Bow Patterns in a Swing Improvization

by Marty Laster

This is a short improvisation based on the chords of the first section of "Lady Be Good", using bowing patterns from my previous article "Bowing in Swing Fiddle".

There are countless ways that this excerpt can be bowed. So my choice of bowings is personal and may change each time I play. Let's get into detail about the three bowing patterns used.

Please refer to my article in the previous issue and look at bowings #1, 2 and 3.
Bowing #3 is used in measures 1& 2 . The placement of the first bow change (the up-bow) is on the off beat, creating a syncopation. A slight accent would reinforce this syncopation, reinforcing the swing feel.

Bowing #2 is used in measures 3,5 & 8. This goes from separate bows to a slur, which lands on an off beat - creating that swingy syncopation. Measure 8 is a good example of choosing a bowing to avoid slurring and crossing the strings at the same time.

To repeat, the use of threes, whether with separate eighth notes or slurs, helps the music to swing.

Measure 10 is a variation of Bowing #3 and measures 7, 11 and 13 use Bowing # 1.

Bowing #1 is great for playing swing, You can use very little bow and play very smoothly, something like Stephane Grappelli. It's also a great way to keep the bow in one spot (ie. the middle or tip).

a few words about my choice of notes in a couple of spots

Beginning in measure 7, the music is organized into groups of four eighth notes.
The first four clearly conform to a G chord. The next four imply Bb and beginning measure eight it's an Eb chord. The last group of that measure conforms once again to the written D chord. This may sound strange to some but it works because if you take the first note of each group, you have G, Bb and Eb. This forms an inverted Eb chord ,which then resolves down a step to the D.

Another curious spot is measures 12 into 13. It's a three note pattern that moves down chromatically from F sharp to F natural and then to E. It works because the dissonant notes have short duration and give the feeling of being in motion toward consonance.

Measure 13 is interesting because the notes can imply either a D9 chord (the E is the 9th) or an A minor chord (the II chord).The II-V-I progression is real important in late swing into be-bop styles. Another spot I used the 9th is the first note of measure six (the E). Sometimes in holding a note, you want something more spicy than landing on a chord tone.

In measure 3 we have, once again, patterns of four . The first note is a ninth and the first note of the next group of four begins on sixth (E). This is the kind of thing Johnny Gimble loves to do in Western Swing.

Some people don't need much knowledge in theory to play well and for others, it helps them to feel more grounded. Either way, good luck with your journey!

I hope all this has been clear. In any event, experiment with these patterns and those of your own till you find what works for you. Good luck.

-Marty Laster

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