classical crossover

classical crossover

Hi I’m classically trained on the violin and I love Celtic music / am trying to learn Irish fiddle..just want to gather thoughts on a couple of questions…

1. My first impulse to learn the irish fiddle was to take lessons. Was surprised to not be assigned a tune each week and be asked to perform it perfectly at the next lesson, like with classical music…instead the lessons are very casual and I join in and play with my teacher whenever i get the urge.. he doesn’t even keep track of my ‘repertoire’…do you think taking lessons is a really weird formal way to learn the irish fiddle?!

2. Is it utterly hopeless? Has any decent fiddler ever come from classical roots?

3. Will I ever be able to play Bach and Mozart again once I change my bowing habits? Can I move back and forth between the two kinds of music?

These are the things I wonder about!

Re: classical crossover

Taking lessons from a fiddler is the best way to do it. Lots of good fiddlers have had classical training. You won’t lose your classical chops by learning fiddle, but you may find new and interesting ways of playing Bach.

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The first thing to do is find out what’s considered good Irish Trad fiddling, because there’s a lot of stuff out there called “Celtic” that
is irrelevant. There’s a nice discography in Matt Cranitch’s Irish Fiddle
book; that book is a trustworthy starting point.

I don’t think you need lessons if you have a good ear, you listen
to a lot different Irish Traditional fiddlers (ie, not contradance or
Old Time or people doing Utube videos in their bedroom from Nebraska)
and especially if you attend sessions all the time and pay attention to
the alpha fiddlers. And also of course you have to play this stuff by ear.

If you’re a serious aspiring violinist, maybe hoping to be a professional,
you might want to do your Trad playing on a different instrument like
flute or accordion.

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If you decide to stick with fiddle, here’s a web site with some good video clips to learn technique from:

http://resinandbow.com/ (note: does not display properly in Internet Explorer–Firefox works fine, though)

There’s also http://comhaltas.ie/music/video/

Re: classical crossover

The important thing, it seems to me, if you love Irish fiddle music, is to learn to play it as it is. Crossover fails when a player tries to mimic another style without really understanding it. If you take the time, and find the humility, to really hear what it is that you’re loving in Irish music, then you should be able to use what you’ve learned in the classical world in bringing that out.

One thing that I would advise you to change is to give up the sheet music for the trad part of your musical exploration. I usually don’t go quite to the absolutist side on this, but in your case, I think I can say that you’re a good enough reader that it’s likely to cause you a lot of problems and your ear is probably sufficiently developed that you should be able to get tunes by ear without too much difficulty.

The other thing, absolutely critical, is - get yourself to a session, sit down, and listen for the next year or two. After a little while, you should start recognizing the tunes that you like of the ones that are played in your neck of the woods, and you should start hearing how they’re played where you are (as opposed to on a Bothy Band record or someone’s instructional CD), and both of those will help you immensely.

Re: classical crossover

Hi Greentree,

I’m not a fiddler but came to this music from having spent a lot of my youth playing baroque etc. If you’re at all worried about your question 3, “can I go back”, then although I don’t know about the bowing issue, I’d say not only *can* you go back, but you will find playing Irish music (particularly in sessions, rather than on your own) really helps your understanding of the baroque.

Re: classical crossover

Hi Greentree

I don’t understand the contradiction in your biog. You say that it’s easy for you, but not easy?

I don’t think you can seperate what is the music and what is the technique. They are one in the same. Is learning the right rhythm to play a reel a technical thing or a musical thing? Is learning to play rolls musical or technical?

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Re: classical crossover

1. In trad, what is written as quavers are not played as straight quavers but rather swung with the first quaver within a crotchet receiving more weight than the second. It’s best to learn this by ear. Martin Hayes is good to listen to here. If anyone here can find footage of the TG4 show featuring Caoimhin O Raghaille teaching Jeremy Irons, you’ll find Martin Hayes explaining the concept of swing.

2. Ornamentation - there are many types and best learned by ear - I as yet haven’t seen transcriptions which really show what’s going on.

3. Meter often fluctuates in trad - feel phrases rather than bars or individual notes.

4. Listen to a wide variety of tones and timbres produced by trad fiddlers and pick one or more to work on achieving - this nearly always gives away a classical musician.

