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Working on Bowing Variations to make things sound more interesting

Posted by bj on Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No, I'm not going to become a bowing geek like Michael. This is just me trying to get my thoughts about bowing in order, so I can make it more fun.

In general I've got a basic groove. My bow is, in general, never "lost" or awkward when it comes to bowing directions. But my bowing is still somewhat boring, if reasonably competent in the basics.

My basic bowing is to start out playing the whole tune in GA shuffle, with the upbow on the short stroke and upbeat, and the downbow three slur with the downbeat on the middle note of that slur, and very occasionally pulsing an accent in there on that note, depending on the needs of the tune. This gives me a nice groove to start with, and allows me, since I'm really familiar with this, to basically get almost any tune's bowing down in a basic form pretty quickly, with no muss nor fuss. The tunes sound sorta okay this way, if a bit unfinished and somewhat boring, but it is a good basis off of which other bowings can be put in. Many tunes start on the short upbow this way, though some don't. Depends on whether there are pickup notes (and-a-ONE. being the upbow shortstroke and the first two notes of the slur, with the second slurred note being the downbeat.)

Then starts the substitutions, and it varies a lot from tune to tune.

On Cuffy, one of my new faves, I'm starting on the upbow, then the three note slur, then the next four notes can either continue the GA pattern, or go to 4 sawstrokes with a downbeat accent, which sounds really fiddley and fun. I'm working on mixing up the sawstroke in a lot of places on this tune. It's starting to sound the way I hear it in my head, but since this is a tune that's a real workout on the left hand, the bowing is coming slowly, only because it's the old novice juggling act between getting the right hand right or getting the left hand right, and wondering if ever the twain shall meet! I'm still disgustingly slow on this tune when trying to put the whole thing together, but it is coming along, slowly but surely. I'm trying to incorporate some nashville in this, but that's proven much less successful. It just doesn't fit the groove, no matter how I try to shoehorn it in.

Old Joe Clark is like a comfortable old sneaker. I can effortlessly switch in and out of GA, Nashville, and sawstroke on this one where needed, and it's up to jam speed. I can't say it's refined yet, but it's a lot closer than most of my tunes. Same with Angeline. These sound fiddley, and I can kick them off with confidence. A bit less so with Soldier's Joy, but I've been listening to some very unusual versions of that tune (like Benton Flippen's, for instance) and it's beginning to gel for me. These three I'm starting to add in some bowrocking ornaments and the occasional swing over to catch a bass note. That's coming more slowly. I can do it, but not up to speed yet. If I try it when playing up to speed I'm liable to trainwreck. :-) I'm also coming along in adding lefthand interest into these-- triplets, slurs, etc. and can do some of them up to speed, or at least close.

Another thing I've been playing with a lot, instead of bow direction, is bow pressure. Shane Cook's workshop worked with this some, Ken Kolodner's in a different way, and it gave me a lot of ideas. Just because you've got three notes on the same bow doesn't mean they all have to sound the same. Adding a ghostnote in (just a HINT of the note, with little to no bowpressure, usually on an upbow low rock, though it can vary) as a different way to do sawstroking to make it accomplish a different purpose and put the bow in the right direction is another way to vary up the sound, and make it percussive.

I'm finding there's a whole lot to explore here, before I ever get working on anything more complicated. There are a near infinite number of ways you can change these different components up, to give different results. Sometimes it's easy to fit things together. Other times  . . . it isn't.

In other news, I must have caught FiddleCat's bad luck with fiddles. The D peg on my A tuned fiddle has decided it's not going to go above a B. :-(   So I've gotta run and get some peg dope and hope that cures it in the short term. At least I've still got the Jackson Guldan for now.



11 comments on “Working on Bowing Variations to make things sound more interesting”

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @10:11:58 AM

I read the first sentence and LOL!!!!!!

Swing Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @10:15:06 AM

bj.... you can easily loosen any stuck peg with a frozen bags of peas... wrap the peg head with a paper towel, then the bag of peas and perhaps a cloth towel..let set for 1/2 hour, the peg should loosen up okay..you might need to repeat...don't use peg dope if the peg has been working okay before...it is just a humidity thing..

Play Happy

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @10:19:42 AM

I have bad news, bj-
you're well on your way to becoming a bowing geek like me!
I noticed your analytical ability when you first started posting,
and, inevitably, if you have that, and you love something, you will analyze it... it's not something you can just shut off, at least not for very long- it's part of you!
And that analytical ability is the core and essence of geekiness!!!
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news...
or maybe not,
maybe my geeky misery loves company!!! ;^D

bj Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @10:22:24 AM

Swing, cold is a neat trick, I've used it to unfreeze old wristwatches that have been wound too far. But with this peg it's the opposite. It won't stay higher than B lower than D, keeps slipping. I'm amazed it's slipping, since the humidity is hovering around 45%, and was higher last night when this started (when I switched out the tailgut for a new one, since the old one kept dropping and rubbing on the fiddle face, which would deaden the sound.)

I tried chalk, and it didn't work. I've had problems with this peg in the past and it probably needs replacing, but I need peg dope anyway, and if that can buy me some time until I can get it down to Jim, that would be a good thing. I really love playing this fiddle in cross A, and I miss it.

bj Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @10:31:36 AM

Michael, you analyze things to DEATH.

I can't and won't do that. Not like you do.

And no matter how much you might tell me otherwise, I believe Steve when he says there are only three bowing "patterns" and the rest are variations of those three. There comes a point in time when the analysis gets put away, and I let instinct take over. I do that on tunes I know well and never play them the same way twice. I'll get there on my newer tunes, once I've explored some of the possibilities and know them well enough to know how they fit together, and where the groove lies.

Swing Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @11:20:18 AM

bj...do not use chalk... chalk board chalk contains oils to keep it from squeaking, sidewalk chalk is okay or a little talc.

Play Happy

Cyndy Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @11:47:59 AM

Okay! I just tried the GA shuffle thing on Old Joe Clark and I'm apparently NOT a bowing geek!

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @9:41:12 PM

I GA shuffle "The Rite of Spring."

bj Says:
Thursday, August 6, 2009 @2:18:36 AM

Thanks, Swing, I was using sidewalk chalk. Didn't work. Neither did Hill's Peg Dope. This fiddle has to make a luthier trip. *sigh*

ChickenMan Says:
Saturday, August 8, 2009 @11:20:46 AM

Will peg dope make it stickier? I thought that was to make it smoother and easier to turn and that too much made it slip...

bj Says:
Saturday, August 8, 2009 @11:35:11 AM

According to woodwiz and M-D it does just a bit of both. Makes it turn smoother,but also keeps it from slipping . . . unless you use TOO much.

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