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Brandon Haskett

String Techniques F261

Emily Nehus



Pizzicato (right hand)- plucking of the string with the finger at the middle of the string

Double-stop- the playing of two notes at the same time

Detache- a bow stroke using a regular up-bow or down-bow

Martele- stopped bow

Arco- bowed (not pizzicato)

Sul ponticello- bowed near the bridge

Sul tasto (or flautando)- Bowed over the fingerboard

Col legno- with the wood of the bow

Sounding point- the point at which a string is most resonant

Slur- the two notes being slurred are bowed with one stroke in the same direction


Vln. = Violin

Vla. = Viola

When in doubt about an abbreviation, the instrument can usually be determined by the clef the instrumentís part is written in as well as the range of the part.


Every string player needs a quality horsehair bow (preferably not of fiberglass), a cake of rosin, a clean, soft cloth (for removing fingerprints, rosin, etc.), a string cleaning solution (to remove caked-on rosin), a quality chin-rest, and a quality shoulder-rest. The strings on the instrument should be of the same quality as in orchestra and not steel. Synthetic hair bows should not be purchased because they can not produce the same quality of sound as horsehair. Lower string players also need a quality rock-stop or leather strap to keep their instrument firmly in place. However, if neither of these are available the player must find a hole in the floor or ridge where the peg with stay in place. This is not recommended though, because the instrument will tend to shift and move more than with a rock-stop.

Anatomy of a string instrument


The bridgeís job in all stringed instruments (not just upper strings) is to support the strings and transmit vibrations. The bridge should be aligned vertically with the notches in the F hole. If this not the case, the bridge can be braced with the hands and moved carefully in the direction needed. However, if the feet of the bridge must be moved, this is best done by a string technician, as it is easy to mess up or break the bridge.



The pegs are used to adjust the strings to the correct pitch and maintain this tension in the string. Pegs sometimes need to be lubricated with peg dope to allow them to move smoothly. When a string is to be replaced, take care to not wind the string on top of an earlier layer on the string. If the string is on top of itself, it may cut through lower layers, breaking the string. On upper string instruments, the pegs tend to move fairly easily and a small movement on the peg will make a noticeable adjustment. However, on the lower strings there is quite a bit of tension as well as a great length of string. These instruments take a bigger adjustment of the pegs to notice a pitch change. To adjust pegs on a lower instrument especially, one hand should brace behind the scroll as the other hand turns the peg. Once the strings are fairly in tune, fine tuners should be used to make small adjustments. When purchasing instruments try to get instruments with fine tuners as they aid greatly in getting a quality sound from an ensemble.





The tailpiece basically only functions to hold the end of the strings in relation to the bridge. Modern tailpieces tend to be made of synthetic material, however, originally they were made of gut.



Ranges of the string family





















Effective methods for establishing relaxed and correct playing position:

  1. Statue of liberty
  2. -Take the instrument in resting position and extend it up to the left with the left arm.

    -Lower it towards your collarbone and your jawbone. Find a comfortable position here. The shoulder rest should be placed in a spot that helps your body support the instrument and hold it firmly in place.

  3. Slide the left hand all the way up on the strings and tap on the far side of the strings. Slide the hand back to playing position. Make sure the studentís wrist is not locked against the neck. This exercise should help alleviate this problem.
  4. Utilize left-hand slides up the length of the strings and back.

Standing position

  1. Stand with left foot slightly in front of right foot, but spread a little less than shoulderís width apart.
  2. Make sure not to lock knees.
  3. Stand comfortably straight up
  4. Keep head facing forwards

Sitting position (all strings except bass)

  1. Donít slouch and sit near the edge of the chair
  2. Keep both feet firmly on the floor
  3. Do not cross legs

Sitting position (Cellos)

  1. Be able to stand from sitting position
  2. -In other words sit as close to the edge of the chair as you can comfortably and sit leaning a little towards the cello

  3. Have the bottom right hand peg at ear level and just a little behind the left ear
  4. Cello should be supported somewhat (but not held) with the legs
  5. Position legs so that accessing the A or C string that the bow does not hit the leg

Fingering patterns for violin, viola, cello, and bass


Pattern I 0 1 2 3 4


Pattern II 0 1 2 3 4



Pattern I 0 1 3 4 0


Pattern II 0 1 2 4 0



Pattern I 0 1 2 4 0


Pattern II 0 1 2 0 1


Development of a relaxed bow hold

  1. Once in playing position, slide the left hand as far towards the bridge as possible, and place your fingers over the strings. Tap your fingers on the body of the instrument using your left-hand fingers. This serves to relax the fingers and get them moving before having to utilize them in playing. The bow can be sat on the lap for this exercise.
  2. Bow crawling is another good exercise. First, take the bow with either hand and hold it at the very top of the bow. How crawl your fingers down the bow to the bottom, without help from your other hand. This exercise is good for building muscles in the hand, as well as relaxing your fingers.
  3. Shadow bowing is also effective as it allows the student to isolate the bow stroke from actions of the left hand. This involves bowing over oneís shoulder while not fingering, or bowing in the bend of the left arm while fingering. Either way, it is effective in silently working the bow stroke.
  4. From the viola lecture

I guess we could call this exercise "arm flopping" or " canít find my ROSIN so Iím throwing a fit"

-First, take your elbows and touch them together

-Then allow your wrists to flop loosely, pointing away from you, in this position

-Then slowly let your wrists turn inwards and you are basically doing the motion for vibrato and it keeps the children interested


-Students tend to lift and place the fingers in a new position when, in some instances, it would be more efficient to slide

-Students tend to look in the direction of the instrument, instead of keeping their head forward

-Students will tend to have problems holding the bow without letting either their picky tense up, or their thumbs to straighten

-Students tend to forget to loosen the bow before placing it in the case

-Students will tend to shorten their bow stroke when focusing on fingering problems that challenge them.

-Students when playing bass tend to let their thumb on their left hand to become horizontal with the ground as opposed to keeping it vertical

-Students when trying to press down a highly tensioned string on the bass, tend to create tension in their left hand or use incorrect techniques to depress strings

-Students when playing cello, tend to have problems getting a quality sound at first because they are not dropping their arm weight in the right arm

-Student tend to have problems finding a balance point for the bass against their body

Cleaning the instruments

  1. With a soft, non-abrasive cloth wipe down the body of the instrument removing rosin dust
  2. Slide the cloth underneath the fingerboard to remove dust from here
  3. A cloth with rubbing alcohol may be used to clean the strings and the unvarnished part of the neck of the instrument. DO NOT use the alcohol cloth on a varnished part of the instrument, it will remove the varnish.
  4. Again, using the alcohol-free cloth clean between the hairs of the bow and the stick, taking cares to avoid touching the horsehair with yours fingers. The oil causes the horsehair not to grip as well to the strings.

String repair/equipment box

Should include:

-Spare cakes rosin


-Spare strings (if budget allows)

-Tape (to mark fingerboards and pinky houses)

-Rubber bands



-Leather straps

-Rubber alcohol

-Several soft clothes

-Peg dope


-Band aids (you never know what might happen when a string or something breaks)

Pictures of accessories (for reference)


Picture of the frog of the bow



Picture of the tip of the bow




Picture of a typical violin case

Picture of a chin rest for violin or viola

Picture of a typical cake of rosin



This is the kind of package that new strings normally come in.