When I first started learning to play Irish traditional music on fiddle, I found, like most people, that jigs were easier to get to grips with than reels.  The main reason, looking back, was that you could play them fairly convincingly with minimal slurs.  When it comes to jigs, it can be tempting to play with no slurs – starting each bar with a down-bow.  With six notes in a bar, as is the norm in double jigs, this can be done quite easily:

The only problem with this is that it can make the tune sound a bit lifeless, or lacking in character.  There are ways to improve this – you can play the tune very fast, or add lots of ornamentation.  But, one of the best ways is to learn to free yourself from the down-bow-at-the-start-of-every-bar pattern.  And a great way to do this is by practicing the exact reverse of the above example – start each bar on an up-bow instead.

So, it’s the same notes, and you’re still alternating up and down-bows with every note, but it will feel upside down.  This is well worth practicing.  Try reversing the bowing on a jig you know well.  The more you do it, the more normal it will feel.


Eventually, with enough practice, you’ll begin to feel at ease with both ways of bowing jigs.


The next step is to be able to swap effortlessly between the two ways during a tune.


Here’s an example of what I mean:

Notice that there are now some slurs.  Slurs will bring variation to the sound, whilst also reversing the bowing.  Bars 1 and 2 start with down bows.  Bars 3 and 4 with up bows, due to the slur in bar 2.  Bar 5 starts on a down bow, because of the slur at the end of bar 4.  After that, there are a couple of slurs that cross bar lines – bar 6 begins on an up bow and 7 and 8 on a down bow.

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