learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

hi, im learning violin and fiddle at the same time. concentrating on long smooth notes and smooth changes at the moment. but i am self teaching and not being academic i am learning by playing along with mix cd’s of whatever style the next song is. my question would be is this going to be constructive in the long run? as this is my first fretless instrument i am finding difficulty playing alone, but with music it seems to be easier to find the notes.

any help would be phenominal and any advice at all would be great cheers

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After you’ve learned the tune from the recording it’s fine to play along but it becomes a crutch after a while. It does certainly make it easier to find the notes though! Make sure you spend time just listening to yourself playing alone because that’s how you really sound.

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Playing along with recordings will help keep you in tune when you’re getting used to the finger placement. So it’s good ear training. But it can be limiting in other ways, and give you bad habits too.

My advice: Do everything you can think of–or at least as much of it as possible, we all have to sleep sometime–to learn how to play better, and to really know what you’re playing. A good teacher, some reading skills, a little music theory/history, etc. etc.

Don’t just noodle along with whatever comes out of the speakers–pick a tune and really learn it. Then pick another tune. Etc.

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My advice is to stick to fiddling.

For one thing, the styles are very different, you really need to learn to play in one style before switching to the other. For instance, your practicing of long notes and smooth changes is for classical playing and will cause problems for you in fiddling, where you normally want to use short bow strokes with abrupt changes. This isn’t really a big issue at the beginning stages of learning, though.

Fiddling is the way to go for you because it is more suited to learning by ear on your own. If you’re serious about classical music you really need some formal training; there are standard techniques that you have to be taught if you ever want to play in an orchestra, as well as a surprising amount of rules and etiquette, it’s almost militaristic. Fiddling is much more individualistic and requires no formal training.

I advise taking some fiddle or violin lessons if you can though, it will help you out a great deal in the beginning. Just having a fiddler friend give you some pointers can be a big help. An experienced violin/fiddle player can help you avoid developing bad habits and possibly save you a lot of frustration and pain.

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The Amazing Slowdowner: http://www.ronimusic.com/

Worth every penny. I used to have to drag the turntable to slow it down and then retune to be able to play along note for note. Now I just click and drag.

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David is right,
but why not also invest in seamus creaghs cd, in which he plays tunes slowly and then faster

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I disagree with marklar, getting a good tone and developing god wrist movement is really important and will help you with air playing ,as well as reels and jigs, AIRS are part of ITM.
Yes it is constructive, particularly for airs.
getting control for using short bows is also very important.
playing along is really important in all styles of music

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I think you misunderstood what I was saying music reader, I wasn’t talking about tone or wrist movement. Trying to learn two very different styles on the same instrument as a beginner is a good way to learn neither style. It can be done, sure, but it makes a hard task very much harder.

Also, I don’t agree with the association between classical style and a good tone or bow control. Classical playing isn’t a refined form of fiddling, they’re just different styles. The bowing, in particular, is very different, airs or no.

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If you are having difficulty getting the notes in tune it might be easier to have a drone going. I have an electronic keyboard with a sustain pedal that works in reverse, ie a note stays on until I hit the pedal; but I’m sure you should be able to find something to play a steady D, for example. Keep your playing slow, and listen carefully to the harmonics where you hear them. After a while your fingers start to go closer and closer to the right spot.

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Re: learning classical violin and different styles

I agree that learning to fiddle two styles at once – as in American Old Time and Sligo fiddling style –can be confusing to the point that neither is well developed. There are very few people who can fiddle bluegrass and ITM.
But I don’t agree that classical playing is just a different style of playing. It is enormously more complex that Irish or blue grass or old time fiddling. A classical background is a big help in learning to fiddle. At a certain point you’d want to leave classical technique behind, but those people who have a classical background generally have a leg up on those who don’t. Q.v. Stephan Grappelli, Tommy Peoples, Mark O’Connor, Zoe Conway, Wanda Law, Winifred Horan, and thousands more. Classical technique is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning to play the fiddle, but it sure is a good place to start.

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I agree with that, taking classical lessons is helpful to start out on fiddle. But that’s mainly because the basics are pretty much the same until you get to the intermediate level.

I’m not sure that classical training really gives you a leg up, unless that’s opposed to no training at all. Learning from a fiddler from the beginning seems best but violin teachers are a lot easier to find.

I say this as someone who came to fiddling from classical playing, I had to un-learn a lot and it wasn’t easy.

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Oh, and I agree to an extent that classical playing isn’t just a different style, in reality classical playing involves playing in a number of different styles, which is part of the complexity.

However, the way that bowing is taught in classical playing is different from the way that you typically want to do bowing in fiddling, the phrasing is smoother and rhythmically much looser than in fiddling. Also classical training teaches things like avoiding open strings which doesn’t translate well to fiddling. That’s really what I mean about it being a different style.

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“A classical background is a big help in learning to fiddle”
–discuss.

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Time for the popcorn I guess.

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Tommy Peoples had a ‘classical background’?

Where on earth did you dig up that piece of bogus information, Levine?

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Re: learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

From Tommy.

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Casual conversation, in Vaughan’s, on a Monday night sometime during the late ‘80s. We didn’t dwell on the topic.
Things that are handy to learn from a classical point of view: using the whole bow, not grasping the fiddle tightly with the left hand, paying strict attention to the sound: tone and intonation. Fiddlers, especially when learning, often neglect such basics, which are taught to every classical student. Part of the problem is playing too fast for the skill level and being in a hurry to get gigs and play in hot sessions.

