How would you bow this Jig One Horned Sheep?

August 23, 2015 at 05:55 PM · This is a nice simple jig ( 6/8 time) with a string crossing from E string to D string. Notes in measure are 1/4 note G on E string, 1/8 note G on D string followed by G, F#, G all 1/8 notes on D string. What bowing would you chose? I don't know if English, Irish or Scottish. I'm thinking dn up dn up up, gets the beat, but a bit awkward.

Stay Pawsitive,


Replies (31)

August 23, 2015 at 06:16 PM · Taking a look at the sheet music, I think your idea of down up down up up might work just fine. Two other possibilities sprang to mind, though. You could slur beats 4 and 5, resulting in a bowing pattern the same as the quartet eighth in the first half of the measure, which also emphasizes the jig rhythm even more. This would make it a basic down (1,2) up (3) down (4,5) up (6) pattern. The other way is a little stylized. You could slur the 3rd and 4th beats and add a fourth finger (A) flick in between them to separate the notes without stopping the bow, which would be a nice way to make it more fiddly. The bowing pattern for that would be down (1,2) up (3, flick, 4) down (5) up (6). Although your original idea of down up down up up technically works, it's more of a violinist fingering and less of a fiddler fingering. Sneaky double ups work well for much classical music, but traditional fiddling isn't as precise. And fiddlers (especially Alasdair Fraser) love left hand articulation. Good luck, and have fun fiddling!

August 23, 2015 at 06:54 PM · Hi Lilly. Yes, I agree my example is more violin than fiddle. Yes, I also hear the grace note to the 4th beat no matter what the bowing is ( not written on my score). Would you ever consider starting the measure with an up bow? Either way I hear the first G ringing by itself as long as possible.


August 23, 2015 at 07:25 PM · I wouldn't start it up bow. Another thing that occurred to me is that it might be nice to strike the first note as a chord (G on the E string and B on the A string) for extra sound and resonance. This would also help with the string crossing, since you'd already be partially on the A string and therefore much closer to the D string.

August 23, 2015 at 07:38 PM · Thanks Lily. My fav would be dn G chord, slurred up with a grace note between, and dn up to finish the bar.

Wonder if that would be considered taking to many liberties and how it would sound played by a group?


August 23, 2015 at 07:56 PM · I don't think that would be taking too many liberties. As far as the group goes, it depends on the group. Is it a public jam session? Then I think it's fine. Is it a group of people all learning the tune and then playing it together for fun? Your call in that case, it might be better to keep it simple. Is it a band you're in? Embellish all you want, but make sure the other members know you're doing it so they can embellish accordingly too. Is it a more conservative jam session? Then maybe you'd want to keep it simple the first time around and play the fancier version on a repeat. Honestly, you can get away with a lot of stuff when fiddling. Fiddlers almost always take liberties with tunes, crafting their own versions. I have heard several fiddlers lament how restrictive musical notation is, and how it can't really show all the flairs they include. Do what you want, make the tune yours and have fun with it.

August 23, 2015 at 08:23 PM · Yup. The first challenge is the string crossing. Then smoothing out my interpretation, if it is an Irish jig. Then uniformity so no one looks out of place.


August 23, 2015 at 10:27 PM · I think in fiddle playing it definitely pays to explore alternative bowings, even to play it differently the next time around. The sound is then subtly different and this is helpful in a genre that can sometimes otherwise tends toward the repetitive.

August 23, 2015 at 11:59 PM · Hi Paul. I agree for solo work, maybe not so much for amateur fiddle groups doing a performance. Of course unison bowing is maybe not a focus for say a down east or old time fiddle group but audiences do notice. Any thoughts on the opening string crossing?


August 24, 2015 at 12:23 PM · As I'm sure you know, jig bowing is very personal and open to creativity. It one of the glories of the genre.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that in Scottish jig playing long-short dotted note pairs are often played with a single bow. You leave a small gap between the notes and start the second note with an accent.

It adds interest and variety, and helps keep the bow organised when the rhythm gets complicated.

