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Lee M

United States
5812 posts
since 3/19/09

02/15/2017 13:04:13 View Lee M's MP3 Archive View Lee M's Photo Albums View Lee M's Blog Reply with Quote

A recent Hangout member mentioned that he had been using too much bow pressure... That got me to thinking (oh, my head hurts).......I often watch people play OT music and have noticed two things:  (1)  novices often use too little pressure on the portion of the bow that touches the strings... That is Not caused by holding the bow too lightly, but rather by holding the bow too firmly.. their whole arm is rigid and they don't transmit the pressure to the index finger which causes the bow to engage the strings properly.. Their bow often can be seen sliding sideways on the strings... (2)... Somehow, that 'error' of bow holding seems to ADD to the rawness of a GOOD   OT sound..   

It is a mystery... That is, some musicians who lack classical skills OFTEN sound the most Old Timey...

Any comments?

boxbowPlayers Union Member

United States
2101 posts since 2/3/11

02/15/2017 14:41:14 View boxbow's Photo Albums View boxbow's Blog Reply with Quote

It's been said that Old Time music is often misunderstood because it's actually better than it sounds. 

Are we advocating bowing recidivism here?

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Lee M

United States
5812 posts since 3/19/09

02/15/2017 14:46:56View Lee M's MP3 Archive View Lee M's Photo Albums View Lee M's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by boxbow
 

It's been said that Old Time music is often misunderstood because it's actually better than it sounds. 

Are we advocating bowing recidivism here?


Yes.. Getting the OT sound often includes techniques that are NOT taught to classically trained musicians...I often have people ask me 'how in the world' can you play while holding the bow near the middle?"   People who have come to me for instruction usually include two types.. Trained and Un trained.. the Untrained almost always sound more Old Timey..


"

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ChickenMan

United States
3109 posts since 9/26/08

Online

02/15/2017 15:12:36View ChickenMan's MP3 Archive View ChickenMan's Photo Albums View ChickenMan's Blog Reply with Quote

I have recently noticed that Bruce Molsky draws his bow in an arc despite having a pretty relaxed wrist. He doesn't have what I think of as a rough sound though.
I'm not sure how this relates to your theory. Too little bow pressure is a sure sign of a novice I suppose. All the novices I've been around do not sound old time - they sound like beginners.

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Lee M

United States
5812 posts since 3/19/09

02/15/2017 16:34:56View Lee M's MP3 Archive View Lee M's Photo Albums View Lee M's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

I have recently noticed that Bruce Molsky draws his bow in an arc despite having a pretty relaxed wrist. He doesn't have what I think of as a rough sound though.
I'm not sure how this relates to your theory. Too little bow pressure is a sure sign of a novice I suppose. All the novices I've been around do not sound old time - they sound like beginners.

Yes, all novices are not alike...I'm only thinking of some of the ones I'm around...

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abinigia

United States
891 posts since 8/27/08

02/15/2017 16:46:17View abinigia's MP3 Archive View abinigia's Photo Albums View abinigia's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by boxbow
 

It's been said that Old Time music is often misunderstood because it's actually better than it sounds.


I still find that out when learning Old Time tunes. A lot of it IS better than it sounds to the casual ear. And though I do appreciate a little edge to the music, I really like listening to modern old time players whose tone and articulation are more pleasing. I revere the tunes and original recordings, but cleaning things up a bit is no sin.

To me, bad bowing technique doesn't help make a good old time sound.

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Old Scratch

Canada
117 posts since 6/22/16

02/15/2017 22:52:08 Reply with Quote

"whose tone and articulation are more pleasing" ... To who?  You - right?

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Tobus

United States
203 posts since 5/7/15

02/16/2017 04:41:33 View Tobus's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

For me personally, one of the delights of good Old Time music is that it's not polished and professional.  It's raw fiddling, played by country folk who aren't classically trained.  It is the music of their culture, played in a style that is very much a reflection of their lives: rough and bumpy and imperfect.  Bruce Molsky is a heck of a fiddler, but the more I listen to him, the more I realize that his playing is a little too sanitized to be what I would consider authentic Old Time.  Now I'm not disparaging his playing; the man has some mad skills on the fiddle and I'd love to be able to play like that.  But I think the fact that he plays so many other instruments and genres has detracted from his ability to play Old Time in its original rough form.  It's good music but lacks much of the character I've come to like from the older established OT fiddlers.

