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How long is your typical bow stroke?

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Jan 9, 2019 - 12:59:42 PM
6908 posts since 3/19/2009
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Last night I was at our usual jam and I got to watching the four other fiddlers in the room...One holds his hand very low and makes, I'd say 4 inch strokes and plays with the tip of his bow..Another, playes in the area just past the top half of her bow and has about 4 inch strokes.. Still another uses his whole bow and plays 10-12 inch strokes...AND>..the fourth plays somewhat like me..basically in the middle of the bow using maybe 3 inch strokes.. My typical stroke when playing fast may be just 2 inches.....or even less.
What are your observations?

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 01/09/2019 13:01:09

Jan 9, 2019 - 1:11 PM

3914 posts since 9/26/2008

I use the whole bow but not all at once (if that makes sense).

Jan 9, 2019 - 1:23:59 PM

6908 posts since 3/19/2009
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quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

I use the whole bow but not all at once (if that makes sense).


Yes, that makes sense, and I do that also, but when watching people all play the same tune I found it interesting to see the variations....Too long of a bow stroke can be inefficient at times and too short of a stroke can lead to reduced tonal quality ( or so I THINK)....

Jan 9, 2019 - 2:11:54 PM
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24 posts since 11/28/2018

Several years ago I started watching other fiddlers that were, in my opinion, making good sounds. Virtually all of them used a LOT of bow. Maybe not all the time but as a rule. I started using more bow and became a better player. Then I realized that in order to use more bow, sometimes you need to move the bow faster, which I also started doing. Of course a faster moving bow meant a louder sound (unless you give it less pressure) and louder sound isn't always good, despite what many fiddlers seem to think. So I worked for quite a while on the whole bow pressure / bow speed / length of bow used thing and became a better player (with the caveat that this is my own assesment of my playing). I do think that moving the bow faster (using a longer bowstroke) allows you to put more 'feel' into each note or phrase.

Jan 9, 2019 - 2:46:07 PM

1517 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Woodcutter

Several years ago I started watching other fiddlers that were, in my opinion, making good sounds. Virtually all of them used a LOT of bow. Maybe not all the time but as a rule. I started using more bow and became a better player. Then I realized that in order to use more bow, sometimes you need to move the bow faster, which I also started doing. Of course a faster moving bow meant a louder sound (unless you give it less pressure) and louder sound isn't always good, despite what many fiddlers seem to think. So I worked for quite a while on the whole bow pressure / bow speed / length of bow used thing and became a better player (with the caveat that this is my own assesment of my playing). I do think that moving the bow faster (using a longer bowstroke) allows you to put more 'feel' into each note or phrase.


That makes some sense. But there are a lot of times you can't use a long bow, especially if you are using saw strokes or ornaments that require bow change. It's harder to change bow direction from both extremes if you're playing fast, and it requires more wrist movement. I try to use as much bow as I can on long notes but otherwise find it's easier to use the middle 3rd, or less. Often if I end up near the either end of the bow I will play out there before coming back to the middle. Smoother tone near the tip of the bow and crunchier near the frog.

Edited by - abinigia on 01/09/2019 14:49:11

Jan 9, 2019 - 2:59:03 PM

Old Scratch

Canada

326 posts since 6/22/2016

About half as long as a string.

Jan 9, 2019 - 3:09:02 PM

24 posts since 11/28/2018

Brian said --- But there are a lot of times you can't use a long bow, especially if you are using saw strokes or ornaments that require bow change. It's harder to change bow direction from both extremes if you're playing fast, and it requires more wrist movement.


Very true Brian. I use saw strokes and other shuffle techniques all the time where I can't use too much bow. But I'm speaking generally --- overall, and when it's feasible, I try to use more bow rather than less. I forgot to mention that I used to play very short strokes and generally near the tip. If you study the better players, they will play near the tip, the frog, or anywhere in between. So I incorporated that also. Like I say, it works for me.

Jan 9, 2019 - 3:38:16 PM

1517 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Woodcutter

Brian said --- But there are a lot of times you can't use a long bow, especially if you are using saw strokes or ornaments that require bow change. It's harder to change bow direction from both extremes if you're playing fast, and it requires more wrist movement.


Very true Brian. I use saw strokes and other shuffle techniques all the time where I can't use too much bow. But I'm speaking generally --- overall, and when it's feasible, I try to use more bow rather than less. I forgot to mention that I used to play very short strokes and generally near the tip. If you study the better players, they will play near the tip, the frog, or anywhere in between. So I incorporated that also. Like I say, it works for me.


I think we agree.