Apart from anything else, learning to do this cleanly is quite a good exercise in bow control!

There are some fully-bowed examples of this style in Alastair Hardie's "The Caledonian Companion". If you want to get a handle on Scottish bowing, this is the go-to source, in my opinion. It's especially good on Strathspey bowing, if that interests you.

Here's the tune, by the way, for anyone who can't find it. The title refers to an illicit whisky still. There are a lot of Scottish tunes that celebrate stills, such as The Ewie With The Crooked Horn, so I wonder if it's a Scots jig?

August 24, 2015 at 02:43 PM · Hi Geoff. Far to much theory and speculation for me to comment on the origin of these traditional tunes. For jigs, I probably go a little overboard on the drive winding up more prickly like a thistle than smooth like a shamrock. Your pattern is something like an up driven bow.


August 24, 2015 at 03:01 PM · [deleted] - largely duplicates Geoff Caplan's information.

August 24, 2015 at 04:55 PM · Thanks Trevor. How would you bow the string crossing?


August 24, 2015 at 05:52 PM · "Your pattern is something like an up driven bow"

Well, the up-driven bow is usually 3 notes on the up-bow, with a strong pulse on the third. As you'll know, it's characteristically used in Strathspeys.

This jig bowing is a long-short dotted pair and is used on both up and down bows.

In my first posting I said there's a pulse on the second note, but checking this out on the fiddle I realise I wasn't thinking clearly. In fact, the second note is often a throwaway lead-note into the next long-short note pair.

The pulse is:

LONG, short-LONG, short-LONG...


If you really hold the short note back, you can get a nice bouncy feel, if that's what you're after.

August 24, 2015 at 08:50 PM · Thanks Geoff and thanks everyone. Probably time to move on to the next bar (of music of course).

Stay pawsitive,


August 25, 2015 at 01:56 AM · You might try to slur across the measure once in a while. For example, try slurring across the two notes on either side of the last two measures. In the version I saw, the last note of the third to the last measure is an F# that leads into a G which is the first note of the second to the last measure. Slur these two together, then single bow the rest going down the scale until the last note of the second to last measure and slur that note into the beginning of the last measure.

August 25, 2015 at 12:20 PM · Hi Tom. That makes a nice variation. For a jig, I've noticed it often between the 3rd and 4th beats.


August 25, 2015 at 04:55 PM · Before we leave this, I've just played it though a couple of times and another nice thing you can do is slur between two repeated notes.

You differentiate the second note with a pulse of the bow and a flick of a free left finger across the string to create a little grace note, though it should stop the string rather than create a clean sound.

A typical place to do this would be the third measure of the B part, with the two Ds at the middle of the bar...

August 25, 2015 at 07:38 PM · Hi Geoff. On the bagpipes its the same finger but right hand. How did you bow the opening string crossing?


August 25, 2015 at 10:19 PM · Hmm - that opening octave is quite tricky.

One way would be to slide up to the high G on the E string with an up-bow and then continue to the low G with a stopped slur (a distinct gap between the notes). That way the arm is moving with the double crossing, and you get a nice lift at the start of each section:

HUP - da da da da | dum da da dum da da | HUP - da da da da...

If you get my meaning :-)

You could even lift the bow on some of them to get a varied attack on the second note.

Of course it's good to vary the bowings, so throwing in some good old up-down hack bowing would make for variety.

There's a fairly ho-hum recording of it on YouTube, by the way:

Interesting thread - I think most people find jig bowing quite challenging. I'm only feeling my way in myself... Scottish 6/8 pipe marches are another mind-bender in a similar vein.

August 25, 2015 at 11:52 PM · The question and answers are also relevant to fast 6/8 movements in Baroque violin music.

August 26, 2015 at 12:55 AM · Thanks folks. First rehearsal, not under anyone's fingers yet. Looks like just a scrub it out at this stage. Lots of possibilities for later on. Next month.


August 29, 2015 at 08:52 AM · To throw another idea into the mix, here's Linked Bowing demonstrated by the wonderful Hanneke Cassel on the Jig o' Slurs.

