bowing ornamentation question

bowing ornamentation question

What do you call the bowed triplet (if I’m even calling it correctly)? I’m talking about the electric pulse-like move that’s short and fast. I’ve heard it called many different things. Which is most common?
Anyone know any good exercises to improve on one’s ability of this in BOTH bowing directions?

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Er…I call it a bowed triplet, myself. Although I’ve also heard it called "that scratchy triplet thing" and other such. Do a search on "bowed triplets", and you’ll get all sorts of stuff, including Will’s past advice on how to do them.

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Well up here in Scotland it is called a birl. But that is only if all three notes are the same note. The effect is more rhythmic and percussive than tuneful but it sounds fab if it is done right. Duncan Chisholm is excellent at it so have a listen to his CDs for a perfect example. Not sure if this is exactly what you meant tho…

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Is this not also referred to as a "treble bow", according to Charlie Lennon and others? Or is that something different? Does this mean I’ll have learn something else? 🙂

Fi, I always think of the banjo for "birls" but it’s the same idea with the bow, right enough. Of course, there’s the Birlin’ Fiddles compilation.

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It’s quite different in Scottish music, more measured and slower. Tommy Peoples is the man however.

But do you really need to be able to do it both ways? You certainly should be able to place them wherever you want though, on the beat, just behind it etc. But I bet you can’t tell by listening whether they up-down-up or down-up-down

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Could you tell by listening to how the next note is attacked? I’m not a fiddle player so I wouldn’t know.

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I want to be able to bow it in both directions so I don’t have to compensate my bow direction sometimes. Everyone who’s replied thus far is on with which ornament I’m describing and yes, Tommy Peoples is the man. I had the opportunity to ask him how he got comfortable playing them and, well….if you know anything about his personality….he said (and I laugh) " sometimes it goes very well and sometimes it doesn’t"!!!!
I said that I know this, because I used to be able to play them well and now I can barely get it! What happened?!?!

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It is also called "trebling" in irish music. There are many diffrent ways to do it (no jokes about sex here 🙂 .
Tommy Peoples eve uses his samll finger: he kicks the bow tail with it while trebling, and that’s the source of the grand scratching sound he gets.
Martin Hayes plays triplets that sounds completely different…
I think the bowed triplet is one of tjose mistery you can acquire (I haven’t acquired it yet) but not communicate to other people, like the bowing pattern of a reel, the right way to do a roll, how to communicate with God, etc…
Bye,
Davide

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I honestly think you are wasting your time trying to learn to bow triplets in both directions. I cannot see any benefit in this at all. If you have to compensate your bow direction when doing triplets, then I think your bow is at the wrong place at the wrong time. I think the triplets sound best at the upper third / quarter of the bow.

If you are getting the triplets OK at the moment (presumably down-up-down) then your rhythm probably sounds good anyway. Just my opinion.

Jim

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I took some classical lessons when I was a kid, and I quit about the time the teacher started telling me which way the bow was "supposed" to be going. It messed with my head. Why limit your playing to sticking in bowed triplets on a down bow or up bow?

Single bow, draw the note and end with a triplet. Do this all the way up and down the scale. Your bowing is different on each string, so you need to practice your triplets on each string.

Ariesfiddler, next time you see Tommy Peoples play, watch his bow hand very carefully. Note the timing of the flick of the finger to the actual sound of the triplet.

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Some people naturally do bowed triplets down-up-down, and others go up-down-up. Some people can do them either way. I know lots of good fiddlers that do them only one way, though, and it works for them. I suppose it depends on how easy it comes for you and/or how hard you want to work on this one aspect of your playing.

I tend to agree with Jim and Michael, however, that if you can do them well in one direction, there isn’t much need to learn them the other way—they will sound the same, and there are endless ways to fit one in. More important to my own playing is what seems like the neverending work on doing chromatic bowed triplets (e.g., (3BBA or (3dcd or (3cBA etc.) cleanly, and to be able to efforetlessly cross strings in a bowed triplet (e.g., (3FGA or (3BAG etc.) Plus tinkering with the different amounts of time or openness in your triplets, depending on the sound you want. In short, I’d rather have some variety in my pallette of triplets than worry about which way my bow is going when I do them. I’ve tried learning them up-down-up, and it does not come naturally for me. I’ve done some that way, and can pick them that way on banjo, but it doesn’t seem worth the time and effort on fiddle.

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Davide, Tommy Peoples told us in no uncertain terms (meaning that he actually said it rather loudly and firmly) that he does NOT flick the bow with his pinky finger. I watched him very carefully while he played for over an hour, from about two feet away, and, indeed, he does not flick the bow with his finger.