Jan 9, 2019 - 5:46:49 PM

1264 posts since 12/11/2008

It totally depends. If I am playing Old Time boom-chuck-a stuff, I play four inch strokes somewhere in the middle of the bow. This is true whether or not I'm at a jam. If I'm doing blues, pop, jazz or classical, I'm all over the place. Some strokes are as long and slow as I dare. I want the fiddle to sing! I do little bitty staccato up-downs at the place on the bow where I happen to find myself. I just don't yet have the skill or confidence to lift my bow off the strings and instantly put it back down at its optimal position. If I try, bow bounce and utter tonal ugliness nearly always ensue.

Jan 9, 2019 - 8:08:35 PM

3914 posts since 9/26/2008

I’ll elaborate. I play shuffles and saw strokes throughout a tune, but where that happens on the bow moves about, particularly as I give some notes more weight than others. So in a given breakdown or reel I vary the length of my bow stroke, and thus use most of the bow but probably not the first two inches at either end. If the tune is super fast, I’ll probably use 4 inches max, likely in the middle slightly towards the tip. There are also times when I play out on the tip, but mostly to be quiet or when I’m working a tune out.

I don’t have the sweetest tone, but I have good bow control and like to use all of it, I mean, come on, I paid for whole thing.

Jan 10, 2019 - 2:10:45 AM

1086 posts since 4/6/2014

On trad tunes, (where i am attempting to keep a dry sound), from about an inch or less on a quick reel, to about 2/3rds of a bow on slower tunes on or around the "sounding point" of the string. Other genre's are a different matter, i just use (or attempt to use),however much bow and bow weight i need to get the sound i want, and nearer or further away from the bridge for colour, this (along with tempo), tends to dictate how much bow i use at any given time, i never have mastered the technique for using long bows and changing direction with no noticeable change in sound, but i have seen/heard it done to great effect.

mostly i attempt to use as little or as much bow and weight (along with bow placement),as i need for the sound i want.

Jan 10, 2019 - 7:22:27 AM
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2037 posts since 10/1/2008

Well …. typical is problematic …. each melody defines my bowing and the tempo will structure it again. A saw stroke is probably three or four inches a Georgia Bow three tone slur will take three quarters of the bows length. After a serious decade of workshops , lessons and playing nearly daily I am beginning to grasp what all I don't know about bowing. Once again, the more I know the more I find I don't know. < sigh R/

Jan 10, 2019 - 11:25:52 AM
Players Union Member

boxbow

USA

2354 posts since 2/3/2011

As I've been keeping up with this thread, I found that I have no idea what a "typical" stroke length would be. No longer than necessary, I suppose, so they go as short as an inch and as long as the bow. If I had to call it, I'd say 1-3 inches long and between the frog and midpoint of the bow. It's extra work to get my fiddles to speak with a shorter stroke than about an inch, but I keep trying.

Jan 10, 2019 - 11:44:05 AM

1264 posts since 12/11/2008

pete fiddle comes up with another crucial variable -- where on the string to place the bow. I obsessively watch fiddlers I admire, noting where they put the thing. It's just plain tough for me to control that variable, in any case. When furiously sawing along, I find myself bowing ever more closely to the bridge, something that invariably results in scratchy tone.

Jan 10, 2019 - 1:23:02 PM

6908 posts since 3/19/2009
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It is a curious thing.. One fiddling friend who uses longer bow strokes plays energetically and sounds great while other fiddlers I have seen him play with, including me, use shorter strokes...I wonder if there is a general correlation between length of bow stroke to the skill of the fiddler........I can't imagine playing a tune like 'cuffy', for instance, up to speed and using anything but a 2 inch stroke...
Then, there is the whole other topic of "From where do you use your bow? Wrist, Elbow, Shoulder?" I've seen them all...Stiff armed fiddlers sound WAY different than fluid, relaxed fiddlers.

Jan 10, 2019 - 3:08 PM
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2270 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver


Then, there is the whole other topic of "From where do you use your bow? Wrist, Elbow, Shoulder?" I've seen them all...Stiff armed fiddlers sound WAY different than fluid, relaxed fiddlers.


The way I see it - most originates from the shoulder; the arm, elbow, wrist follow. (used to add weight, accent, ornament, flow, nuance).

As far as length of bow and part; as others mentioned... it depends. The different parts of the bow have different sound... tone, volume, ease of control... more bow is great for more volume and perhaps smoother sound...  bottom third seems easier for a lot more bite, gritty power with more percussive accent on bow changes... the upper half seems easier for smoother bow changes. The top third seems easier for bowed triplets. 