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Mark O’Connor has a classical background?

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“Fiddlers, especially when learning, often neglect such basics, which are taught to every classical student.”

Why do you assume this, or that classical training is better than being taught by a fiddler?

I don’t find that beginning fiddlers are any worse at tone and intonation than beginning violin players. Both tend to be equally terrible at those things.

As for not holding the fiddle tightly with the left hand, that’s mainly an issue in classical playing because of shifting, and not so relevant to fiddling. Likewise, using the whole bow is not so important in fiddling, where it’s often best to use as little bow as possible. The lyrical bowing used in classical playing is not the gold standard for fiddling, where the bowing is usually shorter and more rhythmic.

There are important things about fiddling that you won’t get from classical training, like the specialized ornaments and learning music by ear and the sorts of shuffling, droning bowings that are rare in classical playing.

Classical violin pedagogy is not designed for anything other than classical playing. I don’t agree with the notion that learning classical violin playing makes for a superior fiddler. Fiddling is not an offshoot of classical playing, historically it’s the other way around.

I really don’t buy into the stereotype of fiddlers as being uneducated bumpkins who don’t know how to play their instruments properly. My experience with hearing classical players and fiddlers at different levels does not bear that out.

It doesn’t really make much difference if a fiddler starts off with classical playing or fiddling, as long as classical training doesn’t go too far. What really determines the good players is talent and work, and how good the teachers are, no matter what style they play.

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I’ve gone the other way - from fiddle to classical violin. Started fiddle 10 years ago. Been having classical violin lessons for the last 3 years from a teacher who is both classically trained to a professional level and professionally involved in folk music. Play violin in a chamber orchestra and a string quartet, and go to one or two sessions a week. I find no conflict between the different styles, enjoy both and move between them with no trouble.

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^ Yes but you didn’t start off trying to learn both styles at the same time.

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Marklar, have it your way. You put a lot of words in my mouth. Ptuey. That’s the sound of me spitting them out. Things I never said: fiddlers as being uneducated bumpkins… learning classical violin playing makes for a superior fiddler …Fiddling is an offshoot of classical playing. This is a debate frequently engaged in and will take us nowhere.
There are too many tunes to play, to engage in endless/fruitless net chat. I cannot believe how much time some people spend here and in other forums. Often the level of hostility gets grating and tiresome. Particularly on this site- does it seem that wsay to other people or is that just my perception?

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Yes, David, it does!!! I owe such musical ability as i have - and my livelihood - to my classical education. God forgive me, I have even been known to learn tunes from notation … I have great fun and enjoyment playing Scottish and Irish music on a variety of instruments at home together with my partner who is a great piper, and very handy on the whistle and flute.
I have never been to a session … the comments, opinions and descriptions I’ve read here have put me off the idea for good.
I only dip a toe into these discussions occasionally. It’s potentially a great resource in terms of sharing information, but before I’ve been reading for five minutes or so, the prejudices and sometimes vitriol of some people drive me away till hope triumphs over experience, and I come back for another dose

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I strongly suggest some help with some of the basics (such as holding the fiddle and bow) from someone who is good at demonstrating that stuff (such as a teacher). Bad habits are hard to break and can lead to long term problems.

I know a few teachers who do both classical and Irish trad instruction at the same time as part of their methods. It seems to work just fine.

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David, Regarding Tommy Peoples and his classical background, is it possible you could have misheard him?

I think he is far more likely to have said he had lessons from Joe Cassidy.

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As backgrounds go, his was classic!

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While I would not agree with a classical violinist who looked down on a Fiddler, I have to agree that the holds taught as part of classical training give a fiddler the best chance of good tone and bow control in general. I know lots of non classical self taught fiddlers who can play the socks off me, despite my classical grip on the bow, but I am sure my own playing is helped by the fact that I can move the bow without using the whole arm.
I sometimes get annoyed the way everything has to be put in a box, Rock,garage,classical,folk,black, white, Just get on and pick up what suits you from the best that is out there and forget the labels; or are we still just a load of teenagers looking for our own identity?

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“Things I never said: fiddlers as being uneducated bumpkins”

No, you didn’t, and I didn’t mean to imply that you said that exactly, I was speaking more in a general sense and falling in a rant about this old classical pedagogy argument that comes here just about every time learning the fiddle is brought up. But I did imply that you said that with the way I worded that, and I shouldn’t have.

But here’s what I was reacting to:

“Fiddlers, especially when learning, often neglect such basics, which are taught to every classical student.”

You are implying something about fiddlers not bothering to learn to play their instruments properly, aren’t you, or did I misread that?

“Things I never said: … learning classical violin playing makes for a superior fiddler .”

Oh come now, you did say that:

“A classical background is a big help in learning to fiddle…. those people who have a classical background generally have a leg up on those who don’t.”

In any case, you seem to have taken my post as a hostile attack on you personally. I guess I should have worded things differently but it wasn’t meant that way. It was a reaction to the things you were implying. Yes I read a bit more into what you said than you actually said, mainly because this whole debate about classical pedagogy comes up so often here with a lot of the same old arguments.

But I think you’ve overreacted a bit here. Did you really create a whole new thread about how hostile this board is because of that post? I guess the “uneducated bumpkin” stereotype thing could be taken as harsh and I’ll grant that you never said that exactly.

