Beginning Fiddle Queries

Beginning Fiddle Queries

I’m just starting out and I’m curious as to how most of you began to learn fiddle. Did you play classical violin first and then learn the Irish style later? What are your thoughts on the Suzuki Method?

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Welcome Baroness—I did have some early classical exposure, and Irish tunes became much easier when I (with the help of a good teacher) started to unlearn/relearn some of the technique. But sorry, I’m too old to know anything about the Suzuki Method.

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If you are 4, the Suzuki method is good. Actually, it is about learning music like one learns language. The parent learns to play along with the child. I like the emphasis on listening.
I started playing classical style and came to folk styles later in life. If it’s trad you want to play, find a trad teacher.

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Briefly, the Suzuki Method is applicable to all types of fiddle/violin playing, placing a lot of emphasis on the production of good tone and using the ears as a basis for playing any type of music. Historically, it harks back to one of the very greatest violin teachers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries - Leopold Auer (try google). I think it’s more fluid and accommodating than the exam-oriented teaching methods of some other organisations.
Give it a try.

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I’ll also add that the Suzuki method is applicable to all ages, not only young children. Of course, an adult wouldn’t be taught in the same way as a child.

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Baroness, if you want to play Irish fiddle, find an Irish fiddle teacher, preferably one who can show you simple, effective fiddle technique, but more importantly help you feel the pulse and nyah of this music.

Many classical violin teachers hold biases against traditional music. You’ll be better off not being influenced that way. Classical technique emphasizes tone and things like counting rhythm. Traditional music emphasizes danceability through pulse, timing, and micro-dynamics. Better to learn those from the start. And while classical technique won’t harm you, it typically goes far beyond what you need to play Irish music well.

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Your first instrument can be the most difficult to learn. It is all the easier if you heart is in it. Find a good teacher in the idiom/genre you want to learn and follow the natural progressions :)

Best wishes!

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Two great things about a teacher
They can tell you what you’re dong wrong
The "discipline" of that next lesson (that’ you’re paying for) can be really helpful.

Lovely if you have a good teacher who plays the style you are interested in. Short of perfection, a classical teacher who is sympathetic to your objectives can be really helpful in getting through "beginner’s awfulness!"

As it happensI’ve found more snobbery and bad attitude from trad musicians towards classical than vice versa. (On the other hand classical musicians tend to be "polite" people who don’t necessarily say what they really think!)

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Oops "doing" wrong. Sorry folks !!!!

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Hi Baroness -

Talk about timely ! - Take a look at the discussion thread - "Seamus Creagh CD - Tunes for Practice" of July 17 - Excellent introduction.

I’d be with cfmgeek with regard to finding a teacher if you can, but it is - in my view - equally effective if you can make contact with an experienced player and get some pointers - I mean 10 or 15 minutes at a time - and go off and play, practice, experiment, and generally get immersed - listening, of course, to any & all recordings on which you can get your hands. I am actually of the view that all musicians, in all genres, are predominantly self-taught, with varying degrees of guidance at the start. Very few of us who were brought up in the tradition from childhood actually had anything that you could call lessons, at all - listen, play, ask, - arrange these in any random order & keep goin’

I think it is difficult to span classical & ITM. The techniques are very different. In another thread, the issue was discussed by Will, Reverend, Myself and others. From an ITM perspective, the playing of classically trained violinists tends to be somewhat rigid until they make the breakthrough.

If you are a classically trained violinist - welcome aboard, and I KNOW that you will have a lot of fun. If you are not classically trained, I certainly would not recommend it as a precursor if your objective is to play ITM - You would be taught a lot of stuff that you would have to "Unlearn" so to speak.

Offhand, I can only think of two professional classical musicians who are also ITM players of the first rank - Claire Crehan and Odhran O Casaide. I wish I could find the ref, but I can’t - I saw an interview with Claire once where she spoke knowingly about the parallel universes, as it were, in which she plays. I know another professional classical player who loves playing orchestral arrangements of Irish influenced stuff, and who speaks wistfully of how she wishes she could span the real idiom too.

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Tom-BRR - I think ya put your finger on it - polite classical players.

What drives ITM players nuts is the sequence of logic that goes (1) All music relates to theory (2) Classical players are well trained in theory (3) Classical technique is highly developed (4) Ergo, classical players are best positioned as arbiters……………Leads to banalities like the late Archie Potter’s "Music of the Nation" radio series in the 1960s - bowdlerised, emasculated renditions of ITM for Nice Respectable People.

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Such classical professionals/folk musicians are around. Where I live there is one lady who trained as a professional at the Suzuki school in Japan and has now been lead fiddle in a folk band in the UK for the best part of two decades. Another lady trained at the Julliard School, played in major British orchestras for a number of years, and then did a Masters in Irish music at Limerick (that was total immersion). Each plays (and teaches) in parallel universes.

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I would also say that a school music teacher is likely to have a wider appreciation and understanding of all types of music than classical players who have come up through something like the Associated Board route and gone straight into orchestral playing and private teaching. A few of those I’ve come across have remarkably closed minds when it comes to music outside the Western European classical genre; many others are prepared to look at other genres sympathetically and to take matters further if they feel a genuine attraction.

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Baroness, some idea of where you’re based would be helpful. Access to resources is important in deciding how to learn. A good teacher (not necessarily a brilliant player) is hard to find in some places, and easy in others.

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start learning to play the violin using Suzuki…the chronology of learning is well thought out

start learning the fiddle by listening to other musicians you wish to emulate

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It depends on whether you care about reading the music or not, which most ITM players, here, will probably tell you. I don’t exactly recommend Suzuki if you want to learn to read the music. The emphasis is more on memorizing rather than learning and understanding the principles behind what’s being played. As a youngster, I remember playing in some chamber groups, etc. with Suzuki trained violinists that couldn’t sight read, count, etc. which is important to learn if you’re gonna do something like Chamber. For ITM, I’ve been told time and again, isn’t necessary. Personally, if I could go back in time, I would learn both how to read the music as I did, but also work with someone in the tradition to hone my by ear training.

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Learning to read has absolutely nothing to do with learning to play. Its a usefull skill for picking up tunes IMO it is best to learn to play by ear.
I do recomend simple scales and arpeggios as these really helped my playing. They train intonation timing etc in a simple methodical way.

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I learned classical first, but I don’t necessarily recommend doing that if you’re interested in playing trad.

The basics of playing the instrument are the same in classical and trad, so in the very beginning a classical teacher is fine if you can’t find an Irish fiddle teacher right away.

But if you go too far in classical training you may have problems switching to trad. The rhythms of the music are very different in a subtle way and the bowing techniques are very different from what a classical player learns. And if you learn ornaments in classical playing, you’ll learn them the wrong way for trad.

So, get a fiddle teacher from the start if you can. If not, a classical teacher would be fine for the first year. In either case, start listening to the music all of the time, immerse yourself in the sound of Irish music, that will help lots.

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Baroness -

The tune I always start with when teaching any new fiddle, mandolin, banjo - anything tuned in fiths - player is Bill Harte’s Jig. It is very easy to play. You’ll find it here. https://thesession.org/tunes/2788
Focus on the main notes, if you’re an absolute beginner. The rest will come according as you develop dexterity.

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Learning classical first usually causes one to sound classical when playing fiddle music. Not really a desirable quality.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, no? Why would you want to take long detour if you already know your destination?

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Thanks so much for all the input everyone! I’m getting the sense that I should try to work with a trad teacher as soon as possible, although the basics are the same. I thought that would be the case. I have started lessons with a classical teacher, but I’ll switch to a trad teacher when I find one. All that I’ve found so far are not accepting new students right now. I do have one new lead, so we’ll see where that goes.

Do you all think I’d be better off with a teacher who plays American style Blue Grass type fiddle rather than classical?

Just to answer a few people’s questions:
- Yes, I learned to read music at a basic level as a vocalist.
- I live in the central Virginia area (U.S.).

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IMHO, yes.

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Baroness, as a singer, you have a head start anyway. The most important thing about playing any instrument is to sing the music through that instrument. As you learn a tune, sing it in your head and let it come out the fiddle. That’s far more important than any technique (though technique can help you sing).

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Baroness -

re Bluegrass - Good thinkin;’ ma’am - No question - A Bluegrass teacher would be preferable to a classical teacher if you can’t find a trad teacher.

I have had some mighty jam sessions with Bluegrass players. The two traditions - Bluegrass & Irish - are cousins. There is a freeedom, a swing and a lilt in bluegrass music that shows the Irish influence. There is certainly vastly less rigidity in Bluegrass fiddle playing than is characteristic of classical players. (I don’t know many classical 5-string banjo players :-))

As for differences in technique, it seems to me that Bluegrass fiddle players use the bow more and fancy finger work less than do Irish players. But, as I say - the freedom, the swing and the lilt - the important things - are there.

