How to Play Three Notes in a Bow Stroke on the Violin
Playing three notes in a bow is just like playing two notes in a bow on the violin; you just fit in one more note. The big difference involves dividing your bow length (well, just the horsehair bit, really) into three parts when you try the preliminary stopped versions, until you feel in control. This is what you see on the music when three-note slurs are coming up.
The exercises below are for you to work on slurring three notes in a bow. When you do the preliminary stopped bows to sequence your coordination, make sure to divide the length of the horsehair into three equal parts.
If you bought a packet of stick-on dots for marking the fingerboard to set up your left hand and have been wondering what to do with the hundreds of dots you have left over, here’s the perfect use for two of them: Take two dots and pop them onto the side of the bow stick that passes in front of you, one at the place and the other at the place. (It’s just like having courtside tickets at Wimbledon!)
But seriously, if you line up the dot with the string at each preliminary stop when practicing three-note slurs, you develop a sense of even bow use, which helps your legato sound excellent.
The three-note exercises shown here use the D string, but you can try them on any string when you’ve mastered the original versions. The exercises use upward and downward note sequences to keep them challenging. Below, leave the lower finger sitting on the string while the upper finger plays.
Below, you see three-note slurs across three strings. You lead toward the A and E strings by letting your right elbow level down slightly as you play through the down-bow. When you bow three notes in the up-bow, traveling steadily toward the D-string level, let your right hand take the lead, with your arm level following suit.
Changing strings using the moves described helps you draw your bow parallel to the bridge, keeping the sound smooth and consistent. As for the left hand, you have plenty of time to change fingers on the E string during the time you’re bowing the open Ds.
Although these musical examples are in quarter notes so that you can concentrate on technical skills, legato bowings can happen with just about any note values.
Adding three-note slurs to arpeggios
Playing arpeggios with three-note slurs brings you to a new level of fluency and coordination. Below, you have three examples to work on, but you can try the same idea on any arpeggio. Notice that rest measures are worth three counts, because of the time signature.
Adding three-note slurs to a song
When three notes of the same pitch occur in a measure, doing a smooth legato bowing makes them sound like one long note, so keep the bow strokes separate for those measures, using the lower half of the bow, between the frog and the middle.