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Fiddle Lesson: Bow Speed, Pressure, & Placement


There are three critical elements that define proper bowing technique that require close monitoring when learning to play the fiddle—bow speed, pressure, and placement. In this online fiddle lesson, master fiddler, ArtistWorks instructor, and founding member of the David Grisman Quintet, Darol Anger outlines the vast array of rich, complex tones that can be achieved on the fiddle by employing subtle nuances to the speed of the bow’s stroke, pressure of the bow on the strings, and the placement of the bow on the strings in relation to the bridge.


Anger begins the fiddle lesson by showcasing the tone created when performing a down and up stroke using the entirety of the bow very quickly, with minimal pressure applied to the strings and the bow placed about equidistant between the bridge and the beginning of the fingerboard.


“[When we take this approach,] we get this very airy, almost singing sound,” explains Angers. “It almost makes the violin jump a little bit.”


To provide contrast, Anger goes on to showcase the ghastly tone that’s achieved when bowing slowly while putting quite a bit of pressure on the strings. However, he then illustrates that, if the bow is moved back toward the bridge slightly and the same slow, high pressure stroke is performed, a beautiful, musical tone can be accomplished.


“[Through this technique] you can achieve a very strong, very bright sound,” Anger exclaims. “But, if we’re [playing slowly with a lot of bow pressure], we’re going to need to play closer to the bridge.”


He then showcases the tonality of the fiddle when utilizing a high speed, high pressure stroke close to the bridge.


“That is your festival tone there,” Anger explains. “That’s the tone you want when you’re at the parking lot and it’s late at night, and there’s ten banjos out there and you have to be heard.”


Anger then rounds out the initial demonstration by showcasing the melancholic tonality of a bow stroke using a slow speed and light pressure played closer to the fingerboard.


“Now that’s actually rather beautiful,” explains Anger. “You might use that approach in a waltz or some kind of ballad, or if you’re just feeling a little sad about things.”


After showcasing the different sounds, Anger explains why it’s important to be able to access these different tonalities on the fiddle using these different bowing techniques.


“These are all techniques that are going to give you all different types of tones on your instrument,” Anger explains. “And, because music is very much like life, you’re going to be in all kinds of situations and expressing all different kinds of emotions, so you’re going to want to get comfortable with all [these approaches].”


So, grab your fiddle and your bow, and dive into the vast array of tones outlined in this online fiddle lesson from Darol Anger:


Have you always wanted to learn how to play the fiddle? Through our comprehensive fiddle lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally-renowned players, like Darol Anger, and get personalized feedback on your playing.


Darol’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner fiddle to advanced performance techniques and compositions. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as fiddlers and musicians!


Try out some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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