How bowing might work, part 2 of unknown

I was pondering the question of “What affects my bowing?” and here’s what I came up with.

The notes themselves and their rhythm affect my bowing, only because they’re the same thing (“moving the bow across the string” is the same thing as “playing a note”). But usually that’s more a dilemma of the left hand. If all the notes are on the same string, then if I felt like it I could just use one bow stroke and slur my way through every note. Which brings us to my main point.

Possibly the most important factor affecting my bowing is the string crossings. In the A part of Flatwoods (source: Clyde Davenport), where the rhythm is all quick notes, I find that if I naturally slur wherever there are a few notes on the same string, I end up with a smooth syncopation pattern. It doesn’t always start on the first note in the group of eight, but it’s still there. Here’s a diagram of the bowings (Down and Up) in the A part. All of the notes are on either the D string or the A string; I’ve put all the A-string notes in parentheses to show the string crossings.

D-D-D (U-U-U) (D) U |  D U (D-D-D) U-U-U | D-D-D (U-U-U) (D) U | (D) – U – – – D U

Theoretically this would also work using rough syncopation, since rough syncopation has changes in bow direction in all the same places that smooth syncopation does—it just has other direction changes as well. I tried this out, and it did indeed work. Ideally, the equivalent using rough syncopation would be this:

D U-U (D U-U) (D) U | D U (D U-U) D U-U | D U-U (D U-U) (D) U | (D) (U-U) (D) (U) – D U

But I played a slightly modified version (diagrammed below), I guess because I’m not quite good enough with rough syncopation to apply it in the middle of a phrase. And I think the playing sounds awkward in that spot because of the string crossings.

D U-U (D U-U) (D) U | D U-(U) (D U)-U D U | D U-U (D U-U) (D) U | (D) (U-U) (D) (U) – D U

Here’s a video of the two versions played one after the other.

Building on the previous idea—

String crossings are “bad” to slur through, although of course it can be done and is in fact done all the time. But there’s two kinds of string-crossing-slurs, and I feel like the first kind is much less bad than the other.

The first kind, the one that I think does work decently, is an up bow going to a lower string, or a down bow going to a higher string. If I put that in a way that might make more sense: It’s your bow arm moving up during an up bow, or your bow arm moving down during a down bow.

The second kind, the one that I think does not work as well, is an up bow going to a higher string, or a down bow going to a lower string. This would be your bow arm moving down during an up bow, or your bow arm moving up during a down bow.

Although probably the one thing about bowing and string crossings that I can say with certainty is that it’s not good to go back and forth between strings without changing the bowing direction. That just doesn’t work. (At least for me.)

I came up with an interesting phenomenon of my bowing that occurs in quite a few tunes. It’s whenever I use the six-note smooth syncopation over and over without syncing back up with the 8-note phrasing. I call it extended smooth syncopation. Here’s an example, using the B part of Five Miles from Town (source: Clyde Davenport).

Another example using Golden Ticket (heard this tune from Rhys Jones). This one is slightly more complicated because I use a pulse on the second note of the slurred up-bows.

3 thoughts on “How bowing might work, part 2 of unknown

  1. ‘Part 2 of unknown’ sounds like a good place to start! And very ambitious.

    It would be interesting/helpful to know more about harmonic capabilities and differences between ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ bowing.

    Very nice playing.


    • Thank you!

      I’m not sure what you’re asking about. Up-bow and down-bow are simply the direction of the bow stroke. There are no differences in the harmonic capabilities.


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