Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

I’ve played mandolin for three years or so, but I’m getting a feeling that I’d like to fiddle after all.
Has anyone else made this change? How much do you think the mandolin playing will help me get started? Any other tips for this changeover?
(PS I know theres lots of fiddle advice around. I’m wondering about the mandolin > fiddle change.)

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Two main things - the bowing, and listening carefully to your intonation (no frets to do the job for you!).
Regarding the bowing, it will probably be something counter-intuitive after three years of using a plecturm. You may find a strong tendency to mimic the up-and-down plectrum action with a short up-down bowing action for everything. The only answer as I see it is to go for a course of lessons from a good violin teacher to get the posture and basic left-hand and bowing techniques right. The time and effort put into this at the very beginning will pay ample dividends later on when you start learning Irish fiddle technique.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

The best thing is to get a teacher.

Other thoughts: Get some white lithographers tape, well, thin colored tape anyway, and sit down with an electronic tuner and figure out where your second, fourth and fifth frets would go on the fretless fingerboard — your major scale. Once you have that done, don’t look at it — stare up closer where the hair is touching the strings. Your intonation will be better if you listen. Mel Bay has a decent rank beginner’s book "You Can Teach Yourself Fiddling" w/ CD by Craig Duncan, more American and folk but some Irish tunes too, real basic but it will get you started. Good luck.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Whoops just read your profile (thanks for that info) sounds like you have a fair number of tunes already so skip that book! Apologies…

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Tunes that are easy on mandolin may not seem so easy at first on fiddle—going from one string to the next with the bow tends to feel a bit trickier than with a pick. With a bow, the whole plane of the arm has to shift, while keeping the bow perpendicular to the strings.

But if you can keep time with a pick, doing the same with a bow will be somewhat familiar, and your left hand knows the basic fingering patterns (even if the intonation is a bit more slippery with no frets).

Go for it, and enjoy the ride.

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

I’d avoid doing the tape on the fingerboard thing that fidkid suggests—use your ear instead. I’ve never had a fiddle student who needed the tape, and coming from mandolin, this is even less of a concern. Just my $0.02

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

With all due respect to cheshire puddy tat, I recommend that you go for more wrist action than arm action, at least on fast tunes. As an exercise, hold your right forearm up at a 45-degree angle in front of you, and support it with your left hand. Then let your right hand flop up and down, moving at the wrist. That’s the movement you want when you’re holding the bow. It has to do with economy of motion.

Of course, you need more arm action when you’re playing a slow tune with long notes.

I, too, recommend a teacher. Self-taught beginners can develop some very bad habits that are not only limiting, but also extremely hard to break. Better to start fresh and get it right from the outset.

Wow, I’ve been gone from this site for a REALLY long time. Working way too hard. It feels good to be back.

Best,
Carol

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

CPT is right. Tape (or other markings) on a fiddle fingerboard doesn’t really work because the player is looking along the fingerboard at a narrow angle, and with that view point it’s very difficult for the player to see exactly where the fingers are in relation to the tapes.

Tape works for the cello (although I’d never encourage a student to use it for exactly the reason CPT gives) because the players view point is sideways on or over the fingerboard. Similarly with viewing the frets on a guitar, mandolin etc.

Anyway, a fiddle player should learn to play the instrument without looking at it, or at most without taking more than a fleeting and very occasional glance. The left hand fingers should eventually be able to "sense" or "know" exactly where they are on the fingerboard by muscular sense and feedback from the ears, without being looked at, and the player should aim to know similarly where and what part of the bow is on the string and whether it is parallel to the bridge.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

I’ve made the change. Played mando for 14 years, guitar and banjo too.

My advice is once you go to fiddle do not go back for at least
a year or two. If you do go back just do it for checking notes and tune structure to test what you have on the fiddle.

Definitely do not play both mandolin and fiddle in the same session or concert. No switching off until you are accomplished on the fiddle.

Or not.

Take fiddle lessons for at least a year once a week.

Then on your own.

Mandolin will get you going on fiddle since the notes are the same … if you can find them on fiddle, or mandolin.