But you seem to have read a level of hostility in my post that wasn’t in me when I wrote it. Maybe that’s my fault for the way I worded it, but you really seem to have gone off the deep end on this one. Did my words really seem that hostile to you, or are you confusing disagreement with hostility? Or just getting angry about having words put in your mouth (I admit I did a bit of that)?

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guys there is nothing wrong with a debate even a heated one. but we all have to take on board all points of view if you want a decent conclusion. and thanks everyone for the tips its given me a lot to consider. i think i will continue with the cd’s while i am getting used to finding the notes but i totally appreciate that i should be playing without it to progress with quality of sound. and unfortunately there is no way i could afford a tutor to help me so this has given me a few different ideas to progress with. one day canon and the devil went down to georgia will be under my belt but i think years will pass first.

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“I have never been to a session … the comments, opinions and descriptions I’ve read here have put me off the idea for good. “
I find the above by cornemuse very sad. For the most part the people who attend most of the sessions I go to are ordinary friendly folk of varying abilities who enjoy playing some tunes together. If come across anything different I don’t go again. I don’t care how brilliant a musician they are or think they are. The whole thing should be a social event for all to participate and enjoy.

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There’s something in your profile christofloffer that bothers me:
“i can play guitar at a high level but i have had no practice playing with other people”

A “high level” of course, is merely subjective. But personal opinion or not, I simply can’t see how anyone can get even half good at playing music if they have “no” practice of playing with other people. Music is just not the kind of thing you can get good at sitting on your own in your bedroom with just your CDs.

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LLig, its simple, there are many musicians who play alone most if not all the time; Classical Guitarists, Pipers, etc etc These can be players of the highest calibre. Music is not automatically a joint/social activity, in fact I would say that its not possible to become a good musician without spending a lot of time alone playing.

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Is it possible to become a good musician if ALL you do is spend time alone playing?

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No

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Define good musician 🙂
yes SS of course it is. However if you wish to become a musician adept at playing with others, a skill on its own, you need to practice it.
Making music as a solo player does not require playing anything but playing solo. Though feedback from other musicians/teachers/ Audiences etc is probably Important.

Does a singer/guitarist need to play with a fiddler or anyone to become a good singer/guitarist? of course not . However llig thinks differently it appears so id ask ;

What is gained by playing with others that is so essential to a musician who plays solo?

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I agree with Spellbreaker.

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Playing with people is grand. This is so simple. It’s the reason for music.

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All we need now are the goats and the bridge.

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what?

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sorry, x post Ben.

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fair play, there’s been alot of traffic lately on Mustard Avenue.

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Ben, so where does the entire solo pipering tradition come into your little picture? no where ? Solo fiddle? Bobby Casey should have realised when he made his solo recordings that he was wasting his time because the reason for music is playing with other people? ! huh…
No Mate, your flat out wrong. One part of music is about playing with other people, sessions , gigs, bands. But thats not the whole picture, just a small part of the whole. Sessions are NOT the be all and end all of the music, not even close.

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“Is it possible to become a good musician if ALL you do is spend time alone playing?”
I do quite a bit of woodshedding. But, I only ever get better by playing with musicians better than myself. Perhaps this isn’t the case for everyone. For me it is important.

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People getting to a high level of musicianship without playing with other people? You do realize that is different from making a solo album? Perhaps you’d care to give some examples of people achieving a high level of proficiency simply by playing by themselves, Or, perhaps take a deep breath and understand that this is a ridiculous proposition, especially on a website called “thesession.org?”

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Better question: is it possible to become good at sex if ALL you do is spend time alone playing?

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No. But, it may be a trick question. 😉

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As far as piping goes, I think it’s fair to say you can become a good player without playing with other people once you are at a decent standard. In Scottish piping I’d be surprised if there are any great players who haven’t played extensively with others or at the very least their tutor before becoming good solo players. Can’t speak for Irish piping of course.

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Ridiculous proposition Taocat ? you think… , then answer my simple question;
What is gained by playing with others that is so essential to a musician who plays solo?

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In fairness to the OP it seems obvious the next step is to find others to play with.

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Feedback. Ideas. Friendship. Timing. I could go on, of course. And although I’ve known many pipers and a few classical guitarists and pipers, none of them have ever achieved a “high level” of musicianship without playing with other people.

I asked you for examples. Provide them please, or don your little troll cap, declare yourself the winner and merrily butcher the English language and common sense with your inanity.

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“Is it possible to become a good musician if ALL you do is spend time alone playing?”

Is anyone aware of any player that has achieved this?

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x post.

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… don’t all speak at once …

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and me …

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…..nyi……

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That might be the case Random, it might not. Depends on his objectives. Are you saying that its better to play with a few musicians of dubious ability than it is to play along with a recording of Bobby Casey solo? Why?
I ask again, what is it that is to be gained by playing with other people that cant be gained by playing with a recording that is relevant to a solo musician? How can any of you can argue your point without actually being able to answer the question ? To enunciate clearly what is so essential about playing with other people in developing their abilities. to play their instrument to a high level .

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I answered your question. Very clearly. Now provide an example of a musician that has achieved this high level without playing with others. Thanks.

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Why hasn’t anyone answered my question? C’mon, guys!

