• You must enroll in this course to access course content.

Lesson 7: Ornaments using Sail Away Ladies

In lesson five I showed you the first of what I call “ornaments”. Ornaments are rhythmic additions that can be added on top of a rhythm without changing the fundamental rhythm.  In this video I teach three ornaments that can all be played on top of the foundational Sail Away Ladies rhythm.  In other words, one fiddler could be playing the Sail Away Ladies bowing pattern while another fiddler plays the ornaments and they would be in perfect sync with each other.

The three ornaments in this video are:

1.  “And a Look away” which is created by breaking up the long bow “Sail” into three short bow-strokes “And A Look”

2. “Take a bow” which is created by breaking up the final “Away” into three short bow-strokes.  Tommy Jarrell, the famous NC fiddler, used this technique often and referred to it as “Catching up the slack”.  I have heard people refer to this as an old time bow tripplett but be aware that it doesn’t serve the same purpose as trippletts in Irish music.  Both of these ornaments can be inserted when the melody is holding a single note in order to add rhythmic complexity where there is not melodic complexity.

3. The “Bow Rock” is our first foray into 3 dimensional Bowing.  Up until now the ornaments and the 5 foundational bowing rhythms could all be played effectively on a single string.  3 dimensional fiddling however requires moving in distinct patterns from one string to another in order to achieve multiple strings vibrating simultaneously.

If it is helpful, you might also think of 3 Dimensional Bowing as an X, Y, & Z axis.  X axis is moving the bow up and down the way you would expect to move the bow.  Y axis is moving your bowing hand down and towards your body or up and away from your body.  This could include adding additional bow pressure from your fingers.  And the Z  axis is Time which could include moving the bow slowly, quickly, pulses, or abrupt stops.

The Bow Rock requires the use of at least two strings. I think of this motion as a backwards letter “J” (from my vantage point) moving down and then away from my body and then towards my body and up on the reverse motion which follows the same arc.  The bow starts on two strings for the downward motion and then half way through the down stroke lifts onto just the lower of the two strings.  On the returning up bow the bow begins on the single string and then returns to two strings half way through the up bow stroke.  The resulting sound goes from big sound (2 strings) to little sound (1 string) and then little sound back to big sound.

The Bow Rock can be incorporated anywhere you have a “Sail Away”, a “Stay Out”, or a “Rab-bit”

To practice these three ornaments with the melody Sail Away Ladies I recommend the following progression:

A part:

And A Look Away Ladies, Sail Away, And A Look Away Ladies, Sail Take A Bow.

B Part:

Sail Away, Ladies, Sail Away, Sail Away, Ladies, Sail Away, Sail Away, Ladies, Sail Away, Sail Away, Ladies, Sail Take A Bow.

Tommy Jarrell

“What I tell all these young folks, comes here and wants to learn to play, I tell ’em: That’s the hand to watch right there, by gads. Get so you can use that and you’ll be all right.” —Tommy Jarrell, commenting on the importance of the bow arm (quoted in Brad Leftwich’s Old-Time Fiddle Round Peak Style book)

The videos below are of Tommy Jarrell, who is arguably one of the most influential fiddlers of the old time music revival.  His bowing is exemplary of what is possible with old time bowing.  All three of these videos display good examples of the “bow rock” which in these videos look like an upward facing flattened kidney bean looping off to the bottom left of the screen.

What are the first things you notice when watching these videos?

Biography

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/sprout-wings-and-fluy.pngTommy Jarrell (1901-1985) was born in rural Surry County, North Carolina, the eldest of eleven children. Tommy worked hard on his family’s farm as a child, but he and his family members still found time to play and enjoy the distinctive old-time music of the Round Peak community where they lived. Tommy learned his first banjo tune (“Ol’ Reuben”) from a hired farm hand at about seven years old and learned to play fiddle from his father as a teenager, eventually borrowing ten dollars to buy himself a Huston Moore fiddle that he kept for the rest of his life.

The National Endowment for the Arts website quotes Tommy on his early musical experiences:

“As a boy, Jarrell learned to play music on a little banjo, “stained with a pokeberry stain on the neck,” he recalled. It was a handmade banjo, a gift from his father. “I don’t know what kind of skin it had on it — whether it was calf skin or groundhog hide or what it was. But the little ol’ thing played good.” As he got older, he watched his father’s fiddling “like a hawk,” he said. “Any time he’d take his fiddle out I’d take a strong interest in it,” he explained. “I’d pay close attention to how he’d use his bow arm and I’d watch just exactly how he’d note. I was young, about 13, and it would sink in back then.” When Tommy practiced the fiddle, he tried to imitate his father’s old style of playing, incorporating special bow movements he called “rocking the bow” and “catching up the slack.”

https://wilkesheritagemuseum.com/media/k2/items/cache/4965657af186b9092c7a96976ffe881c_L.jpgBy sixteen, Tommy was teaming up with his Uncle Charlie to play for local square dances.

As an adult, Tommy married, raised three children, and worked as a road grader, playing music only in his free time. After his retirement in 1966, he returned to performing and gained international recognition as a fiddler. Visitors from all over the United States and Europe came to study his fiddling and enjoy his hospitality; his music influenced an entire generation of old-time musicians. Tommy found satisfaction in passing on his musical experience to younger players, saying, “They’ll carry it on after I’m gone… I’ve left a little something behind, I reckon.”

Tommy was one of the earliest folk artists to receive a National Heritage Fellowship (1982).

His life and music are documented in the classic, must see, film- Sprout Wings and Fly (1983) and the sequel: My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge (1986).