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safe place to keep this - so i don't forget

Posted by tonyelder on Friday, February 20, 2015

like this


I found this on the net.  Didn't want to forget it or lose it.  It is important for me to know it was said. It is part of an interview between 2 well known fiddlers. I think would surprise a few folks to know who they were.

I'm not going to include the names - it's not a secret - I'm not trying to "hide it". I just don't want anyone to feel they've been put on the spot. Anyone who is that interested can ask me privately.

a: How did you learn? Did live one-on-one interaction play a part in the learning process?

b: .... On the fiddle I think it was just me and the old records for maybe the first couple of years.

a: How did you approach bowing when you started learning? Was there any sense of "bow patterns" for you? How do you think about "bowing?"

b: I didn't think of it that way when I was learning, but I managed to acquire a few good habits very early on (just plain luck as far as I can tell). I'd been fiddling for maybe 20 years by the time I was hanging around with "c" and heard him talk about "down bowing". I remember asking him if I played that way, since I'd never paid any attention to which way the bow was going. He said yes. Since then I've gotten more and more into teaching, and so I've had to learn how to analyze and dissect the way I do things. It still isn't real easy.

This pretty well sums it up for me.

I am as convinced now as I ever have been:  It is not necessary to make learning bowing patterns a separate focused discipline in order to play old time fiddle tunes and sound traditional. Learning to play OT fiddle tunes while listening to recordings and playing with others can be enough to do the job.

Now as I have always said - studying bowing patterns as a separate discipline is not a bad thing, and can shorten the learning curve for some.

But don't say - it is necessary. It's not how it was done then, and it's not how it has to be done now.


11 comments on “safe place to keep this - so i don't forget”

Rene Says:
Saturday, February 21, 2015 @1:05:57 PM

Relief sigh...I'm gonna make it after all

tonyelder Says:
Saturday, February 21, 2015 @1:30:54 PM

lol... we'll make it together!

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, February 22, 2015 @9:17:02 AM

Safe from what? Or from WHOM? ;^D

The statement that jumped out at me was this:
" I managed to acquire a few good habits very early on (just plain luck as far as I can tell)"

Plain luck..... hmmmmmm.......

tonyelder Says:
Sunday, February 22, 2015 @10:24:13 AM

Safe, because there have been several things I have found like this in the past that I wanted to keep - and didn't put it where I could find it again later.

So by putting it here - it is in a place where I know I can find it later.

I acknowledge and appreciate your spin - but it takes nothing away from what this person has accomplished and how they did it. I'm sure - today - that they would encourage folks starting out with old time fiddle to at least understand what patterns are and where they are used - and might even recommend that they be studied. And even still - none of that takes anything away from what they were able to accomplish without studying them separately. This person acquired the skills to play old time fiddle - that unknowingly included the patterns they now use - just by listening and playing. Just as I have said - it is a valid path that has all the potential needed for bringing a person to fully realize their goal of playing old time fiddle tunes - and being good at it.

And I doubt seriously if that this person would claim they were the only one who has ever had "just plain luck" with the method they used to learn.

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, February 22, 2015 @2:09:07 PM