I remember many years ago hearing an American Bluegrass band playing in Montana Mike’s in Brussels (dunno if it’s still there) - They played a tune that I instantly recognised as one I know as "The Four Poster Bed". Whether it’s a bluegrass tune that made its way into ITM, or vice versa, or is actually common to both traditions - cf my ref to Bluegrass antecedence above - I don’t know.

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I learnt classical violin at school but I was never that interested in it. I used to like fishing for trout when I was a young lad and one evening after a good day’s fishing up in Scotland I walked in on a session and heard this guy play:

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/kennedy.htm

I thought it was one of the most magical things, and picked up the old fiddle again determined to learn how to do it!
My introduction to ITM could not have been better. I was introduced to the boys from De Dannan in the pub in the village where my Grandad lived in Cork. Fiddle music saved my life as it got me out of a bad depression. I’ve never really looked back. I think it is some of the most beautiful music in the world and find it a real privilige to have been given the opportunity to play it.

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I know a well known Scottish fiddler in Chesterfield if you’re interested in Scottish….pm me if you want

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I learn from most people I meet. It’s rare for me to come across someone’s playing that I can’t find anything to learn from. Though, of course, one focuses on certain individuals.

You have to be focused on what you want. What sound you want and in that sense, it can be very specific. But you also have to be open to changing your mind after hearing something new.

I never had a specific formal teacher … but there’s no way I’d ever say I taught myself.

And if there’s one piece of advice? I’d say don’t take it too seriously. It’s not serious music. Even at it’s most maudlin it’s playful and joyous. Without exception, the people I meet who are serious about this music, are never the better players.

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IME The best players I play with are serious players, in more than one sense. Its only the serious players who have the push to take them selves to the next level. Look at Jackie Daly, a serious player if there ever was one. Serious about the music, serious about getting it right, serious about others getting it right. This is a cultural heritage. A precious thing to be loved and respected. Yes its playful too but there is much more to it all than just having fun playing a few tunes.

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He might be serious with you …

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Well actually we spend almost as much time telling jokes as playing tunes but that is irrelevant. The issue in question is how seriously do we take our music? Is it a once a week drag out the fiddle to a session, play a few tunes with your mates or a 7 days a week studying, practice, reading around the subject, playing, etc etc I know where I stand. You?

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I tell jokes as much as play tunes. Infact, there’s not much difference between the two. And that’s exactly the relevance I was pointing too.

And quit the fastidious name dropping. It’s not working in your favour.
https://thesession.org/discussions/21873/

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I began learning the fiddle at a time when I thought I had to learn to play every instrument I liked. The fiddle was number five on my list, so it was something I didn’t take very seriously - just toyed with it occasionally. After a while, I realized I could actually play something approaching music on it and I was hooked. I promoted the fiddle to number two. I learned by listening and listening and watching and trying to play what I heard. I never had a teacher, except for everybody I ever heard play or talk about playing.

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no Im making a point llig, that being; there are serious musicians and dilettantes. I mentioned JD to refute your assertion that Serious musicians are never the better players. Maybe you should meet more serious musicians? might help open your mind…

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So if I don’t take it too seriously, I’m a dilettante? I can assure you that just because I don’t take it too seriously, I am by no means superficial about it. You are maybe mixing up not being serious with superficial.

I’m saying that you can get under the skin of it much better with humour and irreverance than you ever can with serious and dilligent study. If you prefer the latter, than I’m sorry, but your music will sound like serious dilligent study.

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Perhaps we are arguing about semantics… again

But are you saying that musicians who work and take their craft seriously therefore sound like serious musicians? I can agree with that. After all pretty much every top musician in Ireland takes their music seriously. It takes much dedication to achieve a high level of playing. You dont think a piper, for example, can achieve anything much at all without serious focused effort do you?

here is one definition;
<<showing firmness of intention; sincere or earnest • I>>

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"I tell jokes as much as play tunes. In fact, there’s not much difference between the two"
It was pointed out to me once that my playing was a joke.

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People on occasion have kindly expressed the view that I am musically talented. I tend to find that the more I practise, the more talented I get.

"Serious diligent study" llig ? Damn’ right I do serious diligent study. It takes a lot of work to make anything done to a high standard look / sound effotless.

I will go some of the way with you, though. I do two kinds of playing - one in which I am not really thinking about what I am doing, and the other in which I am consciously focusing on technique. I don’t know how else technique could be learned, or, for that matter, retained. Maybe the latter is because I play alone rather a lot these days.

3 music types Suantraí, Goltraí and Geantraí - respectively, more or less, Soporofic, Sad / Lamenting, and Fun. I can’t see that any is maudlin. The only maudlin stuff of which I know is the content of the Danny Boy school of sentimentalising.

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Soporific, of course - typo.

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Perhaps it’s best if we take the music seriously, never losing sight of the humor and generosity in it, while not taking ourselves too seriously.

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Amen to that, Will.

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Sean, like you, I think in terms of "attentive playing" (what some people would call "practice" yeccchhh :-) ) and playing for the sake of living inside the tunes. Maybe it’ll help others to explain this further.

In the early stages, we have to attend to all the twiddly and specific bits of getting sound out of the fiddle. With more experience, the focus shifts to expressing the music, and somewhere along the line it all blurs into a "highly charged state of relaxation" :-) where most of the technique happens subconsciously while we grow mindful of every exquisite detail of the music.

Since the goal is to reach that musically mindful zone, I suspect it helps to favor those influences right from the very outset of one’s learning.

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"Serious diligent study" llig ? Damn’ right I do serious diligent study. It takes a lot of work to make anything done to a high standard look / sound effotless.

So, you work on your playing, do you? (Here’s your opportunity to wax poetic, will)

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LOL, I thought I already did enough waxing in my previous post. :-)

"Attentive playing" and "highly charged relaxation" really do about cover it for me, though I might change the latter to "focused relaxation." Yes, that’s better.

Something I enjoy in Bobby Casey’s playing is his playfulness with the music—a sense of mischievous humor. Not that his music doesn’t also have gravitas (oooh, this is a serious occasion).

In today’s world of recordings and gigs and "professionalism," it feels like many players neglect or are unaware of this aspect of the music. Along the lines of what Kevin Burke says in the liner notes on one of his cds, keep it playful, fun, funny even. Except when you don’t.

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I just don’t believe that serious diligent study can contribute to being a good player of this music. Maybe if you play it also, then the serious diligent study might not do your music any harm, but does the music really need it? Sure I played a lot more when I was younger, but just the mere act of playing, not particularly focused, just playing tunes, is enough to take care of the physicality of it. If you focus your attention onto the physicality of it, get yourself into a state where you are merely performing repetitive exercises, you have to be taking away from the musicality. Robots can’t play tunes.

It may well take a lot of playing to make something done to a high standard sound effortless. But if all you are doing is putting in a lot of work, it’s never gonna sound effortless in a million years. All it’s gonna sound like is like you’ve put a lot of work into it. You are what you are. All you’ll be is the musical equivalent of a body builder. You hear it all the time. technically great, but not an ounce of music

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It’s straight forward. If you don’t put any effort in, it will sound effortless. If year after year after year, you are banging your head with dilligent study, you are gonna sound like you’ve spent year after year after year banging your head with dilligent study.

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I agree with you Michael, and it’s more than mere semantics when we talk about *playing* music rather than "working" it.

But the vast majority of people do have to learn the physical aspects of playing their chosen instrument. This takes attentive listening (another skill many people have to apply themselves to in order to get beyond the superficial) and noticing what produces the desired sounds and what doesn’t.

You’re right that this music doesn’t ask for much in the way of technical skills. But simply moving the bow parallel to the bridge or fingering notes in tune on a fiddle, or developing a focused airstream on flute (for examples) is a challenge at first for many folks. These techniques ask us to move in unfamiliar ways, and to pay attention to specific details that most of us weren’t aware of, let alone acting upon, before we started playing.

So I encourage people to play attentively—noticing everything about the sounds they make and how it feels. To me, this isn’t "work" anymore than it’s work to savor the complexities of a good single malt scotch.

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Playing attentively means nothing more than listening properly. But if there is any work at all in learning to play, it’s having to listen to something that doesn’t sound so good. And consequently having to listen for what adjustments make it sound better. I agree that at the beginning, this can be a bit of an effort. But it shouldn’t take long. I don’t remember it taking that long.

So yes, at the beginning, your music cannot sound effortless, However, as soon as you begin to make those very first pleasing sounds. you must begin to lay off the effort and concentrate on the good sounds you are making. And then it will begin to sound effortless.

