bebop anyone?

Edited: February 5, 2018, 9:49 AM · I've been working on bebop scales (8 notes to the scale) and adapting them for blues.

E natural minor bop: E F# G A B C D Eb e
A bluesy bop: A B C D Eb E F# G a
C major-ish swingy bop: C D Eb E F# G A B c. this one has a bit of a Lydian kick with the F# being the raised fourth

the thing is, all these scale notes are inversions of each other, so the patterns are the same over 4 strings in the first position, and this 'formula' for these 3 can, of course, be transposed.

I'm catching on to this quicker than expected, and already working them in at the jams.

I figure if I can't play jazz, I can at least make my blues more jazzy.

Replies (34)

February 5, 2018, 11:40 AM · Couldn't quite get my head round it till I did this:

E natural minor bop: E F#G A BC DEbe
A bluesy bop: A BC DEbE F#G a
C major-ish swingy bop: C DEbE F#G A Bc.

February 5, 2018, 12:01 PM · I Would ask what it is you re trying to do with those scales. Imo , practicing that way is inefficient at best , useless at worst if your goal is to sound jazzy.

Those scales are mathematical inventions that came long after bebop.

If you want to sound jazzy, you d best study lines from artists that play the style. Study not only the lines but understand how the lines relate to the chord and/or chord progression. It doesn t end there. Then you have to study the articulation , dynamics and duration of notes which means on the violin , you have to figure out where to put slurs (almost always on off beats) and which notes to accent (often off beats). You have to listen to the timing of the notes in relation to the rhythm section (ahead, locked in, laid back). These are the elements that make you sound jazzy and not the scales.

Edited: February 5, 2018, 5:22 PM · Bud: it looks like you've put the notes in groups, yes? Cool. whatever works and let's you 'hear' them.

Denis: I'm adapting these for basic 12 or 16 bar blues. I'm not concerned about harmonic movement and a lot of jazz chord changes, just gimmie a I-IV-V and turn me loose. For me, it's another thing to throw into my bag of tricks...5 note pents, 6 note blues scale, 7 note mode scales and these 8 note scales. Doesn't matter to me if they are mathematical inventions that came long after bebop. I also use modal Major7 and minor7b5 arps, yup, over a 12 bar, works great.

Yes, I've got some work to do with bowing them, but I've been playing them over a sequencer that can generate different styles of blues, change keys and tempos etc. and they seem to be fitting in to this bag of tricks very well thank you.

February 5, 2018, 5:31 PM ·

I'm calling them bebop scales because I got them from this bebop scale site.

February 6, 2018, 12:32 AM · The so called bebop scale is a result of analysing certain bebop phrases that contained certain chromatic notes. It s a mathematical invention, but the artists improvising the lines are not thinking of the phrases in that way at all. If you say it does wonders to practice scales like that for you then i say congratulations but i dont teach that way and the vast majority (if not all) of the best bebop players (or improvisers in general) use a completely differenr approach that is more organic whereas the scalar approach is mathematical. The difference is that most people with educated ears will hear the latter as sounding , well, mathematical.
February 6, 2018, 5:03 AM · Jazz is one of those things where how you get started doesn't necessarily have to define or confine what you do in the long run. Your "bebop scales" may be useful if they get you off the ground. I do agree with Denis somewhat in the sense that thinking about where those scales come from will help liberate you from such a formulaic approach. After a year or so, if you find yourself still thinking about which scale you're playing when, then you might want to work on breaking yourself free from that, so that you're just playing what's in your mind's ear. Initially that can be very daunting but also very satisfying, even if it's only a couple of bars at a time.
Edited: February 6, 2018, 6:26 AM · I certainly agree that there are many approaches to learn improv, and there is no wrong or right way. Different people have different ideas of what improv is as well, and that's totally fine. The kind of improv that I like is the one that's based on playing what you hear. In order to play what you hear, you have to have certain vocabulary that you acquire from lots of listening to your favorite musicians. It's an organic approach.

Practicing scales and arpeggios can help you figure out the fingerboard's geography, but in my opinion, it should never be at the expense of being able to hear something in your head and then reproducing it.