Also... this comment seems to be a rebuttal to me:
"But don't say - it is necessary. It's not how it was done then, and it's not how it has to be done now."
That's not what I've said, and if you think I'm saying that you're misunderstanding me. directionally free bowing.... is always an option, and since I know not everyone is wired the same way in learning style, a pattern approach MIGHT NOT be an option.... although I wonder if maybe a different way of presenting the pattern approach might work better. You can never assume that the reason for the failure was the material- how the material is presented CAN make or break the learning experience.
What's I'm saying is that the learning-curve-shortening potential is so great, and so valuable, that really, everyone should at least TRY a pattern approach.... even as a supplemental side approach. In the olden days in a subsistence farming economy, people HAD time to kill in the winter... and fiddling could keep people from going stir crazy cooped up in bad weather. "Cabin fever" is a reality. Shortening the learning curve isn't necessarily a virtue then. But for busy people getting a late start, who have families and jobs and various responsibilities, learning the fiddle has to be made to "play nice" with the rest of their lives. And then, learning a difficult instrument and getting a late start.... in so many ways I see that shortening the learning curve is much more necessary now than before. There is also the aspect of space and relationships.... practicing fiddle in the early days is ROUGH on significant others and neighbors. On isolated farms with a woodshed out a ways from the house, they could minimize that. Many people don't have that option today. For the sake of KINDNESS to family and neighbors ALONE, I would say that shortening the learning curve in a more crowded living situation is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT..... "necessary"? Not absolutely.... exceptions can happen, I can see that. I'll just leave it at "EXTREMELY IMPORTANT".

tonyelder Says:
Sunday, February 22, 2015 @3:43:35 PM

I appreciate what I perceive to be a more flexible and tolerant opinion coming from you. If you say this has always been your position - then I would much rather accept that as the truth - and forget about the past - than to offer any challenge. I will only say that I regret that we have failed so miserably in our communication over this subject for so long.

And I will leave it at that...

tonyelder Says:
Monday, February 23, 2015 @1:08:54 PM


But I’ve been giving more thought to something you said - "...a pattern approach MIGHT NOT be an option.... although I wonder if maybe a different way of presenting the pattern approach might work better. You can never assume that the reason for the failure was the material- how the material is presented CAN make or break the learning experience."

That makes sense. But I think there might be something else too. And in light of what you have said, I would ask you to re-consider some things I have said many, many times before. Perhaps you will recognize something that has been hidden until now.

I have NEVER been against using bowing patterns. I have no aversion to using them / I don’t avoid them. I am satisfied – in my mind (just as in the OP above) – that I am learning bowing patterns.

However, I’m not focused on learning patterns. I don’t study patterns independently – isolated from the tunes they are in. I learn tunes. But I know – that as I listen to and learn to play fiddle tunes, I will be learning bowing patterns (can’t help it) – because they make up the rhythmic drive of the tune. And some of those patterns are so unique, if you don’t get the rhythm right – it might be hard to recognize the tune. And some are so unique that – when played well – others would recognize the tune even without the melody.

So - in my mind – I am satisfied that I am learning bowing patterns, BUNCHES of them. But I don’t know that any of them have names (except NS and saw shuffle) and I’m not overly concerned about whether they fit someone else’s definitions or not. Bottom line – what does it sound like?

I guarantee you – I spend a good deal of time focusing on the bowing strategies I use when playing tunes. And what I do is far from being “anywhichway” while I play. I know what the recording sounds like, and I know what I am listening for when I play. And I have found that most all of what I have learned to do with the bow, is also done in several other tunes. I hear the “patterns” being repeated – if you will.

Concerning David Bragger. I have an easier time picking up on what he is doing by listening and watching him play, than I do from listening to his bowing instructions. That’s not a reflection on his teaching methods – that’s a reflection on my capacity for learning from them.

And to learn to count off bowing patterns using your numbering system, in an effort to learn patterns without hearing a melody – forget it. Not in this boy’s life. At least David teaches his bowings with a tune as the backdrop. But that’s not your fault – that’s just my capacity for learning.

Nevertheless, I have good reasons to believe – even though my capacity for learning may be different than yours – it seems to be working just fine. And I am encouraged to know that it has worked for others.

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, February 23, 2015 @6:24:54 PM

Well, compared to some, I think I've long tended to be more tolerant than some pattern downbowers. One thing I was thinking about is that my balance between Anywhichway and Pattern Downbowing is dynamic.... it's like riding a bicycle.... now you lean this way, now that, now you're vertical for a bit. In Old Time, I think I lean about 70% to 80% towards patterns for various reasons including being a city picker, the style I'm aiming for and listened to most (Virginia and North Carolina fiddlers) and the fact that if someone shows me something, I hate to see it go to waste, I've tried to incorporate all the bowings that people were kind enough to show me, or that I got Eureka moments on.

