The Magical Practice of Bowing On Open Strings

Playing on the open strings is your magical amulet for more fun and productive sessions. Do this at the start, middle and end of a practice period. It’s a way for the mind and body to relax and reset.

This practice is for everyone, beginner to expert.

Start with open strings

Play an open string G. Pay attention to the breath. Shift your attention to the body. See if there’s any tension there. If so, then try to relax that part of the body.

Next, allow yourself to enjoy the sound and the feeling of that open string note. In that moment, you are that sound. Close your eyes and go deeper with this.

Next, experiment with play different patterns and textures:

  • Tremolo
  • Play quietly (short bows) and loudly (long bows)
  • Simple rhythms

You can return to this simple practice throughout a session.


Conversational practice

There’s a nice way to integrate open string practice with challenging things.

Alternate between something difficult and simple notes on an open string. So if you’re practicing the A Part, First Quarter of Blackberry Blossom, you could alternate between these two pieces




Get to the point where you can do it easily in free time (without a beat). Maybe leave a little pause before you start the challenge again.

Next try to alternate between these to pieces in a continuous Practice Loop. Fiddle with the number of eighth notes you play (maybe try 16 instead of eight). Or play a different length note when you alternate to open strings, like quarter notes;


If you can play it continuously with flow, then try to add a beat. Here’s a beat with brushes:

Find more beats in Beat Central.

Use open strings to work on technical challenges

Work out new and challenging slur patterns with this strategy. For example, say you want to work on Slur Across Strings with Slur Four on this pattern:


Play it twice with separate bows, then twice with slur four. Do more or less repetitions on each segment as needed. This is what I call a Practice Loop.

Use this strategy to practice tune variations.


On a higher level, you can return to bowing open strings between repetitions of a whole tune. For example, play a repetition of Kerfunken Jig, then simple play open D string for a bit before taking another pass at the tune. Again, this is just a nice way to relax and reset body, breath and mind.

Wind-down, end on a high note

Finally, at the end of a practice session, play on open strings as a wind-down. This is a way to seal in the practice. End on a High Note. Then you walk away from the session with a feeling of calm accomplishment 🏆


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