5. Other points that I could put here would be more debatable such as the question if you should play in 12TET, or if you should use vibrato etc… The main point is just to listen. Staff notation poorly represents music in general and has very little baring on trad.

Finally, if you don’t agree with any of the above points, who cares. If playing a reel like moto perpetua makes you happy, then it is folk music and you are a person. 🙂 Also, many people play trad more for the sake of community involvement in which case repertoire may be more important to you than style but whatever you do,

Have fun.

M.

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Re: classical crossover

There are lots of fiddlers who also play classical—but the best ones I’ve heard generally learn both from childhood. Kevin Burke had ten years of classical lessons when he was a child, for example…but he doesn’t play classical now, of course (definitely buy his DVDs and take any workshops with him that you can). Maire Breathnach (a lovely Irish fiddler) talks about the two styles here:

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


Someone else you can listen to is Liz Knowles:

http://www.lizknowles.com/

Re: classical crossover

And llig, leave the poor woman alone—certain aspects of technique are easy for her—she knows how to pull a straight bow, she probably has great intonation, all that good stuff. But other aspects she hasn’t learned yet, like probably rolls and bowed triplets. And then there’s the matter of style—how does it all fit together, what’s appropriate, etc. It takes a good bit of time and effort to learn a new way of doing something.

Greentree, llig has one general point that he harps on incessantly—the music is all of one piece, everything is all connected to each other, and you really can’t learn one part in isolation from everything else because you’ll lose sight of the music. Which is true enough. Llig also likes to insist that it’s all a piece of cake, and there have been long boring discussions on this website about how playing Irish music is easy-peasy, so you disagree with that at your peril. Just ignore that point here and you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation.

Re: classical crossover

alasdair frasaer is a brilliant fiddler who was trained classicaly and there are many more!

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Learning Trad is like learning an accent, just as you wouldn’t play Bach in the same way as Paganini you wouldn’t play trad in a classical manner as traditional music has its own style, sound and ornamentation etc.

Its also worth mentioning that there’s also a quite a lot of different styles in Irish fiddle music based around the various regions in Ireland.

You have The ‘Donegal style’ the ‘Kerry’ style, also Sligo and Clare (and many within each county also) have quite particular styles. To complicate matters you have individual players who have a style and sound of there own like Sean Maguire , Eileen Ivers, Martin Hayes and Tommy Potts. This is what keeps it interesting!

My advice is to listen to these fiddlers pick the ones you like most and try to work out what they are doing and incorporate it into your own playing as you you seek to develop your own style and sound.

In my perfect world I would like to be able to play Reels like Liz Carroll, Jigs like Martin Hayes, hornpipes like (the late) Sean Maguire and have the spontaneity and creativity of Tommy Potts and Eileen Ivers,… but then you wouldn’t!

In short … Listen, learn and enjoy!

Kev

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Re: classical crossover

I’m often amused by the Berkeley style philosophy of “Don’t listen to him, listen to me”

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I didn’t tell her not to listen to you. I told her not to argue with you.

Re: classical crossover

Quite a few of these tunes are absurdly easy. “Oh the Britches Full of Stitches”, an amazingly difficult piece of music, wouldn’t you say? 😛

Playing this music well, however? A horse of a different color! Playing ‘Britches’ like Jackie Daly or Seamus Creagh? Now there’s the rub.

greentree, no, you are doomed. There’s no hope. When I fiddle American traditional music it comes out ‘deedle deedle’ instead of ‘twangy whine’. When I play Vivaldi no one realized “The Four Seasons” could ‘deedlee dump’ like that. [shrug]

I’m kidding. There are lots of folks who play back and forth.

However, if you wish to become truly fluent in any particular musical language, immersion, just like learning a verbal language, is the best, tried and true method.

Re: classical crossover

Greentree…to pick up on Llig’s point. There are certain “ways” of playing [if you want to call it technique, fine, or not] that will help get to the sound you want/are hearing in others. Put it this way, if you played a reel [in the Irish style] all single eight notes it will sound choppy. If you played it two notes per bow it will sound what people call “square”. If you begin to experiment with playing [slurring], however, across the back beats [2 and 4] in a reel [for example] it will begin to sound closer to what I suspect your hearing in sessions or on cds. Ditto for playing *across* bar lines in 4/4 and across measures. In a jig for instance, slur 3 into 4 and 6 into 1.