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perhaps i should explain what i mean shall i? i have not had the chance to play with other musicians with the circumstance i have had. so i play alone 90% of the time and i have had classicaly trained guitarists tell me that i am playing solo material at a more than respectable level. i lend myself to many styles and i record my own material and, if you will excuse the pun, i can play with myself because i know where everything is heading. i never once claimed to be a good musician i said i was a reasonable guitarist. and learning to put my abilities into a band situation is something i would seriously love to do. so if you know of somewhere i can do this please let me know. and playing alone is not ALL i do, i have just never had the chance to progress past basic chords and unison with everyone else. unless i want to play in a metal band my options a seriously limited where i am. to my mind a musician is someone with a level of ability that allows them to do all aspects of playing all i can do is play the guitar fluently and easily on my own. and being as i taught myself how to do this and my theory knowledge is not great reading a session and anticipating the changes is difficult to me. thats why im here i want to expand my knowledge to let me into these abilities. ask me to play classical gas at double time with people following my lead-no problem, as me to follow somebody else and i run into problems. if you know a way of doing these things when nobody you can get to wants another person then please god tell me how. thats why i learn different instruments, to try and get the chance to jam.

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Re SS question
a)Because we are shy
b) because of the dangers of going deaf
c) are you interested in a comparative study ?

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ok silverspearoh here you go, andy mckee, trace bundy, eric mongraine, ed allayne johnson just off the top of my head oh and john butler with ‘ocean’

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To answer SilverSpear, I would say a qualified “maybe” depending upon the research done before hand (sorry) and the locale.

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emily, I answered your question. Didn’t I? I think I did.
Spellbreaker, you’re drawing the conclusion that finding someone to play with involves finding only musicians with less ability than oneself. I’m not saying anything critical against listening to Bobby Casey. It’s ironic to consider listening to early recording but to not consider that the earlier recordings were made by musicians who learnt by playing with at the very least one other person ~ an instructor.
christofloffer is asking about learning fiddle. & while I do not play fiddle I have listened to a number of fiddle instructors teaching beginners. Sure they’ll recommend recordings but they always play with their students to a certain degree. Are there any fiddle instructors who NEVER play along with their students?

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Sorry, xpost.

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I meant my second, slightly edited, question. 🙂

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Well Christof, Id suggest that you take all options available to you if you wish to play music with others and become adept and responsive, there is no alternative. So go for the Metal band 🙂

You answered my question Taocat?! Suggesting that friendship has some bearing on developing skills on a musical instrument? feedback?! Ideas?!!! perhaps if your friendless, bereft of ideas, and dont play in public then I can understand why you might think so, otherwise your response is laughable.

As far as your question goes well I dont have information on the private life of the worlds musicians so Im sorry I cant answer that, and to be honest ,beyond replying this once, I have no wish to engage with anyone who behaves as you have done in your post above . thanks

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dont know you tell me

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I am surprised you cannot find a session christoffler ; In which town do you live ?

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Oh, goodness Spellbreaker. You’re not still mad about that little thing on the chiffboard? It should be easy for you to name a number of accomplished musicians that have never played with anybody.

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one problem spellbreaker i got bored of metal many moons ago i only play metal as stress relief now. acoustic is my interest and my goal i want to get into a place where people are people and there is not so much superego to try and put each other down. by some of the things said on here maybe i was wrong in that thought. i appreciate what your saying though maybe i should just get out there.

It’s a fair question.

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i live in shropshire at the moment BD i know a few folk bands but they seem to be really close knit and not willing to let people jump in

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“Is it possible to become a good musician if ALL you do is spend time alone playing?”

Is anyone aware of any player that has achieved this?
yes, Neilidh Boyle, he had contempt for his contemporary musicians referring to them as jungle music

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Neilidh Boyle claimed he was taught by the “little people.” I don’t think you’re supposed to take that story seriously. Didn’t his grandfather teach him? I don’t think hearsay and myths should count. Just sayin.’

christofloffer, playing with people is very different than playing alone, even with recordings. There is a give-and-take and subtle differences in timing. It’s hard to explain, but easy to experience.

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““Is it possible to become a good musician if ALL you do is spend time alone playing?”
Is anyone aware of any player that has achieved this?
yes, Neilidh Boyle, he had contempt for his contemporary musicians referring to them as jungle music
# Posted on November 9th 2010 by music reader”

totally wrong of course……

[Non-commerical field recording recorded by Peter Kennedy, Dunloe, Co. Donegal 23rd August 1953. Edited by Peter Kennedy and first published on Folktrax Cassettes 1977. Available to libraries, academics and traditional musicians at - www.folktrax.org, Folktrax & Soundpost Publ., 16 Brunswick Square, Gloucester GL1 1UG Tel: +44 - (0)1452-415110 - peter@folktrax.freeserve.co.uk]
From the Liner Notes:
“Neil Boyle (1889-1961) born 26th. November, 1889 to Paddy Boyle and Nancy Sweeney at Easton, Pennsylvania; died at Dungloe on the 8th. August, 1961. It was another family of Donegal fiddlers, the Dohertys, who insisted that Peter Kennedy should do everything possible to make a recording of “Neily” because of his quite exceptional style. In the first place, he learned much from his grandfather, the famous Padraig McSweeney; secondly, because he claimed to have learned from “the little people”, and thirdly, John, Michael, and Simie Doherty told us that he had written a number of his own compositions [including The Moving Clouds on this recording], which were now sought after by other fiddlers but jealously guarded by “Neily” himself. Although he had previously made a number of 78 rpm records for Regal Zonophone and many broadcasts, in the first place Neily refused to record. However he finally agreed to talk about “The Present State of Irish Music”, and learning from the “wee folk”, and in so doing, started to illustrate his talk. In this way Peter succeeded in making this remarkable recording. Because the house had no raod access, Peter needed to use nearly half a mile of microphone cable in order to operate his tape machine from the car batteries, using the car horn as a signal. On playback, Neil was pleased with the result and gave his permission for publication….”

