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Starting Your Day with Open Strings: A Warmup Routine for Bassists

Open Strings

Many people simply pick up their instrument and start playing without any warm-up. While there is value to this approach, I generally advise a gradual warm-up for students.

Although slow scales can often serve as a warmup, even a slow scale can be quite complex technically. After all, it involves tone production, shifting, light left hands, lifting and dropping fingers, vibrato and more. Of course, slow scales may often be sufficient as a warmup. Whenever possible, however, I like to start with open strings using the bow.

Starting my day with open strings helps me get in touch with my instrument and my bow arm, as well as focusing my mind and ear on tone production right from the beginning. Perhaps you would like to try this short regiment at your next session and see how you like it.

  1. Rest bow on the lowest string
    • Loosen arm and feel weight of arm in the string
    • Feel the grip of the bow hair on the string
    • Move the bow back and forth with full weight in the string
    • Move only a small amount to push and pull the string left and right
      • No sound should occur
      • Feel the string through the bow hand
      • Repeat until comfortable
      • Keep all joints flexible
  2. Repeat on each string
  3. Tune
    • Keep bow arm free and aim for resonance while tuning
  4. Play a full down bow and full up bow on the lowest string. Rest in between each bow stroke
    • After the down bow, stop the bow on the string at the tip and rest for one beat or so
    • After the up bow, stop the bow on the string at the tip and rest for one beat or so
    • Seek the most resonant sound possible
    • Repeat until satisfied with articulation, tone and freedom of bow arm
  5. Repeat on each string
    • Repeat until satisfied with articulation, tone and freedom of bow arm
  6. Play a full down bow and full up bow on each string without resting in between
    • Concentrate on the bow change
    • Aim for a true legato
    • Focus on resonance and freedom of motion
  7. Repeat process as open string double stops
    • E-A together, A-d together, d-g together
    • Focus on resonance, and freedom of motion
  8. Cross strings within a single bow between the lowest two strings.
    • Like so:
      Open Strings Warmup Exercise
    • Repeat until satisfied with tone and freedom of motion
  9. Repeat string crossings on all sets of alternating string
    • A-d, d-g
  10. Play string crossings on groups of 3 strings
    • E-A-d, A-d-g
  11. During this entire open string session focus on:
    • Freedom of motion, especially in the bow arm
    • Clear, controlled and consistent articulation at the bow change
    • True legato sound
    • Resonance of the instrument and freedom of string rotation

Photo by Jesper Dyhre Nielsen