Open String Exercises

Edited: August 22, 2023, 5:30 PM · I've read that Leon Sametini, a pupil (and possibly the son) of Ysaye, had his student, a young Aaron Rosand, play open strings at lessons for 6 months.

Does anyone know or have open strings exercises they recommend? I suppose I can concoct my own, but don't want to re-invent the wheel. Thank you!

Replies (12)

August 22, 2023, 7:43 PM · I don't know the answer you're looking for but I can tell you that six months of open strings will only work on the most driven and single-minded pupil. I know a talented student who was subjected to a long interval of open-strings. I'll spare you the details but it ended very poorly.
August 22, 2023, 11:59 PM · Greetings,
I think there is an important distinction between -only- and -as part and parcel of a routine.- I am quite happy to play bowing exercises on open strings when I really want to focus on the mechanism. An open string played only with the weight of the bow followed by sub dividing and adding crescendos and diminuendoes. Also extremely rapid stokes that slow down in the last small section and then subdividing again so that it is practices in all parts of the bow. I think I often use open strings on son file as well. But all these need to be done with left hand at some point because we have to manage the interaction of left and right side.
August 23, 2023, 7:01 AM · I suppose it depends what you are trying to achieve.

Minute bow is a classic, loads of demos of how it's done on you tube.

August 23, 2023, 8:18 AM · I suspect (but don't remember) that for the 6 months between receiving my first violin on my 4th birthday and starting lessons I only played open strings, most of the day, every day (that I do remember).
August 23, 2023, 12:34 PM · I'm interested in open string exercises for warming up my bow arm. I'm experiencing shoulder and elbow issues. My bow arm just ain't what it used to be! I find that 80% of my warm up efforts are taken up by the right hand and 20% by the left hand. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Thank you.
August 23, 2023, 12:43 PM · Auer's Method Volume 1?
Edited: August 23, 2023, 3:41 PM · Hi Alexander,
Welcome to the club of the slightly aged. I would just note that (not for you) this 80/20 ratio of focus is , in my opinion, exactly right for violin practice. It is all to easy to do it the other way round (left hand is so much more attractive) . This is one of the commonest errors up to intermediate level.
I would definitely start with the chicken wing pump at the tip of the bow. Arm doesn’t chang shape but just crossses all string as though playing the Mendelssohn concerto.
Then hold the ow firmly and while retaining the shape of your hand move the bow in any and all directions including much further to the left than a normal down bow.Nothing to do with the violin , just wave your arm everywhere like it was spaghetti but with a firm neutral bow hold.
Then I play WBs using only bow weight . The reason I do this is to monitor very carefull the trapezium and upper arm to check they are not doing anything at all. I suspect a slight contraction in this area is more the cause of bow jitters than what the right hand does.
I then do a cresc/dim within one bow. Then two, up to about 12 so it morphs into a weight (not speed) accent.
Then I do bow speed exercises where almost the WB is fast but slows for the last 10 cms. Then twice in one stroke (5 cm). Only up to six times in a bow stroke.
Then I do bow angling so it moves towards and away from the bridge five or six times per stroke
I often do son file here because although it is one of the best exercises ever it can make your muscles sleepy. So, by following it with the rapid WBs we avoid that problem...
Then I do WBs on each sound point. SP5 is Mm 80 which reduces as I get nearer the bridge.
I would also add doing colle at heel jump to point, jump to middle etc. This is a major exercise. You can d find it in the collected works of Dounis. I usually do this on Kreutzer no2 though.
Another important one is string crossing smoothly. There are plenty of exercises in Basics or Drew Lechers Violin technique book that cover this.
Then play some Bach….
Warmest regards,
August 23, 2023, 9:02 PM · Excellent suggestions, Stephen Brivati! Many thanks for taking the time and effort to share your valuable insights. You ought to post a video on YouTube showing these exercises! And yes, unaccompanied Bach is essential to my warm up routine. Thanks again!
August 24, 2023, 3:13 AM · At 74yo I find I (very) often need to re-awaken sensations and motions that I used to take for granted. Another publication which I find helpful is the Six Lessons With Yehudi Menuhin, who had to completely overhaul his bowing, with some success. He works on combining our natural arc motions, and his "genealogy of bow strokes" is pure genius.
August 24, 2023, 9:53 AM · Thanks, Adrian. I have Menuhin's book. I'll look into it.
August 25, 2023, 9:09 AM · Hi Stephen. I just ordered Prof. Drew Lecher's book. Thank you for the recommendation!
August 25, 2023, 3:39 PM · Me too!

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