I do think there's something to be said for newbies having a more authentic OT sound, in terms of their bowing being a little rough or non-classical in the approach.  But newbies (like myself) still have a lot to learn about capturing the feel of OT with the nuances of the bow.  And here's where it gets confusing for me.  Bruce Molsky has all the ingredients of good OT bowing, like expressive bow pulses and such.  I'm trying to learn to sound like a decent OT fiddler by learning from Bruce Molsky's playing - but without sounding like Bruce Molsky.

When I listen to the "real" OT fiddlers like Tommy Jarrell, Hiram Stamper, and dozens of others, they have a very rough bowing style compared to modern players who have been influenced by classical violin training.  In the old recordings, I hear lots of scratches, squawks, and other sounds that would be described as sloppy bowing by modern standards.  But that's what I consider the authentic sound to be.  I don't necessarily think newbies should be discouraged from it, as long as they understand the difference.

 

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martynspeck

United States
1088 posts since 10/13/10

02/16/2017 05:23:39View martynspeck's MP3 Archive View martynspeck's Photo Albums View martynspeck's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

I have recently noticed that Bruce Molsky draws his bow in an arc despite having a pretty relaxed wrist. He doesn't have what I think of as a rough sound though.
I'm not sure how this relates to your theory. Too little bow pressure is a sure sign of a novice I suppose. All the novices I've been around do not sound old time - they sound like beginners.

He explained this in a video at ArtistWorks once. He moves in a figure 8 that makes for a rhythm in addition to udud of the bow due to the varying pressure at different points in the arcs of his bow hand. 

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abinigia

United States
891 posts since 8/27/08

02/16/2017 07:55:09View abinigia's MP3 Archive View abinigia's Photo Albums View abinigia's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch
 

"whose tone and articulation are more pleasing" ... To who?  You - right?


Yes, of course.

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ChickenMan

United States
3109 posts since 9/26/08

Online

02/16/2017 09:11:32View ChickenMan's MP3 Archive View ChickenMan's Photo Albums View ChickenMan's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by martynspeck

quote:

Originally posted by ChickenMan

I have recently noticed that Bruce Molsky draws his bow in an arc

He explained this in a video at ArtistWorks once. He moves in a figure 8 that makes for a rhythm in addition to udud of the bow due to the varying pressure at different points in the arcs of his bow hand. 

I was talking about how his bow doesn't run parallel to the bridge - arc as opposed to the usual straight line,_usually_caused by a lack of flexibility in the wrist. Figure 8, which also requires a flexible wrist, shouldn't l really effect that.

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cornfed

United States
281 posts since 10/17/10

02/16/2017 11:37:09 View cornfed's Photo Albums View cornfed's Blog Reply with Quote

Man...Where's Pogo when you need him?

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Addie

1772 posts since 6/6/12

02/16/2017 11:46:24View Addie's MP3 Archive View Addie's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Is this another "OT fiddling has an inferiority complex about classical training" topic? cheekylaugh

How can a good sound be caused by bad technique?  It defies logic.  smiley

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soppinthegravy

227 posts since 7/26/15

02/16/2017 12:35:40View soppinthegravy's MP3 Archive View soppinthegravy's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

This is a very interesting topic. Here are my two cents.

Insufficient bow pressure makes one sound less old-timey, in my opinion. For the most part, the old-timers people are trying to copy, such as Tommy Jarrell bore down harder on the strings than the scholars who are teaching their licks, at least, to my ears. The reason beginners in other styles may sound more old-timey than their more advanced comrades is not because of bow pressure, but because they are sticking to the most simple, straight versions of the melody instead of adding grace notes and chromatic runs. Do you agree? I think the reason trained musicians sound less old-timey is because they are focused on playing a proper, clean arrangement of "Arkansas Traveler" rather than just feeling the tune and selling the beat, and this applies to many people playing old-time fiddle nowadays, myself included.


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 02/16/2017 12:46:43

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Lee M

United States
5812 posts since 3/19/09

02/16/2017 13:29:26View Lee M's MP3 Archive View Lee M's Photo Albums View Lee M's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by Addie
 

Is this another "OT fiddling has an inferiority complex about classical training" topic? cheekylaugh

How can a good sound be caused by bad technique?  It defies logic.  smiley


It is not Good sound .. it is a RAW OT sound..That is good in a bad sort of way!!!