Some ideas on the underlying bowing pulse, also from Hanneke:

Some quite systematic jig bowing exercises:

There's a lot to this jig-bowing game! Helpful thread - realise I need to expand my ideas.

August 29, 2015 at 10:10 PM · Lots of bow patterns and accents to use for scale practice. Not sure if 1, 6 accent works for dancers. I guess a violin group would be better in more standard and uniform bowing and accents for achieving clarity. Her playing is very enjoyable.


August 30, 2015 at 07:38 AM · Going back to the original tune, as referenced earlier here : (1st setting), there is yet another option.

Instead of starting on the G note on the 1st string, you could play a simple harmonic (same pitch of G) on the 4th string, by just touching lightly using 3rd finger (as if you were going to play a C note there).

Slightly different tone, and saves hopping back and forth over two strings, but it works.

August 30, 2015 at 11:29 AM · Nice idea Jim.

Using harmonics would be very unusual in Irish playing, I think, but not so rare in the Scottish tradition. I've seen Aly Bain and Paul Anderson do this, amongst others, though usually in airs or slow strathspeys.

Anyway, one of the great things about traditional music is the freedom of expression - personally I don't mind the odd bit of classical crossover so long as the overall impression is true to the genre.

August 30, 2015 at 11:55 AM · The G octave leap from the E to the D strings seems to be a good opportunity to learn the useful technique of doing it smoothly in one bow stroke without lifting the bow and without sounding the intermediate string as you do it - not that you'd necessarily need that technique for this tune, of course.

August 30, 2015 at 07:43 PM · @Geoff - the upside is that playing the harmonic is physically easier to execute than crossing over two strings in both directions.

The downside is that the harmonic note is a little bit quieter than the full G on the 1st string (not that it matters in session / ensemble playing).

It's funny, I don't think of technique as being 'classical' or anything else - just technique that's fit for purpose.

@Trevor - those 'string hops' - Sevcik Opus 1, part one, Ex 15-16 serve as a nice little prep for them :)

Actually, I've noticed some very good players who actualy do touch the middle string in crossing, but the volume is negligable, and certainly would not be heard by a listener.

A bit like the 'ghost bowing' technique, where the bow stays on the string, but with almost zero pressure so no sound is produced.

August 30, 2015 at 10:23 PM · Hi Jim

I tend to agree - but I would still say that harmonics are "classical" in the sense that they're hardly ever used in the English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish idiom. Not to say they can't be - just that 99.9% of players wouldn't be using them. Staccato and high positions would be in the same boat, I think.

Who are we to argue with the great Robert Ferguson:

Fidlers, your pins in temper fix,

And roset weel your fiddle-sticks,

But banish vile Italian tricks

    Frae out your quorum

Nor fortes wi' pianos mix,

    Gie's Tulloch-Gorum.

August 31, 2015 at 07:06 PM · I meant to say in my last post, as for bowing - nothing out of the ordinary. Just bow the same way as you do for other jigs (I know there's not one single standard bowing, and each player has their own, but my point is that the string crossing has no bearing on the bowing).

These 'oddities' crop up from time to time - usually when it's a tune that's really set for an instrument other than fiddle. There are plenty G tunes (eg) which work far better in A.

September 1, 2015 at 01:45 PM · That's an interesting point. It does play easily in Amaj. Perhaps it was originally intended for different instrument, pipe or whistle, or perhaps remotely, a fiddle tuned lower and fingered in Amaj.


September 1, 2015 at 09:47 PM · The Foxhunter's Reel is a classic example of a tune played in G in a session with mixed instruments, but is far better suited to A for it's brightness and better flow. See here :

...and see the difference between setting #1 in G and setting #5 in A.

There is often much debate and (dis)cussing as to what key 'we' will play it in :)

This sort of thing happens elsewhere - the Winter Largo from Vivaldi's Four Seasons is in Eb, but sometimes it's published in D, in editions for less advanced players.

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