How the Italian Double Bass Bow Hold Works

This alternate approach to the French bow hold can be a real game-changer.

With Gabriele Ragghianti · Lucca, Italy

Gabriele Ragghianti, the host for the 2018 European Bass Congress in Lucca and bass professor at the Royal College of Music in London, put out a fascinating video recently through D’Addario Orchestral all about the Italian double bass bow hold:

My Experiences with the Italian Bow Hold

I’ve always been an experimenter, and I spent a decade using the Italian bow hold exclusively. I’d actually learned about it back at Northwestern University from Judith Hanna, a classmate of mine and a recent podcast guest for our Bass and Psychotherapy episode.

Also, I remember former Chicago Symphony principal bassist Joe Guastafeste using the Italian bow hold. In fact, I remember there being a spot worn away on Joe’s frog from all those years of contact with his thumbnail!

Why I switched to the Italian Bow Hold

I switched to the Italian bow hold when I bought my Bernd Dolling French Bow. Prior to that, I had used a latex grip at the point where the frog connects with the stick. When I bought my Dolling bow, I couldn’t bear to put something open top of the beautiful gold finishings, and I decided to experiment with the Italian bow grip.

I ended up loving it. Like Gabriele describes in the video, there’s a real feeling of stability that comes with having the thumb on the frog itself, and also from the hand being centered around the frog a bit more.

Why I Switched Back to my Former French Bow Hold

A few years ago, I was watching Paul Ellison teach in a master class with Andy Raciti’s Northwestern University bass students. Paul typically brings a wide array fo bows with him to a master class, and he was having students experiment with different weights and Baroque bows.

He was also having students “choke up” on the stick (move the hand over the balance point). Watching this got my brain going, and after some days of experimentation, I decided that there was a bit more flexibility to my bowing with my thumb back in the “traditional” place at the juncture of frog and stick.

This could be due to many factors:

  • my bow
  • my evolution as a player
  • the fact that I’m left-handed
  • my body type
  • the fact that I usually stand

Who knows? Actually, I might try switching back to the Italian bow hold after seeing Gabriele in action in this video!

I’d never really talked much about this bow hold, and I always secretly wondered how widely used this bow hold is, so it’s great to see this in-depth video from Gabriele.

Do You Use the Italian Bow Hold?

Let us know!

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