How to play snaps in strathspeys

The bowing hand - how to play snaps

How to play snaps in strathspeys

In the class last night we learnt the strathspey Iomadh Rud Tha Dhith Orm. This is a Gaelic song, and the title translates as ‘There are Many Things I would need’.

We spent the evening working on our bowing arm and hand tonight, to help play the snaps in this tune crisply, and with a real sense of conviction.

We started off by getting the wrist/hand of the bowing arm really relaxed. We shook out the hand, and let it hang naturally down by our side. We spent a moment feeling how relaxed the hand was in that position. It’s possible to play with this level of relaxation in the bowing hand. Then we brought the bowing hand up, and placed the bow into it, maintaining that same level of relaxation in the hand.

We worked on the hand action for creating a snap in a tune. We played the two notes of the snap on two separate bows – a down bow followed by an up bow. The down bow needs to be a short sharp fast bow stroke. Imagine you’re trying to throw your bow away from you, then stop hand dead. Doing this with a relaxed wrist allows the hand to ‘bounce’, which changes the bow direction from the down bow to the up bow.

We also revisited getting our fingers mowing in relation to the bow, repeating the exercise from a couple of weeks ago where we made circles with the frog end of the bow.

We played BdBdBdBd round and round (with a down/up bowing pattern), lifting the bow after the up bow on the d. We used the pinkie to take the weight of the bow as it lifted from the string. As soon as the bow returned back onto the string, we let the pinkie relax, in between each lift.

We put the tune onto a set: Iomadh Rud Tha Dhith Orm, the Placebo, and The Barrowburn Reel

We finished off the evening by playing the strathspey together again, focusing on listening closely to one another, and working on playing the notes crisply together. this identified that while the A part of the tune worked well, the timing was trickier on the B part. Once we’d played round the trickier sections a few times, it was much easier to play it together in time.

Here’s a recording of Fiona Kennedy and Karen Matheson singing Iomadh Rud Tha Dhith Orm. Have a listen to the second song too!