String Crossings: Four Strings

For practice purposes we can divide string-crossing passages involving four strings into several different types:

1: REGULAR: chords (and broken chords) in which there is one note per string

4 str regular REP

2: IRREGULAR: arpeggio type figures in which there is sometimes more than one note per string

4str irreg BachVI prelude

With respect to the slurring, both the regular and irregular types can (and should) be practiced with

  • completely separate bow strokes
  • completely slurred bowings
  • mixed slurred/separate bowings

3: WITH LEAPS: passages with jumps to non-adjacent strings

leaps 4 str

There is no point practing “leaping passages” with legato slurs because the middle string(s) will unavoidably be sounded. We can however practice them with portato bow strokes, in which the bow stops its horizontal movement during the stringcrossing leap.


Compilations of exercises and repertoire excerpts involving four strings can be found for each of these types of passage:

Regular Chordal Passages: REPERTOIRE EXCERPTS            Regular Chordal Passages: EXERCISES

Irregular Arpeggio Passages: REPERTOIRE EXCERPTS          Irregular Arpeggio Passages: EXERCISES

Four-String Leaping Passages: REPERTOIRE EXCERPTS            Four-String Leaping Passages: EXERCISES

Each passage/exercise can be practiced with many different bowings: slurred, separate, mixed, spiccato etc.

Of course, these subdivisions into different categories (regular, irregular and leaps) are only useful for practice purposes. In the repertoire, all the different techniques are often combined into delicious cocktails (recipes) of varied flavours, as in the following example from the Schumann Concerto:


We can use the Four-String Chord Charts to create our own bowing exercises to reinforce the different four-string crossing bowing problems that we will find in the repertoire.

Very often repertoire passages passages will be a combination of 3 and 4-string crossings. These mixed passages are included in the 4-string section.