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You guys crack me up;>> this music doesn’t ask for much in the way of technical skills<<

I presume you are talking about a particular instrument; the fiddle. But lets here you play a few tunes on a set of pipes, then come back to us and tell us all how easy it is. LOL
You have probably spent 30 odd yrs at this, so of course you have attained some competence and its all quite easy now. But you are surely not saying that you have ‘got it’ now are you? So your in the same boat as all of us, If you want to improve you will have to put some effort in, otherwise you will stay at the same level. Its all very well telling us how easy and effortless your music making is, but it wasn’t always so now was it? and its easy to stagnate, if thats what you want fine, and at least with Will I know thats not the case, but to overcome inertia you have to expend energy, effort.


Personally I have no problem with putting effort in and if anyone wants to attain any level of skill then they will also have to put effort in. OK once you have attained a level that satisfies you then fair enough you dont need to work at it any more. But I doubt that will ever happen for me.

Tonight I’ve been playing Hungarian gypsy music, effortless! no feckin way, hard bloody work getting this stuff, once I have it, sure it will be easy, but the process of learning a new skill will hardly ever be effortless unless of course the skill is built on previously attained skills.
llig, how was learning to walk for you? did you ever stumble and fall? trip, misjudge distance and wack your self? was it effortless? I doubt it. Of course now you are quite competent at it it is easy. Do you even remember how it was to learn to walk..
Anyhow gotta go. early morning… Gnight

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I’m not sure I’d go as far as Michael, but I do basically agree with him that at some point in your playing, you can in fact continue to improve by simply relaxing and going into the music.. In fact, you will likely progress sooner and farther—in this music—if you quit "working" at it so deliberately.

That’s what a lot of "master classes" get at—musicality, which has nothing to do with technique (because you can play music in your head with no instrumental technique at all).

Bottom line: it won’t be music if your work ethic overly influences your musicality.

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Sure, Will. What I’m talking about is keeping the oil in the fingers - turning tunes I have not played for a while. Some of it comes from simply relaxing and playing, as you say, and some of it from that which you describe as ‘Attentive playing.’

On another thread I commented re one of the deleterious effects of competitions - I have heard players playing exactly as Michael describes - pyrotechnical displays of technique, but without much music. Speed is another demon - I often hear people who would probably be quite good if they slowed down and let the music flow, but lose the ‘nyah’ by sacrificing all subtlety to speed.

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Of course the music doesn’t ask for much in the way of technical skills. Comparable to most of the other musics of the world that is (with the possible exception of blues and morris tunes). Pipes, fiddle, whatever, the instrument is irrelevant. Any real tradpiper would tell you that a simple jig is the easiest thing in the world.

Some people like to beat themselves up. Some like to try to run before they can walk, beat themselves up attempting to nail new skills not based on previously attained skills.

Each to their own of course, but such people are never gonna be able to play this music with the delicacy of humour and effortless enjoyment it deserves.

You have to ease yourself into it. It’s the only way. Like a small child easing himself up the side of the settee for the umpteenth time onto two feet and then not realising that for the first time he’s let go of the support and is standing un aided.

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So, there’s a learning curve in playing this music. Imagine that!

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More of a path than a curve. Learn to walk, then off you go. (but if you try running, the chances are you’ll trip up and, more importantly, you’ll miss the scenery.)

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Even before kids are up walking they are remarkable mobile. They can really get around. Mastering the art of balancing on two feet is another "step" and a crucial one.

You’ll certainly miss the scenery if you drive by it rather than walk or even run. At least you’re engaged with the weather and the terrain when you go jogging.

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The analogy is in danger of being stretched too far, as most analogies do here. But the point about walking down your average countryside path is that you don’t have to look at your feet. The analogy being that with this music you shouldn’t be worrying about your technique. If you run, you’re gonna have to look at your feet quite a bit, and miss the scenery.

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You *think* you don’t look at your feet - until you get bifocals.

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Ha ha, which takes us right back the The Baroness’s first problem

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Baroness,

If you’re in Central VA then this organization may be of interest to you.

http://upmw.smad.us/index.html

The Upper Potomac Music Weekends are tons of fun. I drove all the way from the Carolina’s and had an amazing time. They would be a great source for ITM or Scottish teachers in your area.

I was very ill prepared to learn by ear so I highly recommend you get on board with learning by ear versus learning the "dots". I can read music fairly well..I’m not a sight reader but I can muddle through. But being able to hear it and reproduce it is invaluable in trad music (trad of any genre, not just ITM).

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”Of course the music doesn’t ask for much in the way of technical skills. Comparable to most of the other musics of the world that is”

So which other styles of music are you proficient in then to make such a claim?

Another thing, how are we to know at what level you are talking about? how do we know what technical capabilities you use compared to say a serious musician Like Jackie Daly or Kevin Burke say? I mean, can you play like Jackie or Kevin? [ in your dreams!] If not then how do you know what technical capabilities are needed to play at that level? .

I mean its obvious that learning to walk requires effort, if you dont try and fall and try you will not walk. Ok once you can walk then of course its feckin easy ! once you can play then of course its easy! learning to play requires effort, learning to play well requires more effort, learning to play amazingly well requires even more effort. Some folk are gifted and learn fast, they dont need to apply as much effort as another who finds it hard, but to therefore say that effort isnt required for anyone betrays a simple lack of understanding.

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What?

Who are you to question the well established dogma that this music is easy to play and if you find it takes effort to improve then surely you are doomed! It’s OK to have such thoughts but to express them here…can you feel the flames you are fanning?

Just wait!

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Hmmm. I’m proficient (to the point of playing professionally) in blues and rock and bluegrass (on guitar) and bluegrass (on banjo) and I agree that Irish trad music is at least as "easy" if not easier to play as those genres.

Ion, instead of trying to "win" the "argument," it might be more interesting for all of us to have a conversation for a change. Your choice, of course, if you just want to argue. But in doing so, you appear to be missing the main point—that people learning music can choose to either "work hard" at it, or experiment with what’s to be gained by relaxing and letting the techniques come as naturally as possible. Granted, flailing around with a hank of horsetail tied to a stick doesn’t feel very natural at first, but there are approaches to bowing a fiddle that can make it feel more natural and "easy."

What I gain from playing with "effortlessness" in mind is a release of tension, more flow in whatever I’m doing, and an ease in playing the *music* rather than merely playing the fiddle.

What do you gain from persuading yourself that playing music requires a lot of hard work?

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Im not trying to ‘win ’ thats your words not mine.

Im not trying to persuade myself that playing music requires lots of hard work, It doesnt. However to play at a high level does. Its that simple. You show me one, just one musician who attained a high level of skill with no or little effort.
Easy to play at what level? its easy to play any music badly, really easy, as Im sure you know[ we have all met them].

Its all about the depth and intricacies in a deep study of this music. IMO anyone who says its easy doesnt know how to do it right. Thats my opinion, I am entitled to it, if you or anyone else wishes to demonstrate a high level of skill then of course Im prepared to change my opinion once I can hear the evidence.
Im not being flippant or insulting, just explaining my position.


My main point here is that flippantly saying how easy or effortless a skill is , once that skill is attained, is meaningless.

I just object to the way others hard work, effort, dedication can be denigrated by saying its easy, you dont need to work at it, no effort is required. For those of us struggling to attain these skills how is that going to come across? as arrogant and conceited?

If llig wants to demonstrate then Im all ears, as yet I have heard nor read anything that might indicate to me that I am in the presence of a master.

Yes, in a way playing Irish music is easy, so what ? so is playing Bach, once you can do it. Up until that time the serious in depth study of any traditional art requires hard work, dedication , application of effort, persistence and a ‘need’ to attain the goal, whatever that might be.
Will, you are a man of many talents right. Even if attaining those skill was easy , and now you can perform them almost effortlessly , that simply doesnt mean that its the same for everyone.

The effortlessness and ease of performance is directly related to the amount of time and dedication applied. That is my experience. If you or anyone wishes to contradict my direct personal experience then Of course I am going to disagree.

I can relate to the whole concept of effortlessness and ease of performance and I agree of course we aspire to attaining a relaxed and effortless flow of execution. But to suggest that the process involved in attaining those skills which can then be used effortlessly is itself effortless I disagree strongly, i think its just bull. .

I will return your question, what do you gain by saying its easy and you dont need to work or apply effort to attain these skill sets?

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It’s straight forward. If you don’t put any effort in, it will sound effortless. If year after year after year, you are banging your head with dilligent study, you are gonna sound like you’ve spent year after year after year banging your head with dilligent study.

You think you can fake it? Spend years working hard so you can fake it sounding easy? It won’t wash. spend years working hard and it sounds hard.

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Gentlemen, Gentlemen….

