How to control the bow

Controlling the fiddle bow

For the start of the term, we began by looking at what areas each person wanted to work on in their own playing. Many of the issues (how to play faster, how to play chords, playing tunes with lift, and making tunes more ‘listenable’ when playing alone) have a common theme. Learning to control of the fiddle bow, and being confident that it will do what you expect, will make a big difference to your playing. Adding character to the tunes we play involves learning to create variations within the notes themselves, through dynamics and precise bow control.

Learning how to control the bow
Photo ©Ros Gasson 2013

So we started tonight’s class by looking at how to control the bow. With a good bow hold, the first finger and pinkie can be used for fine control of the bow. We can use pressure on the pinkie to take some of the weight of the bow, so it is lighter on the string, or to take the weight of the bow when we lift it right off the string. During a bow stroke, we can also push with the first finger on the stick of the bow to add weight, giving scrunch and extra grip to the string. Use a brief ‘pulse’, pushing into the stick, at the start of a note. It gives the note more strength, intention and clarity.

We tried some of these actions while holding just the bow. pushing gently on the pinkie to raise the bow tip. This action should be possible without turning the wrist at all. While holding up the tip of the  bow with the left hand, we tried pushing down into the stick with the first finger. You’ll see the sick compress downwards, reducing the gap between the underside of the stick and the back of the bow hairs, if you’re getting this action.

Then we played short bow strokes on an open A, digging in at the start of each down bow. We worked on releasing the pressure as soon as the note had started, to avoid creating a big scrunchy scrapey note! Then we tried out adding in a chord on each down bow, using the open D

We learnt the E minor waltz Huntingtone Castle – the music is on the music page for people in the class to download.

After the class several of us went along to the session in the Diggers pub. The session is on Tuesday evenings from 9pm , in the back room of the pub. You’re welcome to join us!

Informal folk music session in Edinburgh