On Irish tunes, waltzes, Swedish tunes and jigs, I'm leaning the other way.... about 70% to 80% towards "Anywhichway", but since I have all this pattern experience, some of it creeps in in hopefully subtle and appropriate ways.
With Swedish and Irish tunes, I'm learning the tunes from sheet music, but I'm "going straight at the music" as far as bowing. However, I have one pattern that is used in Irish to smooth out bow rocking that I'm working on on the side, and recently I saw a video where a Swedish fiddler demoed a bowing pattern used for polskas, which is the kind of Swedish tune that I'm having the hardest time "getting". So I may be doing a little pattern work there too.

If you blended it all together, I'm about 50/50 Anywhichway and Pattern Downbowing! But I lean according to genre, so for each genre I'm seldom "in the middle". Does that make sense?

I don't think my actual POSITION on bowing has changed much, but I think I'm in a mellower place where in the overall scheme of things, it's really not that important.

As far as the counting.... well.... maybe we wouldn't argue in person AFTER ALL. In person, there are ways of demoing bowing that are hard to do with a computer keyboard. If you can feel and hear the timing, no actual counting is needed.

There's also the aspect that for whatever reason, I'm the one that tends to do the heavy lifting on the pattern side of bowing discussions. When people talk about "pattern bowing" as if it's a bad thing, well, I tend to take the pattern bowing side. And the nature of debate tends to push people to extremes in defending a position. That was definitely happening with IdleHands.... I think sometimes he WANTED me to be more dogmatic than I am. But if there were someone even more pattern bowing oriented than I am showing up and posting lots, that could change. Especially if I felt they were being derogatory and unfair.
There was also a specific point in debate with IdleHands... (or was it StrawTurkey.? ), where I realized that I was wearing the Old Time pattern downbowing hat a little bit too forcefully, seeing as I started with the "anywhichway" approach and still use it some for specific purposes. Since that time, I have made a point of mentioning that I sometimes use anywhichway, but I think by that time some people were so used to seeing me wearing the pattern downbowing hat that they didn't see that I was moving towards a more nuanced and less dogmatic position. Or maybe they just didn't believe me.

Also, it was a revelation to me to realize that Chirps Smith and Doug D, when I look at their videos, look and sound like perfect short-pattern downbowers.... but they don't analyze. And George sure sounds like a pattern fiddler to me.... but I guess he doesn't analyze either. That being the case.... if they can actually bow so patterny without thinking about it... why not Tony too? Yes, it's possible for you too.
And so yes, it's possible for fiddlepogo's bowing views to shift over time, although it's going to tend to be more subtle than say, my sudden shift back to the thumb on stick hold. And being more subtle, it might be easier to not notice that a change actually took place.... especially since my posts tend to be long and complex, and could easily put people to sleep before they actually got to my CONCLUSION! =8-/

fiddlepogo Says:
Tuesday, May 19, 2015 @10:56:16 AM

After watching the videos of you in in the Tennessee jams, I'm convinced that you DID luck out for whatever reason.... whether good Alaska jams, lots of listening, past musical experience...
You have a relatively simple but coherent and effective bowing style that works well for you, and works well in the context of the jam. I don't see your bowing getting turned around at all.
You use a lot of sawstroke, and it's downbow oriented. You mix in two note slurs, especially as an opening lick.
I haven't figured out what slurs you do at the end of phrases.... but whatever it is, it just works.
And it sounds VERY Old Time.

I like it!
Also, I think you are playing better in the videos than in any of the recordings you've posted. You sound confident!

tonyelder Says:
Tuesday, May 19, 2015 @12:20:00 PM

I'm flattered and encouraged. Thank you for your kind words.

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 @8:46:46 AM

You're quite welcome.

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