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The hornpipe crossing the minch may well be the ideal solution to your problem i think. as well as being a great tune its full of bowed triplets in the perhaps less common up down up direction (when slurs are put in the usual places). It should make a great exercise for practice at any rate.

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What about a bounced triplet, where the bow goes in one direction for the three notes but is bounced from one to the other?
Trevor

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I did that once by mistake. The guy I was playing with popped open a huge smile and said, Nice! Nice!

This sort of thing has set a rather unfortunate trend. ;)

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Oh dear, have I sussed TP’s secret - a controlled bounce of the bow on the string?
Trevor

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Oh yes, Trev, Tommy got it from *me* you know! *snicker*

No, Tommy, from what I could tell and from what he said in our workshop, loosens his hand up almost completely, staying connected only at the thumb and forefinger (he actually flattens the forefinger on the bow during the triplet) and speeds up his bow momentum during the first stroke of the triplet. The hand is so loose during this that it indeed looks like he’s striking the bow with his little or third finger, and he is largely only moving his hand, not his arm, during the triplet. The bow is firmly connected to the string throughout.

That was at the workshop a couple of months back; of course I’m sure the man is always experimenting and working on his playing, so he may do it differently by now, naturally. (This is his famous "scratchy" triplet I’m talking about here, he seems to do his hornpipe triplets more like what Will talks about, with appropriately long length on each note of the triplet.)

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I think the key to good bowed triplets—both the scratchy, Tommy Peoples kind and the more open or legato hornpipe triplets—is exactly what Zina describes Mr. Peoples doing. Relaxing the hand completely and letting the motion come from the index and thumb, right down where they meet the stick. As Brian Conway says, ‘the closer to the bow, the better.’ Your pinky, ring, and middle fingers must also be totally limp and will naturally bobble a bit, so it may look like any one of them is striking the stick. But that’s a symptom, not a cause, of the triplet motion.

RE: Mike’s comment about Crossing the Minch - it’s entirely possible to play that tune with down-uop-down triplets, with slurs in the usual places, depending on which direction your bow is going on the slurs. In other words, if you do your triplets only one direction (d-u-d, say), you learn to bow the lead-in beats on an up bow. This is quite common among Irish fiddlers—particularly bowing down beats on up bows.

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Here I go, putting my head on the block : I think Tommy People’s triplets sound like someone *trying* to do sharp, snappy triplets, but not quite making it all the way there…maybe this is true, maybe he means it to sound that way, or maybe he’s not fussed either way. That’s my comments *only* on his triplets - not about anything else in his playing.

Jim

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So the Tommy-Peoples-little-finger-trebling is just the latest urban legend? 🙁
I’ve told ye, bowed triplets are a kind of a mistery, better do not fathomn into its depth…
Have you read "Zen in the art of Archery"?
Bye,
Davide

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Donegal fiddlers seem to call it a treble, generally. Paul O’Shaughnessy sometimes flicks the 2nd ‘note’ of the treble with his fourth finger…which is quite fun.
I’ve also heard it called a shuffle, possible a Scottish/Shetland term? Not sure about that one though.

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Nope, there’s not really any mustery to bowed triplets: the bow goes down, up, down (or up, down, up; there are damn few other options on this), and you play 17,231,489 of them until you start to get each note separate and distinct. Then you begin to work on consistency and clarity and control over the timing of each note in the triplet. And then you move on to chromatic bowed triplets and string crossings in triplets, and….

Doing them well is all about relaxing your hand and fingers, letting the motion be as small as possible, and doing a smooth, strong lead-in note. It also helps to be versatile in how you land on the note after the triplet, sometimes continuing the last bow stroke of the triplet (either down or up), and sometimes going the opposite direction of the last stroke of the triplet, depending on the situation and the sound you’re after. It’s no mystery even to put it in words. Like everything else, it just takes thoughtful practice.

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Ooopss. erm, "mustery." Well, there’s no *mystery* either.

I post this only because I think some people (not meaning to point a finger at Davide or anyone else in particular) tend to use "it’s a mystery" or "I’m not good enough" as an excuse to ignore a weak spot in their playing and not dissect it and work on it. If you want to improve, you have to face those areas that need improvement, get a good grip on exactly what’s not working properly, and fix it. All it takes is time, sweat, and a willingness to confront yourself in the aural mirror.

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Will, thanks for clearing this matter up. I was confused by the stories of Tommy Peoples using a finger flick on the bow. As far as I could see such an action would be more likely to destabilise the bowing action than anything else, so the account of just the forefinger and thumb lightly holding the bow, which can bring about the misleading impression of the pinky apparently flicking the stick, explains all.
Trevor

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Oh, and Zina’s input as well!
Trevor

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Actually, I humbly retract.There is a place where it is usefull to be able to play them in both directions:

When you stick two of them back to back. I thought I only went one way, but I was diddling the other day and noticed that I do do them both ways, but only when they’re back to back: down up down, up down up.

