Exercises to improve technique

May 21, 2011 at 05:35 AM ·

As we all know, violin is tough.  But if you want to improve, you just have to divide and conquer.  I thought it might be useful to share some of our favorite violin exercises.  Those that do not require any music, and only take 2-3 minutes a day, but really help to improve technique.  Verbal descriptions are ok, but triple credit is awarded if you post videos.  I'll start. 

Here are two exercises that really improve fluidity and accuracy of shifting.

  Finger substitutions

  Finger slides and 1 finger scales

Here are two more exercises for the right hand.

  Exercise to loosen the right hand and fingers

  Tone production exercise

Replies (21)

May 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM ·

 great job smiley.  since i subscribe to your youtube channel (everyone please go check out his channel and see for yourself how cute looking his son is--incredible if you consider how the old man looks like:), i have seen them all myself last night.  they are great!

after breakfast, i am going to ask my kid to give them a try.  since we travel a lot, your exercises will be great to keep her in reasonable shape if she is just too tired to go through her regular stuff.  

i also find that your delivery in front of the camera more natural and comfortable.  botox treatment?  you are definitely a basement star! :)

here is a little clip from my kid way back when she tried to imitate others trying to teach violin online.  looks like her index finger on the bow is way wrong! :)


ps,,where to redeem the triple credit? :)



May 21, 2011 at 12:50 PM ·

you are definitely a basement star! :)
The NSO declined my offer to solo with the orchestra so until they accept, I'll keep making videos in my basement :-)

May 21, 2011 at 03:00 PM ·

Here's one for the bow - one for the left hand.

I love this exercise because it makes the violin sound more organic  (less mechanical).

The Violin Plays the Bow:


For fingerboard geography - I've used these books for 20 years with my students and am now making them available to the public. As you requested - 2 or 3 minutes of work in these books can cover a lot of material.

The Fingerboard Workbook Series Map the Violin for Good

Workbooks that map out the violin fingerboard. 1st position - 11th position.

Make sure to subscribe to the mailing list for 10 email lessons. Examples are half step and whole step flash cards, how to apply the cirlce of fifths violin style, hand frames and fingering patterns.

Some videos with background info:


Subscribe for email mini lessons: Link to subscribe form http://eepurl.com/c0PwQ

On a personal note - I ready your bio and saw who your teachers were. Those of us who were frustrated with our teachers at Peabody used to have a secret teacher. He quietly taught us excellent lessons, free of cost, at the far end of the hallway. He was an amazing teacher! I think you know who I'm talking about!

Smiles! Diane



May 21, 2011 at 03:48 PM ·

Any suggestions for left hand, elbow, arm, shoulder exercises to improve flexibility? particularly for playing the G-string? being  a "late starter" on the violin and being 51, it isn't getting easier.....

May 21, 2011 at 03:52 PM ·

No video here, no triple credit.  This routine, no sheet music, takes me 20-25 minutes instead of 2-3, but it really helps me stay fit and conquer new repertoire better:

  1. Right-hand exercises on each open string for wrist flexibility and tone production -- similar to your video exercises.
  2. Basic finger gymnastics in 3rd position, without bow, keeping 1st finger on string and bringing down 2, 3, and 4 each several times in turn -- E string first, then A-D-G.
  3. Full bows on each string in turn, E-A-D-G, 3rd position, equal time to each finger, one string at a time -- to practice vibrato and open up left hand more.
  4. Basic finger exercises from Sevcik, Schradieck, or Dancla in 3rd position on each string.  Used in rotation to shock the muscles a bit.
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 in 1st position to stretch and open up hand still more.
  6. Finger slides, same basic idea as in video, equal time to each finger, going between positions: I-III, I-V, III-V, I-VII, III-VII, II-VI, etc.
  7. Double-, triple, quadruple-stop review -- multiple positions.

I've bookmarked this thread -- definitely planning to go over videos again more than once or twice.  Thanks for sharing -- you are a good teacher.  BTW, what kind of chin rest are you using in the demos?

May 21, 2011 at 11:00 PM ·

Arnie - for your request - try these:


There's a video showing the exercise and a link to download it.

It'll get those left arm juices flowing.

Smiles! Diane

May 22, 2011 at 08:05 PM ·


Thanks. Very useful. I've watched and downloaded your videos from YT and I will study/use them.


All I use (to warm up) is the Schradieck exercises in the 1st position, the first 2 pages. Would you mind being specific as to which exercises in the 3rd position (which pages)?

May 22, 2011 at 08:56 PM ·

Thanks for the terrific excercises Smiley :)  (oops that was a double take... ).  My main beginning excercise needs no video - its to play a three octave scale in G major at all five contact points (lanes 1-5 in your video).  But I see this is really not enough - I'm going to try your set.