So when it comes to those bebop scales, you have to understand that the artists playing those passing tones weren't thinking about scales or passing tones but about embellished melodies/swing/dynamics/phrasing. There's a reason those passing tones exist, and the context is extremely important, otherwise you're just using them randomly

If you look at the first few notes of the theme Donna Lee, you already see an example of what could be defined as a bebop scale, but in reality, it's just an Ab major scale with passing tone where it seemed convenient to the composer's ear. But more importantly, it doesn't sound like a formulaic scale going up and down. The composer is just thinking a melody over an Ab chord and he connects it to F7 through voice leading.

There are tons of examples like this where nothing ever sounds like a full on scale, but fragments of scale (often embellished with various ornaments) that make up a coherent melodic statement. It's a very organic approach.

In the end, do what feels right to you, that's the beauty of improv. You can use whatever approach you seem fit. Whether others will like the result or not is a different question!

Just FYI, I teach jazz improvisation, and my students travel from all over the world to stay with me and study improv. I've also worked with a lot of the best jazz violinists in the world ;-) . I've been booked non-stopped since I started offering this program in 2015 just in case you think my credentials aren't valid !

Edited: February 6, 2018, 7:51 AM · Denis, I also teach (keyboard) improv, but I'm much less experienced at doing do. My experience is that people readily accept that they can't learn to play the violin properly without a teacher, but somehow feel that improv is something they should be able to teach themselves. The Aebersold chords-scales-and-patterns approach is okay for the self-taught but very soon you will hit a brick wall. I know how much I benefited from the jazz lessons I had, and I only wish I had time to do more of that. There's also no substitute for playing in jam sessions with better players. Solo transcriptions are valuable too -- especially the ones you write yourself.
Edited: February 6, 2018, 8:19 AM · I personally think it's possible to learn improv on your own if you have a heightened sense of awareness and are surrounded by a community of high level improvisers. After all, many of the early improvisors didn't really take lessons in improvisation.

I would just say that It's completely different from learning to play classical music. I wouldn't say it's easier, but with improvisation, you get to be who you want to be with whatever technical level you have, so I suppose that's why some people would think it's easier. Whereas in classical violin, you're not considered on the verge of "worthy" until you have reached a certain level that requires maybe 5 years of intense study for the fast learners , and 5-10 years for the average aspiring professional.

But then again, if you really want to develop a rich language and facility in improv, I would say it takes the same amount of intense dedication!

I actually teach violin college students in classical performance how to improvise jazz. It's tricky for them because they have never approached their instrument in that way before.

February 6, 2018, 9:57 AM · Denis do you have certain tunes that you start your students out with?
February 6, 2018, 10:30 AM · Well, for me, in an ideal world, the student already comes to me knowing what he/she likes in jazz, and therefore already listens to it and is aware of the repertoire. I think that's important because then you start to naturally gravitate towards a "natural" and organic path . I think that's the biggest difference between classical and jazz education. In classical music, the student goes to the teacher and expects to be told what to listen, what to play, how to play , etc...

In jazz improv, you're trying to develop your own voice, so I don't like to be the guy to tell them to gravitate toward one thing or another. Furthermore , the world of jazz is vast. I'm actually more of a specialist in swing music with a good knowledge of bebop, but if someone already comes to me telling me that they don't care for siwng music, and want to play modern jazz, then I would send them to someone else, simple as that.

So , on the rare occasions, where I have students wanting to learn jazz improv but don't actually know much about it, I give them that whole speech. Since I specialize in swing music, that's what I teach them. On the violin, that means a lot of Grappelli but also other musicians and not necessarily violinists.

So tunes that I really like to start beginners with are :

Coquette (key of D)
Minor Swing (key of Am)
All Of Me (key of C)
Minor Blues (Gm)
Lady Be Good ( key of G)


We start by listening to different versions. I teach them the harmony of the song and expect that they be able to play double stops on their fiddle. I teach them the melody in a swinging way. Then I teach them some vocabulary, and explain how they relate to the chords. And then I have them figure out the arpeggios of each chord in first position.

We do this for a few weeks. When they start to have a handle on it, we start to talk about interpretation : bowing, timing, slurs, vibrato, etc... And that's really where the fun begins! I have a collection of videos over the months that I've done with my college classical performance students tracking their progress. I'll post it on Youtube some day!