We shouldn’t be too rigid about what is playing and what is work. I have been looking forward all day to starting to give effect to a long standing ambition, which is to start to get to the root of Kerry music. I will listen intently, and play. Is that hard work or relaxation? Damned if I know. When I talk about technique - after 40 years, I am hardly talking about rolls, cuts, crans, triplets - I mean breathing and living every damn tune for its soul. After 40 years I still discover new delights, and hope to continue doing so indefinitely. I understand fully what Michael means when he talks about relaxed playing, & what Will means when he talks about absorbing by osmosis - Both are part of it. So is the intense concentration mentioned by Ion, to which I can also resonate.

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Anyway, lads, is this discussion a little unseemly in a thread started by a young lady askeng for help to get started ? Maybe we should start a cranky old mens’ thread….

Baroness - Please forgive us. We will be arguing about angels dancing on pinheads next.

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Apparently I hit a nerve when all I was trying to do was move the conversation forward, erm, conversationally instead of argumentatively. Ion, it seems, has a different agenda, demanding "proof" etc.

I’ll leave him to it.

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I disagree, If you dont put any effort in it will sound sh*te at worst , mediocre at best.
If year after year you thoroughly enjoy dedicating yourself to mastering a physical discipline such as fiddling then you have a good chance of getting there. . Especially if you have an aptitude for it and good instruction.
If you have an talent for something and you dont put any effort in then fair enough you can probably attain some competence if you are lucky, but only because you have a gift for it.

I dont think you can fake it! Its the years of working hard that make it easy and effortless. If you disagree then simply pick up a set of pipes in the next day or so, play some tunes effortlessly .I am sure that will open your eyes to the inconsistencies in your contention.

As I say again and again; Its only easy once you can do it. Until you can do it how can it be easy?

Its strange llig you say ’ banging your head’ as though work was a four letter word! I have always enjoyed dedicating myself to attaining one physical skill or another. I attained some of those skill while others didnt simply because I was first in, last out and worked hardest while I was there ,.I’ve see them drop by the wayside more times than I remember. Now you come along and say that was all worthless? yet I know it wasn’t. So why should I believe you? I dont , I think its bull, you wont demonstrate so I continue to disagree.
What is more I see some folk here who take on board your ‘advice’ and simply put will never attain their goal until they disregard it, perhaps not all of your advice, but how are beginners supposed to differentiate between your sound insights and your fancy full poorly informed comments?

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You dont want to answer the simple question?;

What do you gain by saying its easy and you dont need to work or apply effort to attain these skill sets?
Ok, fine.

Sorry Sean Ive had a few ‘discussions’ with Will and Llig here and our polarised positions can sometimes seem as though we are in the middle of a pitched battle, but its all in fun ….

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"Dedicating yourself to mastering a physical discipline such as fiddling ".

As long as you try to describe the music it terms like that, it will forever elude you.

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This music does not reside in what we say about it.

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LOL, Elude me? Really, well thank you oh wise and great enlightened master for your insight . Ill have to pop into the session so i can bathe in the radiance of your Aura, I can submit myself to your greatness and forever worship the ground you stand upon. Perhaps you would be gracious enough to touch my fiddle, why then I would never wash it.. ever .. Right . Enough of that, hope someone got a big a laugh from this as I did.

Actually llig I think you are mistaking effort for tension. Effort is a requisite, tension is the enemy. they are not by any means the same thing.

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But beneath the slagging and banter there are serious points to be made. To attain mastery of an instrument requires a lot of patience, dedication ,effort and enjoyment. Without these factors there is little hope. Perhaps there are some who can do so, maybe they might like to introduce themselves?

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Leoj, you’re right. You can’t get anywhere near what music is by just talking about it. And we’ve gotten into this before many times, not just in the thread you mentioned above, but often, and often with Ionannas - though I’m glad he wants to keep it "all in fun" … which is more than can be said for those other two people Jig and Tradpiper.

Yes, impossible though it is, it is however interesting to try to describe what music is. And even though the specifics can be elusive, what it’s not can often seem more obvious. A "physical discipline" for example.

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And "mastery of an instrument". There’s another one that music is not.

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Ion’s rants belie his claim that it’s all in fun. Ridiculing another’s opinions isn’t fun—at least not for the one being ridiculed—and it does nothing to move the conversation forward. When it becomes a pattern, as it has with Ion/jig/tradpiper, it’s useless to try and have a meaningful discussion.

For anyone interested in the effortless approach to playing music (at every level, from beginner to virtuoso), I recommend reading "Effortless Mastery" and "The Inner Game of Music" Also, the master class and "Playing By Heart" DVDs featuring violinist Maxim Vengerov touch a lot on being playful and effortless with the music, even at the technical difficulty of the pieces Vengerov plays and teaches (which go way beyond anything required to play Irish trad fiddle). Bits of these videos are available on YouTube—just search for Vengerov by name. Excellent stuff.

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I think you take this too personally, will. Simply because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they are ridiculing your point of view. No one is denying you the right to your own opinion.

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I do get a bit bored though with your little digs Will, they do you no credit. If you cant have a reasonable discussion pertaining to a specific issue without trying to rake up dirt as a smokescreen then I agree its not worth discussing things with you.
We are discussing the effort required in attaining a physical skill , specifically Irish Fiddle. What possible interest your faulty assessment of my character has to me or anyone else here is beyond me and what possible relevance it can have to the discussion, which you supposedly left earlier I also fail to see. However now you are back why not answer my question.;

what do you gain by saying its easy and you dont need to work or apply effort to attain these skill sets?

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But what the hell. What do I gain from saying that playing this music is easy and effortless?

1. I gain the ability to play easily and effortlessly. This applied years ago when I was a beginner, and it applies now that I play at a high enough level to be invited to play with top tier musicians.

2. I gain the ability to pick up new skills almost instantaneously because I no longer think of them as difficult.

3. I gain peace of mind when I play, whether alone or in front of a huge crowd.

4. I gain enjoyment and joy from my own playing.

5. I gain the ability to easily pass these abilities and joys onto others who want to play well.

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We cross posted. I was replying to Ion’s earlier query, though he hasn’t answered mine.

Ion, I don’t mean anything I’ve said here as a dig at you, I’m just noting that your tone here is a pattern of arguing, when we could be simply discussing the pros and cons of our approaches to learning and playing the music.

For years I worked very hard at learning Irish fiddle, I studied it diligently, I slaved at learning tunes by ear at full speed off the radio, with no way to record and play back, no way to slow things down, no one to explain the twiddly bits to me. It was hard, hard work. When Kevin suggested another way, I was skeptical. But it’s hard to disregard advice from Kevin Burke, eh? So I gave it a try, and it helped. Suddenly things that had felt like hard labor before were now easy and enjoyable.

It doesn’t really matter to me whether or not you try this approach. But on this forum, I hope I can voice my opinion on the value of this approach without being ridiculed for it, even if you disagree with it. I’ve tried your way. I like the effortless way better, and I like the results I’ve gotten with it.

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One possible "con" of the effortless approach is that someone will misunderstand it and think that they can pick up an instrument and join right in at a session, with no time spent playing the tunes. Sadly, a not uncommon problem.

Effortless doesn’t mean you don’t put in thousands of hours learning and playing the music. It means only that those hours are spent playing, rather than working, the music. Semantics? Maybe, but not in my experience. Not just a word choice, but a choice in how we think and feel about making music. And that choice reveals itself in every note we play.

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nice answer
1; So its always been easy and effortless for you will? So what happens when you want to pick up skills that arnt? you give up? serious question. and just because you find something easy doesnt mean it is for everyone.
2 But what about the difficult skills will? just because you dont see them as difficult doesnt mean they are easy, just that you dont understand them! I can assure you there are plenty of skills that will take years to attain and many years to polish and will involve lots of hard work sweat blood and tears, are they then valueless because they were not easy and effortless?
3 same
4 same
5 same.

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Ionnannas, you may well be discussing the effort required in attaining a physical skill. We’re discussing playing music.

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"sweat blood and tears" Another thing music isn’t

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Ok so actually it wasnt always easy? you actually worked hard at something, was that effort wasted?

I’m saying very clearly that attaining a skill and the use of that skill are separate issues. Something be exceedingly hard complicated and difficult to learn can become easy and effortless once the skill are attained.
Is that the best message to put across to a beginner?

I found Bach to be exceedingly hard to fathom at first. The more years and hours I put in the easier it got… funny that.

It is much easier now. Sight reading was hard, now its easy[ish]

I understand your approach and respect it but do not necessarily agree with it. Personally for someone who can read music saying to someone who cant, how easy it is…. ? how does that help?


I did answer your question will, here it is again;

What do you gain from persuading yourself that playing music requires a lot of hard work?

# Posted on July 21st 2009 by will harmon
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Im not trying to persuade myself that playing music requires lots of hard work, It doesnt. However to play at a high level does. Its that simple. You show me one, just one musician who attained a high level of skill with no or little effort.

