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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Up-driven bow

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gapbob - Posted - 10/15/2020:  07:29:06

When I took classes with Buddy, he did not emphasize the up-driven bow, nor did he use it that much I believe. He showed it to us once when he was talking about "The Way to Mull River" and showed it to us ("That's the updriven bow"), and then went on. I do not recall him using that technique much, if at all, and having seen it during the brief time I just spent looking for it in videos on youtube.

I have trouble with Cape Breton/Scottish strathspeys, remembering the different rhythms, tending to convert them to some generic strathspey bowing, but that isn't satisfying for me, to say the least, but maybe that is the Cape Breton way? 

So I have been looking at a tune over the last couple days and I have such a hard time remembering the different rhythms, and of course that means I cannot remember how to play them (and it's hard to see them with my poor eyesight). I've also been dissatisfied with the sound of the beats that end with an S. I have started experimenting on using the up-driven bow to address these problems, but it isn't that easy and I was wondering about the experience of those who play strathspeys.

For example, the first three measures of Christy Campbell, as notated in the "Traditional Celtic Fiddle Music of Cape Breton" by K.E. Dunlay and D.L. Reich has:

(DQ=dotted quarter S-sixteenth)


The up-driven bow is basically a bowing pattern (YIKES, did I just say that!) where it is D U U U , with the last U getting a bit of a bounce—a flying, bouncing bow, perhaps spiccato-like, if you will?

So with that I feel that I can emphasize the sixteenth note that ends a beat without it sounding mushy and use the same technique for those ending with a DQ, where I hit the note when it should start and just letting it ring.

So the first beat:


would end up being played as DQ S S S (rest)

Whereas all the other measures would be played as written.

So what this does is simplify the bowing a bit and giving the last S of the beat a zing that I like. What is the experience of others in this regard if I may ask?


Edited by - gapbob on 10/15/2020 07:31:15

mackeagan - Posted - 10/15/2020:  09:26:31

I took a couple workshops with Buddy (and Jerry Holland) 30-some years ago. I can't remember either of them giving much mention of the "driven bow". I think the direction is not critical, but most of the notation I've seen shows it as Q-E-E Down -Up-Up (for example, or it could be DQ-S-S-S). The classical lesson books I have call this "richochet" bowing, or, "slurred staccato", if I understand it correctly. I tend to experiment with different ways to bow a tune until I get something I like, but I have several older C'Breton tunes transcribed by Kate Dunlay where the bowing is specified and it really makes the tune work, so I don't change it.

Old Scratch - Posted - 10/15/2020:  09:28:47

I was trying to recall where I came across a good explication of the whole up-driven bow thing - it seems to me now it was in an academic paper that would take me hours to find - but I started out on youtube, and just found a tutorial by David Greenberg, and I see that the up-driven bow is one of the topics covered - I haven't watched it, but intend to:

Although I've played CB fiddle for decades, I never really knew what the driven up-bow was until relatively recently, and never used it, I don't think. Once I learned about it, I worked on it for a few minutes - long enough to get a sense of what it would take to master it - and decided I could get by without it, as I'd always done. Not all the older players used it - and I'm getting old. so I'll tag along after them.

Old Scratch - Posted - 10/15/2020:  09:42:35

Having just read mckeagan's post, I'll just mention that in that academic paper I referenced, it detailed how the up-driven bow is tied in to step-dancing; in other words, it's part of getting the emphasis where it's going to work best for a step-dancer. So, unless you've got step-dancing on your brain, just putting in a up-driven bow where it feels right might not be "correct" to someone who is steeped in the CB fiddle/step-dance tradition - not saying that should matter; just pointing it out.

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