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Hi there

Perhaps less so today but it is feasible that a young kid say aged 7/8 who is self taught can become very good by the age of say 16/17 and have not had the opportunity to play with many other musicians

Just a guess
pkev

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Huh?

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To the original poster: You certainly can learn from CD’s if you have no other options. You would be wise to find a way to view others who are masters at what you would like to play, and observe the physics of their right and left hands. Depending on what you are trying to improve at the time, you will pay attention to different body mechanics. If your goal is to play with others, then at some point you will need to find or create a way to do that. Festivals, camps, or creating your own circle of folks can do this if it doesn’t exist for you right now.

I learned classical as a kid, so the basics were there when I wanted to start playing ITM instead of just listening. But the time without a teacher left some bad habits that slowed down any progress. A teacher was able to correct a bad left hand position by suggesting an arm adjustment. This reduced tendon stress that I had been dealing with. It’s worth finding a teacher, even if it’s one week a year.

Good luck, and find what brings you enjoyment. Without that, it’s all for nothing.

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Silver Spear’s second question is funny, of course, but people should take a moment to realise the level of truth in the analogy. The degree of the hopelessness through the utter and complete lack of preparation during one’s first real encounter. The sudden and shocking realisation of the complete oil and water differences between the real thing and all those hours banging away on your own.

This aside though - and I in no way want to take Silver Spear’s analogy any further, especially in relation to what I have to say next - it is telling that the only two defenders of the “yes, you can learn entirely on your own” are both appalling musicians. Absolutely bloody terrible.

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and by the way, Shropshire (England - are there any others? correct me if I’m wrong) is only a stones throw from Birmingham where there is an exceedingly good and thriving Irish music scene

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<<The degree of the hopelessness through the utter and complete lack of preparation during one’s first real encounter. The sudden and shocking realisation of the complete oil and water differences between the real thing and all those hours banging away on your own.>>
LOL
Maybe for you llig but some of us have very different experiences. dont make your typical mistake of projecting your own experiences on others, again.

As far as being a terrible musician, funny, that Dave Hegarty went out of his way to compliment me on my playing recently, and Eugene Lamb sat and listened for a good half an hour or more , engaging me in conversation about the tunes… but sure, what do these guys know about the music?! LLig is the session.guru, so Im sure you know best…. 😉

Re: learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

I note you still havent answered my simple question, why would that be I wonder….just to remind you ;
<<What is gained by playing with others that is so essential to a musician who plays solo? >>

Its a reasonable question is it not? asking you to support your contention , or should we just take your word on it? The guru has spoken 🙂 All hail the llig. LOL

Re: learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

We can supply two answers to the that question, both of which are pertinent to the discussion. If your sole desire is play in one’s own, then it if fine to sit it your bedroom and make up the way you play your music. The example of the singer songwriter mentioned above is is a good example. Such is that genre that to get anywhere in it, sounding like nothing has gone before is a help.

But the playing of traditional music is a completely different ball game. To be good, you must be continuing the tradition and that means learning all you can about it. It means being immersed in it.

Specifically, what is gained by the playing with others that is so essential to a traditional musician who plays solo is the connection with the tradition. The essential connection with the tradition.

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Apologies for the grammatical errors there:

We can supply two answers to that question, both of which are pertinent to the discussion. If one’s sole desire is play on one’s own, then it is fine to sit it one’s bedroom and make up the way you play your music. The example of the singer songwriter mentioned above is is a good example. Such is that genre that to get anywhere in it, sounding like nothing has gone before is a help.

But the playing of traditional music is a completely different ball game. To be good, you must be continuing the tradition and that means learning all you can about it. It means being immersed in it.

Specifically, what is gained by the playing with others that is so essential to a traditional musician whether playing solo or in an ensemble is the connection with the tradition. The essential connection with the tradition. No amount of playing along with records can give you this. Sure, it can give you an inkling, but nothing more.

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Doh, but you get what I mean

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OK, but there is a big difference between having a teacher, a direct line, and playing with others, they are different things altogether. I teach but we dont play together generally .
I suggest to anyone to get a top notch teacher if possible. I would suggest that playing along with a bobby casey cd would be better than playing with a bunch of mediocre players if you wish to become adept trad fiddler.
It depends what you wish to achieve. I personally think that playing with other people is a very important part of our musical developement. The skills gained are of great benefit, IMO, but its simply not essential to developing the ability to play solo fiddle/pipes etc. Its completely Irrelevant.

Thanks for your well thought out explanation , but having a teacher and playing with others are separate issues not to be confused. Amongst others Ive had Flamenco lessons, fiddle lessons, Classical Guitar lessons , etc etc but none of these encompassed playing music together., although of course they could have.

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Look at it this way:

You can learn to speak a foreign language completely on your own: you can get books and software and spend hundreds of hours studying and honing your skills. And you can probably get to a reasonable level of skill at speaking and understanding a language that way, in time.

But to *really* speak a language as native speakers do (accent aside), you have to actually converse with others who speak that language. Until you spend time doing that you will never really be fluent in the language.

Same with traditional music, I think, although the analogy may not be perfect. There’s a sort of communication going on when playing with others that you can’t get by playing with recordings on your own.