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1. Yes, it’s always easy for me. I recently started playing double stop shifts all over the neck, with a little voice in the back of my mind saying "you can’t do this." As soon as I quieted that little voice (2 seconds), it was easy. If it’s not easy for someone else, that’s probably because they haven’t yet realized that the skills aren’t hard.

2. I haven’t run into any "difficult" skills yet. If we stay within Irish fiddling, the skills that are frequently seen as difficult are things like shifting positions, third finger rolls, and melodic bowed triplets. But I’ve found that if I can sing it in my head, I can play it on fiddle. Even third finger rolls, which should be physically hard for me to do because my pinky (broken several times over the years) sticks and cracks and isn’t as nimble as it could be, are easy.

Going beyond Irish fiddle, even the best players talk about struggling with consistent intonation up the neck, challenging string crossings, etc. I heed Itzahk Perlman’s advice and play these bits as slow as needed to be able to do them with ease.

It also helps to remember that all of these skills are nothing except tools for expressing the music. "Mastery" (which I doubt exists) isn’t about technical perfection, but about expressiveness, playing with heart.

To me, "hard work" is replacing the waste pipe under my toilet on a sweltering summer day. Playing music is nothing like that.

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Llig, playing a musical instrument is a physical activity. This is a simple fact, there is no room for debate in that. Unless you do it with your mind power alone! Which i would love to see. Even singing is a physical act. Playing music requires some form of physical skill.

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Aw rats, I stop paying attention over the weekend and I miss a big hoo-hah. Looks like you all were having fun in here.

Ionannas, maybe that’s just it exactly. "…to reach a high level…"

What if most folks simply want to play some music with their friends and have a good time? There’s no advantage to thinking it’s hard there, when it’s not.

If you want to set the world on fire and challenge Frankie Gavin to a mano a mano duel to the fiddling death, then OK, yes, I’d say playing this music is incredibly difficult and challenging.

…but if you’d just like to come out to the pub, play some tunes, have a few laughs and a pint or two with some friendly folks, well, there’s no sense in beating yourself up about how difficult it all is, when it’s really not that difficult to just be one of the musical gang.

My apologies if this train of thought has already been hammered out above. I’ll go be a good poster and play catch up now.

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Playing the fiddle is a kind of dance with the fingers on one hand and the fingers, wrist ,elbow etc. on the other

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Ion, happily I worked hard at fiddle for only a couple wasted years. I improved more in the first week of playing effortlessly than I did in those 2 years total. In fact, I unlearned most of the bad habits from those years of hard work.

Bear in mind that playing Irish trad music at the highest level is 99% musicality (why we all love Paddy Canny) and 1% technique. In your terms, Irish trad is not as "hard" or technically demanding as Pagannini caprices. We can relax and enjoy that fact.

I believe that the video of the nine year old girl playing the two jigs and a reel I posted above is evidence of the potential we all have to play beautifully without years of "hard work." Obviously she’s played for hours, but she’s only nine. I seriously doubt she has the requisite "10,000 hours of technical training" so often cited as required for "mastery."

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Nicely said, leoj. Left fingers are step dancing and the bow hand does a sort of fluid salsa. :-)

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The thing is, Ion, the physical movements needed to play fiddle are very small and gentle. It’s not like entering a World’s Strongest Man competition, or a gymnastics meet.

Which also explains why, relatively, playing uilleann pipes is typically seen as more challenging than flute or fiddle—more movements, more actions to coordinate. But they’re still easier moves than doing a high bar routine.

"Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you;re probably right."

My corollary: "Whether you think it’s hard or think it’s easy, you’re probably right."

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ahh will, youve been playing the fiddle 30 plus years and music for 40 odd, too rightdouble stops up the neck should be pretty easy for you. but to then say that its therefore easy for anyone once they ‘realise’ its ‘easy’ …. pull the other one!


Ok , well within Irish music you have not encountered anything thats difficult. Fair enough, its all easy for you and always has been, that does not mean that the same applies to anyone else.

I never said playing music was hard work, not at all, I said that learning to play well requires patience persistence dedication and effort. I said I work hard at my craft It seems that is construed negatively, its not meant to be, I enjoy hard work, both physical and mental.

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I want to amend a comment of mine above.

No, it’s not always easy for me. When I slip back into thinking something is hard, it becomes hard. I sometimes catch myself at a session or gig stumbling through a phrase wondering what’s gone wrong and why I can’t play. All it takes to get back on track is a few seconds of humming "effortless, effortless" to myself.

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Ion, I understand the enjoyment of hard work, too. I just don’t think it applies to making good music.

I also believe that not everyone has the same capacity for learning different things. Some people are clearly more musical than others, some are better at math, some better at writing or drawing, etc.

But I believe that anyone can benefit from finding the ease in a new skill or ability and focusing on that instead of "working hard at their craft." And too often I’ve seen gifted people beat themselves up by seeing new skills as "difficult" to acquire, when, with a simple paradigm shift, they could sail through those new skills.

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I know what your saying and I can appreciate the psychological control you are utilising and recommending and Im sure it is applicable in many ways. But this only applies after the technical skill has been attained. if you disagree play us a set of jigs on the pipes. Its not sooo hard, sure its easy according to llig, you can do it. But it may take a few years of patience dedication effort before you realise how easy it is!

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Sitting on yer arse watching telly is a physical activity. Your vital organs are all functioning, your holding your head up, you are burning calories, etc. The physical activity of playing the fiddle is the same, maybe a couple more calories. It’s not hard work.

You say you like hard work. So you make your fiddle playing hard work.

If you make it hard work, it takes away from the music. If you concentrate all your mind on the music, there is no room for any hard work. Its playing music with your mind power alone. Give it a shot, it’s a hoot.

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I disagree. The mindset is part and parcel of gaining the technical skill in the first place. Sure, some people grapple with the skills as "difficulties" and then realize the ease of it all. But there’s nothing wrong—and a lot to be gained (see my list above)—by finding the ease in things *as you’re learning them.* I’d wager that progress comes quicker and you’re more likely to reach farther than otherwise.

FWIW, I’ve found this true in music, juggling, cycling, trampoline, trapeze, languages, electrical wiring, and parenting.

The only place it hasn’t helped much is in nonfiction writing, which despite decades of doing, still feels like work. :-)

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Spot on, Michael.

You sing the music in your mind, and it spills out through your fingers. Easy peasy.

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Well, n my 30 plus years as an active musician I have been accused of making good music regularily and I have always worked hard at it , so I know , that in my experience they correlate directly. Yes there is a lot to be said or a positive mindset and nothing at all to be said for a negative one. However a positively realistic appraisal is IMO the most valuable of them all.

If I approached the violin solo suites with the mindset that they are easy, do you really think that therefore they are? no they are exceedingly demanding of the finest musicians. they are not easy by the faintest stretch of the imagination.
Yes of course effortless playing is a prerequisite for any musical fluency, but that requires a foundation of technical developement which in turn depends on the individuals aptitudes etc.

Of course thing become easier the better you get at them, but that doesnt mean they were somehow objectively ‘easy’ .Ease is a completely subjective thing. For me its easy to do some stupid fancy spinning high kick, for you, with a broken leg I doubt it will be.:-) If I tell you how easy it is, is that going to appreciably make it any easier for you? even if you believed me with all your heart and soul…. no of course not! its nonsense.
If you were to tell me how easy it is to juggle 10 balls, do you really think that therefore it is? Ok, after I progress beyond 3 balls 4 will be easier and so on, but only because ~I put the hours in practising, dropping th ball picking it up. etc patience, persistence , effort.

I agree , focus on the positive aspects and know that in time it will become easier. Absolutely, concentrate on your ability to achieve , positive reinforcement, visualisation , self hypnosis, all these things can have a marked effect on attaining your goals so to speak but to say it is some how innately easy….

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Ion, I’d also say that it’s not "psychological control" as much as it’s being open to the capacities already available within us.

Your stated sense of working hard at your craft and mental discipline is very different from how I approach music, maybe life in general. In fact, "discipline" I lack completely—I just get engrossed or obsessed with what I’m doing. This comes naturally to me—left to myself, I tend to spend hours on end happily in the highly focused and effortless zone of doing something. Maybe that reveals some similarities between us.

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Yes, ease is subjective. So why choose to make things difficult for oneself?

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No, this music, diddley music, traditional Irish music, is easy. Objectively easy.

Enough of this hippy sh*te

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Llig, playing the fiddle is not hard work, I never said it was, its pretty easy now because Ive been at if for the last 15-20 years, day in day out. The process of learning to play was often however hard work, not physical work but mental work. Hard work does not only include physical activity! Jeez does your mind work at all?
I found Balkan rhythms tricky to learn , they required patience dedication , persistence and effort, it was pretty hard work. Im sure it would be really easy for you. Now? yes I have no problems playing in 7/8 10/8 21 /8 whatever, its easy fer fecks sake. how come everyone cant do it?
If its all so easy, and requires no effort, then how come your not a better fiddler? Im not being insulting or condescending, its a serious question, or are you saying there is no room for improvement in your playing and your music?

