Bow Grooves and Shuffles

Fiddle Grooves–Bow Shuffles

What kind of shuffles can you do with the bow? That question came up recently. I started putting a project together called Bow Grooves and Shuffles…Here are some of the components.

Barn Dance Band doesn’t need music stands

1 Accents. You are not going to get anywhere until you have the ability to place an accent on the note you play. My story of Bunny the beginner at MBSC is an example. I had an opportunity to sit in with a band I was not scheduled to be in. They welcomed me! As we practiced, I was standing next to an adult student named Bunny. She asked me about rhythm back up. I asked her to show me what she was doing. She was moving the bow back and forth to match the beat. I just suggested she accent the start of each note and gave her some instruction on how to do that. The result was an immediate improvement.

2 Shuffles starting with the standard barn dance shuffle. Add in the accent on the off beat and you really have a danceable result. You can vary the amount of accent. You can go between the shuffle and just sawing. (Maybe saw stroke needs to be a separate component.)

3 Georgia bow is a powerful shuffle, but a little bit tough to learn. I use Ebenezer to teach my students. I realize as I write this, I do not follow up with them enough to make sure they really learn the technique. For example, I need to focus on Josh and Seamus to be certain they are pursuing this. And then go on to Salt River and Dick Gossip. While I’m at it, I might find another good tune for Georgia bow.

Non-shuffle Grooves

4 Bow strokes that are groovy, but not shuffles. That would include the cakewalk, written about and published already. Then, there’s the Soldier’s Joy stroke which doesn’t put an accent on the off beat at all, but is almost universal for that tune. Maybe the strathspey snap is a good candidate, too. 

5 Jigs and Hornpipes. Which are you going to teach first. Until now it’s been O’Keefe’s Slide and then Harvest Home. But that does not always hold. Some students have gotten into the hornpipe right away, and like road to Lisdoonvana anyway. The jig is just a little slower than the hornnpipe. Each beat of triplet notes is felt. With the hornpipe there is a swing to the rhythm while the pace moves more slowly for each beat with two pairs of swung eighth notes for a beat. Different feel.

6 Bag of Spuds has a distinct bowing pattern I fell into by accident. I don’t know how it happened, but at a lesson I could see I was using a different bow pattern than the one on the tab chart I had put together for the student. When I do it by itself I start getting into it as if it is a distinct shuffle. I think the change of string is needed for it to really work. 

7 Waltzes do not have any shuffle, but they often have a groove. Southwind makes use of the dotted quarter followed by and eighth and a quarter note. In most waltzes there is a repetition of the rhythm that creates a groove. I’m thinking of Tennessee Waltz, Tom Bigbee is another. The contest waltzes may not be this way, as I think on it. More research needed to pin this down.

The Irish Groove

8 Irish grooves are often done by accenting while the bow is already moving. It’s unique to that genre. You don’t find that in American fiddling. I do that a bit in Cooley’s Reel. I need to teach it also. The Irish Aires are very legato and go by without much emphasis o the beat, as I recall. Sadly, I do not play many of them. I want to check out Hanneke Cassell’s collection for an aire.

When I did the presentation for my small group on Zoom, I only did four of these components. I spent about 20 minutes going through the presentation. Now that I’m starting to focus on this as a piece of work, I need to get back to basics and determine my next steps.

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