Fiddle bowing- flaunting ignorance
I am in the process of preparing my students for an adjudication event. One of the piece that I selected for this year is Wabash Cannonball. In the description of Wabash Cannonball the arranger says, "Students will develop their into-the-string fiddle bow stroke." What the does this mean? I am thinking middle bow with detached, but not quite staccato playing.
Am I correct, or is this yet another gap in my knowledge? This is for players with 2-4 years of playing, in a public school, grades 6-8.
If you would like to observe:
As an actual fiddle player, my take on this is a classical arranger trying to describe what they think is fiddle bowing. Yes, generally fiddle bowing has a strong attack in order to establish a rhythm (often for dancing), and I think that's what the arranger is going for here. There might also be an attempt to make the rhythm of a steam engine train.
Why don't you pick a real fiddle tunes? Walbash Cannonball is IMHO
What do you suggest Jeff? I'd like to try a few too...
Angeline the Baker, Boil Them Cabbage Down,Rye Straw, Turkey in the Straw, Arkansas Traveler. All good, danceable fiddle tunes. Fiddle tunes of this type are more about rhythm and pulse than melody, and for a dance you will leave out notes to get the beat and flow if you can't play them all. Better to play the wrong note at the right time for a dance fiddler!
The ideas that Duane has suggested are more in line with what I had in mind. These are just a small part of the repitore of fiddle tunes that are often used for dancing. Where rhythm is the most important aspect of the music.
June Apple, St. Anne's Reel, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Blackberry Blossom and Cluck Old Hen would be some other tunes common among the Bluegrass reportoire, but maybe with a bit different flavor than some of those previously mentioned (not that there's anything wrong with those ones). As for the deep well of Old Time tunes...well that's another topic.
Randy Miller has published some great books of fiddle music: Irish Traditional Fiddle Music, The Fiddler's Throne, New England Fiddler's Repertoire, all published by Fiddle Case Books. You will be able to find thousands of possibilities in those books, published without pretensions, simply giving the notes and leaving it up to the fiddler (or teacher) to decide on phrasing, bowing and what-not.
Thank you all for the response. I am required to select music from a specific list. I am likewise trying to show a variety of styles in music choice and key. I'd love to enrich my classes with some actual fiddle music; however, when I cannot get them to perform basic compositions correctly, fiddle will be impossible and the antithesis of what I am trying to teach in terms of playing foundations. Again, this is for a public school grades 6-8, these students are low income, with little parental support, and I provide numerous instruments.
Peter - thank you for working with these kids, this will become a significant part of what they are. Kudos!
The more rapid bow strokes are typically done with a pronounced articulation, like a martele (hammered) stroke. The specific technique used can vary, but it basically drives the bow hairs into the string and then releases the pressure to complete the stroke.
Since you're exposing them to tunes they might not know rather than really trying to teach them fiddling, and you have to choose repertoire from someone else's list, why not just have everyone play detache in the middle of the bow? The kids learn a tune they probably haven't heard, and you get to reinforce fundamentals. Stylistic correctness is not the issue, right? Or am I missing something?
If you did want to be "stylistically correct" with a Bluegrassy song like this, you would just play it until you find what works for you and your students, and sounds like what you have imagined. There are no hard and fast rules to fiddle bowing, especially on a vocal song. The only true "rule" I could think of would be trying to start most measures on a downbow, but even that would be more important in breakdowns/reels. Most fiddlers I know would approach bowing to a song like this without much thought and just go for what feels right. Of course, if you're not striving for stylistic correctness, then everything I just said was useless jibber-jabber.
"I'd love to enrich my classes with some actual fiddle music; however, when I cannot get them to perform basic compositions correctly, fiddle will be impossible and the antithesis of what I am trying to teach in terms of playing foundations."
My wife had started a violin group at the Catholic elementary school where I have been running the band program for a number of years and initially it was a typical classically-oriented violin program. The first year there were 6 members, the second year there were 3, the third year there was only a single "my daughter might join again" response. So my wife discontinued the program.
Good point. Also have a look at o Connors string methods or at least the string orchestra book. You can listen to some of the mp3s online.
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