Perhaps we should have a separate topic on excercises to do when you don't have a violin - like in a meeting.... (left hand flexion of finger pairs is my favorite)

May 22, 2011 at 09:03 PM ·


All I use is the Schradieck exercises in the 1st position, the first 2 pages. Would you mind being specific as to which exercises in the 3rd position (which pages)?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
VJ, about 3rd position exercises -- these refer to the Schirmer Editions, which I have:

  • Schradieck: Violin-Technics, Book I, Part X, 12 exercises -- pp. 14-15.
  • Sevcik: Op. 1, Violin Technics, Part [Book] II, Sections 12-13 -- pp. 16-18.
  • Dancla: Op. 74, School of Mechanism, Nos. 21, 43 -- pp. 9, 16.

3rd position is home position to me.  I start there to stretch the left hand a little and then go to 1st position to stretch it to the max.  More at this thread.

May 23, 2011 at 06:39 PM ·

"BTW, what kind of chin rest are you using in the demos?"


This is a bit off topic, but since you asked the question, I'll go ahead and answer.  The chin rest in the video is a Hamburg that I got from Gary Frisch at chinrests.com.  At the time, it was the best one he had for my physique.  But, last week I visited Gary again and he has many more styles of chin rests and I found one that fits me even better.  I ended up with a German replica of a Flesh, and Gary is going to put 11mm lift on it for me.  For my second fiddle, which is a bit thicker than my main fiddle, he is putting on an 8 mm lift.  The bottom line is, for chin rests, you really have to try them out, and use different lifts to fine tune the height.

May 23, 2011 at 10:25 PM ·

Smiley, thanks for info.

May 24, 2011 at 10:24 PM ·

Hi Smiley,

an excellent thread which I will contribute to later if possible. In the meantime can I turn your sentence round in all seriousness and offer the following?:

Alexander technique:   a technique to improve exercises.



May 25, 2011 at 02:57 AM ·


I was hoping this thread would catch your attention -- looking forward to your input.


You are right.  My bow hand looks pretty ugly in the first video.  That's why I practice the exercise in the 3rd video.  Thanks for pointing that out; I'll have to pay closer attention.

May 25, 2011 at 03:56 AM ·


here are a few of my favorite bow exercises.  Since I mostly stole them from other people I give credits where apprpriate:

1)  It`s amazing how easy it is to become a little inconsistent with bow speed in the lower half when changing to a down bow, even at an advanced level.  One of the most powerful exercises I know to force one to observe this is a sfollows:

Set the metronome to 120 bpm.  Mentally divide the bow into 8 parts and play a bow stroke with precises correlation between mm and hairl length.  Now,  either on the up or down change to a 6 beat bow stroke but the bow speed remains the same IE one only uses  6 units of bow hair.  The speed stays the same,  especially before and after bow changes.  After a while change to to four units ,  then two then 1.  The bow speed never changes so one is using progressively less bow.   Then work back up to the full bow length.  Depending on whether you change on the up or the down you will end up doing this exercise in differnet area sof the bow which is useful.  (From Drew Lecher)

2)   Learn to hold the bow in the air with no sopprt and take your thumb off.  It is actually possible for some weird reason I can`t explain.  (It develops the necessary gluey relationship with the bow.

3)  Place the bow on more or less at the tip.  Retain the shape of te right arm and corss rapidly over four strings and return repeatedly.  The right arm feels like an unchanging pump or chicken wing. This is an exericse for the right shoulder.   (Flesch among others)

4)  Practice etudes with string crossing at the heel every day. As Sammons use dto say `Master the heel and you have mastered the bow)

5)  Thibaud exercise:  play a short note with the fingers only  on a down bow at the point. Then use the arm to throw the bow to the hele where the bow is place don the stirng and an up bow is played using the fingers only (colle) Repeat this procedure from end to end many times. It develops rrelaxed but strong bowing with a nice gluey bow hold.

6)  The exercise sfrom Simon Fishers DVD on tone production.

7)  Practice right hand pizzicato everyday!  Most people are not good at it and even experienced players can conme unstuck in something like Brittens simple symphony....

8)  Practice short electric trills everyday.

9)  For intonation practice focus more on fourths,  sevenths, and secons.

10)  For developing flexibility and stretch sclaes in thirds especially on one string..  First and foremost  everything in your set up and use of the body must be relaxed. This is no real reason to asusme that a 51

To be continued


May 25, 2011 at 04:06 AM ·

Hi Smiley,

Cool thread! I'll take up your challenge and try to post some video in the near future... just a bit busy at the moment. 

I don't think your bow grip is 'ugly' per se in the first video. It can be a strategy for those who don't have bear paws for hands to get more leverage in order to produce a bigger (denser) sound. In particular, it seems to have been emphasized by DeLay for some of her students (e.g. Midori Goto, Sarah Chang, Chin Kim, Gil Shaham.) Kyung Wha Chung also employs such a grip, though she may be the only Galamian student to do so. Some spread the fingers more evenly, others split the first finger away from the rest -- I suspect the shape depends on the natural spread of the fingers. Some exaggerate the splitting away of the first finger, others change the spread depending on context, as advocated by Galamian. In addition to spreading weight over a bigger area of the bow 'handle', the first finger helps with articulation, especially with 'pushing' the up bow in order to make it sound like a down bow. However one holds the bow, what's most important is to keep the base knuckles flexible.