It’s different with other forms of music, keep in mind that trad is an aural tradition and that makes a difference. Recordings are useful but they are a poor substitute for actually playing with other musicians.

But at the end of the day, this is a hobby, no need to get *too* serious about it if you don’t want to. If you want to play all on your own and maybe play a tune for friends and family now and again, go ahead. But you will be missing out on something, I think, if you never play with other trad musicians.

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In the lessons I offer, I *always* spend a fair amount of time playing with the student so they can feel the music (dynamics, timing, etc.) while they’re playing it. I also ask them to play solo, so we can both hear their playing without distractions. But each student has ample time between lessons to play alone. Lessons are a good time for them to latch on to a better player’s feel for the music and wallow in it.

This is how I’ve been taught by many well-known Irish players–you play together.

Also, in my purely anecdotal and personal experience, the students who regularly play with other people (among friends at home, at pub sessions, in fledgling bands, etc.) typically progress much, much more quickly than students who spend most of their time playing alone with recorded music. For that reason, I run a weekly tune learning circle on Monday nights and encourage all my Irish music students to participate.

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first off thanks for the info on the session stuff in shrewsbury, i have been up there to scout the place on the recommendation of a friend. i was rather (if im honest here) scared at the thought of taking an instrument, they were playing really well i dont think i could gel in in front of so many people. having said that i should really be doing just that, or i wont be getting any better. i guess i just wanted a quiet place to get into the jist.

and on his royal highness sir llig, how can you stand there and say that i am an appaling musician in good mind? if i were so appaling why have proffesionally trained musicians told me that i’m not and told me to get out and play with others? i think that YOU must be an appaling musician to be hurling abuse at people you have never heard, it is a shamefull practice to do such things. like i said before i can play with others in certain circumstance but i dont have a big repetoire of folk songs and it gets tiresome for people to have to explain in detail each song before you get going. so tell me how do you learn it before you go in? on your own i think or with a record, unless your schitsophrenic. and birmingham is about an hours drive from where i am and i work for myself so i cant afford to drive to birmingham for these things. i do completely accept what you said about traditional folk music being a group thing it is the essence of the whole thing. thats why i’m here trying to learn the songs so i do these things. i just think the whole scene can do without antagonistic comments like yours and such a bad attitude. folk music is one thing and what i played before is completely different so i would invite you to think before you slate something you have never listened to.

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christofloffer, Llig tends to be direct. However, I doubt he was referring to yourself in the following. Most likely he is referring to two members of the site whom he has heard.
“it is telling that the only two defenders of the “yes, you can learn entirely on your own” are both appalling musicians. Absolutely bloody terrible.”

Posted on November 9th 2010 by llig leahcim

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Re: learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

Chris, you have it all wrong there. Llig was not referring to you, he was referring to out two resident trolls, who he, and many of us have heard, and they ARE appalling and are in no position to hand out advice far less argue against good advice.

Make sure you know your enemy’s before you lash out.

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if it was not directed my way then i apologize in earnest, i simply assumed that it was as i was defending the “you can learn on your own” statement as that is all i have ever had.

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<<traditional folk music being a group thing it is the essence of the whole thing. >>

This is simply not the case, the heart of the tradition is the individual, not the group. The solo piper, solo fiddlers. Yes they do at times play with other people but to suggest that sessions and groups are the essence of the tradition is simply wrong. Is this really something that needs debating?! yours truly;

Astonished in Clare 🙂

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Spellbreaker, would you have Chris never play in a session?

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Sessions are grand, can be fun, once you can play! First learn to play the tunes! First learn to play your instrument! thats My Opinion . Id be interested in hearing where others disagree with that.
Is it essential to go out and play with other people? I dont think so. Can it be of help, yes of course it can, but it can also hinder. Im sure we all know folk who only ever learn tunes at sessions, can you attain a high standard only playing at sessions? I doubt it, but sure, convince me 😉

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You’re twisting the argument. SESSIONS are not the “heart of the tradition” – okay, we can agree on that. But we are saying that learning to play with live people is an integral part of developing proficiency at the music.

If someone was locked in solitary confinement for twenty years with a fiddle, a CD player, and a recording of Bobby Casey, would they come out playing amazing Irish music?

Or is that a ridiculous hypothetical, as it’s unlikely any well-known musicians have learned that way?

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<<If someone was locked in solitary confinement for twenty years with a fiddle, a CD player, and a recording of Bobby Casey, would they come out playing amazing Irish music? >>

Who knows! why wouldnt they? what is so essential to the music as a fundamentally solo art form that you can only get from playing with others? serious question .

ps Im not twisting anything, that was a quote I was responding too if you hadnt noticed .

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Fair play learn your instrument, find an instructor, learn some tunes, listen in on some sessions, suss out if you have something to contribute (everyone has to begin somewhere), ask if it’s OK to play on some tunes which you know, listen on the ones’ you don’t know, do some woodshedding, go back to your instructor, go back to the session, go home after the & put on a recording … play along …
works for those who let it. All of this being part of a community of music.

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big red herring, the “heart of the tradition “ thing.

I would agree that you can learn a lot from CD’s. Youtube possibly even more nowadays, but is there any point in guessing if it’s possible to become an accomplished player from only that method? I don’t think it’s possible to prove that someone has achieved that or to prove it can’t be done, and it’s not very helpful to the OP.