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I’ve had students who were markedly slow at learning to play music. Some people are simply not as musical as others. They have to put in more time to learn the same skills.

But even these less-musical people can benefit greatly by finding and focusing on the ease of playing at whatever level they are, as they’re learning. Telling themselves that what they are doing requires hard work does not ease the learning for them, nor does it make them better students or musicians.

What I do with such students is break skills and concepts down into easy manageable bits. For example, I have several students who came to me struggling to hold the bow after a year or more of formal instruction. I ask them to shake their hand out, lift their forearm parallel to the floor, and let the hand dangle limp from the wrist. Then I raise the stick into their hand. They tuck the thumb tip into the space between the frog and the pad, and place their pinky on top of the stick, and they have a beautiful, fully functional bow hand. It works every time, even with people who have significant learning disabilities.

I have yet to run into a musical skill that can’t be taught this way—through simple moves and relaxation.

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Ah well.

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Discipline, yeah its a funny thing. I submitted myself to a traditional discipline for many years, it was very formative of my character. whether I felt like practising or not became irrelevant its just something i do/did, habit.
I too spend hours happily engrossed in whatever i am doing that i enjoy , but I dont rely on that, I enjoy it when it happens, but I have always put the hours in regardless of whether its particularly enjoyable at the present moment, because I know that it is essential in attaining my aims. I have seen so many people start out with good intentions but as soon as it gets tricky they back off and give up, I’m not like that , I enjoy the challenge.


ahh llig, you are the one spouting hippy sh*te :-p, if you’ve had enough then refrain from making stupid comments like that one eh? … problem solved.

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oh and welcome SWFL…

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Come on Ionannas, drink the kool-aid! The world will look like and feel different and everything you do will be easy and effortless.

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yes will, I agree, being open to the massive potential we all have. but there is little point in deluding ourselves that something is easy, its going to be easy etc etc , because if it turns out to be hard, many many people give up.
If you understand that it might not be easy for you as an individual then your not going to beat yourself up with negative thoughts as to how useless you might be when it turns out that you struggle desperately for whatever reason.
If you understand from day 1 that you may well struggle, and that its ok to struggle, that not everyone has it easy , that there may l be times when it all seems too much, and thats ok, it happens to many of us. This can be reassuring. Yes ideally we all have a perfectly set up instrument, an amazing teacher, inspirational friend,s a conducive environment etc etc , but this is not always the case.

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Sounds good Leoj, where can i get it? hmmm reminds me of the story about the king and the well! you know it?

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I aquired the skill (it feels daft calling it that, it’s not much of a skill) to play diddley music pretty quickly. I only ever wanted to play diddley music so the low skill level required was capped a long time ago. My skill level has not increased since. And I’m not interested in increasing it. Maybe I could if I wanted too, maybe I couldn’t, I’m not interested in skill. It’s one of the reasons I love diddley music, it requires next to no skill.

But my playing of the music has got better steadilly over the years and the room I have still left for improvement is exactly, to the second, the amount of life I have left.

(as an aside - but connected - the reason I’ve never had any problems at all with balkan tunes is because I learn tunes by phrases. I don’t count them. Another distinction between us there. I’ve never counted).

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"effortless! no feckin way, hard bloody work getting this stuff"
# Posted on July 21st 2009 by Ionannas

"playing the fiddle is not hard work"
# Posted on July 21st 2009 by Ionannas

ah well

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"effortless! no feckin way, hard bloody work getting this stuff"
# Posted on July 21st 2009 by Ionannas

"playing the fiddle is not hard work"
# Posted on July 21st 2009 by Ionannas

ah well

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Ha, I don’t know how that went in twice, sorry. (but it’s funny though)

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Here ya go, drink it now, freshly made….

See the difference! Notice how colors seem to vibrate with intensity…

I bet you can’t even type the words "hard work" any more. Go on and try.

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… funny but wrong…
there you go llig, making assumptions again, I dont just play the fiddle remember.


H, Ha, har har, d har, har de har jeez that shtuff is powerfull leoj.

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There are so many things that Ionannass says, so much stuff in his language that I just cannot reconcile with what I know of music. What I love about it, What I hear, smell and taste of it. What I feel it to be.

"blood sweat and tears"
"physical discipline"
"it’s ok to struggle"
"hard bloody work"
"I have always put the hours in regardless of whether its particularly enjoyable"
"For me its easy to do some stupid fancy spinning high kick, for you" (scary thing to bring up)
"Effort is a requisite, tension is the enemy"
"I was first in, last out and worked hardest while I was there"

etc.


I’m at a bit of a loss how to deal with it. I’ve tried many ways but keep hitting a brick wall with it. I suppose it’s just a mindset that is beyond my comprehension and experience of the world. To be honest it scares me a bit, and I’m not being sarcastic. I think that all I can do is repeat what I said at the start of this debacle:

And if there’s one piece of advice? I’d say don’t take it too seriously. It’s not serious music. Even at it’s most maudlin it’s playful and joyous. Without exception, the people I meet who are serious about this music, are never the better players.

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No hippy sh*te yet drinking the Kool Aid? Now wait a minute…

Did any of you in this massive thread ask if The Baroness went to the eye doctor yet? No? Am I being a nag? OK, I’ll stop. :-P

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Ahh llig,the conversation has touched on learning various physical skills, not just music, not just the fiddle.

….and I will point out that the best musicians I have met in Ireland are pretty much always always the ones who are serious about their music, who put effort in and get beauty out. Not serious as in boring strait-laced uptight types who cant even smile at the end of a set, but relaxed, dedicated, highly competent , and in love with the music. People who have the craic. People who respect the tradition, the living tradition, people who ARE the tradition incarnate.

Open your mind llig , that might help….your way is not the only way.

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I’ve no interest in opening my mind to your mindset. It’s not a nice place.

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tsk tsk, there you go again; wrong assumptions. The mind is like a parachute llig, it only works when its open.

On that note I will crawl away to my deep dark bunker hill where I plot world domination and eat stray cats and worms.

….What was in that shtuff you gave me leoj?

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Maybe this explains why some people find music easier than others—our brains are more "flexible." Certainly seems to apply to this thread….

http://tinyurl.com/l25hrh

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It’s just great to have this matter resolved. That way it won’t come up again and we can focus on solving other important problems such as global warming.

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Will, that was a good article but there’s a lot to be said for tinyurl :)

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Well, it was a good article but only a couple of paragraphs were relevant to this debate. What I would like to know is if after each of those 12 sessions listening the to the Ls and Rs the students had the feeling that they had been putting in a bit of mental effort and maybe could do with a few minutes break before going on to something else. Or whether they were just as fresh as when they started.

Some things I do with an instrument make me feel I need a short nap after a few minutes, others I could do for hours and leave me feeling rested.

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Michael’s - "I aquired the skill (it feels daft calling it that, it’s not much of a skill) to play diddley music pretty quickly. I only ever wanted to play diddley music so the low skill level required was capped a long time ago. My skill level has not increased since. And I’m not interested in increasing it. Maybe I could if I wanted too, maybe I couldn’t, I’m not interested in skill. It’s one of the reasons I love diddley music, it requires next to no skill."

What a extraordinary statement. I would not normally ever ask regarding real world identity, but since your name is in circulation, might I ask if you are the Michael Gill referenced here ? -

http://www.folkmusic.net/htmfiles/webrevs/cdtrax5002.htm

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Well, I read the link. So what’s your point?

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I am not making any point. I would like to listen.

I shall never comment afterward. To do so would be most inappropriate.

I shall also quite understand if Michael would prefer not to state whether he is or he is not the musician referenced.

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"I aquired the skill (it feels daft calling it that, it’s not much of a skill) to play diddley music pretty quickly. I only ever wanted to play diddley music so the low skill level required was capped a long time ago. My skill level has not increased since. And I’m not interested in increasing it. Maybe I could if I wanted too, maybe I couldn’t, I’m not interested in skill. It’s one of the reasons I love diddley music, it requires next to no skill."

Yes an extraordinary statement, but also very revealing about Mr Michael Gill. He has often pronounced his expertise on all types of music at all levels. I never took it too seriously, but I guess it’s all laughable now compared with the above statement.

Michael Gill also says that technique and hard work are not important in music. Again this makes sense in light of the above.

What about taking the music seriously? He says he doesn’t, but he makes some serious comments (more than 8,000 in fact), most of them complaining about others’ approach to music, technique etc., or discouraging/bullying beginners.

