Abstract Playing string instruments implies motor skills including asymmetrical interlimb coordination. How special is musical skill as compared to other bimanually coordinated, non-musical skillful performances? We succeeded for the first time to measure quantitatively bimanual coordination in violinists playing repeatedly a simple tone sequence. A motion analysis system was used to record finger and bow trajectories for assessing the temporal structure of finger-press, finger-lift (left hand), and bow stroke reversals (right arm). The main results were: (1) fingering consisted of serial and parallel (anticipatory) mechanisms; (2) synchronization between finger and bow actions varied from −12 ms to 60 ms, but these ‘errors’ were not perceived. The results suggest that (1) bow-finger synchronization varied by about 50 ms from perfect simultaneity, but without impairing auditory perception; (2) the temporal structure depends on a number of combinatorial mechanisms of bowing and fingering. These basic mechanisms were observed in all players, including all amateurs. The successful biomechanical measures of fingering and bowing open a vast practical field of assessing motor skills. Thus, objective assessment of larger groups of string players with varying musical proficiency, or of professional string players developing movement disorders, may be helpful in music education.