4 Exercises for Changing Strings with the Bow on Your Violin

By Katharine Rapoport

Here are four useful exercises to put your string-crossing skills into action on the violin. It may feel awkward at first, but keep practicing. These exercises give you a workout involving changing to higher strings.

When you first try the moves, you can stop the bow gently after the last note of the measure, and then roll your arm and bow to the next level. Later, when you develop your skills further you won’t need to take extra time for this. But as you practice how to do the movements, moving calmly is just what the doctor ordered!

Both exercises start with the bow set on the G string, about halfway between the frog and the middle of the bow, and they begin with a down-bow. Use the whole middle portion of the bow for these exercises, to give the string crossings a smooth and spacious feel.

To make timing and actions clear, you can allow four clicks before you begin to play (you can say 1, 2, 3, 4, play) and two clicks for changing to a new string level (say “stop, roll” and act in time with the clicks for easy sequencing). In the first exercise, you play each string four times, and in the second exercise, you play each string three times, which gives you a chance to change strings on up-bows too.

Exercises for changing to higher strings.

Exercises for changing to higher strings.

The exercise shown below helps you practice changing to lower strings. Start with your bow ready on the E string, about halfway between the frog and the middle of the bow. Play this exercise in the same way as the exercises above, with one big difference: Each time you change to a lower-sounding string, your arm and bow levels float up a notch. You’re traveling along the same path, but in the opposite direction. Watch the video tracks to see the exercise being played.

Exercises for changing to lower strings.

Exercises for changing to lower strings.

When changing strings, think of leading the way with your elbow as your arm’s level drops, and with your hand as your arm’s level rises.