Hey all.

I'm not a fiddle player.  I plan to build a box fiddle, Full Size.
I also plan to learn to play.

QUESTION:  can you use a 1/2 size Bow on a Full Size Violin?  I just find the bow really long and prefer to have a shorter stroke across the box.

This screw things up ??


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Longer doesn't mean better (no matter what you've heard your whole life!). Think of it this way: If the bow's size was related to the size of the instrument, then an upright bass bow would be more than 6 feet long. You can certainly use a shorter bow, but I would encourage you to use a fullsize bow if you have one available. The reason people like shorter bows is usually because it disguises poor bowing technique (easier to keep the bow straight if it's super short). A longer bow will give you much more versatility and if you ever decide to pick up a real fiddle, you'll be all set.

I totally agree with Ben, and I do usually use a full size bow whilst playing mt cigar box fiddle, my acoustic luthier made fiddles and my factory produced electric fiddles.

The reason for this is the length of note that can be produced and one bow stroke can cover a lot of notes if you are slurring notes together.

Having said that I often use a shorter bow (3/4 Size) when playing tunes that demand very little bow movement.


If you possibly can. I would recomend a full size bow.

Thanks folks


I should have said, the music I want to play are mostly quick solo tunes, Irish Jigs, Scottish Airs and Hymns.




(ps- the one time I had a bow in my hand, I found the length very awkward)

Hi James.

The reason that a bow is a particular length is that for most people, if you have the instrument in the correct position and the bow at 90º to the strings your arm should be pretty near full stretch at the tip of the bow. This allows you the longest stroke and therefore the longest continuous note while keeping the bow at the correct angle to the strings. This explains why a cello bow is in fact shorter than violin or viola bows. I'm not sure if a bass bow is shorter still as I never made those.

Having said that, if you really don't like a full size bow and you can do what you want with a shorter one there doesn't seem much reason why you wouldn't use the shorter one.

All the best.


My guess is that the awkwardness came more from it being a foreign object and less about the length. As a public school instrumental music teacher, I can tell you that being comfortable with the bow is by far the hardest part of playing the violin. It really just takes a lot of hours with the bow in your hand to get used to it. One thing that wasn't really mentioned was that a full size bow will give you more stylistic options. Yes, for your jigs and whatnot you'll be mostly hanging out in the middle of the bow, but a full sized bow will give you a bigger range between the "punch" near the frog and the "delicateness" near the tip.

John, FYI bass bows are the shortest but have, by far, the widest hank of hair.

James Boutilier said:

Thanks folks


I should have said, the music I want to play are mostly quick solo tunes, Irish Jigs, Scottish Airs and Hymns.




(ps- the one time I had a bow in my hand, I found the length very awkward)


Here's just a quick little video that I shot for my students. The second video down talks about the bow hold. You can probably go ahead and start with your thumb inside the frog, on the stick. In my school district we start with the thumb on the ferrule because it gives the average underdeveloped 4th grader's hand more control.

Hi Ben.

That makes a great deal of sense as the bridge on a bass is further from the players shoulder (which is pretty much what defines the optimum length). Strangely enough, violin and viola bows are the same length (give or take a mm) although a viola player will be bowing a little further away than a violinist. Almost everything else is scaled up a bit, but the length remains the same.

"What's the difference between a violin and a viola? A viola burns longer." - Victor Borge

Ben said:

John, FYI bass bows are the shortest but have, by far, the widest hank of hair.


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