-dogma

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Most of the usual things have been covered here already but I would throw one more thing in about bowing.
I’ve been down this path over the last two years mandolin >fiddle. I found the bowing by far the hardest obviously. Had a lot of help from people but the best bit of advice was to start off with bowing separate notes with separate bows - more along the lines of Donegal style fiddling. As you progress you may find yourself wanting to vary that a bit and if that is because of what you are hearing in your head then it may come naturally without too much thought. I find that if I have to think about bowing I get tied in knots - just think the melody/notes and the rhythym.
Anyway it is all well worth the effort. Best of luck.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

As Kevin Burke likes to remind people, the bow only goes in two directions: up or down. No need to make it any more complicated than that.

Welcome back Carol. 🙂

I wasn’t talking about the bowing motion when I mentioned the whole arm moving from plane to plane—I was talking about going from one string to the next. On a mandolin, you simply swivel your wrist to reach the next string over. On fiddle, however, your whole arm pivots a little, from the shoulder, to place the bow on another string.

Yes, certain string crossings can be done with a supple wrist, but only after you’ve sussed out the distinct plane for each string. This is important because when doing the supple wrist thingy (e.g., the "figure-eight" pattern, etc.), it’s done from a sense of playing on one string while sneaking over to catch another without switching arm planes.

But all of that is way advanced from where our friend will be starting out on fiddle.

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Oh, and I went from mandolin to fiddle some 30 years ago after having played mando (and banjo and guitar) for five years or so. I didn’t stop playing the other instruments—I just added fiddle into the mix. If you have the time, you don’t have to quit playing mandolin. Just make sure you spend some time every day (15-20 minutes, minimum; better if you can play an hour or more) on fiddle. Consider yourself truly blessed with talent if you’re ready to play fiddle at a "serious" session or gig within the first year (or even two).

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

"My advice is once you go to fiddle do not go back for at least
a year or two."

Ouch!! You mean not playing in sessions for a year or two?

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

get a teacher, it’s something that one needs to experience, the ‘flow" of the bow. Relax, if it hurts, it needs to be changed. One does not need to tilt the head, lift the shoulders, etc. in order to hold the instrument or draw the bow. Keep joints relaxed.
I agree with no tape. I’ve taught both ways. My students without the tape have developed a better ear, play in tune. The public school teacher insisted on stickers on the fingerboard, and my student and I have discussed this (5thh grade, elementary). She ignores them and plays well in tune, but is going along with her class by keeping the stickers on. They’ll come off eventually.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Ive done that and to be honest there is very little comparison.

I meant the notes are roughly in the same place but you may as well be coming to the fiddle after playing tunes on the guitar or banjo.

You need to put about 1 hour a day into the fiddle and only play the mandolin once you have done that or on the odd occasion when you just cant be bothered with the fiddle. But you only get out what you put in, as you know already.

Good thing is you already know tunes, how they should sound, you have a sense of rhythm and ideas for variation etc. This is a big advantage of the beginner in music.

Usually stuff, practice, get a teacher, practice, listen to others, practice, get books dvd’s and then more practice.

Also practice playing along with cd’s, or make your own sets up playing mandolin (both melodys and separate backing tracks) at a slow speed and jam along with them this will help with intonation and timing.

And best of all link up with some other fiddler for a few tunes regularly as this well open your eyes and ears to all sorts.

Hope that helps

K

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Welcome back Carol!
The bad news is that in your absence you have missed some very exciting discussions. The further bad news is that they have been deleted 🙂

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

>>Consider yourself truly blessed with talent if you’re ready to play fiddle at a "serious" session or gig within the first year (or even two).<<
or even 5 [or in my case 15] How serious are the sessions around your way?

I too made the change, but i think most of the ground has been covered allready here so…..

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

In addition to all the fine tips above, try not to strangle the wee thing with your left hand. Mandolin (and guitar) necks must be held up (obeying the law of gravity), which means varying degrees of grasping, whereas the very same gravity will lay the fiddle neck in your hand, where all that is needed is the same pressure one would to hold a rare and delicate little bird - albeit one that screeches horrifically for a while, until your intonation and tone get settled.

