Five Way Practice

An Organized Approach to Practicing a string instrument

Have fun working on a trouble spot or a favorite spot in your music.



Some suggestions for independent practice

Rebecca Henry, Peabody Institute  


  • Select 5 different ways to play it from the list below
  • Play it 5-10-20 times each way. IMPORTANT:  Listen carefully, and after each time you play it, think about what you heard and how you might like to make it better on the next repetition. 

 Five Way Practice Download

I.Notes and Intonation (no vibrato)


  1. 1 per bow, whole notes, no vibrato. Listen for “the ring” and adjust.
  2. Mark half steps in the music.
  3. Play the scale in the key of this section.
  4. Overlap bowing (A; slur AB; BC; CD).
  5. Overlap bowing, go back and forth if it is out of tune and try and hit it.
  6. Play the finger pattern (1234) up and down.
  7. Play the finger pattern in different orders (1234, 1324, 1342, etc.).
  8. Play with correct rhythm, one note per bow, very slowly.
  9. Play with correct rhythm and bowings, very slowly for intonation.
  10. Check all E, A, D, G notes with open strings.
  11. Look for arpeggios in your music and play them forwards and backwards.
  12. Hold the first note of each (measure/bar/beat) longer. (or 2nd note, 3rd note, etc., depending on the passage).
  13. Make up a way to work on intonation in your piece.




  1. Clap and count the rhythm
  2. “Slash” the beats in the music on trouble spots.
  3. Write the rhythm under the notes (1&2&3&)
  4. Play the rhythm on an open string.
  5. Sing the passage any way you want.
  6. Conduct the beat pattern and sing, say or count the rhythm.
  7. Play the rhythm on an open string, tapping your foot on the pulse.
  8. Play the passage and count aloud.
  9. Play the passage and tap your foot on the subdivision (smaller beat).
  10. Play the passage and tap your foot on the large beat.
  11. Play the passage with a metronome on the subdivision.
  12. Play the passage with a metronome on the large beat.
  13. Experiment with the timing of a ritard .
  14. Play in rhythms  (long/short, short/long, etc.)
  15. Make up a way to practice the rhythm.




  1. Play with your best feet posture…flat on the floor, loose knees
  2. Play with your best head/neck shoulder posture
  3. Play standing still
  4. Play while gently shifting your weight from foot to foot
  5. Play keeping your bow arm heavy and relaxed
  6. Play keeping your left arm and thumb relaxed
  7. Play with your mouth slightly open (don’t bite your tongue).
  8. Play and lift and drop your head when you change bows at the tip.
  9. Play while slowly moving your head from left to right.
  10. Think about whatever your teacher is asking you to improve.
  11. Think about something you would like to improve.





  1. Play the bowing on an open string for bow direction.
  2. Play with the notes for bow direction.
  3. Play the bowing on an open string for bow distribution
  4. Play with the notes for bow distribution.
  5. Play the bowing on an open string/s for bow stroke.
  6. Play with the notes for clear bow strokes.
  7. Stop at every frog and “wobble” to check balance.
  8. Stop at every tip and check if the bow is straight.
  9. Play at the right part of the bow, but everything martelé
  10. Play with a very soft right thumb.
  11. Play with your right pinky curved.
  12. Play with a very flexible right wrist.
  13. Stop for every string crossing and adjust arm level
  14. Think about whatever your teacher is asking you to improve.
  15. Think about something you would like to improve.


V.Long slurs


  1. Overlap
  2. Separate bows, martelé
  3. Separate bows, legato
  4. Slur 2, martelé
  5. Slur 2, legato
  6. Slur  “pick a sensible number”  martelé
  7. Slur “pick a sensible number”  legato
  8. Printed bowing, martelé, equal bow distribution
  9. Printed bowing, martelé, bow distribution to match dynamics
  10. Printed bowing, legato, equal bow distribution
  11. Printed bowing, legato, bow distribution to match dynamics




  1. Play very close to the bridge.
  2. Play over the fingerboard.
  3. Try and find the best “contact point”.
  4. Hang your upper arm weight.
  5. Try and play with a clean, pure tone.
  6. Start over if you get a scratchy sound.
  7. Try and play with a very straight bow.
  8. Pay attention to your upper arm being on the correct level.
  9. Look at your strings and watch the strings vibrate.
  10. Imagine the sound you want before you start to play.
  11. Set your bow, relax your thumb and arm, then pull the bow.
  12. Play a section until you like the sound.


VII. Left hand


  1. Play with your best left hand posture.
  2. Play with no left thumb.
  3. Play with your fingers round like and umbrella.
  4. Play with a loose left wrist.
  5. Play with your “magic X” in the right place
  6. Play with fuzzy/harmonic fingers.
  7. Let go of your left thumb during open strings.
  8. Play each shift in slow motion with harmonic fingers.
  9. Play with shifting/guide notes.
  10. Play pizzicato
  11. Play with no bow and hear left hand articulation
  12. Play and focus on changing left arm levels




  1. Play with no vibrato, but all the dynamics in the bow.
  2. Play with loose vibrato on all the long notes.
  3. Play with harmonic fingers and a loose vibrato on every note.
  4. Play with vibrato on every note.
  5. Save bow at the beginning of every long note.
  6. Save bow at the beginning of every crescendo.
  7. Breath before every entrance and during every rest.
  8. Crescendo during all pickups.
  9. Play louder forte and softer piano.
  10. Try and create a shape to the phrase.
  11. Imagine characters in a story.
  12. Imagine a color for each section.
  13. Play each ritard, cadenza or tempo change with 5 different timings.




  1. Play with your eyes closed.
  2. Play during every TV commercial for one show.
  3. Play while laying on the floor.
  4. Play while standing on one foot.
  5. Play with a different fingering.
  6. Play in a different position.
  7. Play in a different key.
  8. Play in a different style: like a fiddle tune, pop song, Mozart aria, lullaby, etc.
  9. Play it slow, then medium, then fast
  10. Make up a new way each day…use your imagination!!!


Tags:   How to Practice    Rebecca Henry    Five Way Practice
 PDF  Print this article

Rebecca Henry
Rebecca Henry