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Ida Bieler Method

Basic Violin Technique



The Ida Bieler Method    

Part One: The Left Hand    

The Basic Position    

The Three-Dimensional Positioning of the Violin   

The Art of the Left Hand    

Hand Frame and Position of the Fingers    

The First Trained Function    

The Second Trained Function    

The Third Trained Function    

The Fourth Trained Function    

Part Two: The Right Hand    

Basic Position of the Right Arm    

The Bow Hold    

The Art of the Bow    

Contact point    

Bow Angles    

Basic strokes    


String Crossings    

Legato and Bow Changes    







Firm Staccato (in the string)    

Flying Staccato

Bow Technique Reference Videos   


About Ida Bieler

Special Thanks   


After completing both BA and MM in violin performance summa cum laude at the Hochschule der Künste Bern in Switzerland, I wanted to continue to work on my violin playing, and refine my technique.  So when I was given the amazing opportunity to study with Prof. Ida Bieler at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, I chose to follow her across the pond to the United States. When I started re-forming my violin technique, I remember discussing different aspects of technique with my classmates in the cafeteria over nearly every meal. We would often knock on each other's practice rooms to clarify some details - “So where should I place the ring finger on the bow again? Does it go here or here? Are you sure? Is it not just because you have smaller hands than me?” After resolving these questions in my next lesson with Prof. Bieler, more would inevitably pop up while practicing, as I adjusted to the new technique. I often wished someone had written a book that would provide an overview on her method that I could refer to when I was practicing and teaching. Seeing the stunning progress of my studio mates also made me want to share Prof. Bieler's method with violinists who haven't had the fortune to study with her personally. So I decided to write this paper to give an overview of Prof. Bieler’s basic violin technique, including a selection of exercises, etudes and instructions on how best to put them into practice. This  brief exploration of her method is meant to serve as an introduction, rather than a comprehensive guide (that may be for another time). I hope the information here will be useful for students currently studying Prof. Bieler’s method, students revisiting their technique, teachers, and anyone who is interested in a healthy and effective approach to violin playing.

The Ida Bieler Method

Despite having studied with some of the finest violinists of the 20th century, such as Ruggiero Ricci, Oscar Shumsky, and Nathan Milstein, and having already established herself as an internationally successful violinist, Ida Bieler felt the urge to change her approach to playing the violin in her late twenties. Ida Bieler, who is of very petite stature, was left with pain and injuries because her teachers violin methods were tailored to a tall male build. This issue motivated her to design a method that reconciles the best elements she learned from her world class teachers, with a holistic approach that doesn't put unnecessary strain on the body.  Prof. Ida Bieler's violin technique is based on universal principles of  human anatomy and the laws of physics. Following these parameters the method can be adjusted and tailored to all body types. As we will see in the next chapters, Prof. Bieler aims to align the playing position of the violin according to each individual's unique skeletal construction, and uses the natural weight of the player's limbs to produce an ideal sound. The way the violin and the bow are held, the posture we adopt while playing, and all of the movements we execute while performing should be equally economical, efficient and natural in regard to energy and motion. "Natural" here means that the violinist’s posture and movements are aligned in relation to their personal physiognomy. It should be noted that it may paradoxically at first feel uncomfortable for the body and brain to relearn certain elements, i.e. relaxation, since habit creates a sense of familiarity which physically will create a sense of “comfort”.

Part One: The Left Hand
The Basic Position

To achieve the optimal playing position, the feet should be comfortably aligned under the hips. The feet should be flat on the floor and the toes pointed slightly away from each other. The waist, rib cage, back, and shoulders should be in a natural, vertical alignment over the hips. The arms should hang relaxed in front of the body, lightly touching the front of the thighs. It is often misunderstood, that the arms hang to the sides of the torso, rather than in front. This point is crucial in order to find a natural playing posture. Forcing the arms to the side of the torso, will inadvertently create tension in our shoulders and back.

In order to find the most efficient and natural playing position it is also important to consider leg length, curvature of the spine. 

The Three-Dimensional Positioning of the Violin

In general the playing position is best approached by considering the following three dimensions:

  • The instrument should be placed parallel to the ground.

  • Players with short arms may need to bring the instrument slightly more toward the center of the torso, and violinists with long arms may need to move the violin farther to the left. 

  • The violin should be positioned with the treble side slightly lower than the bass side. 

The exact violin position, while always retaining the head and neck's freedom of movement, is supported by the chinrest together with, or without, a shoulder rest or pad. These elements should again be chosen depending upon each player’s individual build.

