Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Hi folks.
A few months ago I decided to concentrate seriously on fiddle technique, to improve intonation, the quality of sound, bowing etc.
Luckily, I had the chance to meet a teacher trained ith Kato Havas, the Hungarian violinist who introduced the so called "New Approach". The new Approach is a technique whose aim is to eliminate every tension, and make violin playing as relaxed as possible.
The "New Approach" is a mere technique, and it can be applied to different music traditions; its focus on the quality of the sound WITHOUT vibrato makes it very suitable to Irish traditional music.
I haven’t met any fiddle player who uses the New Approch of Kato Havas yet; I’d like to talk a bit about a few points…
Is there anyone around???
Cheers,
Davide

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

If there is no tension anywhere, wouldn’t you just drop your fiddle and fall into a heap on the floor?

Posted .

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

My teacher is a devotee of Kato Havas, and her techniques for releasing tension have helped my playing a great deal. Especially on those high "pinky" notes.

Posted by .

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

For Micheal: yep, you’re right, we don’t want our fiddle to drop in the floor… I actually meant "any unwanted tension", that is any use of the muscles who can be avoided while playing the fiddle. yet, quite surprisingly, the more the shoulder is relaxed, the more the fiddle sticks to it…
For lynncox: may I mail you privately? There are a few points I’d like to discusss about…
Bye folks

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Yes, of course, nutsmuggler, you may e-mail me.

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Re: Parasite

Well Micheal….you sure totalled this discussion…..what is your problem anyway?

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

I’m sorry, I was just being a little facetious.
I think what I meant was that I like tension in my music. I like it to have that coiled spring thing. If you’re really relaxed, you’ll end up sounding like Martin Hayes. Now I’ve nothing against Martin Hayes, it’s just boring.

That should have got it going again

Posted .

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

I agree with you there, michael - shame, ‘cos when he speeds up he sounds great, just like his da.
Incidentally, if you smoke rosin do you get relaxed? It’s the right colour innit?
Must remember to take some down to the analyser and have it labbed.

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Well, if Martin Hayes is boring I want my life filled with boredom…
As a matter of fact muscular tension has nothing to do with the character of music, it has to do with his quality. A relaxed fiddle player will play better, no matter if he wants to slow down like Martin Haye or speed up like Eileen Ivers… Relaxation stands for tonicity and readyness, not for drowsiness. Relax has nothing to do with speed; the more gifted musician play at breakneck speed looking like they’re completely relaxed, don’t they?
Then, I think that the idea that everything has to be tense and fast in order to be good has is a consequence of our modern lifestyle.
life. I still prefer a pint of stout, even though you have to wait twice as much at the bar to get one…

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

it’s been some time since i read her book but i think kato havas was trying to emulate the seemingly effortless and fluid playing of the gypsy fiddlers she encountered.

this may be a new approach to some players/schools etc but it’s been around for a long time as those gypsy fiddlers proved.
i think it’s more the fear of ‘failure’ and the emphasis on performance rather than the social aspects of music that give rise to stiffness/stage-fright etc

oh, and where can i get tickets for the scottythefiddler v michael gill fight?
that last was a joke by the way.i still can’t bring myself to do the smiley faces…

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

You don’t need tickets, dave. Just watch the fireworks right here.
Incidentally, I reckon I perfected relaxation technique last night. It’s commonly known as Guinness

Danny.

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

There’s a book by Kato Havas called "Stage Fright - It’s Causes and Cures. In it she talks about the ‘fear of dropping the violin’ and ways of overcoming that fear. She believes that need to release all unnecessary tension in order to get good tone. Re the Martin Hayes thing, personally I really like his style - very ‘musical’ and a bit wistful. I was at a workshop with Kevin Burke in Bristol a while back, and he also was stressing the need to be as relaxed as possible, especially for fast playing! I’d like to hear more about this - though I try my best, I still have tension in my little finger on the e string and would love to hear some tips for releasing that tension.
Rhod

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Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle playing in tune on the e string

Rhod, I think you’ll probably find a way to solving your little finger tension problem in the fairly recent thread on playing in tune on the e string -
https://thesession.org/discussions/1591

Trevor

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Anyone who confuses tension with speed is missing the point.

Now you know I’m no fan of Martin Hayes, and I’m no great fan of Eileen Ivers either, but comparing these two fits well with this thread:

There is something in the Hayes formula that asks you to be pleased with the note or phrase that has just been played. You are asked to smile at a particular glisando, you are asked to appreciate the eb and flow of a melody’s repetition.

In the Ivers formula, there is urgency. Before you have a chance of smiling at the past, you are surprised by the future. You want to know what’s coming next. She has a frustration with repetition.


