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  • Writer's pictureIona Catherine

How Do Folk Fiddlers Get Their Bows Moving So Fast?

How do folk fiddlers get their bows moving so fast? If you're a violinist, you probably want to know the answer to this question. And if you're just curious about how it works, well then: here's your answer!

Here's how it's done... Small bows!

Place the tip of your bow on the string. The trick is to move your bow as minimally across the strings as possible, preferably less than a centimetre in each bow direction. This will allow you maximum agility. The upper end of your bow is light and easy to manoeuvre with accuracy, and using minimal movement allows you to change bow direction quickly. Then, rock the bow across the strings as needed and allow your fingers to play the notes of your tunes, and you'll be speeding away in no time.

Relaxing will conserve more energy...

Relaxing is the key to being a better fiddle player. It is easy to think that to play faster, you need to tense up more. But being tense only tires out your muscles and uses up energy much more quickly. Relax by ensuring you warm up well before playing and allowing your shoulders to drop and your wrists to flex when you move the bow quickly. The momentum can then carry the movement without any restriction from muscular tension. And this leaves your hands and arms much freer to obtain maximum control over the bow.

Don't think about it too hard!

The more you think the harder it will be. It's like when you think too hard about breathing or walking or blinking. Suddenly it feels very unnatural. So learn the techniques above, and then go for it! The less you think, the easier it will be to play quickly and freely.

Here are a few of my favourite folk tunes to play quickly:

Tenpenny Bit

Atholl Highlanders

Tam Lyn

Wizard's Waltz

Irish Washerwoman

Drowsy Maggie

The Butterfly

You can find all of these tunes and many more for free on


If you have questions about how to improve your technique and control, or if you'd like help getting started with violin lessons, feel free to contact me, Iona, here at I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about how fiddles work.

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