Cross String Shuffle

Fiddling with the Cross String Shuffle

Let’s suppose you can play some hoedowns with good rhythm, steady shuffle, danceable speed, or almost. What can you do to raise the level of your bow work?

A simple, but tricky, technique to master is the cross string shuffle.

With this bow pattern you cross to and add the next string higher as you play the off beat of your shuffle pattern. This description may be accurate, but not so helpful. Let’s break it down and illustrate this with a tab chart or two.

Consider these five bars from the B part of Mississippi Sawyer:


We are looking especially at bars one, three and five in the above example. Here is how we play them when picking up the cross string.


Should I say that is not as easy as it looks. Simple, but not easy. You must cultivate one simple bowing skill to pull this off. Fortunately, we can isolate the skill and practice it.

First we will exaggerate the movement required of the right arm a little bit.


Get used to how your arm moves to do this bowing. Then, try it a bit faster. When it starts to get a little bit easier, move on to this:


That’s the essential cross string shuffle, the bowing part.

With the fingering of notes in the left hand, you must pay attention to keeping your finger clear of the string that’s open. Or clear of the string that is held with another finger. In other words you have to play it clean. Just an added complication.

This technique adds more sound on the off beat naturally. That means an added accent to the off beat, a good effect from time to time.

Here is the whole tune, just in case that would be handy:

Tab chart of Mississippi Sawyer
Mississippi Sawyer works well as a cross string fiddling opportunity