The fiddle bow stroke
Learning to create a smooth and controlled fiddle bow stroke is a fundamental playing skill if you want to improve your tone, and be able to play with solid timing.
The first step is to learn how to hold the fiddle bow. As the bow moves throughout the bow stroke, we’re aiming to allow the fingers to respond to what the bow is doing.
There are several aspects to the bow stroke which may not be immediately obvious when watching a fiddler play. As you become more confident with playing, you’ll learn to control the movement of the bow with increasing precision.
- Learning how to move the bow in a straight line, perpendicular to the fiddle strings will help with creating a rounded clear tone from your fiddle.
- In order to play the notes that you want, you will need to be able to control the plane of movement of the bow, so the bow is positioned on the string you intend, and doesn’t hit other strings when you’re playing a single note. You can also learn to play 2 notes at once, with the bow playing 2 adjacent strings.
- Another important aspect is learning to accommodate the weight of the bow on the string throughout a bow stroke. When you place the bow on the string at the heel end of the bow, almost all of its weight is resting on the string. As you draw the bow out, the weight of the bow gradually shifts from sitting on the string and by the time you’re at the tip of the bow, most of its weight is being supported by the bowing hand. As the weight of the bow on the string has a big impact on the volume of the note you play, it’s important to be able to control this weight if you want to be able to play a long note with a consistent volume.
- To be able to create a clear sound, it’s important to be able to adjust the weight of the bow on the string by adding weight from the arm without pushing down onto the bow. Pushing down on the bow involves contracting many muscles in the arm, leading to a scratchy sound, and also dampens the resonance of the string.