intellectual skill. At the other extreme from bow division skill is bow technique. With a wonderful bow technique (and a great bow and instrument will also help), it is possible to play very well in spite of bad bow division planning, by using compensations of speed, bow pressure and point of contact. We need to develop both skills: how to choose the best bowings ……. but also how to play the worst bowings!. Bow division for our right hand is like ecology for planet earth: it is a huge, vital, all-encompassing subject that affects and is affected by everything. For this reason, references to it will be found on almost all the pages dedicated to our bow technique.


Normally we plan our bowings to avoid sudden and extreme changes in bow speed and pressure unless deliberately needed for special effects. This planning is especially necessary in figures in which the alternation of long and short notes note creates “asymmetrical” patterns (see Dotted Rhythms). In asymmetrical figures, we basically have three possible choices of bowings: the retake, the hook, and the sleight of hand. This is such a large subject that it has its own dedicated page:

Choosing Bowings For Asymmetrical Patterns.