Many of my fellow theatre musicians will attest that in many circumstances, we’re always making some sort of concession to fit in small theatre pits. In some cases it could be playing both upright and electric bass parts on just one instrument (usually the electric), or in the case of playing a show that calls for upright bass, not bringing a bow. It’s not that we don’t want to bow; we do. But the real estate needed to pull a standard bow (we’re not getting into the German vs. French bow camp at this point) is such that oftentimes the arco parts are just met with a sigh.
It was one of these times (theatre run for “Crazy for You”) that I turned to the trumpet player and said “Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a bow that was just about 12 inches long? You could get the needed sound and save the headache of smacking you in the face with the frog.”
And then the next day, I saw a press release from Expanding Hands Music (known in the bass world as the distributor of the Tony Levin Funk Fingers) for the Finger Bow; a small bow that attaches to your ring finger, allowing you to instantly switch between arco and pizz techniques on the string bass.
From the website, “The bow is 10 3/8” long, and made of lightweight and resonate poplar wood. It is not intended to replace a traditional longer bow but to be a new tool for creative expression.” Without a second thought, I immediately placed an order for a black one (they also come in natural). I was sold.
When it arrived, I giggled with glee; it was a Thursday, and I was starting the final 5 shows of “Crazy for You,” so this was perfect timing. From looking on the website, a lighter rosin was recommended (which is what I use anyway) so I grabbed a cake of Petz and went to the theatre.
The Finger Bow has a velco enclosure that is meant to slip on your ring finger. The reason behind this goes back to Tony Levin. “Being a fan of Tony Levin and his “Funk Fingers” and how they attach to your fingers, got me thinking about bow design and new ways of approaching playing with a bow, and the possibility of mixing bowing with fingerstyle at the same time.” Initially it took a second to get used to this, but once I did, it was very easy. Hold it for arco, and when you don’t want it, release your grip and the Finger Bow glides from playing to holding position.
Being familiar with both French and German bow grips, I found that when I was using the bow I was doing a modified French grip, but once the bow released it was more of the German grip. I also found that, because of the smaller size of the Finger Bow, switching between arco and pizz (something that is a staple in musical theatre) was a breeze.
So, that aside, how does the Finger Bow actually sound? It sounds great, and reacts just like a traditionally sized bow would. One thing to note is that you will definitely notice any weaknesses in your bow technique with the size of the Finger Bow, especially when tied whole notes come into play. I was able to get two measures of tied notes out before switching direction after a little work with the bow.
The Finger Bow is not going to replace my traditional bow; truthfully it’s not meant to. However, for the times that I need a bow that can quickly and easily navigate between arco and pizz passages, it will get the call. Bonus is that with its size, the Finger Bow works very well on electric bass as well, especially a Hofner with flats. It’s really fun to play a bowed line with the Hofner and get that look of “What is he doing?”
Available through the Expanding Hands website, the Finger Bow lists for $65 (natural finish) or $70 (black finish) plus shipping (worldwide). There is also a left handed model available at no additional charge.
Visit online at expandinghandsmusic.com