Anyway, I think we have hijacked this thread! My apologies!!

February 6, 2018, 10:42 AM · thanks for the input, I understand what you're saying. I liked Denis's statement: artists playing those passing tones were thinking about embellishing melodies/swing/dynamics/phrasing. but I'm not trying to play jazz, it's too late for me and I'm not good enough. I am, however, pretty good at shredding hard drivin' blues like say ZZ Top or maybe Buddy Guy. At different times and from different people, I've had my playing described (unsolicited) as dangerous, deadly, wild, fiery and "I've never heard a violin played like that before". You know you've done well at the blues bar jams when the crowd applauds your solo. Doesn't happen all the time, but every so often when I'm in the Zone.

after a while, who knows how long, I'll be able to shred up these scales and work them in with the a fore mentioned pents, blues scales, mode scales etc.

I play mostly out of patterns that I visualize over 4 strings. I just found it very interesting and useful that these 3 scales were inversions of each other, with the passing tones in different places according to the tonic, and each with a different 'flavor'.

I particular like the The major-ish swingy scale C D Eb E F# G A B C. It's just an F# & B added to a major blues scale of C D Eb E G A C, but when run up from the C note on G string to the G note on E string, the 2 F#'s give it a nice Lydian flavour, to my ear anyways. basic stuff for you guys I'm sure, but to me it's Major (or minor or Dom7)... a bit of humor there?

So I'm in the process of memorizing (or visualizing) these for the 'guitar' keys of E A D G C.

Thanks for listening

Edited: February 6, 2018, 11:03 AM · PS: the 2 last posts came in while I was typing. I don't mind hijacking, I've been known to do it myself. feel free to hijack away. any discussion about improv is ok with me cuz that's all I do. well, besides the 20 or so busking tunes which include some jazz standards like All of me, Fly Me to the Moon, When You're Smiling, Sunny Side of the Street, Summer Time, Lets Get Away from it All, Stardust. But I play them very close to the vocal melody with just a bit of embellishment.

I think I just hijacked my own thread.

February 6, 2018, 3:43 PM · Denis, okay just curious. With a new violin improv student I would probably start with a latin tune like Black Orpheus (A minor), a minor blues like Equinox (C minor) and a swing tune like Satin Doll.
Edited: February 8, 2018, 6:54 AM · Dave, you're doing something that works for you and is moving you forward, so I don't want to get in your way. But here are a couple music theory tips - straight from the Eastman School of Music jazz professors where I play. The sequence you are playing - C D Eb E F#G A B C - is a modified 'sweet' blues scale. The 6th, in this case an A, turns the regular blues scale into a sweet blues scale. No wonder you like the bluesy sound. The correct 'sweet' blues scale is - C D Eb E F# G A Bb C. The Bb matches the dominant 7. But B works in solos because it is dissonant like the dominant blues chords themselves, and leads to the C note in a pleasing half step. The other chords, E minor and A minor, have related explanations, but I won't go there now.

The Bebop scale has 2 variations - dominant bebop and major bebop.
Dominant bebop is C D E F G A Bb B C Use it with dominant chords.
Major bebop is C D E F G G# A B C Use it with major 7 chords.
My book, "Arpeggios, Rhythms, and Scales" might help if you want to seriously work these scales, pentatonics, mixolydians, altereds, etc. in 12 keys.

When playing with college trained blues and jazz musicians it helps to know what they call these patterns.

You are on a good track. Swing on.

Edited: February 7, 2018, 11:02 PM · Hi Mike :-) ...once again... long time. Good to know you're still out there swingin'. and yes, I really like the 'modified' blues scale and prefer it over the other ones.

Thanks also for clarification on the modified blues scale. I can see that now. I like to know what I'm doing and how things work. Maybe some players don't need that, but I do.

but honestly, I'm getting up there...65 come November!
If I can maintain what I already know and possibly add a bit here and there that works for me, I'm content.

...and I do have a copy of your your book. I sent you a money order and you mailed me the book, remember? Not to worry, I don't know how many years ago that was. I had some trouble reading/figuring it out. Not the books fault, just that I really don't read anything.

