Percussive bowing

November 2, 2011 at 05:00 PM · I am quite puzzled by an element of this technique. If you skip to 01'15 in the video :

...there is a "triple chop" - a true triplet played very rapidly. Does anyone have any idea how this is being done? In other words, 3 movements with the wrist, or is the bow being made to skip by pressure / release of pressure? This has me completely puzzled. I will be buying the DVD anyway, I am not teasing, and this is a genuine question :) Thanks in advance.


November 2, 2011 at 06:11 PM · I think that anyone that wants to make this noise on the violin should just take up playing the drums instead...

November 2, 2011 at 06:14 PM · The 'triple chop' ' seems to be working on the same principle as ricochet in classical, but where ric. Happens in upper bow ( lighter part) this happens at the heel, the heaviest part creating a percussive sound. If it is based on the same principles as ricochet then you would only impulse on the first of the three notes and simply guide the other two

November 2, 2011 at 06:36 PM · The triple chop happens during the backwards "drag" of the bow when moving towards the bridge, as you're bringing the hand back to "normal" playing position...Have you perfected your basic chop yet - that is key - the triple chop will develop naturally once the basic chop is mastered.

November 2, 2011 at 07:31 PM · Try practicing this closer to the middle of the bow and on the string ,then work yourself back playing off the string.

A light well balanced bow will help with this

More on the topic

November 2, 2011 at 08:56 PM · Respectfully, Charles, that is not the way to practice the chop - it does not use standard bowing technique and cannot really be honed in the middle of the bow. Jim, I'd suggest both getting Casey's DVD and the original Chops and Grooves DVD with Darol, Casey, and Rushad Eggleston.

November 2, 2011 at 08:57 PM · "I think that anyone that wants to make this noise on the violin should just take up playing the drums instead..."


Nate, I don't normally take the time to review linked videos. This time I did, after your comments. That got my curiosity up enough that I listened to one of your performances under your profile too.

Whatever name you want to give it (most classical performers I know refer to it as "crunch" when it has a shorter duration), you use quite a bit of it yourself, to good effect. It can come across as "diction" as opposed to "slurred speech", in a hall.

November 2, 2011 at 09:08 PM · David, I believe I tried out one of the new 5-strings you designed while visiting Darol a few weeks ago...If I'm remembering that correctly, I liked it quite a bit!

November 2, 2011 at 09:55 PM · The fiddle, on the other hand has been used percussively for a very long time - folk traditions like fiddle sticks, the way rhythmic accompaniment is expressed on the violin in traditional romanian music, or even the use of the violin as the SOLE instrument at folk dances point to its very long history as a highly rhythmic instrument..of course I am as deeply steeped in the world of the "choppers" now as I once was in the realm of classical violinists, so it all makes sense tome.

November 2, 2011 at 10:22 PM · "The triple chop happens during the backwards "drag" of the bow when moving towards the bridge, as you're bringing the hand back to "normal" playing position...Have you perfected your basic chop yet - that is key - the triple chop will develop naturally once the basic chop is mastered. "

Thanks, Enion. I have the Chops and Grooves DVD, and I'm quite comfortable with the basic chop, plus the technique of combining real notes in the rhythm, too, similar to what Casey does in other parts of the video. I just can't get my head round the triplet. As far as I can tell, for real and muted notes, there are two motions : down on to the string, and up again, optionally sounding a real note on the up-stroke. So, that's two beats . I'm hearing three (the triplet) :) I have made some chopping videos, if you wouldn't mind checking them out offline?

@Nate - the whole technique includes melody notes and "chops" too, seamlessly interwoven. That is where the real skill lies. I can understand you not approving of the "rhythm" sound, but perhaps you need to review the technique in its entirety, to be fair, and re-comment if necessary.

Thanks to everyone else for taking the time to reply.

November 3, 2011 at 12:19 AM · While I don't fiddle on my fiddle I thought both videos posted were pretty cool. The technique seems like it could work for a bunch of different styles, Bluegrass, Irish, Jazz, Funk, Pop, etc.


