We all know that the bow is the hardest part of playing the violin, but there are some exercises you can do to help! Today, I am sharing with you my top exercises that I teach my own students for improving slurs, string crossings, and hooked bows. If you are struggling with one of these in particular, I encourage you to jump to that exercise specifically. Otherwise, give all three a go!
I've also included variations on each of these exercises (a level two, if you will), for even more practice. You'll see a preview of each of these exercises throughout this post, and beneath the photo preview is a PDF document of the exercises for you to download and print. Now, let's get started!
1. Practicing Slurs
For this exercise, identify the midpoint (or halfway point) of your bow, as that is the part of the bow you will be changing notes. Try your best to keep your bow on the string the whole time, and use the same amount of bow each time for consistency.
2. Practicing String Crossings
For this one, identify the amount of bow you will be using throughout. I'd recommend staying within the middle third of the bow. Once you have played the two notes on the open string, stop your bow on the string. Then, slowly roll your bow to the new string, keeping an eye on the bow hair as you do this, and making sure to keep contact with the strings the whole time. Repeat the pattern as notated.
3. Practicing Hooked Bows
For this exercise, you will play one long open A on a down bow, followed by two open As on an up bow, divided by the midpoint. There will be a slight separation between the two up bow notes, as indicated by the dots. Be sure to keep a steady tempo, and avoid rushing the eighth notes.
And there you have it! Those were my top three exercises for helping with bow patterns that we commonly encounter in violin/fiddle music. Now, check out the video below for a visual demonstration and explanation of each of these exercises.