Playing jigs with a dotted rhythm

Playing dotted jig rhythms


Playing jigs with a dotted rhythm

Tonight we focused on playing jigs with a dotted rhythm. We started off by playing through the  Kilfenora sexy jig.

We also worked on B part of the Atholl Highlanders, which can be tricky to play cleanly, and with a strong sense of rhythm. We played the opening phrase, where the tune crosses backwards and forwards from the A string to the E string. Using a single bow for each note can help with playing phrases like this. It’s important while learning to do this to emphasise the first down bow which is on the beat, and the up bow which falls on the second beat.

We learnt a new jig called Rocking the Baby. The tune is fairly simple, but there’s a lot of sting crossing in both parts – perfect for practicing technique!

To get the dotted rhythm on the jig, we’re playing the quavers with slightly different lengths.  Jigs are in 6/8 time, with 2 beats in the bar. There are 3 quavers (or equivalent) to each beat. For each set of 3 quavers, we play a pattern of a long quaver, a short quaver, then an ordinary length quaver. The first quaver is effectively ‘stealing’ some of the time from the second quaver.

We tried out using a wrist action to move the bow from one string to another. We also tried using the first finger to dig the bow in at the start of each beat, to really emphasise the notes on the beat.

We tried playing the jig rhythm while playing round the first 3 notes of the tune (C# EE) to get the feel of playing in this way.

The we looked at ways to help with playing the tune faster

  • use short length of the bow (1cm or less) for the quavers in the tune – eco-bowing is the way to go!
  • keep fingers close to the strings when they’re not in use
  • keep fingers on strings where possible – in the B part of Rocking the Baby, the 2nd finger can be kept on the C# throughout the string-crossing part of the tune.
  • take focus off the fingers, and get ‘in the zone’ – being relaxed will help the tune flow
Playing jigs with a dotted rhythm
Photo ©Ros Gasson

We talked about using jigs for dancing. They are commonly played for a Strip the Willow, and some other set dances. It’s possible to change mid-set from a jig to a reel, which adds a ‘lift’ to the music. In pub sessions or performances, jigs are often played together in sets, but it can also be effective to play a slower tune, than change into a jig.

Playing for dancers is a great way to help develop a really strong sense of timing. We talked about Mairi Campbell’s fiddle & step dance workshop on Lismore (4th-6th  October 2013). There will be step dancing workshops happening as well as fiddle, so there will be opportunities to try out stepping and also playing for the step dancers.