Lesson 10: Circles using Give Me a Chaw of Tobacco
Circles are what I consider the secret weapon of old time fiddling. They make it possible to double the rhythm of a tune by playing the melody on one string and then bouncing on the string above it in order to create a metronome-like drone.
This is achieved by moving your bowing hand in tiny circles. If you are a down-bower your hand will move counter clock wise (from your vantage point) hitting two strings on the downward half of the circle and hitting only one string on the upward half of the circle. If you are by nature an up-bower than the circles will be reversed.
Circles are commonly played over short saw strokes or the shuffle and less commonly played over long saw strokes. When playing circles over the shuffle rhythm the direction of the circles is constantly alternating between clockwise and counter-clockwise directions.
When incorporating the circles into the high part of Give Me a Chaw of Tobacco the melody will go to the high E string and there will not be a string above it to bounce on. In this case I still make the same circular motion to keep the feel of the rhythm even though it is not performing the desired rhythmic function in that exact moment.
And at the end of both parts of the tune you need to end on the 3rd finger G note on the D string in order for the ending bow rock to make sense. (As opposed to the open A string which is now tuned to an open G note)
And a reminder that “And a Jenny Run Away” is the same as “Circle, Circle, Bow Rock”
The videos below have good examples of bowing circles.
In this Art of Bowing video series I intentionally don’t teach Tommy Jarrell tunes because I would rather that you learn them from my teacher Brad Leftwich who learned directly from Tommy. Brad put out an instructional book and cd that focus’s on the playing style and repertoire of Tommy Jarrell. Brad is one of the few fiddlers who notates bowing along with melody in his documentation of the tunes. So if you are feeling the need to jet forward with the amount of tunes you are learning alongside this video series I encourage you to get his book here.