Masterclass: Jazz bowings on the violin

Jazz Bowings April 2005

Do you sound uninspired when you try alternative styles? How should you interpret the printed notes? Julie Lyonn Lieberman reads between the lines to bring life to your right hand

There are over 30 active string styles played worldwide and each requires a slightly different touch and quality of motion from the bow hand. While music notation can help interpret style by conveying which notes within the phrase should be slurred or accentuated, many alternative string scores actually omit this pertinent information.

It is assumed that only the melody need be conveyed and that the player is already conversant with the stylistic intricacies of the genre.

This is, in part, due to the fact that fiddle and jazz styles are rooted in an aural tradition and because the visual road map would be too cumbersome if notation attempted to convey stylistic details.

The organic feel of a style emanates from three crucial elements: phrasing, rhythmic subtext and bow placement. Let’s look at each of these.

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