May 2014

How to Play 'In the String' with Weight and without Tension

May 29, 2014 08:29

Rae-Ann writes...

Dear Zlata,

I am a subscriber to your violinloungetv program. As an adult beginner on the violin, with no previous musical experience, I have now been studying for about 10 years. For the past 3 years, I have been taking lessons from a wonderful violinist who is also a terrific teacher.

Nevertheless, I continue to struggle with the issue of weight vs pressure and I just can't seem to get the hang of it. All too often during my lesson I hear these words: "That's not a sound!" (I'm thinking of embroidering that quote on a pilow!) My teacher is always stressing: Maintain the weight of your arm on the bow; keep the connection with the string. Sometimes I get it, however, more often than not, as I'm focusing on playing a piece and reading the notes, I lose it.

The issue seems to be, in great part, one of tension in my right hand; if I consciously try to relax, I lose that connection. I read your lesson on the subject but it hasn't helped. I'm writing to see if there's anything you might say that will clarify what and exactly how I can achieve that relaxed state while still playing into the string.

Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom.



Let’s try to give some words of wisdom on the topic ‘How to play into the string with weight and relaxed’.

If you are wondering what ‘Weight vs Pressure’ is what Rae-Ann is talking about...

It’s a FREE workshop I give online about playing the violin effortless with a beautiful tone. Just as Rae-Ann and over 500 people, YOU can attend too for free!

Just click here and subscribe to receive access to the workshop and the 44 page workshop binder.

Let’s solve the tension issue first...

Find out when you are tensed and when not. That’s the first step to finding the cause of your tension. Rae-Ann writes that she gets tensed up when she focusses on playing a difficult piece and reads notes. Perhaps the cause of the tension is the difficulty of the piece, but it can also be something different.

If the cause is the difficulty of the piece, just take a step back and play some easier pieces in which you don’t tense up. If you have done this for a while, you automate playing relaxed and you can transport this to more difficult pieces. When you have practiced a difficult piece until you really know it, the tension will get less because you are not stressed out by not being able to play the piece.

Don’t overwhelm yourself when studying. Study the difficult pieces slowly and only focus on one thing at a time. Remember: you can only learn one thing at a time. It’s not possible to learn several things at the same time.

Practice in a way that relaxes you. Practice in a way that doesn’t cause tension.

What is bowing in the string exactly and how can you recognize it?

When you don’t bow into the string, you are wiping over the strings with your bow. This causes an empty and thin sound without core.

When you bow into the string, you use the spring system of your strings, bow and arm to get a fuller sound with a core.

You can hear when you play in the string and when not.

It can seem like playing into the string takes more effort than playing over the string as there needs be more weight in the bow. You can put more weight in the bow in two ways:

  • Pushing the bow into the string (pressure)

  • Transferring the weight of your relaxed arm into the bow feeling like you hang on the bow with your arm (weight)


Do this exercise to learn to play with weight:

Put the bow on the strings somewhere above the middle of the bow. Your arm must be relaxed. Check out the spring system of the strings, the bow and your hand and arm. Make your arm heavy and lean on the bow. Just focus on transferring the weight of your arm into the bow through your index finger. This is how bowing should feel. In this exercise you shouldn’t move the bow.

After this exercise try to maintain this weight transfer when playing a REALLY easy piece... some notes, open strings or a simple scale.

Try to keep the sense you learned in the first exercise. Build this up slowly to more difficult pieces until you reach the pieces you are practicing on now.

Have a low and relaxed bow hold. Don’t lift your shoulder, elbow, wrist or knuckles. A good bow hold is a condition for transferring the weight. Your bow hold shouldn’t be rigid.

Don’t go over these exercises too fast. Don’t skip to difficult pieces right away after you felt weight transfer for just a moment. Build this up steadily. The investment of time and effort will absolutely worth it. This will affect everything you play, the way you feel and the way you sound.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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How To Clean Your Violin or Viola Bow

May 14, 2014 03:52

In this video I teach you several ways to clean your violin bow.

