The Bow: To Tape or Not to Tape?

The Bow: To Tape or Not to Tape?

That is the question. Denese Odegaard, a string teacher in Fargo, North Dakota, for 23 years and secretary of the American String Teachers Association, shares her advice on this controversial topic. In her role teaching fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-grade orchestra, Odegaard uses tape with her beginning students when they are first playing quarter and eighth notes.

Photo: Victoria Chamberlin |

“When they start using the bow, I put a tape in the middle of the bow as a guide for bowing from the frog to the middle of the bow,” Odegaard says. In this case, the tape is really only a demarcation line. “This is just a guide to get started because of the lower half of the bow produces a strong tone as long as students relax the arm, lean into the string enough to keep the bow from slipping over the fingerboard, and keep the elbow from moving [and] causing the bow to move at an incorrect angle.”

Thus, students are not using the tape as a rigid marker of where to start and stop the bow, but rather to limit their practice to the lower half of the bow, especially during the beginning weeks. Above all, students should know that the bow is a tool used to control volume, tone, length, and style of notes. Students should learn the different sections of the bow and learn what parts produce different dynamic levels. The tape is meant to be a visual guide and students should not become dependent on it.

There will be a time when the tape will not be there. Read how Odegaard uses tape for second-year students in the April 2008 issue of Teaching Music, page 47.

What is your opinion on using tape on the bow? Share your thoughts below.

— Nicole Springer, April 15, 2008, © National Association for Music Education (

This article has been adapted from an article of the same name by author Cynthia Darling from the April 2008, Volume 15, Number 5, issue of Teaching Music.