Playing One String at a Time

With my new fiddle and bow in hand, I’ve been practicing how to hold them properly. One thing I have quickly learned is while I may be holding the bow correctly, playing it properly across the strings is another story.

I am working on playing each open string separately without hitting adjacent strings. So, EADG, then GDAE. My bow plain for each string is somewhat erratic, and I often wind up hitting two strings at once. I know playing just one string at a time has a lot to do with muscle memory, which I’ll gain over time, but what about my bowing mechanics? Are they correct? Most of what I am reading and watching talks about how to hold the bow, where to play the bow, bow pressure and bow sections. I haven’t found much on the proper mechanics, so I did a little more digging.

One thing I found is I am bowing from the shoulder when I should be bowing from the elbow and wrist. Also, I am bowing with my wrist below the bow when it should be held above the bow.

The shoulder should act as an elevator, not a conveyor belt. In other words, the shoulder should move up and down, not side to side. Basically, the shoulder has four positions or angles in positioning the upper arm to play each string separately. Then, correct movement of the elbow and wrist back and forth can play each string on a precise plain.

The wrist should be held up above the bow with the knuckles of the hand facing up, not with the wrist below the bow with the knuckles facing back towards me. Holding the wrist below the bow, makes proper wrist movement impossible. There is a loss of perpendicular bowing and loss of the plain for the string being played. This results in scratchy sounds and drifting on to another string. Keeping the wrist above the bow allows for synchronization of the elbow and wrist movement. This produces a good sound and keeps the bow on the string being played.

I need to practice these mechanics over and over until my muscles memorize them, and I don’t even have to think about it.

Here is a video that does a good job of describing the mechanics of bowing.

7 Ways NOT to Hit Other Strings & Sound Scratchy on the Violin – Alison Sparrow.

NOTE: Also see the post Bowing Exercises – One String at a Time

  6 comments for “Playing One String at a Time

  1. old cowboy
    October 27, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    And just when you have learned to hit only one string at a time…….your teacher will want to start you on double stops!
    Then you can learn how to hit two strings at a time! Go figure!

    • October 28, 2019 at 4:38 am

      But, now it will be “controlled”…πŸ™‚

  2. Regalo
    June 22, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    This a really helpful video – thanks for posting πŸ™‚

    • June 22, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      Hi Regalo

      Glad you found this video helpful, and I am happy you have joined us!


  3. Karen
    February 8, 2019 at 12:17 am

    Great blog! I follow Fiddlerman, as well as watch quite a few videos by Alison Sparrow, and I am a great believer that us older students are more motivated and dedicated, and this enthusiasm often makes up for those little things like inflexible finger joints and stiff or sore shoulders. Good luck in your journey, I look forward to more entries.

    • February 8, 2019 at 5:40 am

      Thank you for the kind words, Karen. I find Alison Sparrow very easy to follow. I don’t know why I didn’t try to learn earlier in life, but at least I won’t be at the end of my life wondering why I never tried. I’m glad I started. ~Jim

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