Quite simply, have one person learn from Tommy Peoples albums for 20 years and another playing with TP for 20 years. It’s not rocket science.

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ok guys can i just say this. though i am apprehensive of what new can of worms this may open. yes learning to play alone is good in my opinion, i think it gave me a healthy self awareness of what my own physical influence on my instruments can have. but it is not the most fun way to progress (again in my own opinion). the whole reason i want to learn folk music was seeing a guy walk in to a pub sit down with a guitar and start playing, who was shortly joined by a fiddle player who set up and jumped in mid song. soon after there were a few guys and a few instruments and these guys were just bouncing off each other, laughing and enjoying themselves. that is what i want, to me that how i see folk music. just having fun, easily flowing without needing to stress and having a laugh with people who know the score. that may not be how some/most/all (i dont know) of you guys see it, but i certainly didnt want to start arguments. i was hoping to get some help here, maybe some easy tunes to learn, maybe some pitfalls to avoid and just try and see how the whole thing works. not get people rowing over situations that are entirely circumstantial and personal preference. im sorry i even put this thing on.

Re: learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

Chris, off the top of my head I’d say Will Harmon has given answers for alot of your concerns. Don’t worry about letting the worms out. We do this all the time.

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christofloffer, I’ve spent many, many hours learning this music on fiddle by playing along to the radio and to recordings. I learned a fair amount from that experience–for one, it forced me to rely 100% on my ears because I had nothing to watch, no player in front of me, no video, to *see* how things were done. It was a bit of a shock and a relief, several years into this process, to finally take a lesson with a reputable fiddler and discover that I had luckily figured out how to do cuts and rolls the “right” way (meaning in the same way many traditional Irish fiddlers do them).

But my playing improved more quickly and more comprehensively–in all aspects–once I took a few lessons, and once I started playing with decent musicians.

Historical written accounts support Spellbreaker’s notion that this music was played for generations mostly by solo pipers and fiddlers and whistle players. But back in those days, people learned directly from another player–there were few to no other options. The memoirs of great players are full of references to them getting their music from parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and siblings. Until the 1900s, no one had recordings to isolate themselves with, and many players did not read written notation.

This passing of the music from one person to another is an important (some would say essential, and I would agree) ingredient in playing this music with a full understanding and appreciation for what it is. If you want to simply dabble in this music as a hobby, then perhaps that’s no so important. But if your aim is to play this music well and become a part of the traditional music community, then I believe you will be much better off in both the short and long run if you find yourself a mentor, or at least someone to play music with, who is steeped in the tradition.

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chris, Never blame yourself for the diversions this bunch often pursues when they are entering a discussion!
But listen to the advice here, and get a human teacher or mentor or whatever. A CD can’t listen to you and give you pointers about how to get better. And remember, the man who teaches himself has an ignorant man for a teacher…

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I concur with Will fully, but if its no possible at the moment, then get Bobby Caseys album and play along😉 At some point what you learn from this will stand you in good stead.

Re: learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

you can get it, and a great selection of top class material here, http://ceolalainn.blogspot.com/

In particular Jimmy Power and Paddy Canney also spring to mind.

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christofloffer, Yes, I was not referring to you. I’m sorry if you got the impression I was.

Jig posted this: “there is a big difference between having a teacher, a direct line, and playing with others, they are different things altogether.”

Absolutely not. Absolutely completely wrong and indicative of this fella’s misunderstandings. All the people I’ve ever played with have been my teachers and it beggars belief that anyone could ever think otherwise. (However, at least we can be thankful that jig doesn’t play along with his students, for his students’ sake). The idea that there is a big difference between playing with a mentor and playing with your mates is abhorrent to me. The fact that there is no difference is fundamental to the music, fundamental to the joy of it, fundamental to the life of it, fundamental to its history and fundamental to its future.

And I’m surprised that no one has yet pointed out the typical backwards logic of suggesting that playing along to a recording of Bobby Casey playing solo is a good way of learning how to play solo.

Playing solo is indeed an important part of the tradition. It’s about taking the tradition and expressing a deeper part of oneself than playing in an ensemble can. But you can only do this if you have a solid grounding in the tradition. And you can only do this really well if you have considerably more than a solid grounding in the tradition. This is the difference between the self-indulgence of the dreary singer/songwriter I mentioned earlier and the genius of someone like Bobby Casey. The only thing you can possibly learn from locking yourself away with a Bobby Casey recording is how to play like that Bobby Casey recording. Which isn’t even 1% of how to play like Bobby Casey.

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Well said Llig playing with real people is where it is at .
Everything else is second best . You can play solo by yourself but its better with others.

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Again Llig is correct. To attain a level of expressive ability with this music it would be vital to have played in an ensemble or a session situation. It is from constant ensemble playing that the need for self expression was born in the masters of this tradition. Playing along with a Paddy Canny or Bobby Casey solo recording is a great idea for a player of ability but listening to it constantly and then playing the tune without the recording is my reccomendation. To have that powerful music in your head and still not copy it is where I strive to be.

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Recently when I started learning flute two musicians and teachers who I spoke to both said “play with other people as soon as possible”; it was the only comment one of them made. I don’t think that was anything to do with technique, style or idiom. It think was to do with getting used to playing whilst listening to what else was happening. So I wouldn’t work on a tune in isolation then at best train wreck and drop out or worse annoy everyone else by just doing what I was used to. Not so much a case of needing to play with a roomfull as experts but being able to fit in and latch my ears onto those who seemed to have the best style.