Now, of course, both are physically relaxed when they play. No one is suggesting that to play the fiddle well you have to be tensed up. The real trick is to be relaxed, but sound as if you’re tense.

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Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

I suspect the secret of the Hungarian gypsy fiddlers, and guys from Co Clare etc who started when they were 3, is that no one told them it was supposed to be difficult.

Trevor

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

What, are you nuts, Trevor?! All the gypsy fiddlers (which admittedly only number two, and only one of those Hungarian, though both are quite elderly) and guys from Co. Clare (and elsewhere) who I’ve spoken to about this stuff have told me that it was sometimes horribly hard when they were first learning — just like it is for the rest of us.

One of the gypsy fiddlers whinges and moans about the tension in his first finger on his bowing hand whenever I see him. One elderly gentlemen in Ennis told stories of having to stand in a cold room with freezing fingers with his teacher trying to get him to play in tune. (He didn’t say he’d had to walk seven miles in a snowstorm uphill both ways to get there, but that was the impression I got. *grin*)

Zina

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

And there are the stories about Paddy Keenan’s da’ whacking him if he played a note wrong, and Martin Hayes deciding early on that he didn’t have the technical skills to keep up with P.J. and the rest, so he’d just play simple tunes as well as he could (which explains a lot about his emotive approach to the tunes still), and Tommy Peoples stressing over the fact that he couldn’t get his triplets to sound "right"…geesh, even the best players struggle at first.

I understand enjoying the "sense of urgency" that many players habitually put into this music, but a more lyrical approach makes for a nice change of pace. I get tired of sessions where every tune is played like it might be the last before last call.

Sure ,there are tunes that beg to be driven or pushed, but there are also tunes that respond better (to my ear) to an easy hand. I happen to think the best players do both, and shine at many paces in between. Yes, Ivers can crack the whip on Ships are Sailing (Wild Blue cd), but listen to her play Maudabawn Chapel on the same album, or Kerryman’s Daughter (on Eileen Ivers). And Martin Hayes may be the champion of lyrical playing, but tell me there’s nothing urgent about his version of Crooked Road and Fox Hunters (on Under the Moon). Few experienced musicians limit themselves to one dimension. I was just listening to the Bothy Band’s Old Hag You Have Killed Me—an album that defined drive and urgency in this music—and there’s this terrific light and easy set starting with the Ballintore Fancy.

Each of these musicians can do it all, in large part because this music does it all. There’s room for urgency *and* sauntering, and it all sounds better when the player lets go of excess tension.

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Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Interesting! Sounds similiar to another relaxation technique that is becoming very popular amoung musicians. It’s called the Alexander technique, and though it was not originally intended for musicians, many performers sing it’s praises. Jeremy Ball, who posts here sometimes, mentioned that he’s taking lessons with a proffessionally trained Alexander technique teacher and says he’s improved quite a bit in a short amount of time because of it. Maybe if he sees this post, he’ll be moved to comment more on this. In the meantime…

http://www.alexandertechnique.com/musicians.htm

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

I had a Feldenkrais practitioner work on me once, while I was learning to play the harp (which I got sidetracked off of onto the fiddle later). Basically, I just stood there while he adjusted the way I was standing, stood back and looked at me, adjusted me again, and repeated for about an hour. I kept wondering what it was I was supposed to be doing, and when I asked, he said, "what you’re doing." So I just stood there while he looked and adjusted. At the end of the session, he said, "Don’t be surprised if you can’t play your harp when you get home." I blinked, and was so intrigued that I went home and immediately sat down at the harp…and he was right!

All these relaxing and re-posturing techniques are amazing to me.

I love Ivers’s Maudabawn Chapel. At the dance school, we use the CFC version of Maudabawn Chapel a lot, as it’s a nice medium reel speed for the beginners to dance to. For stretches, I’ll put on the Wild Blue CD. At one point, I remarked, wow, you’d never know this was the same tune as the MC we use in class, would you? And one of the other teachers argued with me about it, because it sounded so different, she couldn’t believe it was the same tune!

zls

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Zina,
Sorry, I should have put a :-) at the end of my post! It’s intended as a deep appreciation, in jocular form, of the hard work such performers have put in, so that it looks as if it has always been easy to them. We use it the UK, quite often in relation to athletes and other performers who are habitually well ahead of their peers.

Trevor

Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Ivers’s Maudabawn Chapel V Hayes’s Foxhunters:

Hayes gets that lilting sound out his Foxhunters. He has that shoulder jerking back beat that comes from playing a reel slightly dotted, more like a hornpipe. But what else doas it do? It plods through the parts like a bouncing ball. And just like a bouncing ball, you percieve it to bounce a little less higher on each bounce.
Compare this with Molloy, Peoples and Brady and you will instantly hear what I’m talking about.