Prof. Bieler usually recommends the Wolf shoulder rest, since it can be adjusted almost infinitely (the Primo model for male and Secondo for female players) in combination with her custom-made chinrest model, which can be ordered in two different sizes from Petar Ivanov ( This custom chinrest fits lever-like under the jawbone, which allows the head to balance the weight of the instrument. The correct setup should allow the head and neck to move freely, and allow the instrument to move both horizontally and vertically. 

To find the natural frame of the left arm, the violinist should raise and close the relaxed left arm, touching the front of the shoulder with the fingers. The arm will now be opened so that hand and shoulder will be  aligned horizontally. This frame allows a comfortable and natural playing position for both left and right arms. 

The Art of the Left Hand

The position of the left hand should allow it to function in a way that allows clean, virtuosic playing with minimal effort. In order to find the ideal basic position we need to consider the contact points of the left hand to the violin, the hand frame, and position of the fingers. We will discuss the different functions of the left hand, with suggestions for corresponding etudes.

Hand Frame and Position of the Fingers

The contact point between the neck of the violin and the left hand should be between the thumb and the index finger. For violinists with short fingers, the contact point of the index finger should be slightly below the first knuckle, which will allow the fingers to reach the strings more easily. For violinists with longer fingers this contact point will shift slightly higher towards the second (inner) joint of the index finger. The thumb supports the violin from the other side, across from the 1st and 2nd fingers while always remaining flexible without pressing. The same principle applies here; players with short fingers will need to place the thumb lower on the neck of the violin,  while players with long fingers will place the thumb a bit higher.

The position of the hand must always be determined by the position of the fingers and not vice versa. However, adjusting the dimensions of proper posture can aid in finding the correct hand position. The frame of the left hand is naturally defined by the perfect fourth, between the first and fourth finger, while in the first position. Rather than placing the fingers in a rectangular position like a pianist, the fingers should be positioned diagonally to the fingerboard. This angled orientation automatically increases the distance between the fingers. The fingers should be placed on the left side of the fingertips on the string (left side from the violinist’s perspective). Violinists with small hands, and or short fingers may need to place their fingers even farther on the left side of the fingertips than players with larger hands in order to achieve optimal playing comfort and accuracy. 

Within this position each finger may be displaced by half steps, extended and contracted in order to reach for semitones higher or lower than the position. Naturally, the fingers will be at shallower and steeper angles when shifting up or down, while the hand frame remains in the same place. The fingers are not to be lifted when changing their position, but rather should glide easily along the string, as will be discussed further in regard to the Third Trained Function.

To further enable an effective and clean style of playing in virtuosic passages, the hand should be trained to maintain the frame. This also means the fingers should be kept as close to the string as possible. In the case of playing fifths across the strings (regardless of whether the two notes are actually played as a chord, or if they  appear in succession in the same passage) one should anticipate them and set up the finger on both strings as early in the passage as possible. In this way all movements are reduced to a minimum, which again aids fast, clean playing.

The First Trained Function

The First Trained Function of the left hand deals with developing a basic position of the hand, which allows the fingers to fall directly in clearly intonated, stable intervallic patterns, and provides a clear understanding of the geography of the fingerboard. For clean virtuosic playing with minimal effort, extraneous motion should be avoided. The fingers should remain silently on the fingerboard whenever possible.


  • Hand-Position Exercise (1st Position):

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  • Sevčík Op. 1 No. 1

First, play one measure with repeat, as printed in quarter notes. Next repeat the same sequence as eighth notes and a third time as sixteenth notes as shown in the example, always slurring one measure under one bow. Practicing with the metronome is beneficial for evenness, clarity, and structure. The recommended tempo for this etude is half note = 60. The focus of this exercise should be on a correct finger and hand- position, paying close attention to intonation, steadiness and articulation, while keeping the fingers down silently whenever possible. The fingers should be lifted with an active motion and dropped with clear articulation without excessive pressure.

  • Recommended extra practice Kreutzer No. 9

Practice with a metronome, with one bow per measure. Focus on steadiness, hand-position and intonation.

  • Sevčík Op. 1, No. 23

Use these exercises to practice displacing your fingers within the basic hand position. The fingers are displaced by half steps, extended and contracted in order to reach semitones higher or lower than the original hand position. The fingers should glide easily along the string without being lifted. 

The Second Trained Function

The Second Trained Function directs attention to hand placement in relation to the individual strings (left hand string crossings) while always retaining the major aspects of the First Trained Function. The hand frame in relation to each individual string remains the same, while the position of the arm adjusts for the string crossing. When crossing the strings the placement and motion of the left arm must be considered, as well as the contact point of the thumb and the first finger. When changing from higher to lower strings, the elbow needs to travel closer to the middle of the torso and the thumb farther underneath the violin to allow the hand and fingers to reach the lower strings. The opposite is true when changing from lower to higher strings.


