How to move the same finger immediately between strings

Edited: October 15, 2017, 2:11 AM · Sometime a piece requires the violinist/student to shift the same finger to a different string immediately. I don't know what exercise/tips can help me make a smooth transition when this happens.

For example, in a piece I am currently practicing, 'River flows in you' by Yimura, one note requires your ring finger to be in first position of E string (which is A), the next note requires your ring finger in first position of A string (D). So your ring finger has to shift between two strings immediately.

I really don't know how to make it sound smoothly when that happens, and I would really appreciate if you can share your thoughts. I also don't have fat fingers to press two strings at the same time.

This is the video of a violinist playing this piece. The part that requires ring finger to immediately cross string is at 0:06:

Replies (19)

October 15, 2017, 4:14 AM · When you go to play that A try to stop the D with your finger at the same time.
Edited: October 15, 2017, 5:28 AM · My trio (violin/guitar/percussion) plays an arrangement of Celso Machado's Sambinha where this issue arises. I get around it by double-stopping the first E and B, in exactly the manner that Steve has described, and then playing the second E with open string. Sambinha is a slower piece so it's not really all that hard technically to switch strings but there is an expectation of vibrato in a piece like that.

Here's Machado's pretty tune, as it was originally written for two guitars. The main melody starts at 0:25. Great tune for improv because the keys are friendly and the changes go by slowly.

Edited: October 15, 2017, 5:40 AM · Having cellist's fingers, I generally don't have a problem in cross-string fifths. However, what I have seen among some good Irish fiddlers, is that they "roll" the finger across the fifth from one string to the other, activated by a swing of the elbow underneath. Cross-string fifths are not uncommon in Irish fiddle music, especially in the fast reels, which demand a fairly quick action and good coordination of bowing arm and elbow swing.
October 15, 2017, 6:11 AM · One trick I learned from my teacher was to play the first note with the 3rd finger and then shift up one position and play the second note with the 2nd finger (or 2 followed by 1). Obviously depends on the context and works better in slow music. It can produce quite a nice subtle portamento effect as well.
This problem appears quite early on in Suzuki book 1 which I thought was rather cruel when my son was learning. I think he ended up using Trevor's technique of rolling the finger, as his fingers were very thin at the time.
October 15, 2017, 8:16 AM · I would suggest continue working on covering both strings with the finger. It does not require fat fingers to do. What about when you have that as a double stop in a piece?

In the piece you show, this happens on a slur. Very difficult, if even possible to hop the finger to the other string and not be heard during a slur.

October 15, 2017, 8:28 AM · @Peter, actually the finger-rolling technique I described is what I've seen used by some players. I've never used it.
October 15, 2017, 10:08 AM · To play perfect fifths with the same finger; If you have wide finger-tips you play the double-stop. Less-wide finger-tips, you put the finger in between, rock it back and forth. Thin finger-tips; You're stuck. You might collapse the finger sideways like a guitarist using a bar chord, but it will be out of tune and mess-up your technique. You shift out of the problem if possible, use an adjacent finger with a 1/2 step shift. Those thin fingers will be an advantage later on when playing in high positions. Avoid perfect fifths with the fourth finger. Same finger for minor sixths or augmented fourths; You can usually avoid that problem by using a type of enharmonic fingering, use an adjacent finger. Cross-fingering on augmented fourths; you may need to put the fingers down in reverse order that you play them, which will seem mentally impossible at first. ~jq
October 15, 2017, 11:46 AM · You don't need very wide fingertips to block (place the finger on both strings) a fifth in first position, and that is how I would teach that particular spot. In other words, I agree with Steve and Laura.
October 17, 2017, 8:59 PM · Two things would be helpful, assuming your fingers are too skinny to make a double-block realistic:

1) Don't slur the transition like he does in the video.

2) When having to cross from a higher pitched string to a lower one, such as E to A or A to D, and in a situation where a slur is required and the same finger must be used, place the initial note with a flat angle of attack (think of coming in from the side with the finger, rather than a very upright finger), which will allow you room to "roll" to the lower string for a smooth transition, while simultaneously allowing vibrato for both.

October 18, 2017, 7:30 AM · hi Erik, can't that work too when crossing from lower to higher string?
October 18, 2017, 11:02 AM · Jean, it can, but in the opposite way. So one would want to plant their finger in a vertical position for the first note, and roll it over after (without letting the joint collapse, of course).
October 19, 2017, 1:51 PM · Thank you very much for your suggestions. I have tried rolling my fingers to press both strings when played. I discovered that it's doable. Sorry for this late reply to my own thread,


October 20, 2017, 2:03 PM · Will Willy,

Erik's answer is pretty standard and should work. You question did get my attention because of your reference to "ring finger" when the common reference among violinists is to simply call it Three or Third Finger.

That makes me wonder if you are trained to play in higher positions as I noted in the attached video where both third and fifth positions were being used a lot. It is just odd for a beginner question to be posed by someone planning to play a piece that requires higher position work.

Finally thanks for that reference I'm going to get the sheet music for myself. I was unaware of the tune and it could be useful.

October 20, 2017, 2:27 PM · Your problem is pretty elemental, meaning that it's faced in the first months, at least in my case. It's just a fifth, and you will find thousands and thousands of times a fifth.

First, you MUST learn to double-stop 2 strings with each of your fingers. You don't need "special" violinist fingers, it's just technique and practice until you can make a fifth sound good with just one finger.

Why you must learn it you ask?

Because if you can't do that, you simply won't be able to play hundreds of pieces. Being able to press 2 strings with one finger is a must, the majority of pieces I've learnt required that. Most pieces with chords require you to press 2 strings with one finger. It's as simple as that.

Now, there are also another ways to play a fifth: roll the finger, rapidly move your finger form one string to another... but as I said, in almost every serious violin piece you will need do it with one finger.

Edited: October 21, 2017, 2:42 AM · Thank you George and Tim,

In terms of playing violin I would certainly consider myself a beginner, buying my first ever violin 2 years 2 months ago on a Sydney sunny day.

My violin study is largely self-taught, primarily by following youtube videos. I know violin self-study is dangerous and having a teacher is ALWAYS much better, but I haven't been able to do it financially.

I intend to post my own videos of myself playing Thais Meditation and Salut D'Amour and ask for experienced members like you to correct my playing. I wonder if it is too self-centered??? I wonder if it is allowed in
I would be heavily indebted if this would help me correct my mistakes.

October 21, 2017, 7:51 AM · I'm repeating what's already been said, perhaps in a slightly different way. If you imagine a string in the middle, between the A and E strings, then this is what you finger to get the double-stop.

You can then go cleanly between strings with minimal movement, and certainly without having to lift the finger.

October 24, 2017, 11:38 AM · Think of it this way: it might be hard (at least right now) to stop two strings with one finger - but it's even harder to move from one string to the next, especially if you want it to sound good. And the double-stop will get easier with practice, while moving the finger (at just the right time) will always be hard.
October 25, 2017, 3:40 PM · Hi,
The spacing of the strings at the nut and the bridge can also
affect how easy 5ths are to play.(some violins are not set-up very well this way)


Edited: November 6, 2017, 3:16 PM · Slim fingers can be placed between the strings, a little nearer the bridge tha usual, to "catch" the strings with the opposites sides of the fingertip, which can be rolled a little during a slur.

Another "cheat" is to lighten the bow a little as we go over.

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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Yamaha YEV Series Violin
Yamaha YEV Series Violin

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

Metzler Violin Shop

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Pluhar Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings Ltd

Violin Lab

Violin Pros

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop