Question on Fiddle Playing….

Question on Fiddle Playing….

I have noticed that I can put pressure on the bow from somewhere around the shoulder, I have been using the pressure of the finger and the weight of the hand up till now. Are there others who use this same ‘technique’ are there drawbacks or positive sides to using this? I do not want to be learning stuff that I have to unlearn later.

Thanks

Shylock

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

From a book called "The Integrated Violinist"

"Few arms are capable of free and immediate movement at the shoulder - for the violinist the very source of his power"

There’s a whole chapter devoted to the upper right arm and how people rarely use it.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Shylock, can you describe how you do that. I don’t think I have ever put pressure on the bow from the shoulder. I use gravity and supplement it with my right forefinger. I am curious how you use the shoulder.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

I read in a book by some famous violinist that using upper arm muscles will ruin your tone, so I’ve always tried to avoid it. Nothing wrong with experimenting, but be careful with your shoulder - shoulder injuries are awful.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

There’s a bit of conjecture here, because I’ve never really closely analyzed it, but I’m not sure I put pressure on the bow at all. Accents come from very short bursts of increased speed which comes from the elbow, I think.

However, I certainly do the opposite of putting pressure on with my shoulder. Laying off the pressure, little rests, little spaces before accents, jumping over strings, etc, are all done by lifting the bow with the whole arm from the shoulder. I suppose this is so as not to interfere with the backwards or forwards of the wrist and elbow. I dunno.

Posted .

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

I was taught that tone is controlled by the bow hold, by the first finger and the thumb, not by pressing the bow onto the strings, and that the shoulder and upper arm must not be held up, but dropped. Maybe this is what is meant by "pressure from the shoulder?’

I don’t experience it as pressure, per se, but I do know that when I drop my shoulder, let it feel heavy, it seems my bow is sinking more deeply into the strings.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Hi, this is my first post.

A nice tone often comes from weight from your entire arm—from the shoulder down, which I think is what you’re describing. If you’re really worried about technique, you may want to ask a teacher in person. Then again, if you’re not that worried, you like your sound better, and you’re more comfortable, what’s the harm?

Vivian

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

That’s a good observation, sara. I play with as relaxed a shoulder as I can manaage, and it does tend to drop. My elbow is is low also, unless I am playing on the G string, then it comes up a bit. Maybe that’s what Shylock meant - simply the weight of the dropped shoulder creates the pressure.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Shy, I hope you are a young person! That sounds like a habit sure to cause more trouble than good. My back starts tingling thinking about it. Your shoulder should remain relaxed, if you are allowing the "weight of your arm t communicated starting at your shoulder", and doing some mental visualization like that and involves your shoulder perhaps that is ok, like some sort of Alexander stuff, but if you have muscles actually activated in your shoulder, I would advise you to modify your muscle use to avoid painful miseries familiar to most violinists and fiddlers involving the mid and upper back.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

sara505sings said above "… tone is controlled by the bow hold, by the first finger and the thumb …"
Couldn’t agree more - that’s the fundamental basis of bow control. A few more useful details:
1. The thumb is always bent.
2. The first finger is preferably wrapped around the stick as far as is comfortable. It’s no good holding the stick with the finger tip.
2. First finger and thumb are NEVER opposite each other - the spacing between the first finger and thumb should be about 1-2 inches, depending on hand size and anatomy. Squeezing the finger and thumb thus gives by leverage, with very little expenditure of energy, whatever controlled bow pressure you want.
3. The second and third fingers should be quite relaxed and don’t do anything except to look decorative. They shouldn’t hold the stick - doing so will tend to stiffen the hand.
4. The fourth finger rests lightly on the stick and must never be straight. It’s function is to apply sufficient pressure to balance the weight of the bow when playing near the frog.
5. Ideally, the back of the (right) hand should be a straight continuation of the back of the forearm. Try to avoid a raised or dropped right wrist.
The purpose of all the above is to ensure a relaxed hand and wrist with rapid movement, like bowed triples, coming from the fingers and wrist rather than from higher up.
Straight fingers or thumb will stiffen the hand and encourage unnecessary arm movement.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

I recall reading somewhere words to the effect that the arm should hang down from the shoulder, so that if the bow were to be snatched away, the arm would fall to the player’s side. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how this could be the case; but then you get some funny instructions from people who can play but not write, or write but not play. For my own part, I would suggest that the shoulder muscles should not be used, because the fine motor control needed has to be transmitted though a series of levers (the arm, hand, fingers and bow) to the strings. Imagine trying to draw with a pencil tied to a fishing rod, and you get the picture.

