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[Video] Can You Over-Drop Your Right Elbow or Shoulder while Bowing?

Zlata Brouwer

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Published: May 13, 2015 at 8:02 AM [UTC]

Can you have your elbow or shoulder too low when playing the violin or viola?

In this episode I’m answering a question of one of our viewers. Nicola writes...

Hi Ms. Zlata! Can i ask something?
Is there such thing as OVER-DROPPING my elbow or shoulder?
Or rather the question is, "is dropping the elbow or shoulder good all the time?"
Because i always think that a dead drop of everything especially the right arm will make me more relaxed and my playing better but instead, i feel some tension and strain at by lower triceps(near the elbow) and at the Ulna side of my forearm. I feel a stretched muscle. I experience this mostly when pronating my forearm when playing at the tip and the triceps pain at the middle downbow.(i consciously drop my elbow esp. at downbow, am i overdoing it?)

I'm preparing myself to rework on my straight bowing and tone production and i think addressing the basic issues such a shoulder,elbow, wrist and finger flexibility will tremendously make my project a whole lot easier and yield better results.

Thanks a lot.

Let’s first go into the shoulder part of your question...

Lots or players tend to lift their right shoulder while bowing. This make tone production harder and can cause injury. With a low shoulder you can play with weight and improve your tone. Therefore your teacher tells you all the time to lower your shoulder or elbow... but how low? Can it be too low?

When you play at the extreme tip, you feel some muscles stretching because you lengthen your arm to be able to bow straight. When you lower your shoulder, perhaps you feel slightly more stretch.

You need to be able to bow straight generally. However... Lots of soloists don’t bow extremely straight at the tip. This can make the bow change at the tip a bit rounder and make your arm more comfortable and less stretched. Try this out and see if it sounds and feels better.

Let’s go into the elbow part of your question...

You might have heard of the Galamian square. I show you in the video how this looks like. Your violin, arm and bow take the shape of a square when you put your bow on the string just above the middle of the bow.

When you lift your elbow too much, you can’t see a square. This causes a pushy sound and isn’t comfortable.

When you lower your elbow too much, you can’t see a square too. This causes that you can’t transfer the weight of your arm into the bow and look’s like a chicken’s wing.

I recommend making a nice square with your elbow slightly below that. This is very comfortable for your arm and produces a nice tone from your violin or viola. 

After your managed to make a nice square, discover the position of your arm on each string by tilting the square.

Summarized: When you drop your shoulder without tension, you can’t over-drop it. When you push your shoulder down with force, it’s too low. Your elbow must form a square with your arm, violin and bow. You elbow can be slightly below that to play comfortably and beautifully.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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