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Nashville Shuffle Revisited

Posted by fiddlepogo on Saturday, September 8, 2012

Some of you may remember me saying that one of the things that propelled me into learning more patterns was that I had heard so much Nashville Shuffle and used Nashville Shuffle so much myself in my early years of fiddling, that I got ROYALLY tired of it, and I needed a ROYAL BREAK from it!wink

And I did.   I replaced it with Sawshuffle, continued fiddling without Nashville for at least 10 years, quit fiddling for 15 (no shuffles AT ALL) then started playing fiddle again, likewise without Nashville. So I may have gotten a 30 year break from Nashville- pretty royal, I'd say!  Over the last couple of year though I've heard some fiddlers who get a good sound out of Nashville, and I'd try it, and it was like dead again.  Well, it sounded too straight- worked okay if I was trying to sound Scottish or Canadian, but not if I was trying to sound Old Time.  And also, if I did use Nashville, I had to drop most of my other patterns, because the groove I was getting from Nashville- if it worked at all- was just not compatible with the rest of my bowing.

Also, I'd always assumed that the reason people got stuck in Nashville was that they didn't know any better, or that they just liked it a lot... well, that still may be part of it, but something else may be going on.

Well, today I was experimenting with various Shuffles on the high part of June Apple- I tried ALL three possible "offset" versions of Nashville, and to my surprise there was a way of making all three of them sound really good. 

Then I thought... well, there should be a way of making Nashville sound really good too... so I started playing it slowly, trying to make it bounce like I like.  And I started getting it, and then I'd lose it, and I couldn't figure out why I kept losing it, because I was bowing the same, and then it HIT me...

on Nashville, the LEFT hand is a big part of what makes the pattern either straight or bouncy.

To get the bounce, I was HOLDING the first note with the appropriate finger of the left hand a little longer than was mathematically intuitive.

Somehow when hearing other fiddlers' different sounding Nashville phrasing, I'd always assumed that the way the backbeat was hit was the secret, or maybe fading the last note almost to nothing.

Anyway, once I started thinking about it, it seemed obvious- if a note is slurred, the bow isn't going to have much to do with the phrasing of the notes during the slur (unless you "pulse" and I'm not talking about that)  So you have to do it with the left hand, and what you have to do to get an accent on the first note in Nashville is to lengthen it within the slur.

Phrasing with the left hand that way seemed kind of unnatural, like I was holding the first note longer than I would with other patterns, but I think what is happening is that since most of my other patterns start on a single down stroke, I DON'T have to hold the note as long on them, because the velocity of the bow does part of the accent, and the string change takes up some time too.

And it also occurred to me that if your left hand got used to phrasing that way, it actually might make it hard to use other patterns if you couldn't get out of the rut or habit that the LEFT hand was in!

Now, this really only applies to Old Time.  If you are using a more evenly accented phrasing scheme, Nashville and the left hand phrasing for it is going to fit right in with everything else.

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