Fiddle Skills

Fiddle Skills

I’ve been playing fiddle for just under 2 years and this year I am determined to make some serious improvements. As well as being able to play along with others at speed at regular sessions I would like to improve my musical skills, for example to be able to:

- Play some more challenging ‘party pieces’ - classical/popular as well as ITM
- Be able to play Vibrato
- Develop a better ear (I still can’t really tune by ear and learn 95% of tunes by dots)

Having searched the archive here there seems to have been a lot of heated debate about the use of scales, arpeggios and etudes in developing skills as a player. A lot of these discussions always seem to strongly distinguish Fiddle vs Classical Violin. The thing is, I want to be a better musician and be able to apply all the best techniques from whatever style. After recently listening to my fiddle being played by a really good classical performer I was blown away by how good the instrument could really sound. Starting the instrument at 40+ I will never play in the BBC Philharmonic, nor is that where my real interest lies, but I don’t want to limit myself to one type of music.

How useful are scales and exercises in developing musical skills (in particular, fiddle)? and and do you all see yourselves as ITM Players or just as a musicians??

Sorry for the long ramble, thanks in advance for your thoughts on this ..

David

Re: Fiddle Skills

Uh oh…

Re: Fiddle Skills

Do you have a teacher? If not, find one.
Music is made up of notes moving stepwise (scales), and skips (arpeggios), so yes, they can be helpful.
When students come to me needing help with their school orchestral music, like a Mozart sonata in G, then, yes, they get to do G major scales and arpeggios as part of their warm-up.
As for vibrato…. I repeat, find a teacher. Once one "learns" crap vibrato, it’s hard to unlearn.

Re: Fiddle Skills

And just to make it clear… I don’t use scales and arpeggios when "working" on trad tunes. First, I’m horrible with modes and I don’t really know which is which. I just play the tunes.
I find it different with the classical stuff.
But, that said, I stress playing music, not notes.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Hi from a fellow 40+ fiddle learner. Three years into it I have finally started focussing on carefully practicing lots of scales and arpeggios and it works for me. By playing over the "simple" stuff carefully and listening to and correcting myself my ear, my tone and my bowing have all improved.

I second wyogal’s comments on a teacher - its very hard to unlearn bad playing. Also listen to lots of good fiddling and get to sessions.

Oh and be sure to enjoy.

Re: Fiddle Skills

fair question, i think, and well stated.

i started fiddle later in life too, and i recently decided i needed some remedial work: i found someone who is a really good teacher of how to listen to the sounds i’m making and improve them. it’s all note, whether they are arranged in scales, arpeggios, jigs or reels…i needed to get my head in to really listening, both to myself and others. i can get so distracted by enjoying the finger patterns…

one of the things i like about this endeavor is that it seems never-ending: always something new to work on or think about or enjoy.

so i say, good luck with it and enjoy the journey.
and i also thank you for the question.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Record yourself, listen back, fix problems one at a time, repeat.

—Dan

Posted by .

Re: Fiddle Skills

Thanks for all the replies.

I have mixed feelings about having a teacher and don’t think this is necessarily the only way to learn. My experiences of teachers to date:

1. Classical Violin teacher for first couple of months. Excellent grounding on the basics of playing the instrument and certainly set me off on the right track.

2. Changed to a Trad Fiddle teacher for a few months. First few weeks were excellent and really inspired me to learn the correct ‘fiddle’ style. However, the lessons eventually focused on learning new tunes and ornamentation - no emphasis was put on technique and I wasn’t really improving much.

3. Changed to another fiddle teacher for a few months (after a break without lessons). First few weeks were again very good and this teacher did focus on technique and helped me un-learn some bad habits. As the lessons went on I felt I was getting less and less out of them. Stopped lessons.

I am considering a new teacher at the moment, but I have good self discipline and also think that some of the online stuff is excellent (thanks for the toddehle links - I have seen these before and I thought they looked really good). A lot of my one-one lessons spent a lot of time learning tunes, techniques and ornamentation. In many ways I can learn these better from a video which I can stop and rewind as I practice it.

Specifically in terms on Vibrato, my last teacher did not really want to teach me this yet; perhaps thought that I wasn’t ready. However, what he did show me contradicted what the experts like Todd Ehle were saying on their youtube videos. At the moment I am spending time every day going through drills from these videos to help learn Vibrato.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Scales and arpeggios are pointless in Irish music. It’s the rhythm and phrasing of the tunes that’s of primary importance (it’s dance music, and if you can’t dance to what you’re playing, you’re playing it wrong). The tunes are made up of the same notes as scales and arpeggios, so play the tunes. You need to learn how to listen, and how to play the tunes using the correct phrasing (and there are many, many ways of playing the correct phrasing). Find a teacher, by all means, but to really get into playing this music well at a late stage in life you need to dedicate yourself to 20 or 30 hours of listening a week. There’s no point in playing what you think is Irish music if what you think is Irish music comes from score, rather than from what is played by good Irish musicians. The best teacher is no substitute for internalising the rhythm and phrasing of dance tunes. You can’t get out of your instrument what isn’t already in your memory.