Posted by .

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Your shoulder should have nothing to do with bow control. Practice playing with a heavy book held under your armpit. If you drop the book you’re doing it wrong.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Or playing the Hangman’s Reel :)

Posted by .

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Good music is about being relaxed. Tension is a killer. Go for the sound you’d like to have, relax, and have fun playing. Too much attention to classical technique will take you away from the music. There a million different ways to hold the bow. Every fiddler works out what is best for his own music.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

I don’t put any sort of pressure on the bow itself, from my fingers, but just let the weight from shoulder to hand fall on the string, it seems to give a nice rich sound and then when you release the pressure you’re back to just the weight of the bow on the string. This is coming from lots of hours of experiment, what Sara says in her post seems to fit with what I am getting, I allow the weight of my whole arm to be put on the bow and this produces some nice rich sounds.

Someone said it’s the bow that is the instrument, and that is basically what I have been discovering…I’m spending more and more time trying to improve the the bow sound(s) I’m getting and it’s fun.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

At the instant where the tone is created (usually in conjunction with bowshifts) I try to (when I give it a thought) to apply pressure on the bow - and then let go - let the bow flow for the rest of it.

So the pressure is created from the hand/wrist.

This can create a neat string "cracklng attack" sound that you hear in i.e. Brian Rooney playing i.e. Brian Rooney´s Reel. I believe classical violinists put efforts in avoiding these "squeeks" - to me they are an important flavor of the irish fiddling. I like to practice getting as much cracks as possible out of these strong attacks by applying pressure and then let go…

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Lazyhound’s description is good. If you learn classical violin you’ll spend weeks getting that right, before you do anything else. Is it important for fiddlers? No, most of it isn’t - just find a way of doing it that suits you. BUT one aspect of what he says is vital - keeping your thumb bent and the grip relaxed. If you do that then you will find you automatically control the bow pressure and angle with your fingers, not your wrist.

You do see a lot of self-taught fiddlers who hold the bow with their thumb locked straight. If you do that, control of the pressure and angle has to come from the wrist. That might work OK for you when you first start, but if you ever want to play fast, bow control has to come from the grip, leaving the wrist free to produce short, fast strokes.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

@Bernie 29, as far as I can tell from the video, Bobbie Casey’s right hand is lovely and relaxed - he would unlikely to have been producing such a good tone and controlling the bow so well otherwise.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

All of that being said, I wish I could play half as well as some of the folks I see with crappy hand positions, weird bow holds, chin on the opposite side as the chin rest, and rosin built up 2mm on the top of the instrument.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

No clue with the shoulder business, I don’t think I use my shoulder at all. I maintain the bent wrist of classical bowing from my youth. It’s all forearm and wrist, from the elbow, etc. I can play at speed without a problem.

This allows the classical player to utilize dynamics, put pressure on the strings and so on, but that’s not needed with traditional fiddling. You can use it within the bounds of what still sounds appropriate for the music, basically, don’t use it to make any classical noises. :-P

However, as Llig says, he accomplishes everything needed with the speed of the bow and does use his shoulder a bit. Ultimately, use what works for you.

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

Well, use what works but don’t hurt yourself!

Re: Question on Fiddle Playing….

I am a classically trained player and I learned to bow from the shoulder. It allows for a long, smooth bow draw and a pure powerful tone that projects into a concert hall. I have had to unlearn this for the Irish playing, for several reasons:
1) trying to do the fast reels and jigs, my shoulder would get tense and lock up. you can go faster and lighter if you just relax, drop your shoulder, and let your wrist do the work.
2) the tone for classical doesn’t sound right for irish. i found that ‘lightening up’ on the bow by taking away the shoulder pressure, makes a softer sweeter huskier tone which sounds more ‘authentic’ to me.