May 25, 2011 at 04:56 AM ·

Nice videos Smiley!  Thanks


From my teacher...   for left fingers discipline

After a few years, I'm still having problems with my left hand fingers in anything by Mozart.  Either they block in trills, or they do the ornaments to fast, slow or with missing notes.  Sometimes I can start a motion (as a trill) am am not able to stop it (omg that looks like Parkinson... My grand-father has it so I know what's all about...)

I tried just about anything at any speed, sans vibrato, backwords with no success. (or short success that goes away overnight...)

Perhaps I'm an extrême case because Mozart is the most difficult for coordination am I that girl who can't even throw a ball in a straigh line... 

However, my teacher suggested a few lessons ago (desperate herself...) that I take the whole thing  at normal speed but just slow down tempo to do the ornaments and trills that normally block etc.  Slow down ennough to be able to hear all the notes in these ornaments/trills and feel I control my fingers.  And to practice like that for a few months to tame and discipline these fingers once and for all.  It's the best thing ever and I think it starts to give results.  I actually felt I had some control over my left hand that way!!!  And I fell it will help very much...

I would never have though of that since I though one could never never touch to (vary) the tempo in Mozart.  I though that the only way was to slow down the whole thing to have better control (since so many advocate slow practice to unblock fingers).



I also love the screw against a wall exercise.  Where one can do wide vibratos and anything else with as light pressure as possible from the left hand on the neck (and reproduce that feeling with out the wall)  Seems baby but once in a while one discovers many things. 

And look your left shoulder in a mirror as you play (one mirror one front of you, the other one in your back.  So you look in that in front and see your back very well as you play)  + straigh head days where you focus as a maniac on never never lie on the violin or bend your neck even slightly.  It's crazy how so many pros lift their left shoulder and don't have straight heads when they play.  

(but optimal playing potential and ergonomy/injury prevention is still with a straight head and  not lift shoulder)



May 26, 2011 at 04:47 AM ·


I`d just like to add a very neat shifting and scale sequence which can be reduced to a few minutes if required that covers shifting and so forth very efifciently.  Give it a whirl.

The preliminary exercises (using the a string)  strat on b first position for a dotted crotchet slurred to a quaver.  The first finger slides up from the b to fsharp IE a fifth.  The fourth finger then drops on the b octave on an up bow dotted crotchet which is then slurred to a quaver e in first position.  One leaves the first finger down at all times and returns to first position with the fourth finger down.   Lifting the fingers invalidates the exercise.  The next  move is the same rythm and bowing but the initial shift is to 6th posiotn g sharp with the first finger so the b octave is played with the third finger.  Go back down to first position on fingers three and one of course.  The next shift is to seventh position first finger so that the octave is palted with a second finger. Return to first psoiton on two and 1,  csharp  to b.  The last one is to eigth psotion with the octave shift on the first finger. Since the intermediary note is no longer required use minims and just play one of each note on each bow stroke.

This exercise is valueless if you doon`t hear the note you are going to shift to in your inner ear before oyu move.  As you get better at it increase the length of the dotted note and the shortness of the short note.  Learn to lighten the fngers on the string while shifting. 

After the preliminbary shifting work (fantastic ear and technique training) go onto covering most shifts within a one stirng one octabve scale using the following fingerings:

strating on b of course, slurred in the key of b major...








1134311 (roll the elbow under slightly while playing the 1st finger to aid the extension)


Seems I`m doing a lot of writing here so you can work u a few more patterns for the other kinds of arpeggios,  diminshed etc.

Thats a very short but powerful sequence.  To make it last longer and go deeper repeat it in pregressively higher psotions.  Always starting on first finger..

Then ther eare double stops. The purpose of these is to practice where you are going firts and then fil in the blanks.

UUsing quarter notes play thirds

13 (ist pos) goes to 1/3 third pos.

13 1st position goes to 2/4 second postion (IE same notes as above.

Now play 13/  13/ 24    24/13/13   by adding the middle third.

Now shift one postion higher IE

13 (1st pos)  13 (4th pos)

13 (1st pos)  24 (third  pos)


repeat prcedure until you are playing an octave scale in 3rds or even two.

do the same with sixths ,octacves and fingered octaves.




May 28, 2011 at 11:06 AM ·

Donuis Daily Dozen is great.  

Thanks Buri!  Great blog!

Here is a free copy:  It's a great exercise.


May 28, 2011 at 05:36 PM ·

Good stuff Michael.  I also like Buri's different finger patterns with scales and arpeggios.

May 29, 2011 at 12:22 PM ·

 a shout for smiley's loosening right hand exercise.  my kid has been using it as part of her warm up every time she plays the violin now. with other activities she is playing less violin but that exercise can quickly wake up her system when she does play.

as for other advice from other gurus, i wish they came with moving pics:)  

May 30, 2011 at 11:32 AM ·

Al, that is the exercise that I start with every time I take out my violin -- same goes for my son

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition
ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

AVIVA Young Artist Program

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine