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What I learned

Posted by Phoeniceus on Thursday, September 24, 2009

A couple of months back I went to Seattle on a business trip and stopped in on their excellent Tuesday night old time jam at Conor Byrne's - a local Irish-themed drinking establishment. The room was filled with wonderful players - even their amateurs sound good. But like a young pup or a senile Uncle, too self-absorbed to care what anyone thought of me, I pulled up a chair next to the best fiddle player I found in the room, meaning the one whose playing I most liked in the first five minutes. It turned out to be Joe Fulton from the Tallboys.

I played for hours, not the best player in the room, not the worst, but perhaps one of the most tenacious. Whether I knew the tune or not didn't stop me, and bless Joe Fulton, who had my bow by his ear most of the night, for neither kicking me out or complaining.

I did stop now and then to watch his playing, and as everyone keeps telling me to do, I kept an eye on his right hand more than the left. When you think about it, all the left hand has to say is whether it got the note right or not, and maybe an occasionally slide or double stop if it wants to be noticed. But the right hand is the one who's really directing the conversation. (My apologies to you left-handed fiddle players for my rightist language).

And I noticed that when his bow moved up and down, his wrist bent in the direction the bow was moving. A lot. Almost 90 degrees, even on a fast saw stroke. The wrist was always leading, and it was pronounced. I had heard of having a loose wrist, but I'd never seen it so clearly demonstrated. I watched my own playing after that; I had never noticed how stiff my wrist was.

Since then I have experiemented with different ways of holding the bow to allow my wrist some flexibility, and I finally found something that works. Lo and behold, as soon as I did this, my playing got really, really rhythmic. There's a snap I can produced at the end of the bow draw or pull that I couldn't do before, and it's sooo coooool.

Thank you Joe!

6 comments on “What I learned”

Swing Says:
Thursday, September 24, 2009 @2:09:54 PM

Another great moment in fiddling

Play Happy

mudbug Says:
Thursday, September 24, 2009 @3:53:41 PM

Cool storey!

fiddlepogo Says:
Thursday, September 24, 2009 @10:35:39 PM

Yup, great blog entry- thanks!

Ozarkian DL Says:
Friday, September 25, 2009 @8:22:37 AM

Wrist action ????....If'n ya have'nt take a look......If'n ya have look again.


robinja Says:
Friday, September 25, 2009 @8:42:32 AM

Excellent! It's always great to have breakthroughs like that.

Phoeniceus Says:
Friday, September 25, 2009 @9:12:26 AM

D.L. - I had'n looked before. Ah, this is nice loose wrist action, but it's different than what I saw. Compare with this:


(Hit the HQ button and you'll see it better).

Glenn leads with his hand, while Joe leads with his wrist. See how Glenn's wrist and arm often stays in place while the hand does all the work. Joe on the other hand has his wrist moving all the time and the hand comes along late for the ride. It almost looks like his arm is broken.

Any opinion anyone on advantages or disadvantages to either method?

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