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Violin/Problem with bowing arm



I am working on the Partita No.2 in D minor - Giga now, and I have trouble with keeping the bow straight. My teacher told me to use short middle bow.

I have no problem with keeping the bow straight for long bowing, but when I tried to use short bow stroke, my arm started moving in small circular motion. I think that it has something to do with the wrist and the elbow, but I don't know how to fix it.

I have tried practicing with just the open strings, and the bow arm looked fine. Then when I tried playing the Giga, my bow arm moved in circular motion again. How can I fix it?

Thank you very much.


Practice the passage with your upper arm (the part from you elbow to the shoulder) placed flat against a wall.  The string crossings will be difficult like this, so find a passage that stays to one or two strings.

Once you've got the feeling of the stroke coming from your forearm via a swinging elbow motion, with no movement in the upper arm or shoulder, you should be able to continue that without the aid of the wall, and your bow will stay straight.  

The upper arm/shoulder motion is the most common cause of crooked bows.  As you look in the mirror, you should see these parts not moving at all!

Todd Sullivan


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Todd Sullivan


Hello, I am a NYC violinist performing for Broadway shows, symphony orchestras, opera, and sundry theatre/pop tours. I would be happy to answer your questions about anything related to being a performer in the music business. I play both violin and viola professionally, so questions on playing either instrument are welcome. The only thing I am not well informed on is information concerning instruments/bows...those questions are best left to luthiers.


Professional experience includes a variety of on/off Broadway tours and shows, numerous orchestras, tours with Ray Charles and Ann Murray orchestras, leader of the 20-piece Todd Sullivan Orchestra.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (violin) with honors from Carnegie Mellon University (1999)

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