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just got wind of a small session every other thursday in a local pub. intermediate players who work on songs while they are there. i think i will get down there and sit in and have a chat and see what the score is.

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That’s great Chris. It’s a good idea just to go along as a listener for a couple of weeks to see the lay of the land and suss out what kind of tunes they play. Good luck.

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good man

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. >>The only thing you can possibly learn from locking yourself away with a Bobby Casey recording is how to play like that Bobby Casey recording. Which isn’t even 1% of how to play like Bobby Casey. >>

really?! so ah, whats the other 99% then? what part of the music is there that we cannot hear? 99% ! I guess you will ‘overlook’ this tricky question. I hope you dont mind me asking questions to certain exactly what this 99% is…..

Good point tabber, of course its good to play with others, but What about slow Aires? what is gained by group playing that is so essential to a solo musical form? you seem to be so sure of yourselves yet a simple question like this has Still not been answered.

If a student studies with a top class player, but doesnt have sessions etc are you saying that its not possible for them to attain expressive ability? Once again;
What is gained by group activity that pertains to a solo activity?

’’There is a big difference between having a teacher, a direct line, and playing with others, they are different things altogether.“

Absolutely not. Absolutely completely wrong and indicative of this fella’s misunderstandings.>>

LOL llig , A teacher can also be a musical partner, but as I said, clearly they are different things. Otherwise you could only learn from musical partners and couldn’t learn from a teacher who does not play along with you, such as a recording , DVD !“ so what you are saying, surely, is obvious nonsense?. Is it not obvious to others!|? You are saying that its not possible to learn from non group activities!

Its simple illogical, full of holes you could drive a bus through! If you need to insult me while making such poor arguments I suggest you refrain from Debate until you can remain civil and actually make sense.

A teacher is a different thing to a group musical activity. yes they can coincide, but its not essential. And we can learn an awfull lot by listening to good players! without playing with them.
Its quite simple, It is possible to attain a high level of skill without playing in sessions. If your only understanding of trad is sessions, then perhaps this doesnt make sense to you, but as Ive pointed out, there is a lot more to trad than sessions.
You lads are arguing that unless we can play with other trad musicians we are doomed to never being able to attain a high level,even despite having a top class instructor.

So all those sessioners here, who dont have this facility are doomed. I disagree. If a student buys the Seamus Creigh Cd,say listens and plays along, as it was intended, then IMO they will be able to become adept at playing that music on their instrument. In fact for the OP this is probably a better suggestion in his situation. plus listening to Bobby Casey, Jimmy Power, some great pipers etc etc

For a solo art form such as painting does anyone suggest that its not possible to paint well without getting a bunch of lads together for a painting session!? Obvious gibberish.

Im not knocking sessions, I enjoy them, but they are merely an adjunct to the basic core of this music; solo pipers and fiddlers etc.

If most of your experience of the music is about playing sessions ,then I can understand why you might think its the essence of the tradition. But its not.

Re: learning violin/fiddle from cd’s

Chris, playing with others is grand, doesnt have to be trad.I always recomend Jamming and improvising along with willing singers. very usefull, but if your interested in trad fiddle then I think the 2 Kevin Burke DVD’s could be very helpfull for you. Enjoy.

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ha, logic indeed ha, I didn’t say all the people I’ve learned from I have also played with, I said all the people I’ve played with have I have learned from.

However, at least you softened your interdict of “having a teacher” and “playing with others” being different things altogether. At least you do now say that they can coincide.

But you need to take it a step further, rather than them merely coinciding, they should be one in the same. Is the reason you won’t play with your pupils because you want to maintain (or rather construct) a hierarchy of pure teacher/pupil relationships? I really do pity you pupils. Is one of the reasons you persist in your attempts at anonymity so that their parents don’t find you here?

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Sorry, I forgot to answer the 99% thing. Tricky question indeed ha ha. Look at it this way: What if you could ask Bobby Casey, that most constantly inventive and imaginative of musicians, what he reckoned was the percentage of his lifetime’s music making he managed to capture on one of his records?

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bogman,
have a listen to the radio program, I am not wrong, here is the link.
Re: Neilidh Boyle

Here’s a link to an RTÉ radio documentary about his life: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/therollingwave/archive2009.html

Here’s the 1952 recording along with a couple of 78s, The Pigeon on the Gate & Jenny Picking Cockles and The Harvest Home & Green Mountain: http://www.sendspace.com/file/56eahs

# Posted on April 24th 2010 by nedscot
he makes some scathing comments about [his contemporary] irish music,and scott skinner, his playing is excellent.and it is an illuminating programme.
at 17 minutes 30 seconds, it says he based his style on mckenzie murdoch, he studied music as far as he could on his own, he taught himself to read music.
BOGMAN THAT IS WHAT THE INTERVIEW SAYS.

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MUSIC READER, OF COURSE YOU’RE WRONG, AS USUAL.

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AT 26 .07 he says, music at the present time in ireland is finished, by the way i have been listening to it.
he also played in a jazz band
.and john kelly says at 34 07, he heard him, and went way saying he knew nothing about fiddle playing.

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.and john kelly says at 34 07, he heard him, and went way saying he[john kelly] knew nothing about fiddle playing.

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and 40 13, he gives his lecture on jungle music.
bogman, everyone can listen to this program.
it quite clearly states in the program, he studied music as far as he could on his own.

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what’s he say @ 4:20?

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