A few Questions on Fiddle playing

A few Questions on Fiddle playing

A few Questions on Fiddle playing

Hey all again

Last Christmas I purchased a fiddle and haven’t put it down since then. There a great instrument and I don’t know how I went on so long with out one. I can play plenty of tunes as it is the same fingering as the mandolin and I have been playing that for years.
I love playing the fiddle and want my technique to be as perfect as possible just so I don’t limit my self in anyway or cause any injuries. When I play I feel fairly relaxed and comfortable but there is few things bothering me.

MY PROBLEMS (Ha)

MY FINGERING HAND

1. After I play a couple of sets I begin feeling a strain on my fingering hand where my wrist meets my hand on the side under my little finger?
2. Recently I watched a few fiddle/violin tutorials on youtube and in them they say to make a V-shape with your index finger and thumb stick the neck in the V comfortably and also not to bend your thumb, however when I began first playing the fiddle my teacher told me my thumb was sticking out too high so I began bending it down to hide it is this wrong as some of the top traditional fiddle players bend too?

MY BOWING HAND

1. Up to last night I didn’t think I had much of a problem with my bowing hand but after watching a few tutorials on you tube they all say to bend your thumb under the bow. Does any fiddle players know if there is an advantage to doing this?
2. Does the thumb wrest flatly on the frog and wrest or should you rest it on the end/top of the thumb?



Please reply to my Quires

Thanks Dave

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

Left hand: more of a u shapenot a v. The neck does NOT rest in the space between your thumb and forefinger, no need to as the left hand does not hold the instrument. The left thumb is not bent. Fingers should be curved, and the left wrist should be straight.
Right hand, also curved fingers. The thumb should be able to flex, but not really straighten (as in a tight, or stiff type of straight), it bends. My knuckle is pretty close to the hair. If the thumb is not bent, and is straight, the muscles up the arm tend to tighten. (Hold your right forearm with your left hand, bend and straighten the right thumb and check it out.)
Basically, the hands are curved in natural shapes, and the joints in your fingers bend, or flex, working like hinges.
You will see many fine (really fine) players of trad styles not necessarily doing it "correctly." Which, may be another subject for a thread. As a player that was trained classically and has since "crossed over," I am finding a new appreciation for all types of and ways of doing things. Find what is comfortable for you, but since you asked…

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

thanks for the reply

sorry i didnt mean rest the neck in the the space i dont use my left hand to support the fiddle I just used the wrong words!

I was thinking about the idea ”You will see many fine (really fine) players of trad styles not necessarily doing it "correctly." too but just thought I asked enough questions

Do ye think the classical method of holding the bow and fiddle might not be used by a large number of traditional fiddle players because this style/genre suits different holding methods…..or is it just a lack of physical attention by SOME fiddle players.

(look at martin hayes play he holds the neck like a guitar/banjo player for example)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcRCxRtsMMY


His playing is unCanny ha ye get?

also anyone else got any ideas on my fiddle problems?

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

It seems to me that classical players have the bow hold all wrong. That’s not to say that they can’t play well or are less talented than us fiddlers, but if a classical violinist trys to do shakes (rapid triplets with the bow) they can’t. Rigid bow holds=bad. I’m not exactly the best fiddler ever, but I would say that finger and wrist flexibility in the bow hand are extremely important. It is there that you get the ability for very rapid bow strokes and string crossing.

Another thing (I’m still struggling with this) is to make sure to use your 4th finger on the bow most of the time. At some times, it’s not necessary and you should lift it off, but having that extra finger down adds a lot of balance and support. It is also nearly impossible to bounce the bow without it. Many fiddlers get along fine without ever using it, but I find it is very important. Of course, sometimes I just use 2 fingers, too… Your bow hold has to be able to change. Very loose in the fingers for fast stuff, more rigid and powerful for slower tunes.

Like you, my left hand starts to get tired in the same spot. That’s just because out little finger is the weakest of all of them. Strenghthen it by doing little exercises (I like rubber bands) and trilling with it (that’s a tough one for me).

One more thing. A few weeks ago I was playing at a coffee house in town (just by myself, they called the an hour before and said they needed a musician) and played for 2 hours, putting the fiddle down only once (a kid wanted to see it: it’s electric). Afterwards, my left arm/shoulder was very sore. My left hand and right arm were fine, it’s just the way I hold the fiddle that makes my neck/shoulder/arm sore. So watch out for how you hold it, use good posture while playing (especially while sitting), and hold it highup (that helps with bow and intonation, too). Having a sore shoulder for days is not what I call pleasant (didn’t stop me from playing though)

Whew! A few things there you didn’t ask, but hopefully that helps.

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

If you’re experiencing pain in your left wrist, make sure your wrist is strait along the side of your hand as well as the back. There should be no bend in that direction either if you want the least amount of strain on your wrist. Yes, many fantastic players don’t use this technique, but it can’t hurt. The other ways can. Literally. And I’m definitely one to avoid pain whenever possible.

As for your right thumb, it should be bent, or at very least flexible, just like all your other fingers on the bow. This gives your bow hand more flexibility which makes for smoother bow changes and a lot more versatility in tone quality. It also hurts far less when you play for long periods of time. Make sure that no finger or thumb is straight or overextended. If it doesn’t hurt now, you’re lucky and that might not last. I can’t emphasize enough how much I’m not a fan of pain.