As for learning good technique, well, Irish music isn’t necessarily the medium for that - the techniques are often too idiosyncratic.

Also, vibrato doesn’t have much of a place in traditional Irish music.

Re: Fiddle Skills

I’m not a fiddle player but I hang out with a lot of fiddlers. :-)

From what I’ve seen, not many of them can play both trad and classical "party pieces" well. They seem to require quite different technique. The ones who can do both are usually top players, whereas your average trad player may be able to play a tune nicely indeed, but scrapes through a classical piece and conversely your average classical player does fine with that music but sounds bloody awful on trad music.

Like Dragut said, if it’s trad you want to play even reasonably well, you have to devote many hours to listening. Even if you just want to go out to sessions and get along with people, you have to do this because the musicians you meet in sessions (if the sessions are any good) will understand the nuances of the rhythm and phrasing.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"…vibrato doesn’t have much of a place in traditional Irish music…" on the fiddle. Pipes, flute, whistle all use vibrato. The violin, I suspect, is the only instrument able to produce vibrato that doesn’t. Why it doesn’t is debatable, but I have my suspicions.
:)

Posted by .

Re: Fiddle Skills

SmashTheWindows ~ "Uh oh…" DITTO!

Nicely put and asked, if also containing some worryin bits, like those first few aspirations - ‘challenging party pieces’, ‘classical/popular’ - ‘as well as’ ITM… & ‘vibrato’ too!!! :-/

- Play some more challenging ‘party pieces’ - classical/popular as well as ITM
- Be able to play Vibrato
- Develop a better ear (I still can’t really tune by ear and learn 95% of tunes by dots)

Wyogal ~ "Do you have a teacher? If not, find one." DITTO! ~ on several counts, and also about ‘crap vibrato’, which, sadly, is ever present… :-P Find an ‘in your face & ears’ teacher, 3 dimensional! Finding a teacher is not just about ‘anyone’, they need to meet your needs, and inspire, sympatico! It’s a union, a chemistry that needs careful selection and handling. "Getting less and less out of them." ~ in a sense that’s what it is, as things become more focused on the finer points. Some folks haven’t the patience for that, having been on the teacher side of this, and can be hampered both ways by always longing for ‘big’… For some, just catching lessons now and then from different people, such as at festivals and workshops, is what they prefer, dipping in and out. That may be what you need, a sampling of different approaches to ‘tradition’, passing on the skills.

Cian Mhic Cáinte ~ "its very hard to unlearn bad playing." DITTO! ~ or brain numbing ego, where we can be deluded into thinking we already know, that "I can, I can, and I damned well will no matter what!"

Dragut Reis ~ "it’s dance music" ~ HALLELJAH! & "vibrato doesn’t have much of a place in traditional Irish music." And there’s really no place for vibrato in that aspect of it, or in great quantity in airs either. But, as you’ve said, you want to explore the wider facets of the fiddle, including classical approaches and tunes. But, back to the ‘dance’ and ‘rhythm’, and another thing that is often ‘crap’, bow work, working the bow, putting the dance in the tunes and lifting the music and the feet of dancers, inspiring foot tapping. You won’t learn that at a session or with a focus on quantity, which can be one of the obsessions of session playing, and isn’t healthy for any kind of skill as far as any musical instrument goes.

TheSilverSpear ~ "trad and classical - require quite different technique." DITTO! again, but nowadays a lot is shared with regards to ‘good’ basic technique, and few trad fiddlers haven’t had some influence on their technique from the long and varied history of the violin, including ‘classical’, if secondhand. & "your average classical player ~ sounds bloody awful on trad music." YES! But thinks they can… It’s usually dull, laboured, plodding, painful and irritating, including the vibrato…

"95% of tunes by dots" is a disability, a dis-ability. The dots and sheets will stand in the way of your progress, akin to stuffing your ears with cotton, they muffle the music, dull the senses… Look up some of the discussions on dots and ears, if you haven’t already. Also, try a search from ‘Home’ rather than ‘Discussions’. On the rhythm side of things, learning some dance can help, usually does, raises understanding and appreciation. Trying your hand at something else can also help, such as percussion, and in this situation the bodhran, though for some that will cause a big intake of breath and that possibly followed by an expletive. For others they’ll just get straight to the expletive. :-D Learning a different instrument can inform the other, and in this case the raised understanding, ideally, would be rhythm, though, again, you’d need the right teacher. Some bodhranistas seem to suffer from a lack of understanding, and/or concideration for the music and other musicians…

With patience and care, one thing learned well, suc as a single tune, gains transferable skills. A lot of things learned poorly and quickl. or impatiently, accomplishes nothing… Well, maybe tension and RSI, things we don’t really want to acquire…

If you don’t already have it, and there are other such useful resources, the Matt Cranitch book and recordings are well thought out, though I wish he’d do a video for people ~

"The Irish Fiddle Book"

Best of luck!