It’s a simmilar sound to when you put two snappy rolls back to back

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I threw that Tommy comment in there earlier about watching for the timing of the "flick". I watch him in concert from 5 feet and noticed the flick was definitely after the actual triplet. Thanks for the first hand info. I did not get a chance to talk to him as he was mobbed.

Will, do you have a good example of the chromatic triplets that you are playing? Like who else does that? Is that a Tommy thing too?

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Jode, lots of Irish fiddlers finger different pitches while playing bowed triplets. It adds real lift to a tune. Here are some examples off the top of my head. Note that in *all* of these, the triplet is bowed singly, not slurred, and it’s the more snappy, percussive, or rhythmic effect, not the sort of triplet you’d do in a hornpipe, say (like the (3BcB (3ABA (3GAG (3FGF run in Rights of Man, for instance).

There are lots of different places to do chromatic bowed triplets (I’ll use the (3xxx notation through out):

You can go up in pitch for the middle note, a la George Keith, in the opening of Crosses of Annagh (aka Bobby Casey’s)
K: D
|DFAB {d}BAAB|defd (3efe dB|

Or every note can get it’s own pitch, in an ascending or descending triplet, for example, Kevin Burke in the 3rd part of Farewell to Erin
K: A mix
f|eA (3cBA eA (3cBA |B2 BA GABd|

or Brian Conway in the B part of Joe Burke’s Jig
K: D
|fdf a^ga|fdc d2 f|e=ce g (3efg|efd cde\

Or change the last note of the triplet, as Martin Hayes does in the A part of Gallagher’s Frolics
K: E dorian
|EDB, GFE|B (3AAB dBA|

or as Ciaran Tourish does in Tommy Peoples Reel
K: Bm
|B3 c dBAF|~B3c dfed|~B3 c (3ddc dB|ABde fded|

These are just a few examples. I be hard pressed to think of a recording Irish fiddler who doesn’t use chromatic triplets. I’ve heard them in so many players—Patrick Orceau favors them heavily, as does Tommy Peoples (a rather famous example in Tar Road to Sligo), but you’ll hear them from everyone from John Doherty, Junior Crehan, and Bobby Casey to the Kane Sisters, Liz Carroll, Sean Smyth, and Eileen Ivers.

On some recordings, it’s not so easy to hear exactly what notes are played in the triplets, so listen closely. Some fiddlers do really crunchy triplets, but you can still hear the pitch changes. Brian Conway plays his triplets very open and clearly noted—he’d be someone to listen to if you’re just starting to pick out such nuances in the music. Or get a good tenor banjo recording—chromatic triplets are all the rage on that instrument.

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I like what Michael Gill says above about how it’s easier to play them in both directions when they’re played back to back…might that be conicidence because that’s exactly how one plays a jig? Two birls in a row is really just a very fast jig pattern that takes up the time of a quarter note. For people trying to learn birls start slow with one note like you would when you learn to play jigs…you can try doing the jig pattern over and over on one note then speed it up slowly over time. You will have to loosen your grip in the most comfortable way for you to maintain control while being able to bow - think if the difference between tennis and badminton… use the wrist and hand for badminton and your arm for tennis. Likewise, use your wrist and hand for birls.

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NB: Don’t single bow every not in a jig (the way Martin Hayes does), it sounds awful

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I tend to use single bow strokes for tunes written by Scots…I find that since I use more rolls and turns in Irish tunes, the jigs get more slurred bow patterns.

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I suppose this is a dead thread, but this in response to Will…I actually thought about the chromatic triplets while playing over this last week or so and realized that I do it too. I am not sure if I ever learned it consciously, or picked it up "by ear" or what.

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Heh, it’s one of those things, fairly subtle until your make it conscious, and then it makes your hair stand up. (well, when Tommy Peoples does it, my hair stands on end, even when I’m *not* thinking, "oh - chromatic triplets.") But if you’re listening close to the music, and emulating what you hear, they’re bound to sneak in.

Good on you, Jode. I also find that they pop up in interesting places when I get lost in the zone during a good session. Triplets leak out into spots I’ve never thought of trying them before, and then there they are.

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Hey Will,

Perhaps its a good sign that I am listening to others instead of focusing on my own playing. I have been concentrating on rolls and getting them up to speed.

Ever play with a good piper? Now there’s some fun mimicing and playing off the triplets they do. I often play classic piping tunes more in a piping style.

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