Cheers, Dave.

Edited: February 8, 2018, 6:41 AM · Over the years I've played (piano) in so many jam sessions and gigs with other jazz players. They were mostly serious amateurs and small-time pros, so I don't know how many of them were "college trained" to use Mike Laird's term. I suspect most of them, at some point in their lives, were exposed to the Aebersold jazz-chord-scale method, which is virtually inescapable.

When playing gigs, I've often heard, before a tune, someone say something to me like, "We don't play those altered b5b9 changes in the bridge.. we just play it straight," or "In Bar 11 we play such-and-such a chord." These kinds of things are sort of like the "house rules" for pool or poker games. And I'm always glad to accommodate them in my comping and soloing. (Especially important if there is a guitar player present.)

But honestly I've *never* heard musicians talk about what "modes" or "scales" they're going to use in their solos. The only time I've ever heard the word "myxolydian" is in a classroom. Once you realize that "myxolydian" is just a major scale with a flat (dominant) seventh, you don't need it any more.

Edited: February 8, 2018, 7:27 AM · Paul, my experience is that improvising solo musicians talk about modes, chords, and scales to zero in on things to experiment with and practice. That's what Dave is doing with the 'sweet' blues scale. Giving it a name and a definition makes it easy to transpose, modify, communicate, etc.

As you say, performance is different - let it flow.

February 8, 2018, 8:36 AM · I can see both sides of the discussion, but for me, I lean toward Mike. "Giving it a name and a definition makes it easy to transpose, modify, communicate, etc." really strikes home with me. Not to beat a dead horse, but back to these 3 scale inversions that I laid out in my OP. (I'll now call them a modified blues scale) scale pattern over 4 strings with 3 distinct flavors, depending on the tonic. I've given them 'pet names' and put it on paper transposed to some different tonic's. if I'm fuzzy about a pattern in a different key with a different tonic, if refer to the chart to remind me of the pattern in the key with the tonic that I'm not as fuzzy about

E min bop = A blues bop = C major swing bop
B min bop = E blues bop = G major swing bop
A min bop = D blues bop = F major swing bop
C#min bop = f# blues bop = A major swing bop
Ab min bop = B blues bop = E major swing bop

... lot's of 8 note bopping going on

I use all 3 in some keys, just one in others. I won't be playing a whole lot of blues in C# & F#. But I have access to all 3 in 12 keys if I wanted them.

expanding my playing to 8 notes with 3 flavors in the same pattern over 4 strings is HUGH for me.

February 8, 2018, 8:59 AM · Paul, re: mixo being a b7. I'm more of a pattern player and less of an interval player. It's easy for me to visualize the major scale patterns over 4 strings in 12 keys (pretty much) much easier for me to think of

E mixo = A maj
A mixo = D maj
D mixo = G maj
G mixo = C maj
C mixo = F maj

I think it out this way for all the modes of the major scale, and I can find the applicaple major scale very quickly (maybe not so much for Locrian)

Speaking of Aebersold, Jamie offers 16 very cool lines over a minor II-V7-I, Dmin7b5(Locrian) > G7+9(altered scale) > Cmin. again, basic stuff for you guys. I took 6 of them I really liked, memorized and transposed them to a couple of different keys. I never could have come up with these on my own, because sadly, those melodies just ain't in me. No real point to this I guess....just saying.

February 8, 2018, 9:12 AM · All this talk of note selection! I say LISTEN to the masters and then just PLAY! My improvisations are intuitive and not based on anything other than what sounds "right" to me in the moment. I think people tend to overthink this stuff in order to quantify for mediocre musicians how to do something they're clearly not equipped to do!
February 8, 2018, 1:34 PM · my signature 'motto' on another fiddle/violin web-site is 'striving to attain mediocrity' ;-)
Edited: February 8, 2018, 4:10 PM · This is a huge philosophical debate!