 

 

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fiddlinsteudel

United States
2267 posts since 7/12/13

02/16/2017 13:54:33View fiddlinsteudel's MP3 Archive View fiddlinsteudel's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by Addie

How can a good sound be caused by bad technique?  It defies logic.  smiley


Good sound can be caused by bad technique in that it doesn't sound polished and has an edge and roughness to it, which often is a characteristic of old-timey music. Classical players (and I am a classically trained violinist) tend to play too smooth, there's not enough grit in the bite of their playing, often use too much vibrato, and use way too much long bows.

I personally think that bad technique shouldn't be used as an excuse to not learn better technique, because I believe you can purposely add in grittyness if you want. Any technique should be a choice the player makes, not the default because they can't play any better.


Edited by - fiddlinsteudel on 02/16/2017 13:56:42

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Addie

1772 posts since 6/6/12

02/16/2017 15:00:15View Addie's MP3 Archive View Addie's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

In OT and many other genres, grit is good.  IF you can consistently play gritty when you want to, your technique is good.  It means you are in control, making the music sound the way you want.  You also use the strings and setup that make grit possible.  That's not technique, but it sure isn't classical either.  smiley

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Mojohand40

United States
861 posts since 6/13/11

02/16/2017 16:03:03View Mojohand40's MP3 Archive View Mojohand40's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Hmm...weird question in a way....if the bow pressure is "bad" but the music sounds good....then isn't the bow pressure "good"?....

..Anyway, I've taken a few workshops with Joe Herrmann early on, and they really "shaped" my way of playing (at least I try to emulate his playing as best as I can with my meager and faulting ability; whenever I try Old Time)

I noticed he kept his bow hair a little slacker than some (I noticed this with other old time players as well) and he used rosin very sparingly, I even asked him about that.  He said the "wistful" tone was part of his playing, too much rosin ruined that.

Recently, though, I took some lessons with a more classically trained teacher, who was teaching me Irish fiddling.  She pointed out that my bow was way too slack, and I didn't use enough pressure, so I started changing, and yes....that did improve my Irish playing tone a lot. 

BUT....If I play an Old time tune, I will usually slacken my bow, change my bow grip and apply less pressure..."wistful" sound..

I guess I'm saying, that what may be seen as "bad" bow pressure, is just another technique to playing fiddle in SOME Old time styles.. (not all Old Time players do this, it's just the flavor some have).

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Lonesome Fiddler

1023 posts since 12/11/08

02/16/2017 16:37:18View Lonesome Fiddler's MP3 Archive View Lonesome Fiddler's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Try to play to the best of your ability while playing the way you want.   And let the devil take the hindmost. 

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abinigia

United States
891 posts since 8/27/08

02/16/2017 16:54:59View abinigia's MP3 Archive View abinigia's Photo Albums View abinigia's Blog Reply with Quote

Speaking for myself, I think any player would want to produce a good free tone from an instrument. But I think tone and technique are getting mixed up in this conversation. A lot of classically trained musicians can't play bluegrass either, even though much bluegrass playing has a clear tone and good intonation compared to much old time playing. Classically trained players execute bow strokes differently.  Folk music works a great deal with rhythms and slides and bent notes which creates a groove. Hard or light right hand pressure is part of it.

The old time players we revere were caught in a snapshot in the early recordings. I assume those great players were as good as they were because they practiced a lot and worked to improve. I believe scratchiness and odd intonation were not necessarily carefully nurtured features of their music. That's why I like to listen to both old recordings, for their originality and personality, as well as modern interpreters of old time music who also show originality and personality. There are a lot of them, but I'll use John Hartford as an example. Another modern favorite at the moment is Matt Brown.

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tonyelder

United States
5281 posts since 8/7/09

02/16/2017 17:21:40View tonyelder's MP3 Archive View tonyelder's Photo Albums View tonyelder's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by Mojohand40

if the bow pressure is "bad" but the music sounds good....then isn't the bow pressure "good"?....

it's just the flavor some have).


 

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Old Scratch

Canada
117 posts since 6/22/16

02/16/2017 19:08:32 Reply with Quote

Well ... I suppose there are people who would rather hear Your Cheatin' Heart sung by Placido Domingo than by Hank Williams or Crossroads sung by Frank Sinatra rather than by Robert Johnson ....  I ain't one of them, I'm afraid.

