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Bow hold breakthrough- I think!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, April 11, 2008

Yesterday while I was practicing, for some reason I got risky, and made a change to my bow hold.

Since switching to TUF last summer (thumb under frog), I'd been having problems knowing what to do with the 3rd finger.  If I drape it over the stick like the index is, it's okay for slow stuff, but too stiff for the fast stuff, and I can feel the stiffness transfer the impact to my wrist in a way that feels like it could cause pain if I kept on with it.

So I've been holding the 3rd finger up off the bow... but had the nagging feeling I was losing leverage that way.

Yesterday, I had the idea to put the 3rd finger down, but instead of draped over like the index, I just rest the fingertip on top of the stick.

Like all such changes, at first it felt clumsy, but then, wow!  Massively greater amounts of control and precision, especially on string changes, (if I can keep the 3rd finger from creeping down) and for some reason it also promotes flexibility, so my wrist motion seems more supple.  That's always a good thing.

However, I can tell it's going to take a while to get used to, especially to the fact that since the bowhold is more efficient, I not only CAN use less effort, but HAVE to, since if I try to use the same amount of effort I will now overshoot the mark.

When it works, everything feels more precise, and I think that will especially help on my attempts at Scottish fiddling.

I'm really amazed, because superficially this is a much smaller change than going to the TUF hold, but the change in feel is very nearly as big.

Speaking of TUF, I tried using the "3rd on stick" position with the TOS (more or less conventional) hold, and I think the comparison helped me see one of the reasons why TUF is so widely used among many noted fiddlers:

With the thumb on the stick next to the frog, it kind of gets locked into place, while under the frog, it is much freer- freer to act as a fulcrum.  With the 3rd finger on top now, it really accentuates the fulcrum effect. To really take advantage of that, the index over the stick has to be draped loosely.

Unfortunately I've got a gig this afternoon, and a practice tonight- not really a good time for my bowing to be in a state of flux!

Another thing happened yesterday.  I took another look at the Celtic section of Hetzler's Fakebook to see if there was anything Scottish I had missed.  I noticed a tune called Lillibulero in the marches... the title sounded familiar, but I just loved the tune!  I put it on half speed and learned it.  Then suddenly it dawned on me why it was so familiar- it's the opening melody for the BBC!  (I used to listen to shortwave radio a lot)  Also, according to Fiddler's Companion, quite significant as a song melody in the religious conflicts back in the 1600's... probably not quite the thing to play at an Irish session!

3 comments on “Bow hold breakthrough- I think!”

tiquose Says:
Saturday, April 12, 2008 @2:54:24 PM

I've got to try this ...

fiddlecraver Says:
Thursday, April 24, 2008 @6:28:19 PM

Lillibulero.  Oh yea, thats a good tune. Its not unheard of in Irish sessions.  The Chieftans recorded it ---many Irish players do know it.  I dont know where I ever learned it but have played it at Irish sessions.  Samuel P Bayard collected a version in SW PA (on fife and IMO is a better tune than what Irish musicians play) It was called "The Protestant Boys."  

 It wasnt unknown to old fiddlers either.  Mostly in a form of whats called "Cock of the North" which isnt/wasnt  limited to Scottish or more Northernly fiddlers.   Bayard considered "The White Cockade" a 4/4 version of  Lillibulero and is not uncommon on the fiddle at all. but is a slightly different tune, but really nice in G.  Campbells are Coming and Miss MCleod's are ofthen thought of as being in the "family" and those two tunes turn up everywhere in early American music in different forms and names. I can't say Ive ever heard of or read of a traditional USA fiddler use the name "Lillibulero" for any branch of the tune.