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Clockwise and Counterclockwise

Posted by bj on Sunday, March 22, 2009

Back when I was taking lessons, Steve told me to drum my fingers on the tabletop. I did so. He told me to do it with the other hand. I did. He had me repeat this a few times. He then pointed out to me that I always started my "drumroll" with my pinkie, and moved through to the index finger. He then told me that I had to start practicing doing that the other direction, starting with the index finger. Then he told me why-- everything in fiddling was going to challenge the way I was used to doing something. So I better start getting used to it. He also recommended trying to do everything backwards of the way I usually do it, when doing anything that required any sort of dexterity. I think I took that exercise too far though, when I tried to switch my two hands on the 'puter keyboard. ;-)

I've run into this backwards/forwards issue a few times in the past, but nowhere has it been more evident than when I tried to speed up my bowrocking, which means speeding up my little circles with the bowhand.

My natural druthers with this is clockwise. Which means the first stroke of the bowrock is an upbow. But the way I usually segue into certain passages in some of the tunes I'm playing, the first bowrock stroke seldom falls on the upbow, it almost always falls on the downbow, which means circling counterclockwise. When I happen to be in the "right" pattern, the timing falls into place nicely. When I'm not, then the bow and the left hand are slightly shifted cattywampus of each other, with the righthand timing being a fraction of a beat behind. Which sounds awful.

Now, I could "cheat" and just throw a "corrective" bowstroke in to bring the bowing around so that I always start the bowrock on the upbow, but that doesn't seem to be the way to get better. I should be able to do it either way.

So I've now slowed Old Joe Clark back to snailspeed for the umpteenth time so I could get that fancy bowrocking in that I keep hearing in my head. Only when it's slowed down it doesn't sound like anything.

And now I have a new challenge. After meeting David Husic for the first time on Friday, and playing some tunes with him (he's a really FUN fiddler!) and us talking, he told me to just reach over and snag a bass string once in awhile. He does this very effectively, and not always in the same place. But he's REALLY rockin' and rollin' when he does this, sometimes from playing the melody somewhere on the E string, to swinging over and catching the bass somewhere on the G string (which we had tuned to A, for either the A tunes or the D tunes.) And he makes it look so easy. Oh well, he's been playing that way for over 20 years.

David is also an exceptionally kind person. He said in his last email to me after our session on Friday that he'd be happy to get together for a few tunes once in awhile, which is easy enough to do since he works here in town. Geez, I didn't have to beg . . .

11 comments on “Clockwise and Counterclockwise”

OTJunky Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @5:23:49 AM

"So I've now slowed Old Joe Clark back to snailspeed for the umpteenth time so I could get that fancy bowrocking in that I keep hearing in my head. Only when it's slowed down it doesn't sound like anything."

Get used to it. This is a fiddler's life... :-)


carlb Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @7:11:24 AM

Let me just start with that since your clockwise preference indicates that you're right handed. Me being left handed (but playing the fiddle right handed) my preference is counter-clockwise. I worked on trying to get a relaxed clockwise circles for about 5 years (started playing the fiddle when I was about 30). It never got to be relaxed and still feels, what I would call "stilted". I finally gave up after those 5 years and have on may occaisions substituted by using a figure 8 motion. This doesn't work for "Devil's Dream" which I still really can't play to my own satisfaction (an exercise in clockwise motion).

Now, the really good fiddlers can make circles in both directions, and that's the best thing that you can do if you can get them to feel relaxed. Don't give up right away, work on for a while, maybe for a few years.

Also, I have seen David Husic in many years. He is a great fiddler. Please say hello for me.


bj Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @7:24:37 AM

You're almost right, Carl. I'm more right handed than left, but I'm less "favored" than most people, though not quite totally ambidextrous. I can write legibly, if somewhat sloppily with my left hand, and actually use my left for my computer mousing, which, since I do graphics work, is sometimes exacting. Hopefully this means I'll eventually "break through" the counterclockwise timing barrier, though since it's a right hand thing . . . who knows?

David's fun to play with (and very patient!) I'll be sure to pass on your greeting. I have you to thank for getting me together with him. He contacted me through that google OT listserv you had told me about, when I announced the Phillipsburg jam.

robinja Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @2:26:50 PM

Hmmm....I pretty much only do counter-clockwise circles, assuming we're defining things the same way. And I'm definitely right handed. I'm not much of a bowing analyst, but clockwise circles seem like something my teacher once called "back-bowing". He does it, but he considers it a more advanced bowing technique and less common.

bj Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @2:39:25 PM

Well, I guess it does depend which side of the hand you're on! From my side of the hand, that describes what I'm doing. If you're standing right in front of me, then I would appear to be doing the exact opposite!

bj Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @2:42:21 PM

I just also had a realization. If you're starting on a lower string and rocking to a higher string, then the circle will go the opposite direction than if you did the reverse.

Cyndy Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @8:16:32 PM

I love that "snag a bass string" thing. I haven't tried it but I saw and heard it done not too long ago and thought, "Wow. That's cool."

bj Says:
Monday, March 23, 2009 @8:25:39 PM

It's very cool. And if my H2 F&^*%ing Zoom hadn't busted I'd have been recording it. :-(

carlb Says:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 @5:55:15 AM


I consider that clockwise bowings are the motion one would use when mixing eggs in a cup with a fork, a very awkward motion for me. Since you are right handed, does that mean that it's easier for you to mix your eggs with a counter-clockwise motion?


robinja Says:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 @6:00:34 AM

Carl - Actually, I do what my grandmother always admonished NOT to do - I mix egg BOTH clockwise and counterclockwise (which she always said would un-mix them!). I do start clockwise and my hand gets tired, and I switch. Interesting....


bj Says:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 @6:10:39 AM

Hmm. I wonder if I "unmixed" the eggs long enough, if I could fix a broken yolk . . .

I beat eggs clockwise with my right hand.

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