Paul earlier said that lots of violinists (not just violinists thought) are often scared by the strict demands of classical music, so they become “improvising” musicians because apparently it’s easier. Unfortunately, I find that statement to be quite true, and it then brings down the overall level of musicianship because it normaliazes the idea that you don’t have to work hard to become an improvising musician

I can sort of see the logic behind that, but to me, the truly great improvisers (regardless of genre) put in the same amount of effort to learn to become lyrical improvisers as some of the best classical violinists did to achieve a high level of proficiency.

Whereas you cannot fake classical, you can often fake improv.

This almost becomes a bit of an elitist discussion in the sense that only people with distinguished ears can tell what’s “BS” in improv. In classical, almost everyone can tell who’s legit or not (At least on violin)

There certainly is a school of improv that, as Paul describes, is based on chord scale relationships. But I’m not a fan of this school as it’s something that came as a result of intellectualizing music that was otherwise learned in a community and in an organic way.

This is my opinion only, but for me the scale approach, sounds like scales. If you don’t practice acquiring a good vocabulary, then that’s what you’ll sound like. On the other hand, if you have acquired a good vocabulary , then it’s fine to start looking at chord scale relationships to sort of expand yoru horizons, but in no way, do i find it necessary. The proof is in some of the best improvisers out there from the old school : Joe Venuti, Svend Asmusend, Stephane Grappelli, Stuff Smith, to name just violinists, and then Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Lester Young etc..

These are the old masters, but there are still many great improvisers learning this way. Instead of studying scales, they are studying vocabulary and developing actual musical lines. They study vocabulary by listening to a lot of music . Nowadays that’s often done through recordings, but back in the day it was done through community (jam sessions, going to concerts). As I said in my earlier reply, the advantage to learning this way is that you focus more on the important aspects of music : interpretation, time, dynamics, phrasing, ornaments, etc... These are the elements that make improv musical.

February 8, 2018, 4:22 PM · I want to add one more story. I once went to see a jazz violinist. I went with a friend who wasn’t much of a musician.

The jazz violinist in question, in my opinion, was quite mediocre, and I feel quite bad saying that because I really do not like to badmouth anyone. However, I can easily defend my statements with strong arguments. The violinist in question was mediocre because the intonation was hit or miss, the lines were often weak (scales up and down with very little coherence), and at worst, he didn’t play the changes! However, he played with a lot of energy, he moved around a lot and made bluesy faces.

The crowd absolutely loved his playing, but here’s the thing, they were attracted more by the visual aspect than the musical aspect, if they were blind and listening to just the music, I wonder how they might have felt.

My friend who accompanied me told me that I should be working with this violinist. I felt so uncomfortable because it’s just not in my nature to badmouth anyone, but I also try not to lie, so I honestly told him what I thought.

My friend got very defensive. Now mind you my friend wasn’t exactly a good musician himself. So I used the argument that my ears were extremely developed (and quite frankly they are), so he pulled the elitist card on me.

Let’s put it this way, let’s say a 5 year old draws a picture typical of a 5 year old’s level. You and a 4 yr old look at the picture. The 4 year old thinks it’s amazing and a work of art. You, on the other hand, realize it’s... welll.. to put it nicely, drawn by a 5 year old. Now replace age 5 with 35, and 4 with 40. The 40 yr old calls the 35 yr old’s drawing a work of art. You know better ;-)

Edited: February 9, 2018, 12:48 AM ·

all right then, what do y'all think of this bit of improv in C Lydian?

I once asked Laurie how to post videos. She told me but I couldn't make it work. hopefully you will type in the address, or if anyone knows how to post it, please do so.

February 9, 2018, 1:53 AM · I must be getting old, no wait, I'm the same age as you.......
Edited: February 9, 2018, 8:44 AM · Henry, I see you've caught up with me (recently found out that Henry and I were born in the same month of the same year) so are you saying you're too old for this Video? Well, not me! This guy seems to me to more of a pattern player. I like it a lot, but partly because it's in Lydian, which is my favorite mode. I could show the acoustic guitar players I jam with some Lydian friendly chords, such as 11th's and such, but they can't learn them.

The other day I was watching the Lydian String Quartet playing Bird Catching From Above, which I thought was amazingly fabulous. don't know if the piece was in Lydian but the quartet name caused me to click on it, and was very glad I did. Here it is.

