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Bowing Patterns

Posted by Virtual Fiddler on Wednesday, January 2, 2008

While I was back in Ohio over the Christmas Holidays, I had a chance to join in a Jam Session at Yellow Springs.

This is the first time I've jammed with this particular group. The jam session might be called an advanced level jam.

Most of the songs played were less common melodies. After some time, the fiddlers started cross tuning thier fiddles to AEAE or ADAE. It was a great jam, and I thought I was doing well, keeping up with the melodies to a lot of tunes I never played before.

When the jam was breaking up, I mentioned to the jam host that I really was just slighty beyond novice.

After inviting me to return and mentioning that I was following the melody pretty good, she mentioned the saying "The melody is optional, but the rhythm is essential." She suggested I get in contact with a local oldtime musician that would help me with bowing tecnique.

Unfortunately, out here where I am in Arizona, there is no one who can help me.

I have scoured throught the forums on this web site, and found two forums devoted to bowing patterns.

Over the New Year Holiday, I tried some of the patterns on some basic tunes like "Old Joe Clark" and "Over the Waterfall".

Trying to apply the patterns is extemely difficult. Often there is a change of bow direction in the middle of a quarter note, which doesn't seem right.

I guess these bowing patterns are very important in Old Time Music. I hope I can work my way though them.


3 comments on “Bowing Patterns”

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Wednesday, January 2, 2008 @3:53:51 PM

Far be it from me to purport that I am an expert at bowing patterns, but let me share for you a breakthrough moment for me.  Perhaps it will be a help to you.

At one of my first fiddle lessons I showed my teacher my Famous Fiddlin' Tunes book by Craig Duncan, published by Mel Bay (it's a great book with 43 tunes in it, plus a CD for less than $8.00 -- I highly recommend it).  I was working on Arkansas Traveler, and I was having a tough time with the bowing patterns as marked on the B part.

My teacher furrowed his brow in concentration, shook his head a few times, and marked up the score with revised bow markings.  When I played it through, it was easy to do.  Conclusion: Craig Duncan's bowing patterns work for him, but are not necessarily easy for others.  This was a breakthrough for me.

So I will commend to you what in France is called the law of D - Do whatever works.  When I am learning a new tune, after I get the gist of the melody, I pencil in bow markings that I think will work.  Good thing for the pencil, as I'm apt to revise the markings later.

Just when I think I have things nailed down, I start adding double stops, which often requires another (seemingly) interminably long development period while I hone my chops and further develop the bowing patterns.  My incubation period for such pieces is pretty long, on the order of months (good thing that I am patient).

There weren't any specifics here, but I hope this helps you develop a modus operandi, and encourage you to be patient.

fiddlepogo Says:
Thursday, January 3, 2008 @6:18:36 PM

Jim, This is good advice from FiddlerFaddler! Bowing patterns very individual. When learning a bowing pattern, I always play it on an easy tune section with few to no string changes until I get it down. June Apple 1st part, Blackberry Blossom 1st part, 8th of January 2nd part, Growling Old Man 2nd part. Once you have it all smoothed out and feeling natural, then you can think about trying it in different places. Also, quarter notes actually require a different bowing that hasn't been mentioned in the bowing threads yet.- (well, Nashville Shuffle can be used some with quarter notes) and I think you may have just inspired the next bowing thread- thanks! BTW- I've been meaning to ask- are there any Springers living in Springerville? Michael Springer aka fiddlepogo

wormbower Says:
Sunday, January 6, 2008 @8:30:07 PM

Jim, if you're willing to take a bit of a drive, "Fiddledan" Levenson has taken up winter shop in Las Cruces, NM.  I'll bet you can get some great lessons on old-time bowing patterns from him.

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