Beat emphasis

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    • #12502

      I was reading an article about the differences between violin and the fiddle 🙂 It said that, “Most classical music has a stronger accent on the downbeat, while fiddling accents the upbeat for dancers.” Is that true? Should I intentionally try to accent the upbeat? Is it better to use a down bow or an up bow on that upbeat typically? Also, just to clarify in case my definitions are off (feel free to correct!)… An upbeat is the “and” in the “one-and” that makes a whole beat, right? But an offbeat is the second and fourth beats in 4/4 time.

      Here’s the article:

    • #12512
      Roland White

      HI New Fiddler,

      Great that you read it and its a reliable fact and comparison. Not being a Classical player I’ve only observed no one is tapping their feet in Classical land so I have no idea where the downbeat would be in a classical tune with out trying to figure it out.

      Fiddling on the other hand is primarily dance music in the folk tradition so it does have some identifiable bowing characteristics & a strong rhythm to give you that dance feel. I have heard of a few generalizations regarding the beats and bowing and the biggest one is; Down bow on the Down Beat creates consistent dance rhythm.

      However a lot of fiddle tunes have melodies that not only have a strong down beat but also a strong upbeat rhythm as well and its built into the bowing patterns which may switch while playing to an up bow or down bow on opposite accents.

      If you play enough Contra Dances you learn which beats create the heart of the tune and those or the best to emphasize even though it may be an upbeat rather than a downbeat. The more you listen to dance music and good Contra bands you will appreciate the often dramatic style they can create messing with the up and down beats in the tunes.

      One last thing is I have never met a fiddler that bowed their tunes the same way twice even though they may have wanted to play a certain bowing. In fiddling you will always get going the wrong direction at some point and you work your way back to the direction you desire if you lose it while maintaining the beat of the tune. Not sure I answer your question but made me think about that eternal question of bow direction. Thanks for posting and have fun fiddling.. Roland

    • #12542
      Patti Kusturok

      Hi New Fiddler,

      That’s a great article by Donna Hebert. I remember reading it and am happy to have seen it again. She explains it quite well.

      As mentioned, we fiddlers tend to play music for dancing, and when I do, I watch the dancers on the floor, find the best ones, and play to them.

      We emphasize the off beats, and I think you can also think of “swinging” everything you play. If you have a reel with all sixteenth notes, you don’t want to play them straight. I tend to swing the groups of two notes and when sped up, it gives it that “feel” and “drive” that you want.

      I may talk about that a bit in my bowing for reels tutorial.

      All the best!


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