Way of the Fist

Master the ricochet stroke with the Way of the Fist

Here’s a secret they don’t tell you about joining a professional orchestra: over the years, your colleagues get younger and the jokes get funnier.

When you start out as a bright-eyed 20-something, you cast a wary eye at all the gray-hairs in the locker room and groan at their one-liners, most of which you’d swear came from the Sir Thomas Beecham era.

Then, by the time you’re in your 40s, you nod approvingly at the other family men… and now you’re the one telling the old yarns about characters real and imagined.

There’s that mythical Irish fiddler, for example, possessed of the finest bouncing bow strokes in all the land. We’ll often write his name in our music next to an appropriate passage:

Rick O’Shea


The Way of the Fist

OK, Cobra Kai is hot right now, and since I loved the first Karate Kid, I’ll admit that I’ve binged all 3 seasons. And in the Cobra Kai dojo, they study the Way of the Fist:

  • Strike first
  • Strike hard
  • No mercy

Our Way of the Fist for ricochet isn’t exactly the same… actually, it’s completely different. But I made a video that lays it all out.

This is closely related, by the way, to another video I made about how every off-string stroke has an on-string equivalent. So you may want to review that one as well.

The first six minutes go into the basic idea, and everything after that is only for you violin nerds… I go into the 4 Variables (not just 3 Variables!) of ricochet, and how they influence each other. By the end of this one, you’ll be able to handle any speed, at any volume, with any quality you choose:

14 thoughts on “Master the ricochet stroke with the Way of the Fist”

  1. Hi Nathan!

    Great tips, thank you! Do you have any tips for Paganini 5? I’m struggling with this kind of Ricochet!

    Would be very happy to hear from you!
    Wish you the best from Germany 🙂


    1. I would say to follow the steps here, and find exactly the sound you want on the string. For example, with such fast notes, you may in fact need a more concentrated sound than you guess. Feel how your hand reacts on the string, then take it slightly off!

  2. Thank you! This is a problem area for me. I think understanding the variables will now help me improve. Great explanation!

  3. As an extension of the regular single-string ricochet, could you do a follow-up video that covers the arpeggiated ricochet that is required for the end of the Mendelssohn violin concerto 1st movement, Paganini #1, Ernst – Last Rose of Summer, etc.

  4. Milutin Radulović

    Hello maestro,

    Could you give me some advices for Kreisler’s Cadence of Devil’s trill? I would like to lead voices a little bit better while I’m trilling… Also, I have the same problem in the third movement when the thrilling part comes… I would be very honored if you answer me!
    Best wishes from Montenegro!

      1. Milutin Radulović

        Actually, I missed the third part somehow…
        So, now when I’ve seen that video, I will try that exercise!
        Thank you so much!
        Best regards

  5. Thanks for the video!

    Any insights on how these principles apply to sautille? I’m struggling with that stroke at the moment.

  6. You adjusted the hair tension on your bow quite a few times during the video, but never mentioned it as another variable. Quite clearly it is a variable. Was that all unconscious?

    1. It’s a variable with a little “v”, but not one of the major ones! It’s also hard to include in a tutorial because it’s more finicky than the rest, dependent on temperature and humidity in the room. My intention was to keep my tension where I like it, since it likes to get tighter under the hot lights etc. I hope that helps!

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