Vibrato ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gam ~ "Pipes, flute, whistle all use vibrato." No ‘ditto’ here, at least not in full. Their use, on the whole, is incidental, more as a short time ornament, not quite what I’d call vibrato in the full sense of its use, abuse. And when used the way some folks do, is potentially soul destroying, for the music, detracts from it, and as with the fiddle or singing, can be damned irritating.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Scales and arpeggios are pointless in Irish music. It’s the rhythm and phrasing of the tunes that’s of primary importance (it’s dance music, and if you can’t dance to what you’re playing, you’re playing it wrong). The tunes are made up of the same notes as scales and arpeggios, so play the tunes."

So let me get this straight, Dragut: the tunes contain scales and arpeggios, but you shouldn’t work on scales and arpeggios to improve your musical skills if you’ve only been playing a couple of years.

I guess we will agree to disagree on that. It has nothing to do with classical vs trad or anything else. When you pick up an instrument (especially as an older learner), you have to learn how to operate the thing. That means training your ears and fingers to find the right sounds, and to burn that into your brain. How you do it is up to you.

But I’m always puzzled by the "my god are you insane why would you waste your time playing scales and apeggios when you could be playing The Tunes" type of thinking. Learning tunes on the fly is a lot easier if you already have the bits and pieces ready to insert in the right place.

Playing scales for hours a day? No way. Warming up with a few runs through relevant keys? Sure, I’ve got 5 or 10 minutes to spare. Works for me.

What I whole-heartedly agree with is the bit about dancebility. If you can’t rock the tune for dancers, you haven’t got the ears where they should be. And I will agree that the only way to get those kind of ears is by listening.

But the OP was about improving musical skills, and you have to be able to plop the finger on the string in synch with the bow to start down that path.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Vibrato might not have "much" of a place, but it comes in quite a bit, in my experience. Most fiddlers - especially the old school ones - playing slow airs use vibrato. It seems to be kind of different from classical vibrato somehow - more rhythmic and more used as a one-off effect on certain notes. Again, it’s sometimes used as a kind of ornamentation on the occasional note even in fast pieces, like jigs and reels. I think the main difference is that it is used as an ornament in trad, whereas in classical, it’s pretty much constant. "Every note, even the small ones" which used to be the quote for vibrato in classical fiddle playing.

On the scales thing, I’ve taught both classical violin and trad fiddle - not much, but I’ve done it, with both kids and adults. If you want to play classical violin, you’ve got to practice scales. You just won;t get anywhere without. For Trad, as Wyogal implies that she does, too, I just don’t bother. You’re mainly going to want to practice what you’re going to play in tunes. So you teach through teaching the tunes.

Posted by .

Re: Fiddle Skills

Good grief! There’ve been four or five posts since I started to type mine! Wow! I cross-posted with a couple …

Posted by .

Re: Fiddle Skills

Michele: "So let me get this straight, Dragut: the tunes contain scales and arpeggios, but you shouldn’t work on scales and arpeggios to improve your musical skills if you’ve only been playing a couple of years."

Dragut: "The tunes are made up of the same notes as scales and arpeggios, so play the tunes."

I think DR’s point is pretty clear: playing tunes IS playing scales and arpeggios, so you might as well just play the tunes. In fact, everything you need to know about the tunes is in fact contained in the tunes (um… that seems obvious) so the best way to learn the tunes is to play the tunes.

If I’ve got five or ten minutes to spend playing the flute, I’m going to use that to play a few jigs. I might play up and down the scale once to make sure my lip is where it ought to be, but that’s more of a throat-clearing gesture than anything else.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Just type a long post and it has disappeared ! - sorry if this appears twice.

There have been some really good replies and suggestions. I fully agree about the listening and learning by ear. I am now listening to this music constantly and am trying to learn all new tunes by ear.

ceolachan ~ I have the Matt Crannitch book/cd and am now using this to learn by ear. I can check the dots afterwards to make sure I have the correct notes. I know the "stabilisers" have to come off sometime but this is helping with my confidence. It is taking much longer to learn new tunes though - I guess this will improve with time ….anyone know if I could get a copy of the Lucy Campbell track from the Matt Crannitch CD anywhere without having to buy the book again - my CD is scratched and this is my favourite tune on the cd :-(

ethical blend ~ I totally agree, Vibrato is a must for me. I really love to hear vibrato played well and I have heard some great fiddle players use it very effectively - even in ITM

I can’t really understand why scales/arpeggios would not be useful for ITM and would be for classical - it is all music after all. We could equally use the argument that classical players should listen more and do all their practice using their tunes/pieces.

