Using different parts of the fiddle bow
In the March fiddle workshop we spent the day exploring different areas of the bow, and how to use the bow to create different effects on the sounds of the notes we play on the fiddle.
We used the tune Benachie Sunrise.
Using the tip or the heel of the bow
We tried playing the tune using just the tip end of the bow, and then using just the heel end, while really listening to the sound of our fiddles. We noticed the differences that using different parts of the bow made to the sound of the notes, and also to how we played the tune:
Tip of the bow – creates a gentler mellow sound. it’s easy to play quietly using the tip. The tune tended to flow well.
Heel of the bow – creates a much harsher sound, bringing a choppy and rather aggressive nature to the tune.
The position of the bow on the fiddle
We played around with where we placed the bow on the strings, moving from very close to the bridge, to right down over the end of the fingerboard, and again listened carefully to our own playing to hear the differences in sounds created by different bow positions:
Playing with the bow close to the bridge – created a loud and slightly harsh sound.
Playing with the bow over the end of the fingerboard – created a somewhat dry whispy sound.
Speed and weight
We also worked on getting a feel for allowing the weight of the arm to transfer onto the bow. Adding more weight to the bow (rather than pushing down onto the bow) increases the volume, and also helps create a fuller sound from the instrument. moving the bow faster also increases the volume of the note.
Learning to listen
We tried playing the tune Benachie Sunrise, listening closely to our own fiddle sounds as we played. Then we tried playing and hearing the tune in our heads as we played – doing this allows us to access a ‘flow’ state, allowing the subconscious to take over control of what we’re doing physically to achieve the end result.We did this twice – the second time we were listening to analyse our own sound, and to identify any areas of that sound that we wanted to work on.
We tried the exercise one more time, this time hearing the tune in our heads as we played, and focusing on hearing it the way we would like it to sound.
Then we moved on to playing the tune in different ways – happy, angry, sad etc. Doing this made a surprising difference to the nature of the tune each time. We stopped to think about what had happened in each version:
Happy – the tune became bouncier, and we played a bit faster
Angry – the tune became noisy, clumpy and grungy
Sad – the tune was slower and gentle
We finished of the day by playing Auld Lang Syne together, firstly listening to our own tone, then listening to all the players in the group, then listening and focusing on playing ‘as one’. As we listened more to the music we were creating, our tuning and timing became much closer.