Tighten your bow, put a clean dry cloth between the wood (or carbon) and hair and wipe the rosin remains of.

This is enough to do weekly and keep your bow nice and clean.

If you want to clean your bow more thoroughly, you can use a special fluid for stringed instruments. You can buy several types of cleaning fluids especially for stringed instruments here.

Be careful that the fluid doesn’t stain on the bow hair. The best way to prevent it is to remove the frog from the bow (I explain how to do this safely in the video below). In this way you can separate the hair from the bow.

Only clean the stick of the bow with this fluid. Use just a little back of fluid. Let the fluid dry before you put the frog back on your bow.

When your bow hair is so dirty that you can’t play with it, it might be time to have a rehair as your hair will be worn down at this point anyway.

If something happens and you need to clean to bow hair, but you don’t need a rehair, you can clean your bow hair. Do this with a tooth brush with some alcohol on it. Brush the bow hair (remove the frog from the bow first, so the bow hair is loose and separated from the bow). Make sure the bow hair is dry before you put the frog back on the bow.

The alcohol can damage the stick of your bow. Don’t do this too often as the alcohol will damage the core of the bow hair and makes it more vulnerable, which means you are in need of a rehair faster.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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How to Breathe while Playing the Violin or Viola

May 14, 2014 03:20

Valyncia asks in a comment on my video '5 exercises to learn vibrato’ (click here to watch)...

Little by little I am practicing vibrato - but I notice if I don't breathe I tense up in my back and shoulder... At least when I notice this I can stop and focus and start again without getting tensed...Thanks for the videos...

Lots of people hold their breath while playing the violin or viola.

This effects your relaxation, your tone production and your expression when playing the violin or viola.

When I was a child I almost choked while playing the violin because I didn’t breathe :P.

Exercise 1: When you play a piece, just watch your breath and nothing but your breath (you can focus on the other things (intonation, rhythm) another time. Make sure your breath is deep and slow. Breath through: make sure you don’t stop or hold your breath. This exercise can automate your breathing while playing. First you must do it consciously to be able to automate it and let it become subconsciously. 

Exercise 2: Breath along with the music and the musical phrasing (sentences and story telling in music). Singers and wind instrument players obviously have to be very strategic about how and where to breath in a piece of music. For string players it’s not so obvious, but also very important. 

An example is to take a deep breath in before you start a piece and on breathing out you play the first note.

Notice how a change in breathing changes your tone in a positive way! Breathing along with the music is not only good for the relaxation of your body and mind, but also for your tone production, intonation and expression.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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Why Vacuum Clean Your Violin or Viola Case

May 9, 2014 01:42

What is Zlata doing with a vacuum cleaner in this video?

A lot of hairs, dust and dirt gather in your violin case when using it.

Vermin (wood worms) can get into your violin and eat it alive!

If you don’t want your violin to be eaten by wood worms, you might consider cleaning your violin case once in a while.

Is this video useful to you? Or do you have additional tips for violinists worldwide? Please let me know in the comments!



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How To Play Double Stops on the Violin

May 1, 2014 05:47

Sylviane writes...

Hello Zlata,

Have you made a movie/video clip about double stop and chords?

If not, would you put that on your list for next movie?

I am currently playing some songs that require so many double stops, oh my goodness, and seems like I am having trouble producing the double stop sounds when it's on A & E strings. Not sure why, perhaps because the E is positioned low that I don't see where my bow is. So usually when I do the double stop on those 2 strings the first milliseconds I will only hear either A string or E string, then the soonest I hear it I would correct it.

Perhaps you have some useful tips for this double stop action.

Thank you Zlata, have a nice day.


There are three aspects to double stops: you see, you hear and you feel.

Hearing is too late, because the wrong sound did already sound.

Seeing is not always possible and most of the times not good for your violin hold.

Feel how it feels to play double stops. How does it feel to be on both strings? How does your arm position feel?

Imagine that you are playing on one imaginary string that is in between the two strings that are included in your double stop. Imagine this in your feeling, not so much in your ear or eye.

Is this video useful to you? Please let me know in the comments!



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More entries: April 2014