If Mr Michael Gill is the musician from Edinburgh referred to in the link then I would be interested to hear this this album, particularly in light of his previous ‘expert’ (ha ha) comments on the recording process. If he’s not the musician mentioned, then I’m sure he’s happy to slag off the whole project.

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"He has often pronounced his expertise on all types of music at all levels."

Where? Where have I ever pronounced my expertise?

I only play diddley music. I listen and like a wide eclectic range of other stuff, most of which is beyond the technical skill required for diddley music. So I can’t play it.

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‘Where? Where have I ever pronounced my expertise?’

Truly extraordinary. You really are interesting.

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Well, you could always buy the album. Now let’s have some links about Michael’s claim to expertise. I always trawl for his posts before anyone else’s and I don’t recall any bragging about his expertise on all types of music at all levels, or any type of music at any level come to think of it. . P*ss or get off the pot.

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He’s a riddle wrapped inside an enigma
or the other way around depending on the time of day.

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Nah, its semantics (as Ionannas said). For example this post from today:
Yes, good fun, but heck, you have to really concentrate. It’s good for your playing though.
# Posted on July 22nd 2009 by llig leahcim
We have to weigh up the meanings of "effortless" and "concentration".
And I think we have to weight it up when watching the way that 9 year-olds face changes when she starts on the reel, and then again as she finishes.

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David, I think the reason you have to really concentrate when playing for dancers is because it’s more than just music. It serves another function. I find playing music easy. Playing for dancers is a different kettle of fish.

And you pointing out the 9 year-olds face change when she starts on the reel is very apt. She’s not nearlly having so much fun, and you can hear that she isn’t,

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SWFL made a few points Id like to revisit, that might explain my position a bit better?
>>What if most folks simply want to play some music with their friends and have a good time? There’s no advantage to thinking it’s hard there, when it’s not.>>

Fair enough, but what happens when your friends play this music at a really high level? if you cant join in because you havent put the effort in, learnt the tunes, etc

>>If you want to set the world on fire and challenge Frankie Gavin to a mano a mano duel to the fiddling death, then OK, yes, I’d say playing this music is incredibly difficult and challenging.>>

Once again good point, and no I dont want to go head to head duelling With Frankie, but Perhaps you dont really understand the typical level of the players in Ireland? suffice to say its high.

>>but if you’d just like to come out to the pub, play some tunes, have a few laughs and a pint or two with some friendly folks, well, there’s no sense in beating yourself up about how difficult it all is, when it’s really not that difficult to just be one of the musical gang.>>

That depends on who else is in the musical gang, for example my regular session a few years back was at the Crosses of Annagh. Do you really think I would regularly be welcomed so graciously by Jackie and co if I hadn’t put all that effort in over the last few decades? Not at all! I can assure you that the shoulder would have been cold the second time I turned up. in fact, I wouldnt have lasted the first session , I would have been politely[at first] asked/ told to shut up. Especially as a guitarist. No when I first went to that session Jackie sat up took notice and complimented me on my playing [ mandolin] mind you he also told me later where I was going wrong! :-) For which I shall forever be grateful. Im sure I will get a slagging for name dropping, so be it. slagg away .

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Joel, were you not mixing me up with someone earlier?

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I was going to asked if doing it regularly reduced the need to concentrate - then I spotted this on the playing for dancers thread "…You also need to be able to play effortlessly as you have to be up there doing it all night …"
# Posted on July 22nd 2009 by geoffwright

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Llig is an enigma for certain. Didn’t he mention in one thread some years back that session music was boring to listen to…that you had to play it to be interesting? And then spend years extolling listening, listening listening?

He certainly has his admirers, those that find his sharpness and directness refreshing. But even as I find myself agreeing with him I often wince at his cavalier attitude.

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I also fail to understand why there can’t be more than one experience in learning and mastering the music. That sounds both implausible and boring.

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Tee he … I’m sure I wouldn’t have said you had to play diddley music to be interesting.

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Some think its an enigma,a riddle , personally I think its cos he often doesnt really have a clue what hes on about! :-) but we all have different takes on it. and we are all entitled to our opinions.
re the kron tavern cd, well I have a copy free to a good home, IMO there is nothing even resembling traditional Irish music on it so it is worthless to me. not being nasty, just honest. Of course it was recorded 15 +yrs ago so its hardly a reflection of the players now. Mostly songs and Scottish stuff.

Im glad that stuff from leoj has worn off …

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My grammatical errors aside, you certainly have a high opinion of yourself. You disingenuously state that you’ve never called yourself an expert, all the while making bold proclamations. And while you provide a certain amount of blood sport for those that enjoy that sort of thing, you are also often unnecessarily nasty. If you’re not an expert, why hold your own opinions in such high esteem?

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"Just honest?" I see you’re still here under multiple identities. We don’t need lessons on honesty then, do we?

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Ionannas, in lieu of repeating the whole thing above:

Talent level: OK, let’s be real for a minute. How many folks are at Jackie Daly’s level? How many people play in sessions, all over the world, let alone Ireland? Speaking of Ireland, is every session inhabited with folks at the same skill level as Jackie Daly?

Now being stuck in the rural American suburbs between two cities, the skill level of most folks I play with is not at any astronomical level. I have wonderful friends who are great players. We have a great time and play our tunes well, with pride, and with plenty of ribald and witty humor. Well, it’s wittier earlier in the evening before too many pints have been consumed, then it just gets plain bawdy. None of us are ever going to have our names dropped! Heck, even in the cities nearby there’s simply MORE of your average musician, more gifted ones too, but both counts are simply increased proportionally due to overall population. The amount of folks that are ‘gifted’, musically or otherwise, is really very small. To fly at the levels of a Jackie Daly is simply beyond the grasp of most folks, no matter what.

So, if I want to carry on what I’ve learned from the older folks in my locale, pass it on to others, and share my love and what meager talent I have, I simply must take all comers. I don’t expect these folks to agonize, stress and freak out over playing music with me every week.. We’re out to have a good time and pass it on, share the music. If people love it and want to work at it, great, and we certainly hope they do. If not, they’re faking it well, they fool me every week! It doesn’t help me to encourage/teach these folks by telling them how difficult and hard is it to play at the level of an obsessed maniac like myself who’s been playing the violin since he was 7. A light hearted, funny, non-serious obsessed maniac, mind you. It goes such a long way towards their confidence and ability to make it all light hearted and non-serious, ‘…it’s just some diddlee’ etc.

…and, what Will has said above, the Gifted do themselves no favors by beating themselves up either!

…and yes, you’re right. If any of the folks I play with came in, played sloppy without any care, etc. well, obviously we wouldn’t stand for that. It’s not just the Aces. They wouldn’t have welcomed you and neither would we. Everybody who runs sessions and loves the music wants those they play with to love it and care for it like they do.

However, there’s Jackie Daly and then there is the rest of us!

Making it fun and helping regular working folks realize it’s easy does nothing but bring us all joy and increase the appreciate of this great music we love.

Now, all us obsessed freaks can go back to agonizing. Bob the bricklayer and his Sunday tin whistle has other things to do during the week! He’s a busy man you know. However, he does take pride in both his brick laying and his whistle playing! ;-)

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Fair enough SWFL, and I support and encourage you in your music, We have different approaches, we come from different places, we are after different things, viva la Difference.

No not every session swings at Jackies level,of course, I was just making a point that if you do aspire to play at that level or a in the region , then IMO you will have to work at it for years. i have yet to see or hear anything to change my opinion. Others are free to disagree and we then have discussions like this that allow us to express ourselves and put forward our views.

easy? jigs?well i will quote Robin Beck, piper, on this one;

”Anything is easy, if you cannot be bothered doing it properly! ”

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Oh mi amigo, it appears we’re flogging the dead horse again. I (and I think Will) am talking about helping the vast majority of folks who aren’t musically Gifted. There’s simply no sense in them beating themselves up, or having anyone else do it. So many of them do it to themselves already, that the opposite is more helpful, which is (dare I say) what Will and Llig are getting at. That’s all.

Would I rather be a mid-sized fish in a big lake rather than the biggest fish in a small pond? Sure. But, it’s home, the kids are here, I’m not going anywhere, so there it is. Onwards I go.

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…and if I can teach and help regular folks enjoy the music, even if they’ll never soar above the musical clouds, well, then that’s what I can do, and I’ll do it. Positive attitude goes a long way for them. Being negative about how hard it is does them no good.

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Ion says "I have yet to see or hear anything to change my opinion."

That’s the crux of his entire participation on this site. Nothing will ever change his opinion because he never takes anything on board, he just argues against it.

When Michael first started posting here (years ago) about diddley music being easy and simple, I disagreed with him and said so. We had several threads that hashed through that. Over time, I came to understand what he was getting at, and how it gibed with my sense that learning and playing music works best when it’s effortless. We found common ground, by both of us modifying our views a bit.

