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Bow Movement

Posted by bj on Saturday, October 4, 2008

So, last night I was playing head games with myself. It was late, and I didn't want to disturb neighbors, but I wanted to play without the mutes on, since it never sounds as good muted. So I decided to test out how softly I could play without 'em. I am so glad I did this!

In experimenting with this, my bow movements became very small and bowspeed per note was slow, and the bow pressure was very slight, and with just a slight tilt to lessen the hair on the string. I played for awhile and achieved a fair bit of crispness with each note, each was coming through pretty clearly. So I quickened the tempo. And then quickened it some more, when I realzed it was much easier this way, with very, very small movement. And then I got faster yet.

What was most surprising was that the bow speed per note got just slightly quicker, most of the tempo change was in the actual bow changes and left hand. And I worked up to playing a fair bit faster than I normally do, and the sound was pretty clean, with only a very occasional E string chirp, and the transitions were surprisingly smooth. And I was only using AT MOST an inch to an inch and a half of the bow, and sometimes less!


And I realized I have to go back to some pretty intense left hand drills since my left hand was really having trouble keeping up! Though I did better than I thought I would, and most of the flubs weren't actually "mistakes" but more in little timing issues, where the shorter notes weren't quite as short since I didn't stop or unstop my finger quite fast enough, So a dotted quarter and an eighth  would become instead two quarters since I'm not yet used to that speed. Gotta work on that, but that will come in time.

It felt good.

And it reminded me of a few things Steve has said that maybe at the time I wasn't ready to hear or understand, and it was using the three things together that made them all sink in.

  • Playing Fast and Playing Loud are two completely different things.
  • The way to achieve speed is through economy of movement.
  • Bow Speed controls the volume more than Bow Pressure.

Another small EUREKA! moment . . .

It's AMAZING how little it takes of the bowhair to make a wonderful sound on the string! Less is more.

7 comments on “Bow Movement”

Rene Says:
Saturday, October 4, 2008 @4:08:33 PM

Been gone from home (and my fiddle) for a couple days. Came home a day early, husband said it was because I missed my fiddle. Anyway, bj, think I'll try what you did and seen how it goes.

bj Says:
Saturday, October 4, 2008 @4:26:10 PM

YOU LEFT WITHOUT YOUR FIDDLE???? Geez, how could you stand it????? I get antsy if I have to leave the house for a few hours without one! Your husband is a wise man.

Let me know how it works for you. It's through trying to achieve the soft and quiet playing that the other stuff happened. Quite a revelation for me.

fiddlepogo Says:
Saturday, October 4, 2008 @8:25:11 PM

"It's through trying to achieve the soft and quiet playing that the other stuff happened."

It doesn't surprise me. Most of my breakthroughs on fiddle and even on electric lead guitar have been through learning to use LESS effort.
Lighten up- take it easy- that kind of thing.
And playing soft could help do that for you.

Rene Says:
Sunday, October 5, 2008 @6:15:16 PM

Got up early this morning fiddle in hand, wondered up to my garden and sat on my bench the husband had made me. Played slow and quietly while over looking our pond. 2 baby lizards came out and stayed for the duration of the morning concert, and actually seemed to enjoy themselves.(well they seemed content anyway, the husband suggested that perhaps they were warming in the sun, but us fiddle players know better.)
I did as you suggested and used very little bow. May be something to that.

bj Says:
Sunday, October 5, 2008 @6:25:29 PM

Yeah, it's interesting how much sound you can get with so little movement. Did you try speeding things up with the same small movements?

Rene Says:
Monday, October 6, 2008 @10:08:54 AM

I did add some speed, and noticed that I didn't tense up as much. When I play fast I tend to get real stiff in the upper arm.

bj Says:
Monday, October 6, 2008 @10:24:44 AM

LOL! With me it's my neck and jaw! I'm still working on that, though this did help some.

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