Technique: Swing bowing

ChristianGarrick

How to inject new rhythmic fluency and flexibility into your playing by working on jazz

Jazz doesn’t fit a bowed stringed instrument as naturally as it does the wind, brass and percussion instruments on which it evolved. Swing bowing was created by players like Stéphane Grappelli, Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith and Ray Nance, to give the music a bounce and light-as-air floaty feeling on their own less conventional jazz instrument: the violin. It is a mainstay aspect of jazz against the on-beat rhythmic impulses of classical, Celtic and rock ‘n’ roll music. Grappelli’s solos sound flighty and exciting partly because of the way he leans on the weak beats of the bar and ghosts the strong beats. At speed those ghosted notes are like pitchless, percussive attacks; at slower tempos, the bow pressure can be so minimal that you only hear the left-hand attack.

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