I’m not seeing any such progress in Ion’s views—he just keeps bleating the same tired stuff, demanding "proof," and ranting at gill just because he doesn’t like him.

And I really don’t understand why Ion gets away with replicating his membership here.He was tradpiper, then jig, now Ion. Same dude, same rhetoric, back after Jeremy banned him. Yeccchhh.

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It’s also just plain daft (lordy I sound life Michael) to give any credence to someone who crows about how good they are and the big names they play with when the same person not only has no info in their bio, but actually erased what little info was initially there. Ion routinely challenges others to prove their playing level, yet he offers not a shred of evidence himself about himself.

At least Michael uses his real name. You can find clips of his playing online if you want to. And yet people get off calling him an enigma. Wake up. If you’re heeding jig/Ion’s advice, you’re taking it from someone who is intentionally hiding their identity, and whose very presence here is based on deceit.

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On the contrary will, you are mistaken , I am quite prepared to be convinced, but Ive heard you play, and Ive heard llig play, so in the absence of any convincing argument why on earth would I believe you when your argument contradicts both my experience and plain common sense. Yes of course after 30 yrs of playing its going to be pretty easy? so what? to suggest that its just as easy for a player with 1 yrs experience? you think I am going to somehow be convinced by that? come on!
Besides your story is full of inconsistencies, one post its always been easy, the next not? one post it was Kevin Burke the next it was llig saying its easy ? which is the truth?
You were convinced by lligs argument, Perhaps im more sceptical…. since i came here I have found time and time again that llig IMO is actually far less well informed than he makes out. I pride myself on sniffing out bull, llig stinks to be blunt.
You both contradict one of the finest fiddlers of our generation and my own experience, why on earth do you think I should take on board your concepts and ideas with no evidence or support in any real way?

Whether i like llig is of the utmost irrelevance, his proclamations re trad and IMO the misleading things he says however are very relevant to our continued disagreements.

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Hear, hear. When I looked earlier today, "jig" was still registered. The guy is a complete phoney. See him off, Jeremy. You know it makes sense.

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Which was a response to Will, of course.

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There goes jig/Ion again, not taking anything on board, not even trying to understand what’s been posted by others, and certainly not responding substantively to any of it, yet clamoring for evidence.

This isn’t discussion, it’s trolling by an idiot who thinks he’s clever. If his behavior here doesn’t break the "be civil" edict, then his deception of coming back as Ion after being banned as jig certainly goes against Jeremy’s rule against having more than one membership at a time.

Jeremy, either enforce your code of conduct or let someone else moderate the board.

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"You both contradict one of the finest fiddlers of our generation and my own experience…"

It sure does sound like jig/tradpiper/etc. Remember when he made an attack on Llig a while back along similar lines, baiting him into contradicting the words of some well-known player?

It’s the same M.O., the bad guys on Session.org are all against him but all of the most famous players are on his side, if only he can dig up enough quotes and names to drop.

I haven’t been keeping up with the board in a while, I see nothing much has changed.

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I’ve been staying well clear of this debate, since I’m not a fiddler, but it’s been a fascinating debate, albeit often retreading ground well-ploughed elsewhere.

For the record I recently received a PM from Ionannas (Will Evans) admitting that he was jig. I haven’t done anything about this till now, but clearly the jig’s up and, if it isn’t, it damned well should be.

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He dodges any questions that would show how empty his own points are, and yammers for evidence and proof from anyone who disagrees with him. And that’s the "content" of his participation here. It’s trolling, pure and simple. The fact that he’s also ducked under Jeremy’s radar to keep coming back here after getting banned shows that he thinks playing by the rules doesn’t apply to him.

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Oh…I see what he did there. OK, I got it, thanks gents.

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I hope some people are recalibrating their estimation of jig/Ion and also of Michael.

Yes, Michael sometimes is harsher than he needs to be, and is sometimes outright rude. But at least he’s honest, and he *reasons.*

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Let’s say Michael has an engaging and at times provocative "conversational" style here. He certainly knows how to stir up the conversation!

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Leoj, it goes beyond that. Michael raises thought provoking ideas, not just for provocation’s sake. I value that.

In this thread I tried (yet again) to give jig/Ion the benefit of the doubt and have a reasonable discussion, but it’s impossible. He’s no where near as clever as he thinks he is, and he’s not interested in an exchange of ideas and knowledge, just "winning an argument." Meh.

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Yea, but his style is provocative. He’s not always necessarily trying to stir things up but often that is the effect. Definitely livens thing up!

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I like micheals interventions too not that I always agree with him.
Thanks for the info jig=tradpiper=ionannes=w######

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"Yea, but his style is provocative."

Often, it is. When it crosses the line into baiting or just bashing, I think it does Michael and the board a disservice.

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Ok I admit it, I never drank the Kool-aid leoj gave me last night, and I dont really live in a hole in the ground eating stray cats and worms. ;-)

As to the rest of the rubbish you lot are posting, pull yourselves together., you seem to think that if someone does not agree with you then they have no right to express or even hold their opinion.

Now I got some work to do. This eastern gypsy stuff is strange, they have parts with 6 bars!

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Stop counting, tunes are phrases, not numbers

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"you seem to think that if someone does not agree with you then they have no right to express or even hold their opinion."


jig/Ion, projecting your own behavior on others doesn’t fool anyone.

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We must’ve hit a nerve. jig is using that odd combination of periods and commas again….

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welcome back llig, at least we can talk about the music huh? numbers, good lord no I dont count these 7/8 rhythms, and Im not talking bout playing the tunes, thats much easier. As you say, there are phrases that kind of give you the rhythm. Im talking about keeping the rhythm going, say a 7/8 rhythm but with no melody to help you.

The man I am playing with is an old eastern European, long gray hair, learnt from the gypsies as a kid. Unfortunately for me the tune is often non -existent as he flies around the violin with not a care in the world! aaargh, where’s the tune gone ?!where has the rhythm gone ?!. But its my job as a guitarist to keep the backing solid as a rock.
I also play the Viola with his Violin, I enjoy that best.. Its all new to me all these tunes. but its an adventure, a challenge and a change .

However when i started drumming to theses odd time signatures many years ago I certainly did count, I think it took about a year before the counting just faded away. After that i started composing in these wierd time sig, just as a natural expression, I came across the first just as I fell to sleep and got back up to write it down. still one of my best tunes IMO
I was so immersed in the music hours and hours a day every day , as i still am, that I started dreaming tunes!

I mean , I somehow doubt your a drummer, so I dont see how you could criticise this method of counting your would be some one who cant do something telling me, who can, that Im doing it wrong.?

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sorry, correction ;

I mean , I somehow doubt your a drummer, so I dont see how you could criticise this method of counting, then you would be some one who cant do something telling me, who can, that Im doing it wrong.?

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re Standing, Authority and Credentials :

J. Willard Gibbs was an eminent US physicist of the 19th century. A pleasant man, he was, his eminence notwithstanding, known to be very modest.

On one occasion, he was called upon to give testimony in a court case. "Who is the foremost and pre-eminent US physicist" asked Counsel. "I am" responded Gibbs.

A colleague expressed astonishment to Gibbs afterward, and remarked that the response was most out of character.

Gibbs looked sheepish, as he muttered - "I was under oath".

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This thread could be cleared up considerably with the answer to just one question………

Ionannas, are you really jig?

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Of course he is, he never admits it when his cover is blown, but he never denies it either.

I’m 100% sure it’s jig, his last post proves it, only he can be so clueless and pompous at the same time.

And of course jig was always going on about all of the instruments he played and all the styles of music he knew…hmmm, no wonder he thinks it’s hard. With time spent on so many instruments and so many musical styles, he must be sh*t on the Irish fiddle, so it’s funny how he always turns up in fiddle threads.

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Ionannas said a few posts above, "This eastern gypsy stuff is strange, they have parts with 6 bars!"

Bar structures other than 8+8 are sometimes to be found in Irish music. Tune #100 in the Petrie Collection, for instance, is a gan ainm jig with a bar structure 8+6. It’s also a bit out of the ordinary in other respects and worth looking at, imo. I’ve placed the ABC in my bio history for reference.

I’m off on holiday in a few hours time, so I won’t be around for a couple of weeks.

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Have a good one Lazy, cheers i will check that out, as it happens Im off to Eastern Europe next week I think it is so I too will be away from the old mustard board with all its friendly face. ;-)

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And if anyone would like to submit Petrie #100 in the Tunes section, please do so - it’s in the public domain.

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A strange tune,[ to me!] I started to make some sense of it by playing each phrase with a different lilt, stressing different notes, was it a song I wonder?

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‘I was under oath’ he said! [guffaw]