November 3, 2011 at 01:35 AM · My favorite "chopper" is Ben Sollee- a cellist with solid classical technique who plays an eclectic mix of folk, country, blues- and lots of chopping- not sure if it's the kind OP is discussing, tho. He's got a loose/relaxed bow hand and fingers to die for... If you get a chance to see him live, he puts on a great concert!



November 3, 2011 at 09:14 AM · Nate

I'm a great admirer, and strongly influenced by your ideas on right hand technique. But you need to loosen up - there's a whole world of music beyond classical! Here's a clip of the wonderful Natalie Haas working with Alasdair Fraser:

Calliope House set

Natalie is leading a revolution in the percussive use of the "big fiddle" in Scottish music - if this doesn't convert you, nothing will...

November 3, 2011 at 05:48 PM · I have found, btw, that the triplet chop is easiest with a bow I otherwise hate using - it's heavy and not well balanced, but for some reason the triplet comes out most cleanly with that bow.

November 3, 2011 at 07:33 PM · Tom and Geoff - good links there. Still on cello, there's another one :

It all happens in the first 15 seconds, and packs quite a punch. The narration is in German.

Nate - I was surprised at your initial reponse, but it's your call, and regardless of anything else, if you don't like the sound, that's it. End of story.

I have to say that I think there are far worse sounds than that, which are in constant use - sul ponte (like chalk down a blackboard to some ears), or powerful pizzicato, another jarring sound. I don't think the violin was ever designed to make a sound like that! Agreed, these two are normally used in context, for effect, or as variation, but they are not good on the ear, in my book anyway.

@Enion - I should really have asked, "in the triplet, does the bow stay on the strings for the duration of the triplet?" After reading your posts, it sounds like it does.

November 3, 2011 at 08:38 PM · "From Nate Robinson

Posted on November 2, 2011 at 08:11 PM

I think that anyone that wants to make this noise on the violin should just take up playing the drums instead..."

LOL Nate. But you see, in bluegrass, there are no the fiddler takes over for the mandolinist when she takes a solo...

November 3, 2011 at 08:51 PM · "I had a go at this 'triple chop' after a quick viewing of the video on youtube. It seems to me that two strokes are taken on the down bow and one on the up bow, and the bow leaves the string after each stroke of the triplet."

Leaves the string? Not so sure about that ... it's impossible to tell from that video, tho ..

November 4, 2011 at 04:53 AM · Quote from Henry Butcher :

"Of course the bow 'leaves' the string.....'s 'percussive'...isn't it?

Maybe you should have a go at playing drums for awhile?"

@Henry : OK, Henry. I'll have a go at playing drums, and you can have a go at taking up the violin. :)

November 4, 2011 at 05:25 AM · I play the triplet with the bow starting off the string, and then it stays on for the rest, comes off at the end.

What's difficult is playing the correct timing.

You can start with triplet then two eight notes, then go to triplet two sixteen notes after, which is more difficult. The triplet stays the same speed, but it's the after notes that change.

I still think if you practice the triplet in the lower section of the bow first you are more likely to be able to get the triplet at the frog.

November 5, 2011 at 06:46 PM · Well, I finally got it! Thanks to everyone who posted. For the record, the triplet sounds with the bow always in contact with the string, although it can be done on-off string too, but this is more difficult. As Onion said, it happens on the return-to-normal position if the bow, moving toward the bridge.

Just like true staccato, springing arpeggios, 'machine-gun' ricochet, they can sound quite astounding on first hearing. In all of these bowings, the natural elasticicy of the bow and hair, combined with the hand's propelling force, makes it happen. Whilst these techniques may take a while to learn properly, from a mechanics aspect they are very simple, and there's not really any mystery to them.

In the case of the chop triplet, the bow behaves in a similar fashion to true staccato, in that after each note (or pulse) it stays on the string.

It's a relatively new technique, not approved of / liked by many violinists, however apart from the "fiddle" guys like Darol Anger and Casey Driessen, people like Alex dePue and Giles Apap use it too, so to me that sort of give a "stamp of approval". It's here to stay :)

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