String Crossings at the Frog

April 16, 2021, 9:35 PM · So my teacher has assigned me Kreutzer 13, but played at the frog. Whenever I’ve been practicing it, the string crossings sound very crunched and rigid. Any advice or thoughts?

Replies (8)

Edited: April 16, 2021, 11:01 PM · Greetings,
pay careful attention to contact point.
It helps for playing in general to understand the hand as just hanging from the forearm while visualizing the fingers as operating from something like the arm of a crane that is floating suspended in the air. What keeps that ar, floating is a huge counter weight (muscle) that resides in your upper back. Actually feeling that suspension coming from the back releases huge amounts of tension. Try comparing just lifting the arm to play and allowing the arm to float up in response to a counterweight swinging it up. It’s night and day..
Also be careful of the habit some people have of keeping a low elbow. Make sure the upper arm and bow stick coexist on the same plane as much as possible.
April 16, 2021, 11:13 PM · Greetings,
me again. I took it out to see if I could find other issues and one point Idid notice is that you have got to let the bow do the work for you. Once you are a the heel there is basically a huge weight (another pendulum in the same two posts) that is quite willing to drop downwards. You have to let that happen , just controlling the place on the string and sensitively feeling the bow so it doesn’t wobble all over the place in the tip area. Guiding the bow back up involves a slight sensation of rebound but weight management with the pinky and fourth finger. This is essentially to buil up strength in those area of a kind that will work with the bows natural inclinations rather than against them. It requires patience and regularity but will pay enormous dividends. My teacher’s teacher, Albert Sammons, told him that ‘Master the heel and you have mastered the bow.’ In Sammons book we can see this emphasis on the heel.
Also try playing dotted quaver semi quaver rhythms. Two notes to a bow with a break in between. That means you use part of the fingers down bow doing capacity, stop the bow and do another tiny down bow with the fingers. Then do the same on the up bow
To help develop the relaxed strength you need practice doing a colle down bow at the heel, quickly move the bow to the point , place it on the string and do a small up bow colle. Then back to the heel. When you are comfortable with this do the reverse.That is, up bow at the heel with the fingers and down bow with the fingers at the point. I recommend this as a daily exercise to all the violinists unlucky enough to cross my path.
Best of luck,
April 16, 2021, 11:26 PM · Hi Tam,

Firstly, I hope you are in agreement that the string-crossing (I mean the upper two strings - not the crossing under the slur) motion here is coming from the wrist, with some support coming from using your fingers like springs.

This exercise is tricky, because you have a few factors working against you. By playing at the frog, the motion you have to make in your hand is bigger than if you play it where it is meant to actually be played, much higher on the bow. For that reason, you have to figure out what the least amount of hand motion you need is.

The second factor working against you, and probably where the scratching is really coming from, is that the bow has a lot of natural weight at the frog, so you kind of have to figure out a way for the bow to be lighter. To do this, you have to make sure that your pinky is really balancing the bow (and curved of course), and that your hand is balanced pretty evenly. The weight of your pinky acts like a lever, and makes the bow seem lighter. You have to feel out the right amount of lightness to get you a good healthy sound, but without scratching (which means you have too much weight).

You will have to play around with the position of your hand and a number of these variables. You probably won't get this to be super comfortable, because the natural place to play this is much higher on the bow, but you can get this to a place without a bunch of scratchiness.

Good luck!

April 17, 2021, 12:42 AM · Greetings,
Christian, what you say about the wrist is not necessarily true.
`To be played at the extreme heel of the bow. The right hand should be over the strings, the action coming from the fingers only, and the movement of the hand and arm restricted as much as possible.’
There is a long tradition of teaching this study using only the fingers. Simon Fische once famously described it as ‘a very Carl Fleschy thing to do.’
Edited: April 17, 2021, 3:43 AM · Hi,
you have to be aware of what an etude is meant for: Sometimes, it is just meant for practicing a certain technique in an extreme way, and the sound quality is less relevant.
You would never perform this piece playing extremely at the frog. I have myself had students practice similar excerpts of etudes or scales at the frog.
My intention for these students was to force them to play in an uncomfortable bow position, in order for them to simply get used to that place. As a result, it felt really comfortable for them to play in the normal lower half, when necessary. These students used to have the habit of playing everything at the upper part. Might this be the case for you? Then, I would not worry about the tone, at all, and rather focus on not leaving that awkward position and regard this as a sort of purely sportive exercise, instead.

Another intention might be to make you practice the flexibility of your fingers and improving the bow hold basics. We all are constantly being told to release tension, but when trying to relax, we tend to confuse relaxing with complete loosening, so that muscles you need to control the bow get totally passive.
Actually, many people relax the fingers too much (often while still keeping a stiff wrist). The fingers are your direct contact to the bow and should not hesitate grabbing it pretty firmly. Firm, but in an elastic way, so that you can control and bend them at all times. That exercise forces this motion. You MUST grab the bow firmly, otherwise it falls off. And you MUST actively move all the joints of your fingers and also the wrist, in order to execute the string crossings.

Again, I would focus on a flawless execution of the desired motions rather than on the tone. This prepares you to improve your tone, when you need it, later.
I have often demonstrated something like that to my students with extreme scratching, in order to show them that this is fine while exploring the boundaries of playability.

Edited: April 17, 2021, 4:41 AM · For those who do play mostly with a lowish elbow and a "cat's paw" hand:
- the counter-balance of muscles in the back is still vital to "float the arm";
- the corner of the thumb is a fulcrum over which the weight of the bow is counter balanced and steered by the ring finger and pinky;
- a proportion of the actual stroke will come from the wrist to avoid excessive participation of the "clumsy" forearm and upper arm.

Just my 2 centimes d'€uro..

Edit: I don't do much "scratching" but I do practice with a light but incisive collé stroke, frequently necessary on the viola, even in pianissimo.

April 17, 2021, 11:18 AM · I will have to experiment with that Buri. When I pulled the etude out, I couldn't figure out a way of doing it except with the wrist motion, but I noticed there was quite an active participation of the fingers; however, even like that, the string crossing still has a certain baseline clumsiness, so perhaps this is a chance for me to learn something new. I'm quite sure you can just about dispense with forearm participation, but I'm not sure you can totally do so with the wrist, however I think trying to reduce wrist movement is a good way of thinking about it. I will have to report back if I have some kind of personal insight!
April 17, 2021, 3:56 PM · Hi Christian,
well, it’s a super study whatever way one chooses to use it. I actually prefer the sevcik opus 3 studies for wrist training. I do believe one should aim for a beautiful sound at the frog. On my violin there is a substantial differenc between the g string contact point and the other two strings where I one has to play very close to the bridge.

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