Hitting other strings while playing

January 11, 2006 at 07:13 AM · One of my young students's moms wants to know why her daughter always accidentally plays other strings when playing her Book 1 Bach Minuet. My student is aware of the problem, and tries to 'aim' better, but she still can't play anything without doing this.

The mom asked me why, so I told her because she's not concentrating enough....but to be honest, I'm not sure why. Why do you think students hit other strings? I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that strings are so close together bowing-wise.

Replies (18)

January 11, 2006 at 07:17 AM · An idea for a cure: have her play her entire piece on just open strings.

January 11, 2006 at 07:18 AM · Funny that her mom raised the question and not her teacher...hmmm.

Make sure her bridge isn't too flat. And the curve should be a section of a circle, meaning only one string might be too low. I had every problem except this, so I'd assume hardware.

Othewise, long slow bows with her teacher watching what's happening with her arm seems like the obvious thing to do.

January 11, 2006 at 09:35 AM · Hi,

I guess "always" could stand a little more analysis:

  • on every note?
  • always on the same part?
  • randomly?
  • depending on who's listening/watching?
  • what about other pieces (different/similar)?
  • more on lower strings, more on higher strings, only on a specific string?
  • what about playing the same piece with another fiddle and/or bow?
  • at every tempo?

Probably a thorough evaluation of the above points will get you closer to the cause which might be any combination of nervousness, carelessness, lack of bowing technique, taste (maybe she hates Bach?), hardware or setup.

Why not practise with a videotape and analyze the problem together?

Happy teaching, Juergen

January 11, 2006 at 12:57 PM · Look at her bow wrist...if it is not a straight extension off her arm when at the middle of her bow, this could be causing the problem.

Another thought is that she isn't aware of how her elbow lifts up and down as she tips from one string to the next.

Maybe she has selective listening and dosn't notice the other strings being hit unless you mention it to her.

I agree with a previous poster...have her play open strings...but have her do a bunch of just E then just A and so on, watching elbow and wrist the whole time. This would be a good warm-up...to establish string boundaries. ;)

Best of luck.

January 11, 2006 at 01:01 PM · I thought it's something she might grow out of, maybe with more practicing and developing technique, it might solve itself.

Could be her bridge, she doesn't have a nice violin anyway.

It happens a couple times a piece. I was focusing on other things (like, not stopping, playing in tune, in time, and without a frown).

I haven't listened for a pattern yet, so all I can say now is that it happens randomly. Probably a little moreso on the A & D than A & E.

January 11, 2006 at 01:08 PM · Don't worry....I totally understand about needing to prioritize lesson objectives from the most fundamental out to details. Perhaps tell the mother this as well so she understands you aren't ignoring it. Sometimes parents get ahead of things and want to know why their kids aren't doing "x" when they haven't mastered "A" yet. Explain to mom that the violin is full of complex, subtle, and highly-coordinated movements all put together and it takes a while to get them all sorted out in a beginner and you will get to it once more basic details are ironed out.

January 11, 2006 at 04:24 PM · Yeah, and it's harder to do it with a transfer student who comes from a totally different background and needs everything sorted out.

Thanks for the suggestions!

January 12, 2006 at 04:19 AM · If the mom really wants you to do something about it, take the student back to long, slow bows on open strings. Pick apart the bow stroke, paying particular attention to the elbow and wrist level, not letting the student do anything else until they are absolutely on the same plane as the bow, and the bow stays at the same angle for the entire stroke. Then let the student seesaw between two strings, first playing on one string, then stopping the note, using the elbow as a rudder to change angles, then playing a note on the new string. When this can be done perfectly, go back to the piece and bow it on open strings, as Laurie recommended.

I'm an adult, and I went back to study this just a year or so ago, myself. The pianist inside me wanted to change the bow angle slightly with every note in my arpeggios--as though they gradually moved toward the next string--when really, all the notes are either on one string or another and not anywhere in between. The elbow is responsible for this decision and needs to be made consciously aware of which string is being played.

This being said, I doubt they want this kind of overhaul. It's tedious and takes up most of the lesson time. I swear, I could have all my students bowing on open strings for eternity if I didn't give a flip about what they wanted. But I suppose there needs to be some enjoyment in there somewhere... :)

You could just see if the student grows out of it. Heh. Slowing down and listening usually does help things to sort themselves out.

January 12, 2006 at 05:54 AM · Since you say it could be the bridge, I'm pretty sure it is. I think not accidently hitting an adjacent string is normally very natural and I don't know if anybody "concentrates" on it. You never see it, unlike playing out of tune for instance. Since the parent is interested, maybe it will be easy to get them to get the bridge looked at by somebody good.

P.S. Emily, sure the angle can be different. It's called legato string crossing...

January 12, 2006 at 06:23 AM · Isn't legato that thing you do when you go real slow?

I was referring to moving the bow to the next string in the middle of a bunch of notes on the same string just because you hear them going higher (or lower). But you've heard my arpeggios, so feel free to correct me how ever much you like.

I forgot to mention overshooting happens when you use too much movement when changing strings and hit the string on the other side. Something else to avoid.

January 12, 2006 at 06:31 AM · Hmmm. Maybe your bridge is busted. Can you smell that volcano? Does it smell like roses?

January 12, 2006 at 06:38 AM · I think that's just something I ate.

I can't even find anything about it, about if we'll get any ash precip, how many inches... I suppose we'll see more in the paper tomorrow. News is slow around here.

Smell the burning flesh

Taste the tangy sulfur air

Volcano season

January 12, 2006 at 06:38 AM · The day before you got back from Hawaii there was news of a different volcano that they said was making your peninsula smell like rotten eggs.

January 12, 2006 at 06:52 AM · Not Augustine? Redoubt? Illiumna? Spurr? Spur was a little pesky a while ago. Augustine supposedly erupted this morning. Something like an 8,000 ft plume? I want to see pictures. That's the one I can't see from here. It's a brown island down the ways a bit. There was talk of possible tsunami. Didn't happen, I guess.

January 12, 2006 at 06:51 AM · Augustine. Pics here

January 12, 2006 at 06:58 AM · Thanks. Forget 8,000 feet. I read 30,000. I hope there are more photos. That's the most exciting thing that's happened here today.

January 12, 2006 at 07:06 AM · I see the "other one" was also Augustine.


"Residents on the Kenai Peninsula about 50 miles across Cook Inlet have reported the rotten-egg smell of sulfur fumes floating into their communities."

January 12, 2006 at 07:25 PM · I haven't read the above posts, but I will say one possibilty of why it's happening. That possibility is her arm. When crossing strings your student might not be preparing the arm before. Make sure the arm is on the right string level BEFORE it reaches it, because if the arm is only high enough after reaching a lower string, for example, it will be messy. So try have her doing it slow and concentrating on her arm so that it is always on the right string level and prepared before a change. Also, maybe her pinky is not doing its job in balancing the bow so the weight of it hits other strings. Check out the pinky too. Hope that helps.

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

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

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

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

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