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Power Stroke Fiddle Lesson

Kick Your Fiddle Tune into High Gear
with the Power Stroke

Whether you are playing for contra dancers, a festival crowd, or just for yourself in your own living room, you can add rhythm, and a bump of excitement by using the Power Stroke.

This move is not difficult. If you can play three or four hoedowns with your speed up to 80 clicks a minute, it’s time for you to add this “advanced technique” to your repertory.

In this lesson the Power Stroke will be thoroughly explained. You can see what it looks like in a tab chart. You can hear it by downloading the MP3 files from the indicated links. You can apply it to Ida Red.

That tune is in my book 43 Fiddle Tunes in Tab. So, it may be familiar already. Knowing this tune gives you a head start on learning the power stroke. I like to use Ida Red for this technique because it is familiar. Students can focus their attention on the new move and not have to think about getting through a tune.

Anticipation and Accent

Anticipation, in music, means doing something before it is expected. In this case we will start playing a note
just before it normally would begin. Accent means giving an emphasis to the beginning of the note. We just use a little more bow pressure or speed to make a louder sound. Then, we continue playing normally.

Before and After

We will take a few bars of Ida Red as an example of what happens to a tune when you add the Power Stroke.
Below is the first five bars of the tune. (Most fiddle tunes have an A part and a B part.) We are looking at the
A part with the first bar of the repeat.
Tab chart showing normal shuffle

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next example shows what the tune looks like in tab with the Power Stroke added at the end of the phrase. As you can see, the last two notes of the shuffle are not played. Instead, the first note of the phrase is played early. That’s the anticipation. If you can add just a little bow pressure, you give it an accent as well.

To hear what this difference sounds like, download Comparison.

The next example gets us from the A part to the B part with the Power Stroke. In this case we need to fudge our finger over to the E string. (Not lifting it off the A and placing it on the E. That would create an in between sound that is not wanted.) When you move your finger this way, it’s partly a rolling over the tip sideways and just moving the finger tip to the next string without lifting it.

Tab chart showing the power stroke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An explanation of the numbers at the beginning of each bar might be handy. Those numbers count the measures or bars. To get a better picture of how this works, look at the tab charts with bar numbers in two formats. One is with the repeat signs, and the other is without the repeat signs: Ida Red with and without repeat signs

There’s a way to get into this technique that is easy. My students pick this up in the studio in five or ten minutes by doing a little drill. The drill takes the last bar with the anticipated note and carries it one or two beats into the next bar. See the example of the drill for the part A power stroke below.

 

 

 

The way to do any drill is to repeat it. Take three times as a minimum. There is power in the number three. Do the drill three times in a row with no flubs. Then go on to something else. Come back again and do the drill again. This is the most basic approach to doing drills. Download Fragment A.

The B part drill would look like this:

 

 

 

And it sounds like this: Download Fragment B.

This is what it sounds like when you do the drills accurately? Download Power Drills.

 

The repetition of a short section three times is a basic practice technique. If you have not yet mastered it, this is a good opportunity.

Mastery of the Power Stroke

The goal of this lesson is to start you on the path to mastering this vital element that expert fiddlers use again and again. You can gain the ability to find places in other tunes to use it. You can gain the ability to put it in or not as you choose.

As you get use to it and play with the Power Stroke frequently, you will find that in group situations, it adds so much energy that the tempo tends to pick up and run away. Be aware of this.

The bottom line: it just adds a lot of fun to a tune when you do it.

As an extra bonus, you’ll find an extra chart showing how Bilem Cabbage Down would be charted with the Power Stroke. Bilem Cabbage Power. And get the MP3 file by downloading Power Cabbage.

PS. An additional bonus: a performance of Ida Red with lots of Power Strokes. Download Red Power.

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