  • Sevčík Op. 1, No. 1, 2 and 3 (practice on all strings)

The above discussed principles of the First Trained Function should be transferred and applied to the different strings, and also to different positions. Refer to practice instructions of First Trained Function (Sevčík Op. 1, No. 1.)

  • Kreutzer No. 6 

     This is a good etude to focus on leaving fingers down silently in order to retain the chordal structure of the piece. It is important to decide when it may be more efficient to keep fingers down on both strings when playing fifths, as opposed to when it provides more flexibility to reset the finger minimally on the neighboring string. The latter could be, for example, an appropriate measure to avoid any unnecessary stretching of the finger and tendons. Before starting to practice this etude, take a minute to analyze and mark into your score when you can leave your fingers silently on the string, and where you need to prepare fifths. Again, the goal is to keep your fingers down, close to the string whenever possible, in order to enable virtuoso playing. Due to the many string crossings in this study I would recommend first practicing this etude with a détaché stroke in the middle of the bow with two strokes per note. Once the string crossings become smooth, switch to one stroke per note. This etude can also be used to practice martélé.

The Third Trained Function 

The Third Trained Function deals with the division of the fingerboard into separate positions and the necessary shifting technique. This requires accurate and automatic learning of the grid-like division of the instrument into seven full positions and their enharmonically spelled half positions. While retaining hand, arm and string crossing relationships of the First and Second Trained Function, the realization of the gradual diminution of note spacing, as well as the widening of the string distance in high positions, must be developed. 


Prof. Bieler describes two main types of shifting: block shifting and the leading finger technique. During the block shift, we move on the same finger to a higher position while maintaining the same amount of pressure until the desired position has been reached. Once that point is reached, we push the finger down to the fingerboard. The bow plays a crucial role in making the shift as clean and secure as possible. While reducing the bow-speed in order to minimize any sliding sounds during the shift, one should continually apply bow pressure to keep the string down. This allows the left hand to slide over the string without having to apply extra pressure to keep the string down. Furthermore one shouldn’t forget that a change of position is always happening within a rhythmic context. Having a clear idea of ​​the timing can further support clean, precise shifting. The leading finger technique uses the block shifting as an intermediate step to shift to the new position, while ultimately playing the arrival note with a different finger. This type of change in position may be practiced at first with an audible intermediate tone (played with the shifting finger); finally one should be able to make the position change inaudible. During the shift the thumb moves as a unit with the hand, without adding any pressure. From the 7th position onward the thumb will (depending on the length of the player’s fingers and the width of his hands) leave its original position and start moving around the violin in order to allow the player to reach the higher positions. 


  • Basic Shifting Exercise

Focus on a steady, rhythmic motion for clean, precise shifting. The shifting motion should come from the elbow while the forearm and hand move as a unit. The fingers that are not used for the shift should be very loose and relaxed, pointing slightly towards the player's left shoulder. It can help to imagine the direction of the shift in the same diagonal direction, towards the left shoulder rather than following the exact direction of the strings. This exercise can be practiced with or without vibrato, as well as starting from 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger, and on all strings. 

  • Sevcik Op. 8

Practice very slowly with a metronome (16th note = 60), slurring half a measure on one bow. Note that despite the excruciatingly slow tempo, the speed of the shift itself should be quick. This exercise is also excellent for developing bow control, even consistent sound and smooth bow changes. 

The Fourth Trained Function

The Fourth Trained Function pertains to the varying uses, colors, speeds, pressures, dynamics, and accentuations of vibrato. This is a very wide field and therefore cannot be discussed in greater detail at this point.

Part Two: The Right Hand
Basic position of the right arm

 The myriad functions of the bow arm are divided between different portions of the right arm, always working from our joints natural positions, using the weight of the arm for sound production, rather than strenuous muscular activity and tension. Starting with the basic position discussed in part one, the right arm should fall naturally slightly in front of the right leg. The forearm should now be placed across the stomach while the upper arm remains close to the torso. The forearm creates a square angle to the upper arm. While retaining this position, the arm is raised from the shoulder to place the bow on a string of the well-positioned violin. The rectangularly aligned upper arm and forearm, the bow, and the string which the bow is placed on, should naturally create a square. For practical purposes this right-angled position is referred to as ‘the middle of the bow.’ It should be noted that the so defined ‘middle’ is relative to each violinist's individual build. Violinists with longer arms may achieve the right angle at a higher point in the bow than the bow’s ‘mathematical middle,’ and lower in the bow for people of shorter arms.