Here’s a simple way to clean up your string crossing. I call it Stop n’ Rock.
Let’s warm up by just rocking between the D and A strings. Feel how the angle is different on each string. Next we’ll do the actual stop n’rock exercise.
Place the lower third of the bow on the strings.
Do a quick downbow.
Fully stop the bow.
Pause, and then slowly rock to the other string.
Do a quick upbow.
Pause, and then slowly rock back to the first string.
This will help you play more precisely because it trains your arm where to go, what the correct angle is and how it should feel. You have to really take your time on the rock. Your arm needs more time to figure this out than your brain.
After you’ve done stop n’ rock awhile, don’t stop the bow, let it flow. Do your best to keep it precise, but don’t try to hard. Then, return to stop n’ rock. Continue alternating like this.
Is this exercise just for beginners?
No. Like a lot of the rudimentary exercises, you can return to stop n’rock throughout your career as a fiddler. More advanced players can integrate fingering into this. If you’re playing a tricky string crossing part from a tune, just practice it with stop n’ rock.
Try to enjoy the movement of this as well as the sound. Awareness of how the body moves and feels will be a tremendous help.
Here is a quick way for you to access the essential practice tools you need. Under each tab you'll find play-along tracks, tabs and condensed teachings to help you as you practice. This is an evolving idea, so let me know in a comment below if it could be better.
Here's a newer version of the Notefinder which is based on sheet music. If you're interested in learning to read, this will be an invaluable reference. I'll be posting lessons on this in 2020.
Note: the brackets indicate notes that are the same pitch but spelled differently. For example, AH3 (D#) sounds the same as AL4 (Eb). Without going into too much teory detail here, this will be determined by the key of the tune or piece you are playing.
Here's he original table version of the Notefinder. Sometimes people learn in different ways...
Sawmill tuning Notefinder
This is used to find notes in Sawmill tuning (when the G string is tuned up to A and the D string is tuned up to E). If you're a beginner...best to ignore this! Learn more about sawmill tuning in the Appalachian Fiddle course.
Here are some common scales used in fiddle tunes. Each runs through a series of variations: two bows legato, two bows staccato, four bows, tucka (4 shorts, two longs), hoedown (1 long, two shorts), throwaway bow, triplets, tremolo.
G Major, starting on D3
Practice a tune with its scale (Kerry Polka is in G major, so practice a G major scale). Practice scales before, during and after practicing tunes.
Always return to a good sound, even if it means playing quarter notes on the D string. You can do this! You just have to remember to pause on practicing the challenging thing and just get a good sound on single notes.
Why do this? Because it will bring you deep joy. And it will build your confidence which will inspire further practice.