I don't know why it isn't easier to post vids here. For one thing I could check out some of the Classical vids that y'all are talking about all the time. and for that matter, why no 'reply with Quote' it would save a lot of re-typing statements. Probably not much chance for smileys, eh? :-) :-).

No takers on that vid in C Lydian?

Edited: February 9, 2018, 7:27 PM · When I hear a "Jazz Professor" explain why he can play this or that scale over this or that chord change, it often sounds like,,, scales.
Oscar Peterson said the 3 most important ingredients in jazz are,
Rhythm, rhythm and rhythm. Armstong could play one note over the circle of fifths and it was "right" I personally believe that Bebop killed off jazz as popular music, because people could no longer dance.
February 9, 2018, 10:49 PM · I guess the title of my thread was wrong. it should have been 'inversions of the modified blues scale'.

Dancing: now there's a topic you don't hear discussed much. I think the dancing of the swing era was fabulous, deteriorated with the coming of rock n roll, and some 'gracefulness' restored with disco. I wonder what the kids are doing these days?

as for music to take you away while sitting still, I like jazz-rock fusion, like the older Jean-Luc Ponty stuff and Mahavishnu Orchestra with Jerry Goodman on violin.

February 10, 2018, 5:34 AM · Dave, learning turnarounds that you can play over ii-V7-I changes is a great idea. My teacher back in high school assigned that kind of work.

By the way I like Jerry Goodman too. Have you noticed that his sound with Mahavishnu is totally different from Ponty? I love both of them. Goodman's vibrato is gorgeous. I'm actually in the process of trying to put together that type of band, hoping to have some jam sessions over the summer. I'd like to get ahold of some charts somewhere ...

February 10, 2018, 7:20 AM · Paul: a friend of mine Pete Hartley, lives in England, posts on Fiddle Forum, does a great blues turnaround on on a vid he calls 'blues in E'. Pete is a great player.

very excited to hear you talking about Mahavishnu. They were waay ahead of their time back around '74, still are as far as I'm concerned. My hat goes off to you, putting a band like that together! I really hope you can make it happen.

side note: did you know that Goodman played some VERY tasty violin in different spots in the movie 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' with Michael Cane and Steve Martin. It's a great movie, but worth watching just to hear Jerry play some of that Parisian style butter.

Edited: February 10, 2018, 7:51 AM · ...some further thoughts...I've been hearing a lot of 'scales sound like scales'. Isn't the end game for scales to mix the notes up, mix the timing up, use scale fragments. run them thru an octave and a half, merge one scale into another scale etc. etc. to make the scales sound like music. I think this should be obvious when talking about scales, no?

admittedly, I'm more of a linear player than vertical, so I tend to like scales. but I do a lot in blues with modal Major7 and minor7b5 arpeggios, which I guess would be considered vertical. Maybe I'll run that up the flagpole and see if it fly's.

February 10, 2018, 8:45 AM · Goodman knows how to produce a really beautiful sound on the violin, no question about it. I knew he played for movies, but unfortunately that means you have to watch the movie if you want to hear it. And I don't like most popular movies, especially not with actors like Steve Martin.

When we do our first session I'll put a little video together just for you, Dave. I gotta shed my game first.

February 10, 2018, 9:14 AM · That would be soooo great to see a vid. Thanking you very much in advance. maybe you know this, Goodman also did a couple of albums long time ago with a band called The Flock. They had a full line-up with horns.

...Perhaps an interesting anecdote... I used to have Ponty and Grappelli autographs on the same piece of paper, kept it in my violin case, forgot to load the case into my van when I had already loaded my other busking stuff, and left the case in the transit station parking lot. I got the case and fiddle back about 6 months later, but the autographs were not there. NUTS!

when I got Grappelli's autograph I already had Ponty's. I did not know at the time that Grappelli had mentored Ponty in Paris. I went back stage after Grappelli's show and said "Mr. Grappelli, I suppose you've heard of Jean-Luc Ponty, could I please have your autograph right here under his? He just kind of grunted at me and ripped off his signature. So, that's all I got from Stephane was a grunt. Obviously I deserved it and felt like a blundering Oaf, and more so when I found out about the Grappelli-Ponty relationship. Not my finest hour.

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