Fast string crossing (Mozart 39, 2nd violin) help needed ASAP please!

July 14, 2006 at 08:00 PM · Can anyone help me? My string crossing is not what it should be. I'm talking about long bows with fast crossings between two strings legato in the long bow. I'm fine doing this slow or even a medium tempo but I can't seem to get it right at a fast speed. I can't co-ordinate the bow. I'm stuck with the opening of the 2nd violin part of Mozart 39 last movement, which has these crossings. They are semiquavers (or sixteenth notes) one to each string (GDGDGD DADADA etc), and the crotchet (or quarter note) should be roughly MM135-138. Please help, I have to play this next week in an audition and I can't seem to co-ordinate the crossings properly, especially changing from an up to a down bow or visa verca. I can only do it at about a crotchet (quarter note) MM110. I think the technique is different at the faster speed and if someone could give me a magical tip that would be great. Oh and the passage should be piano, so I can't dig too much into the string.

Please help!!!


Replies (8)

July 14, 2006 at 09:11 PM · Hopefully, you'll get more responses than mine, since I'm an amateur. But how about trying to practice it on the open strings first.


July 14, 2006 at 09:24 PM · Hi Sander,

Thanks for your response. I am doing them on open strings and also with one open string and one finger down on the other to stop resonance getting in the way of clarity.

These six or so bars are the only thing I am really worried about for this audition, they may not ask for this excerpt but I would rather know that I could do it as cleanly as possible and not hope that they don't ask for it.

July 14, 2006 at 10:11 PM · Try splitting the bowing in half (the number of notes to fit in a bow). Are you capable of doing the string crossings that way?

If so, practice that way and incrementally add in string crossings to the first bowstroke. If by the time of the auditions you haven't gotten the whole bow down, you could probably get away with the split bowing.

July 15, 2006 at 01:57 AM · I would try to use as little movement as possible. When crossing from the G to D, keep your arm in a position where you play on the G string with the bow as close to the D as you can. This requires just a slight movement of the fingers or wrist.

This is a good way to practice the 2nd variation of the 24th caprice. I practiced that by playing double stops where the string crossings occur at first and then eventually doing the string crossing in the above fashion.

Helps me but may be common sense to others...

July 15, 2006 at 06:33 AM · Hi Mark,

It may be that you tighten as you try to play faster, as many of us do. More than what exercises you do, it's how you do them that will make the difference. The fast string crossing requires a flexible wrist as you tip the bow from string to string with a hand motion very similar to the hand vibrato. Tightening on either side of the wrist will inhibit wrist motion. I.e., gripping the bow with the fingers tightens the wrist; rigidity anywhere in the rest of your arm (forearm, bicep/tricep, shoulder socket) tightens the wrist. Try waving 'bye-bye' (rhythmically) with a very floppy hand and see how the rest of your arm responds. When you throw your hand down, the arm flips up slightly; when you throw your hand up, the arm flips down slightly (counter motions are important for freedom in all motions). Also notice that it becomes difficult to throw the hand freely if the fingers (especially the thumb) grip tightly.

Think of one thing at a time: a) keep the bow suspended in your fingertips, especially at the frog - let the stick hang from your fingers with almost no pressure from the thumb; b) be aware of how you suspend the weight of your upper arm throughout the stroke; c) feel the countermotion of the arm; d) as you play faster, keep the motions smaller

Try the following exercises (similar to trill and vibrato exercises):

1) Play on the lower string (e.g. G) while throwing the hand down to the upper string (e.g. D) and back

2) Play on the upper string while throwing the hand up to the lower string and back (most find this the more difficult motion)

3) Play on both strings, throwing the hand up and down to cross strings

Practice in rhythms: e.g. play short-long: GD--GD--GD, etc., and vice-versa; play short-short-long: GDG--DGD--GDG, etc.; short-short-short-long: GDGD--GDGD--GDGD, etc., and vice-versa. Keep subdividing the rhythms until you reach your goal. Use a metronome and make every motion rhythmic. As with all rhythmic practice, hold the long notes as long as you need to at first (in multiples of the beat) to evaluate what you just did and to prepare for the next group. Start the next group on the beat. Gradually shorten the long note. Keep the bow close to both strings (the elbow is centred at a level between the two strings as if playing doublestops). Keep the number of rhythmic groups same for both up and down bow - i.e. measure the bow.

Practice even, slurred bowings: groups of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, etc. Start on one string, then the other. Keep the tempo the same, and accelerate the rhythm with subdivisions: duplets, triplets, quads, etc.

Next, play your piece as written starting under tempo, increasing the tempo gradually to over tempo. Pause between bars to remember the fluid motion you developed in the exercises. Finally, focus on phrasing should help coordinate and free your motions.

Good luck with the audition!


July 15, 2006 at 03:46 PM · In Mozart's day, tempi were vastly slower than they are today. Not only that, string tension was lower and concert pitch was different. Hence this particular passage wasn't meant to be performed at the blistering speeds taken today.

Often when confronted with a difficult string crossing, I'll rework the fingering to get it on a single string. That's a technique that I stole from guitar.

July 16, 2006 at 09:54 AM · Thankyou all for your responses especially Jeewon Kim for such a comprehensive list of things to do. I hadn't thought of the bye-bye motion from the wrist and think I might have been trying to do it from the arm, as well as having some tension somewhere. I had a rehearsal and concert yesterday so not much time for practise, but I intend to spend a lot of time today using everyones tips.

Thankyou again!

July 16, 2006 at 08:42 PM · You're welcome, Mark. Let us know how things go.



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