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Variation in Sweet Spots, and fun with the bow

Posted by bj on Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm doing better. Hurray!

Part of it is simply understanding differences in the different fiddles I've played. This Schartel I'm currently using is more than a tiny bit frustrating, but I'm also thinking it may be a good discipline for me if I can master the difference. The sweet spot area on the strings, between the bridge and the fingerboard, is very tiny, in comparison to my other two fiddles, which of course added to my earlier problems. Only a very small part of it gives good tone, and it is totally unforgiving when I wander from that spot. This is really making me aware of keeping the bow perpendicular and keeping my bowstroke on the same area of the strings to get the pretty sound instead of the scratchy sound or the dead sound.

I need this discipline. This is good, if irritating to my ears at times. And when I do get the Stockdale back in good order I'll be able to USE the bigger sweet spot to better advantage, I think, once I've developed the muscle memory of a small sweet spot on this Schartel. And maybe it's a good idea the Stockdale needed work at this moment in my playing adventure. That fiddle is SO VERY FORGIVING of sloppy playing compared to the Schartel, since it just sounds good even when played badly. Just a sweet, sweet fiddle. But the last thing I need is to develop sloppy habits now. This Schartel can sound good if I get things JUST RIGHT. It's making me pay attention. A good thing, I think, if sometimes a bit annoying.

I'm wondering if it can be fixed by a simple adjustment. And I'm also wondering if I should fix it now, if indeed it can be fixed, since the way it is now gives me a lot more reason to develop good habits, if only so I can stand to hear myself play.

I've also discovered a wonderful thing with the TUF grip. I had often watched Steve as he played and seen him change the angle of the bowhair in a rhythmic way to accent his bowing pattern, which also accent the rhythm in another way, since the flathair along with the dig gives a more percussive tone to the accents. I could never quite "get it" with the more classical grip. But with the TUF grip that motion has become extremely easy to do, with a simple rolling shift back and forth of the frog on the ball of my thumb, something that was just impossible for me with the classical grip with the thumb between the hair and the stick.

Of course, I couldn't have discovered this at a worse time! Since my control is still developing, AND I have a much smaller sweet spot on this fiddle, when you add in the new bowhair angle shifting, it keeps throwing me off. Way off!!! The analogy of walking and chewing gum comes to mind, but then add in juggling three balls while doing both of the other two. I'm just not quite there yet.

So I've decided to only play with this technique at the end of my practice, when I'm good and warmed up, and only for one or two songs. This is gonna be an awesome tool in the toolbox, but I'm feeling like the other stuff has to get better first before I can fully take advantage of it. So I'm exploring it just a bit. A little. It's fun when it works! And I sound awful when it doesn't . . . which is still much of the time.

In other words, you have to crawl before you can walk. Unfortunately I want to run, and even fly, and I'm impatient as all hell. But it's coming. Slowly. Very slowly.

5 comments on “Variation in Sweet Spots, and fun with the bow”

brya31 Says:
Thursday, June 19, 2008 @1:39:37 PM

Ahh  the TUF grip.  I have been down that road, got off that road and am still thinking about getting back on it.  LOL  Being a newbie is a dad bern struggle isnt it.  I have noticed the exact thing you noticed.  When I use the classical grip I cannot do anything but play with the bow flat on the strings.  When I use the TUG gripp I can tilt the bow and catch the edge of the strings for a finer sound.  But, when I use the TUF grip I dont seem to bow as well as I do with the classic grip.   Ahhhh,  bj when you figure this stuff out let me know!!

bj Says:
Thursday, June 19, 2008 @2:06:28 PM

But what's right for me might not be right for you!

I was quite simply amazed at how comfortable that grip is for me. So much so that I have to hook my pinky over the end of the screw just a bit to keep the bow from sliding in my grip -- I'm THAT relaxed in it. If you didn't have that same feeling with TUF, then maybe it isn't the grip for you.

Find the one you can relax in. Even if it's a fist balled up around the dang stick (yes, I've seen this in a video of a great granny playing. It was awesome, and amazing how much control she had of that thing! And against all advice of anyone I've ever heard talk about bow grips!) Relaxing into the groove makes the sound better. If you tighten up, so does the sound. THAT much I've learned so far. Of course, everything else has to be good as well, but you have a better chance of pulling good tone if you're relaxed.

Of course, you realize that me giving you advice is a bit of the blind leading the blind . . .

FiddleJammer Says:
Thursday, June 19, 2008 @4:35:09 PM

I'm a recent convert to the TUF grip. Once I relaxed with it, I discovered that just a slight tilt forward by my bow hand resulted in a huge amount of extra control over the tone. A similar motion like revving a motor cycle or changing gears on a bicycle.

FiddleJammer Says:
Thursday, June 19, 2008 @4:40:54 PM

Also wanted to mention the sweet spot on a bow... balance your bow on your index finger to determine where the bow's sweet spot is. That would be the center of gravity. I've found that using the bow equidistant from that balance point has a better effect than just using the 'middle third' of the bow, as many newbies are taught. Each bow will be different and knowing where that point is on your particular bow can give you much better handling and leverage. That means you have to apply less pressure and you can let the bow glide more at will. This will improve your tone.

bj Says:
Friday, June 20, 2008 @8:30:09 AM

Thanks, FiddleJammer! It was pretty amazing to me when I went to the TUF grip, coupled with the looser bow hair, that this "finding the sweet spot on a bow" more or less happened automatically, since I was so relaxed into the grip and using the weight of the bow, instead of bearing down and trying to force things. The best point on the bow hair sounds sweetest when it's riding there relaxed, so that's where I automatically started playing more when I went to that grip. Though I also am experimenting with longbow moves, if for no other reason than to end on the downstroke. I'm still working on that and find myself sometimes belaboring the bow rhythms to get there.

I'm very happy with this grip. The only thing I've found to be an issue is that I'm a bit bolder with the strokes, since the control and confidence has gone up since using it. So much so that I have to be careful not to run out of bow! Big difference from the wimpyscratchysqueaky of a short time ago!

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