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Jig, I was just trying to not discourage lestow. 🙂

I’d hazard five years on fiddle is the minimum to really have sessionable competence for most people, and many more years than that to hold one’s own in a cracking session.

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

I think its a combination of different factors, the individual, how gifted they are, how persistent, how many hours they practice etc the teacher, how good a teacher, how good a player, etc And the session!
In my case the teachers were good, but the student was awfull! 🙂
Im sure 5 yrs is enough for many. If the student is focused and the teacher knows their stuff and can direct the student in the right directions.
But dont be discouraged if its not. Keep tippin away.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

QUOTE: "My advice is once you go to fiddle do not
go back for at least a year or two."

# Posted on November 7th 2007 by
NameChangesRConfusing:
"Ouch!! You mean not playing in sessions for a year
or two?"

Well, if you have to play mandolin at a session and you
have to go to a session to be happy, then go.

But your mandolin playing will be affected by your fiddling;
and much more, your fiddling will be affected by your
incessant need to retreat to the mandolin.

So, my advice, put the mandolin in the closet for the
specified time, and if you go to session, take fiddle.

-dogma

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Thanks to those who have welcomed me back to this wonderful virtual session.

Lestow, one more thing. Adjust your expectations. You no doubt are fairly accomplished on the mandolin after three years. Bowing and shortage of frets will take some time to get used to. I’ve known professional guitar players who have quit trying to learn fiddle because they’re used to sounding good and can’t stand to listen to themselves practice. Don’t give up just because you don’t sound as good as you’re used to sounding on the mandolin. That’s unrealistic. The fiddle isn’t the easiest instrument to learn. But it’s worth it.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Carol, that’s no doubt the most important post on this thread. I completely agree. Several years of sounding horrible on fiddle almost persuaded me to quit because it was so easy to sound good on banjo, guitar, or mandolin.

But fiddle really *is* worth it.

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

thirded…..
patience!
persistence

But i dont really agree with dogma; Playing 2 instruments just means you have to practice twice as hard/long!
If you are already comfortable with the mandolin by all means take it and not the fiddle.
But i can definitely see the point in focusing on the fiddle.

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Thanks everyone - it’s really helped

Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Good luck with it, and let us know how you get on.
🙂

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

I changed when I was about 20, having played the mandolin for 5 or so years.

The one thing that makes it much much easier than starting fiddle from scratch (tee he) is that you have stuff to practice.

There was a post above recommending single bowing notes in tunes, to use the bow like a plectrum. And then gradually start to slur notes. I think this would be a bad idea.

Far better to try it completely the other way round. See how far you can get with a tune with one direction of the bow. The thing this will teach you to do is to articulate the notes with your left hand fingers alone. It immediately begins you on the road of all that stuff the fiddle is great at.

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Re: Mandolin to fiddle - any tips?

Sorry to be reviving an old thread if it’s been talked out, but I’m one who played mandolin for about 7 years and then dove head-first into the fiddle. I’ve been at it for just about 2 years now, and started playing it in sessions about 6 months ago.

From my experience—I was making no satisfactory headway with the bow until I stopped worrying about the left hand intonation and simply concentrated on bowing for about two months. This helped greatly, as I was able to train my muscles and develop decent bow control (no wandering off toward the bridge). Then I went back to focusing on intonation for two months, and at the end of that time, I was willing to play within earshot of my most tolerant friends. Another four or six months and I was starting to play at sessions, and keeping up alright.

I took the "maximize efficiency" approach to bowing, fitting in as many notes as I could per stroke. It allowed me to concentrate on keeping my grip loose and body relaxed, but it also led to some very creative bowing. Now I am practicing separate bow strokes for every note—or close to it, as well as some patterns (down-down-up on jigs, down-down-up-up on polkas. My hope is that my muscles will pick up on something and I’ll be able to forget bowing entirely in a few months and just enjoy the music.

There’s no need to stop playing other instruments. The left hand learns to adapt finger movement patterns to the different necks fairly easily. I will often work out a tune on mandolin or banjo before trying it on the fiddle.

Tim