Bowing patterns

These exercises are written and played here on the middle two open strings (D and A). It is important to practise the same patterns also on the top two strings (A & E) and the bottom two (G & D). Make sure that the bow is angled so as to be close to the appropriate adjacent string. That will reduce the amount of vertical upper arm movement when crossing repeatedly from one string to the other.

Later you can use fingered notes as well as open strings to make up short tunes using these rhythms. The main aim is to produce the rhythms from a relaxed effortless bowing action, using minimum effort to achieve maximum effect.

All of these demonstrations start slowly with large arm movements. Then the movements are reduced and the tempo increases with less rather than more effort - less is more! You need to get comfortable with the large scale slow version before attempting to play faster.

Pattern 1 (notation below)

Shuffle bowing

Play long strokes for crotchets and short for quavers (alternately at the middle and top (point) of the bow.

For the first quaver of each pair use a slightly longer and faster stroke to give an off beat accent. When playing two strings at once use a little more first finger bow pressure for the double noting.

Pattern 2 (notation below)

Jig bowing

There are two patterns here. Both draw attention to the beginning of each triplet so that the two beats in each bar are accented.

The first pattern has a "dotted" quaver at the start of each triplet. Use a longer bow stroke for the dotted note, a very short stroke for the middle semiquaver, and a little more for the final quaver i.e. use bow strokes proportionate to note lengths so that bow speed remains the same.

In the second pattern the three quavers have equal time values but the bow speed is different for each quaver. Use a fast stroke for the first note of each triplet, a slower very short stroke for the middle quaver, and a little more bow for the third quaver.

Pattern 3 (notation below)

Staccato (short detached notes)

Notice the loops in the bow hand movement.

Playing the very short grace note between the two staccato notes helps to establish the loops.

Then miss out the grace note to produce the two detached notes - both in he same bow direction.

Pattern 4 (notation below)

Accented staccato (staccatissimo)

Here the bow is lifted off the string.

After take off follow through (keep the bow moving in the same direction) and make sure you have changed to the new direction before landing to play the next note. Aim for a smooth landing without bumps or bounces!

Notice how the bow hand is again moving in circles.

Pattern 5 (notation below)

Reversing circles

Jig rhythm again with a fast bow stroke accenting the first quaver of each triplet.

In this exercise the lower arm and hand movement is in alternate clockwise and anticlockwise circles.

Keep a steady tempo so that you can get used to changing direction effortlessly.

Pattern 6 (notation below)

Repeated string crossing

This pattern uses a smooth figure of eight arm and hand movement yet can create a strong rhythmic accent.

Pattern 7 (notation below)

'Three up' bowing

The first three long (dotted) notes are all on the down bow - each further along the bow. Then to avoid running out of bow, three quavers (or the equivalent) are played with an up bow slur i.e. three notes smoothly in the same bow direction but with the middle note of the three longer (lean into it).

This pattern is common in hornpipes and reels as a way of accenting off beats and recovering bow before running off the end. Some players use this technique in the reverse direction.

Pattern 8 (notation below)

Three up and one down

This uses the same three quaver slurred up bow as in pattern 7 but the three ups are separated by only a single quaver down bow. This has to be a fast bow stroke to leave space for the three quaver up bow i.e. for the single quaver down the bow travels three times as fast.

The result is a marked but unforced off beat accent.

Variation of pattern 8

One down and three up

This time the accented down bow single quaver is on the "on beat" i.e. change the notation above to play a down bow for the first note of each group of four beamed quavers. The remaing three quavers are slurred up bow ready for the next accented down.

This rhythm has lost the sycopation. Changing between the two variants of pattern 8 can therefore add interest by moving the accents around.

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