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How to Play Violin Subharmonics

Welcome to "Press Your Bow", the only game show devoted to violin subharmonics! So just what is a violin subharmonic? As your host Nathan Cole explains, violin subharmonics are notes that are lower than those you can play by normal means - notes that you can only play if you Press Your Bow! By pressing your bow, you can play notes that are lower in tone than the open G string, without having to tuning down the string.

So let’s get started. As Nathan demonstrates in the video, there are 3 steps to playing a subharmonic on violin:

1. Adjust Your Contact Point

For a normal note, C# for example, the contact point is right around the midway point of the bridge and the fingerboard. For a subharmonic, the contact point is almost on the fingerboard.

2. Adjust Your Bow Pressure

As the name of the game indicates, subharmonics require more bow pressure - which we can get by simply pressing the bow down harder on the strings. Be careful though, too much pressure will create a bad sound. Just the right amount of pressure combined with the right bow speed will result in a clean subharmonic. That is of course, if you follow the 3rd step.

3. Maintain Your Pressure

Careful, this is where a lot of people struggle with subharmonics. Just remember, starting and maintaining the right amount of pressure is crucial in order to get clean sounding subharmonics.

Now you may be asking, what are the practical uses for playing subharmonics on violin? While there are not many, it’s still pretty cool to know how to do. Plus, it allows you to play a scale below the G string which is always fun.

Please note - it’s not always an exact science the results may vary as you experiment with these. And as Nathan requests, please don’t tell the composers about subharmonics or they may start writing them into their pieces… let’s just keep this amongst fellow violinists. Now go have fun playing subharmonics!

violin lessons with nathan cole

Study violin online with Richard Amoroso at

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