French bow question

Today, I was asked this question:

Hi Monsieur Barbé!

I’m a 20 year old doublebass student in …. and hope to someday study in Paris. I’ve looked at many bass players bow technique (…) but since adopting your technique it has really done wonders for my playing. Since I’m on the subject you spoke of putting finger 2&3 under the frog.  However do you still « pull » the bow with the first finger (down bow) and forth finger(up bow).
Thank you so much for replying and giving me free advice!
All the best and hope to see more videos soon!

This is my answer

Very honored, …, thanks and I am happy to count for you, near all those fabulous french bow players who are all my great friends.
For your question: I see what you mean. Well, I don’t feel exactly that way for explanations.

  • I rather consider to grip up the group thumb, 2, 3 against the 1( index). For me the 1 is the non-moving part of the lever. The lever’s action is to conduct the bow toward the string as soon as we exceed the frog in order to keep the power of the sound, its density, to play crescendo or any color we need. The lever action varies from 5% to 100% after the frog.
  • To explain fully, the lever system is actionned by the pronation of the forearm, (rotation cubitus-radius toward the string). At the  finger contact points , this pronation is transmitted and even increased by the thumb and the last phalanx of the 2, 3 which are catching upward the frog against the 1.
  • Generaly in the bass world, the big hands often don’t consider to use the 2, 3 griping upward by the last phalanx positionned under the frog, but I do.
  • For very little hands, I advise a very little frog or if not possible, to place the fingers 2,3 4( yes, even the pinky) not under the frog but under the stick and in the frog’s hole. I use myself this position very often to have a nice clean and warm sound with easy attack of the string, specialy in the low register. This position is also able to play spiccato notes ( balsato), but not for a long time. I use the first grip in that case ( switch in one second).
  • When we play at the frog, or balsato (spiccato), the grip is a simple prehension, without pronation. The pinky becomes important. I like a comfortable ruber for the thumb and the index finger.
  • Here are some photos. I use all of those grips, it depens the situation, the color that I need, ….  in one word, there is not one french grip, it depens which hands you have, and which color you want…

I think the explanations where clear, the result was:

Hello again Monsieur Barbé!

I apologize for not writing this mail earlier. But it so happens that I have been on tour with my orchestra, and have had a great many opportunity’s to try out my new bow technique!

I just wanted to say thank you for your elaborate answer it really helped a lot! And I hope that I can ask some more questions regarding bass playing in the future. There are probably more people with the same type of questions on their mind as me.

Merci beaucoup!



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