The Art of Bowing - 1

Friction and Function - Part One

Bowing percussion is another one of those absolutely sublime things. You can create the most amazing, and weird tones. I love bowing metal percussion. The most important thing to know is that you need to buy a cheap bow. This is metal, not a Stradivarious violin! You should be able to pick up a cheap, imported bass/cello/violin bow for under $40. We’re not seeking tone here, not playing in the Berlin Philharmonic. You can often find used student bows for cheap too. Just ask at a music store. I use a cheap violin & cello bow for most things. They work great! So get yourself a bow and some Pop’s Bass Rosin, because it’s the best, sticky rosin out there, and you’re all set to make some noise! BTW, when the bow wears out, just throw it away and buy a new one, it will cost more to rehair it than to get a new one.

The 1st photo is of bowing a Chinese cymbal on a floor tom. The bowing is only one part of it, you need to also move the cymbal back and forth across the head, or in a circular motion. This changes the tone and uses the drum as a resonator. Crazy stuff!


Another great thing is using a Cup Chime, or other small, resonant cymbal. The photo shows me bowing the largest Paiste Cup Chime. Moving it in and out on the drum really changes the tone. Fantastic!

Experiment, enjoy, rest, and repeat often.

All photos, © 2008 Michael Bettine

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