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

Dave, the best thing for you by far is a teacher. You might find the correct form (meaning correct *for you*, without pain, getting the sound you want) by trial and error, but a good teacher who can see what you’re doing and correct it over time is absolutely invaluable. Someone who is skilled in Irish music is probably preferable (depending on *their* technique!), but I think even a classical teacher (if that’s the only kind available) would be a great help to you if you went for a series of lessons just on posture and form, to help you relax and learn how to get the best results for your efforts. There’s 400 years of experience there—-it must have some value! Another thing to consider is Alexander technique—-I haven’t done this myself but I know someone (a very fine fiddler from Clare) who studied it for a while and she said it really helped her a lot.

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

"It seems to me that classical players have the bow hold all wrong. " They have it right for the music they play, which is not to say what they do works for traditional music.
As to fourth finger on the bow, what are you bouncing the bow for in this music, Ben314?

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

^^Actually the way classical players hold the bow is fine for trad music…trust me..i play trad and classical….i was taught how to hold the violin classically (see? I even call the fiddle violin!)

Ben314: "It seems to me that classical players have the bow hold all wrong. That’s not to say that they can’t play well or are less talented than us fiddlers, but if a classical violinist trys to do shakes (rapid triplets with the bow) they can’t. Rigid bow holds=bad. I’m not exactly the best fiddler ever, but I would say that finger and wrist flexibility in the bow hand are extremely important. It is there that you get the ability for very rapid bow strokes and string crossing."

classical players DO NOT have a rigid bow hold…it is in fact many trad players who have the rigid bow holds!! Well that’s true for most of the fiddlers i’ve seen playing! I can play shakes no problem at all and i have a classical grip!

Random point: If you want a decent tone out of the violin…collapse your bow hand wrist for the down bow….bending the fingers…and then using the fingers…raise the wrist up on the up bow!

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Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

1] the thunb position has been a source of controversy for a long time! there are different schools teaching different positions.
Truly however the thumb position will vary slightly depending on which strings you are playing on. This is the important aspect, a fluidity and relaxed approach . The idea is that your fingers and thumb form a relaxed circle .
2]the tip of the thumb, not hyper-extended but curved inwards.

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

I’ll wholeheartedly second Dan on the bow hand. Playing in Cork these days and have been complimented on my great trad bow hand. I’m 100% classically trained - my trad side has been mostly self taught until very recently. Relaxation is the key in any style of playing.

Dave - regarding the pain you seem to be experiencing in you left hand under your pinkie, check that your knuckles are more or less parallel to the neck of the fiddle. If you’re trying to stretch your finger to reach the neck and then stretching it up to get it in tune, you’re doing too much work and straining your hand. It also helps to bring your left elbow forward a bit (I usually tell my students they should be able to see their inside forearm, especially when playing on the lower strings but the E string as well). Finger strengthing excercises as mentioned above also help. I make circles between each finger and my thumb individually and press them together for about 10 seconds, holding the circle shape. Something you can do subtly waiting in line at the bank or what not.

Regarding your left thumb - depending on the size of your hand, your thumb should be peeking up above the fingerboard just a bit (I have very small hands, so mine doesn’t as much. Large hands = more peeking). Although the thumb should not be consciously "bent," when I think "striaght," I think tension. It should fall naturally. And the neck should rest lightly at about the base of the index finger, not be held by the left hand (from a classical point of view, anyway - the head should support the weight of the instrument and the left hand simply stablize).

Bow hand thumb, I find, should be bent and on its tip on the little piece of wood located between the grip and the frog. Sometimes teachers start students with their thumb on the silver ring of the frog, this is mainly for young student because of developing fine motor control. Most people are perfectly capable of being "inside" the bow and this gives greater control.

It’s always important to remember there is not a right or wrong way - there are many different approaches that work differently for everyone, and experimentation and guidance of a teacher/mentor can help refine a good way for one person. And echoing above - pain = bad.

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Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

Look to old threads for hold, fingering and bowing wisdom.

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Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

"As to fourth finger on the bow, what are you bouncing the bow for in this music?"

For fun. I don’t do it much, but it’s nice to be able to do on occassion.

By no means am I implying that classical players have the wrong hold for their style (as someone said, there’s 400 years of experience there), but most symphony players I’ve seen can’t to shakes worth a lick. Maybe most can though, and if I’m wrong, good for them.

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

I don’t know why everyone here is railing against pain so much. I love a good feels-like-my-finger-is-falling-off sensation when I’m playing. It really gets the blood flowing 🙂

PS- that’s sarcasm, just for the record.

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

The reason many classically trained players cannot perform traditional bow techniques ( and ornamentation for that matter) has nothing whatever to do with their bow grip or hand posture, it is because they have not mastered the distinctive techniques. No surprise there! I hold the bow in a pretty conventional classical manner, though I don’t have a classical background. As far as I can see the classical bow hold has no disadvantages whatsoever, and is certainly no impediment to playing in a traditional style.

Re: A few Questions on Fiddle playing

^^exunctly

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