In polkas 2 notes per bow IS a good idea [but there’s more to it in the bowing motion itself to get that nyah to pop out…a slight pushing down and then lifting]. And of course you wouldn’t play the whole tune the same….the beauty of irish music is the endless possibilities of change on the fly. This quality too is “the music” to my mind, that is the.endless variation or the possibility thereof. [Not different “versions” of the tune….but the possibility of surprising changes within the tune itself without ever losing sight of it.] All this done on the fly of course…which is an interesting challenge..

Are these technqiues or “tricks” or simply the way it’s played? I think the answer is they are some things that help you get the nyah and they can’t be separated out from the music…they ARE the music…along with rolls [of various kinds…short, long, open etc], various kinds of cuts, bending notes and whatever. The simplest tune can be the most amazing thing….I suppose that’s the genius of this music. It’s accessibility [the easy peasy factor] but also the fact that it can be as tastefully deep as you can care to make it. It’s brilliance is that it offers endless possibilities.

Re: classical crossover

Kennedy, you said to, “just ignore”.

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Re: classical crossover

I said “…there have been long boring discussions on this website about how playing Irish music is easy-peasy, so you disagree with that at your peril. Just ignore that point here and you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation.”

“Ignore” in the sense of “don’t get sucked into a hot-button issue on which there has already been much unresolved debate on this site”.

I’m sorry for being contentious, llig. I probably could have been more polite about it, but I saw the way you jumped on the “what’s hard about it” question right away, and you know that’s been a landmine kind of a topic before, and I didn’t want this woman’s thread to turn into that.

Re: classical crossover

I would dive into the Irish music as much as possible.
You’re good enough in the other genre that you can play it in the future. It is difficult, in the beginning, to play both on a regular basis.
Give traditional some time ~ so you can get it inside you. Until it is familiar.

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Re: classical crossover

And then there comes the drudgery. First you “immerse” yourself in the music, then you grow to love it dearly.,
And then for the rest of your life you have to live in shaking fear that whatever it is you are playing, however you are playing it, will mortally offend the smelly old man opposite or the silly sausage sitting to one side
It’s called a conundrum.

Re: classical crossover

Or is it irony?

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it’s a fool’s paranoia

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Yer as blind as a welder’s dog.

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So … instead of having to, “live in shaking fear that whatever it is you are playing, however you are playing it, will mortally offend”, you bury yourself in: “hundreds of others playing all sorts of music with varying degrees of competency”.

I for one am grateful to the Mcknowalls of this world for providing and supporting the, “DADGADers, scores of bodhrans, didgeridoos, mouthbows noseflutes etc”. They keep them away from those of us who feel privileged to play tunes.

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Re: classical crossover

thanks everyone for all the thoughts!

the thought that kevin burke had classical training as a kid, made my day! i checked his bio on his website and sure enough, he did! i also started violin around age eight or so, and my teacher was very strict and scary.

i made the mistake of buying the mel bay book of fiddle tunes and playing them and wondering why they didn’t sound right! i have learned that in irish music, the notes are just the very beginning…noone is true to the written notes and a lot of creative/artistic license is taken.

you will all be happy to hear that now the book is gathering dust and this week i’m learning the pipe on the hob and crooked road to dublin. learning by ear is really fun but what stinks is having to put down my bow and rewind the tape recorder over and over again!

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You shouldn’t be grateful to me Miggilly, with an attitude like yours the only life you would attract to a session is blowflies.

Re: classical crossover

“DADGADers, scores of bodhrans, didgeridoos, mouthbows noseflutes etc”

I’d rather attract blowflies.

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I had thought that it was good manners to let greentree have the last post, other wise I would have suggested using Windows Media player, or similar, on repeat and maybe tapping a mouse button whilst holding the bow - it works with the end of a flute.

Re: classical crossover

You expect good manners from someone who tells people who buy his bodhrans that, even if they have never touched a drum in their lives, they are ready to sit and play in a session?

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