DAY 2 – Swannanoa Fiddle Gathering

Now that all the introductions are over – names, fiddling background, favorite colors, etc. – we can devote the whole class time to learning and playing. And then we can devote the whole evening to hanging out and picking.


We reviewed the melody and chords from yesterday’s tune, Nine Pound Hammer, and then dug in to the nitty gritty of percussive backup fiddling – also known as The Chop. Here are some beginning chop tips:
• Straighten your bowing thumb to roll the bow hair away from you;
• All chops happen within the silver winding part of the bow (the 3-4 inches from the frog);
• Lightly mute the strings with your right hand to dampen any notes;
• Let gravity (with the guidance of your bow hand) “drop” the bow on the strings;
• Once the “down” chop has dropped, allow the bow to rest until you want the next sound;
• Simply lift the bow off the strings in the direction that it arrived for the “up” chop sound;
• The “down” chop is beats 2 & 4 while the “up” is 1 & 3
• Use your metronome and gradually increase the tempo as you get more comfortable;
• Groove.


Today we reviewed Cattle in the Cane which sparked a discussion of bowings. I find bowings difficult to teach since I never play the exact same melody, and as a result, never the exact same bowings. However, upon real-time personal examination, I find there are certain bowing patters that I play more commonly than others. There’s a classical violin study book by Kreutzer. The second exercise/etude is all about bowings. At least 25 (from memory here) different bowings are applied to the notes. For example, you play bowing #1 for every measure; then bowing #2 for every measure, and so on. By the time you’ve done all 25, your bowing should be able to turn on a dime and not get “stuck” anywhere. While not all the bowings are great for bluegrass, I still find this to be a great exercise in phrasing training. I gave 5 bowing patterns to apply to our tune. We then mixed and matched them to explore their effect on the phrasing.


Ashokan Farewell (D) Civil
Red Haired Boy (A) California
Big Footed Man in a Sandy Lot (G) The
St. Anne’s Reel (D) Lewis
Belle of Lexington (D) Midnight
Nine Pound Hammer (A) Manzanita
Old Joe Clark (A) Old
Fisher’s Hornpipe (D) Fisher's
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss (D) Fly
Sugarfoot Rag (A) Sugarfoot

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