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Addie

1772 posts since 6/6/12

02/16/2017 19:58:16View Addie's MP3 Archive View Addie's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch
 

Well ... I suppose there are people who would rather hear Your Cheatin' Heart sung by Placido Domingo than by Hank Williams or Crossroads sung by Frank Sinatra rather than by Robert Johnson ....  I ain't one of them, I'm afraid.


YOUR CHEE-E-E-E-E-E-TING HEA-A-A-R-R-R-R-R-T!  

Bravo!

You've been listening to Plastico Flamingo, on his new album, Flamingo Butchers Hank Williams.  No OT grit was harmed in the making of this recording.  smiley

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abinigia

United States
891 posts since 8/27/08

02/16/2017 22:33:05View abinigia's MP3 Archive View abinigia's Photo Albums View abinigia's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch
 

Well ... I suppose there are people who would rather hear Your Cheatin' Heart sung by Placido Domingo than by Hank Williams or Crossroads sung by Frank Sinatra rather than by Robert Johnson ....  I ain't one of them, I'm afraid.


I don't know about that. Who's your favorite fiddler? I'd probably choose Kenny Baker. But I have been listening to, and learning some Ed Haley tunes lately. He's fantastic, but unfortunately hard to listen to because the tapes of him were badly damaged. I like lots of fiddle playing. I came to old time by way of bluegrass first, and maybe that influences how I hear it. I'm curious to know what you listen to in relation to this topic.

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martynspeck

United States
1088 posts since 10/13/10

02/17/2017 06:38:22View martynspeck's MP3 Archive View martynspeck's Photo Albums View martynspeck's Blog Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by abinigia
 
quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch
 

Well ... I suppose there are people who would rather hear Your Cheatin' Heart sung by Placido Domingo than by Hank Williams or Crossroads sung by Frank Sinatra rather than by Robert Johnson ....  I ain't one of them, I'm afraid.


I don't know about that. Who's your favorite fiddler? I'd probably choose Kenny Baker. But I have been listening to, and learning some Ed Haley tunes lately. He's fantastic, but unfortunately hard to listen to because the tapes of him were badly damaged. I like lots of fiddle playing. I came to old time by way of bluegrass first, and maybe that influences how I hear it. I'm curious to know what you listen to in relation to this topic.


If you ask me who my favorite fiddler is, it depends. Sometimes it's Kenny Baker, sometimes Tommy Jarrel, Molsky, Grappelli, Stuff Smith, John Hartford, and several whose names I can't recall right now. 

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gapbob

United States
365 posts since 4/20/08

02/17/2017 08:31:39 Send gapbob an AOL message Reply with Quote

Depends what the "old-time" sound you are looking for.  I suppose the easy answer is knowing what bow pressure will do to your sound, or absence of it, is another set of tools to employ during your playing.  

Playing the notes of a tune is only the beginning, it is how you want those notes to sound, each and every one of them—how they start, how they end, how they behave in their middle, how sharp, how flat, how true to one type of tuning or another, do you want to be in tune or not, how dissonant, how long or short it is, how you ornament it, how you apply changes in finger pressure, vibrato or not, bow rotation, which part of the bow you play with, how much pressure on the bow, do you seek grit or clarity, loudness or softness, do you want a mellow tone or a crisp tone, what type of bow, what type of hair, what type of rosin, do you use a lot or a little, do you have the hair loose or tight, what style are you trying to play, dance, contest, listening... the list is lengthy.

Then you have to decide exactly how you want to sound?  Do you want to sound like Joe Schmoo or his next door neighbor, or Kenny Baker or Tommy Jarrell or Melvin Wine or Clyde Davenport, etc.? They all sound old-time.

But that said, I think that there is a common thread in which "old-time" sound bursts out, but even then, you will immediately be able to point to a great old-time player and say "Look, they do that, but you said that wasn't old-time!"

• Notes do not start and stop abruptly.
• The spacing between the notes are minimal, unless needed for a specific tune.
• The use of the wrist is more prominent, allowing for the two points above.
• Vibrato is not overused, instead it is an ornament, rather than a constant tool to prevent intonation issues.  Total absence of vibrato is ok.  Being out of tune is ok, if it is the way it should sound.
• The bow is infrequently lifted off the strings during a tune, if at all.
• The tune being played sounds like other tunes that have been played in the purported genre.

Probably if there were no such thing as classical music, then someone who played like that would be considered "old-time," but most fiddlers are a bit sensitized to the classical/folk conflict.


Edited by - gapbob on 02/17/2017 08:34:56

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