Additionally, some depends on what bow I'm using... it's weight, balance and spring.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 01/10/2019 15:11:21

Jan 10, 2019 - 3:31:57 PM

6908 posts since 3/19/2009
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Alaska, your comments make perfect sense, but many players, even those who may have played for years, often exhibit what I call 'frozen elbow' or 'frozen wrist'....very stiff ..(this is not to imply that my bowing isn't without fault)..I DO have an extremely flexible wrist and I think that that contributes to me only needing a very short bow stroke to get things done.. I always thought that Alan Jabbour played with a stiff arm, but he was able to pull off some pretty good fiddling....I'm just making observations here, folks..not picking on anyone...smiley

Jan 10, 2019 - 4:06:03 PM
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24 posts since 11/28/2018

Lee said --- I wonder if there is a general correlation between length of bow stroke to the skill of the fiddler .....

Spend some time watching Betty Vornbrock, Roger Netherton, Anna Roberts-Gevalt and the like. They seem to have longer bow strokes even when they are playing quickly.

Jan 10, 2019 - 5:27:16 PM
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2270 posts since 9/13/2009

Lee... I was just describing my observations; not prescribing some correct proper technique.  It's a fiddle... folks should do whatever they want as need to; what works for them. It's IMO, just about making music... (and folks do find all sorts of ways to make music).

I do encourage folks to experiment, find out what different things do; what might be useful, or better/easier way... but individuals decide what's important or not to them. 

FWIW, I think evaluating the skill of the fiddler, is less about visual, or what technique aspect first... more about the fiddler's attitude/soul of the music, that finds a way to come thru (the musical desire finds a technique).

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 01/10/2019 17:32:37

Jan 10, 2019 - 5:57:49 PM

2270 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by UsuallyPickin

 A saw stroke is probably three or four inches a Georgia Bow three tone slur will take three quarters of the bows length. 


Just thinking about this... 

That the Georgia bow needs to travel a certain length for the 3 note slur, but then use that length of bow for one stroke... more bow for a stroke tends to be louder, so might be what causes some of the accent on that note. 

As well, as I mentioned, bow changes near the frog easier to have a bit more bite than the tip; so the bow direction up-down (frog) is perhaps easier stronger accent than down-up (tip). Which might explain some down bowing preference for accent? (more than the gravity explanation).

Just a thought.

Jan 11, 2019 - 12:18:38 AM

1086 posts since 4/6/2014

Just noticed this morning), my bowing is directly related to whether i have been using the chainsaw and billhook the day before or not

can't do long bow strokes this morning.... and iv'e got another day using them today....

Also i have noticed that folk who learned to play in sessions, in small crowded pubs tend to use a lot less bow..;o)

Jan 12, 2019 - 11:31:46 AM

1086 posts since 4/6/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

pete fiddle comes up with another crucial variable -- where on the string to place the bow. I obsessively watch fiddlers I admire, noting where they put the thing. It's just plain tough for me to control that variable, in any case. When furiously sawing along, I find myself bowing ever more closely to the bridge, something that invariably results in scratchy tone.


it would be hard to place the bow if you are playing from your chest , or even dropping the bow/string contact point out of line of sight, (reading glasses required for me nowadays), but after looking at the contact point for a while, it just becomes part of what i do when i play fiddle, and i find i don't have to think about it too much, it just happens, so i still know where i am between the bridge and the fingerboard without looking...... ( i think....indecision)

Obviously as you know, near the finger board ...more bow less weight...near the bridge less bow more weight...(apologies for stating the obvious)

Edit: unless you are after a spooky phased sound, or a creaking ships rope sound..smiley

Edit: or anywhere in between..........

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 01/12/2019 11:44:34

Jan 13, 2019 - 2:42:27 PM

421 posts since 6/26/2007

A lot of old timers were fond of using very little bow, favoring the tip. You ever watch Clyde Davenport play?

I can't recall where I read it, but it was said (by a fiddler who knew him!) that the great Irish master Michael Coleman did nearly all his playing with the 6 inches at the very tip end of his bow.

Jan 14, 2019 - 11:05:11 PM

48 posts since 1/3/2019

Upper-south fiddlers could often use a really long bow. Two come to mind- Joe Coe and Elmer Rich could throw an up bow and get 3-4-6 notes out of it. There is video evidence of that. I do it, too. I just commented on another post that I think the Hammons probably did that, too, but I have no video evidence. Henry Reed sounds to me to be a long bower and if I remember right Alan Jabbour demonstrates that in his fiddling. Me personally, I put myself in that style of bowing---use my whole body and whole bow sometimes. And there is a lot of power a person can get when they bow long with their whole arm and a not from the wrist. I know this is different than most of what's going on in old time theses days, and am not negating those styles- respectfully, i'm talking old style upper-south.

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