How to Find the Contact Point for Your Fiddle’s Bow

By Michael John Sanchez

Proper bow stroke mechanics start with understanding where to place the bow on the fiddle strings (known as the contact point) and what part of the bow to use to start the stroke. With the right contact point, you succeed in creating a beautiful musical sound.

Follow these steps to find the optimal contact point for your bow:

  1. Look at the bow hair and visualize splitting it into four equal parts.

    The bow hair is the white part of the bow that makes contact with the strings.

  2. Put a removable sticker on the bow exactly at the point where the second equal part from where you hold it would start.

  3. Hold your fiddle properly and set the bow on the strings exactly where you placed the sticker.

    This is generally where you always set your bow on the strings when you begin to play.

  4. Place the bow an equal distance between the fingerboard and the bridge.

  5. Make sure the bow is exactly parallel with the bridge.

  6. Take the bow off the strings and practice finding the same contact point a few times (as much as you want to — don’t stroke the bow quite yet!).

    Practice your bow hold throughout this process.

    [Credit: By Rashell Smith]
    Credit: By Rashell Smith

The spot on the bow that you just found is the “golden” spot, and any divergence from it may result in an uneven tone and unsatisfactory volume.

Normally, it takes a while to build enough muscle (and visual) memory to be able to find the exact contact point without the sticker on the bow. Keep the sticker on for at least a few months and then take it off when you feel comfortable with the contact point. Don’t think of the sticker as a crutch but rather as a tool to help you build proper fundamentals.

It’s important to work on contact point and bow hold for at least 10 to 15 minutes initially. After that, you should work on it in the first few minutes of your practice sessions for the next four to five weeks. This is how long it normally takes to build any solid fundamental, but many beginners like to think they have enough understanding of contact point too quickly.

Five weeks is nothing compared to all the years you’re going to be playing the fiddle. Be patient!