Speed, of course, has nothing to do with drive, and Ivers’s Maudabawn Chaple really drives. She plays it dead straight, not dots. In a lot of phrases the down beat is stressed, but often it is the third beat. And then again she may string phrases together with one continuous breath. Or she might even miss some notes out. All this adds interest and urgency.

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Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Zina, A friend of mine with terrible back problems has just been to a Feldenkrais practioner for the first time the other day. She is raving about it and about how pain-free and freed up in gerneral she has become, both physically and emotionally. I was thinking of going as well, because I have off and on neck and shoulder pain (from sleeping, I think, not from playing fiddle or harp), but now I’m scared that I’ll come home and not be able to play!

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Re: Kato Havas and Irish fiddle

Hello All - I’m new to The Session. I found it by typing a search for Kato Havas. Her web site is found with her name. She lives in Oxford, England and teaches there, tho she no longer sacrifices herself to travel the world to teach.

As my bio says, I began violin & fiddle simultaneously - I play by note and by ear. I teach music and violin/fiddle and piano/organ. I had always been uncomfortable with the instrument due to European teaching (my "longest" teacher recently translated Carl Flesch’s 1st book) and other attempts to make me into a violinist.

Note that my name is vlnplyr: my own term: I am not a violinist, and not a fiddler. From 1990-2000 I attended 5 or 6 of Kato Havas’ weeklong workshops in nearby Brattleboro, Vermont, USA. I learned alot, and realized that her way is good, but doesn’t have all the answers. As a teacher of Music she excels, but I have leap-frogged her physical methods to the more practical, easier rock-bottom basics of playing.

Kato’s methods are wonderful for those who want to play with the traditional (yes, this word is appropos) classical style of the last 300+ years. I find it amusing and unfortunate that fiddlers want to play physically as violinists. This hurts the player, the music, and the listeners. I laughed out loud when I first saw a photo of Kato’s students, who look like fiddlers - instrument lower, and more in front of the player, left hand touching the neck..

Her concepts are misunderstood, partly, I think, because she has so many 1-2-3 lists and reasons for things. People in her workshops were confused and sidetracked by exercizes to learn basic things. But not to disparage her - I love her dearly, and she has done so much good for players.

The Gypsy Hand is simply leaving your LH as it naturally falls (ie: no straight wrist) - so the ball (fat part) of the thumb supports the neck of the instr. This avoids grabbing, thus allows free movement of LH and fingers. The fingers do not push the strings to the fingerboard, but glide on top of the string while touching on their left sides, or corners (the part that touches the thumb naturally). Thus the sound is kinder, more supple, more in tune - ie: more musical.

This allows a more expressive sound, therefore No vibrato is necessary to try to liven the sound after it’s been squashed to death. As a composer I personally doubt that any composer hears vibrato when writing for violin.

Thus, no calouses - mine took 2 years to disappear - so your fingers are more sensitive for playing.

Kato’s New Approach is the most like Alexander Technique of any traditional classical methods, but it is not really like it. I have studied Alex.Tech. with the former president of the USA Alex.Tech. association. My way of playing uses this info directly, thus is very different from other ways of playing. Alex.Tech. is most similar to Tai Chi (wch I also study).

Also, because I now play mostly fiddle music, the blues, jazz, my own tunes and music, improvising of course, and study Bach Solo pieces at home, I consciously use my fiddling to inform my classical playing. It really should be the same - music is music - not a divide. The expression is the same, espec since classical composers wrote alot of dance tunes. Therefore the physical creation of expression should be the same: ie: play the same physical way for all musics.

Playing by ear helps sight reading, and VV.

Kato’s Stage Fright, it’s causes and cures, is good for complete discussions of tensions and mindsets, and I recommend you read it (Bosworth, England; as her other books). But I prefer to dispense with the talk and eliminate the "ME", which I discovered is the true reason for fear. No ME, no fear. Thus, in teaching, no assault on ME, no fear learned. Of course, "I" doesn’t exist either.

This is either fundamentally before any Hold or Intonation problems, or after them, but is essential to figure out for yourself.

I recommend Kato’s teaching video (Bosworth) because she shows her concepts for A New Approach to Violin Playing. But hers is a new approach to the old way of playing. I hope soon to make a dvd of the new way to play.

As far as I’m concerned, playing any instrument must be comfortable (not as comfortable as possible - ie: uncomfortable). It’s a life-long study of self.
Later - vlnplyr