Re: Fiddle Skills

I think they’re useful for complete newbies who need to simply figure out how to play their instrument and get from one note to another. But once you can do that, I don’t see a point in continuing to practice them.

Scales/arpeggios

"We could equally use the argument that classical players should listen more and do all their practice using their tunes/pieces." ~ the difference between a soloist and 2nd fiddle?!

I’ve known a few ‘superstars’ who warm-up with scales and arpeggios, and have some classical training in their back history. There’s no poison in that. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Relaxing into it is important, and sometimes repetition of simple things helps that to settle in. In learning ‘challenging’ things, though probably obvious, the key is to not force it, not fight it, but to take it as slowly as you need to play it rhythmically and clearly, with enjoyment…


ethical blend ~ "-more rhythmic and more used as a one-off effect on certain notes. ~ it is used as an ornament in trad" ~ A repeat I think might be needed here, and well said…

Sans dots ~ 8-)

If you can chase up the other CDs associated with Matt’s book, they too are a good purchase, as is this ~

"Seamus Creagh: Tunes For Practice" = 2 CDs and not dots come with them… Read the ‘comments’…
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/3225

Chasing up opportunities and influences ~ festivals & workshops

Catching workshops is a great way to avoid a rut, including being too influenced by one teacher. Experiencing different perspectives and ways with the music, the bow, and ways of teaching, would naturally raise your understanding. As a dyslexic I find I need to catch anything I want an understanding of from as many different perspectives as I can, and with this music I’ve been lucky to have had a lot of different influences, and fortunately for me they have mostly proved to be patient, and in most cases a sense of humour and playfulness came with it. The best, those I valued most, it was never only about music or dance…

Re: Fiddle Skills

"…putting the dance in the tunes and lifting the music and the feet of dancers, inspiring foot tapping. You won’t learn that at a session."

Er … doesn’t that depend on whose session it is? I’ve been to plenty of sessions that would meet that description :)

~ doesn’t that depend on whose session it is?

Yes, but you don’t learn that there, generally speaking… There’s not the time, it’s generally rushed, and there aren’t any dancers, usually, or the ability to hear the detail. Yes, it’s a generalization, as I have been to sessions where we played for dance, and where we also didn’t always race through things and gave individual players space, as well as small groupings of two or three. But it’s not ‘generally’ the place to ‘learn’, other than accumulating more and more tunes…

Re: Fiddle Skills

You’re going to the wrong sessions ;)

Re: Fiddle Skills

I think trying to improve trad and classical skills at the same time might be counterproductive at a relatively early stage of learning.

It strikes me as slightly odd that you think your fiddle sounds best played by a classical musician, also that you think vibrato is a must. Vibrato in Irish fiddle music is occasional, and not very like classical vibrato in my opinion.

What you are going to learn is what you spend a long time doing: if you spend a couple of minutes a day doing vibrato you won’t learn much. Same with scales and arpeggios.

You don’t need to practice any formal scales and arpeggios to learn to play trad "properly". You don’t need to play in many keys, you don’t need to move out of first position, you don’t need to read music, you don’t need to learn vibrato.

If you are wanting to get to a similar sort of standard with classical music I think you will need to do all those things.

I suggest you should choose one type of music or the other and focus almost exclusively on that for now if you want to achieve the sort of progress you describe.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

Bernie: "It strikes me as slightly odd that you think your fiddle sounds best played by a classical musician". What I mean is that I was blown away by how well my fiddle sounded and how much I enjoyed hearing classical music.

I love ITM and it is my main priority, but I think your comments get right to the heart of what I was trying to say. I may not need to do all these things but I want to be able to do them to improve as a musician generally and cannot understand the notion that these two styles of music are mutually exclusive. If I have the skills to play the Maid behind the Bar then why is it so difficult (or harmful) for me to play the Schindler’s list theme or Canon in D etc. I have been watching a program on Alba tonight where Frankie Gavin was providing accompaniment to Michelle Lally’s singing. He was tastefully using Vibrato all the way through, yet I’m sure few will challenge his ability as one of the finest ITM players around. Also, if I stick to first position only then I am going to find it more difficult to play pieces where there are a lot of high notes on the E string. In classical (or any form of modern or folk music or combination) there are different rhythms and styles. Why is ITM so different. Surely it is better to learn as much as possible and therefore be able to adapt more naturally to different music?

Re: Fiddle Skills

Opinions will always vary. At two years, you’re just scratching the surface of anything you play. So go for it, with whatever—but listen closely to the good players, and be honest with yourself about what you’re trying to do.

Re: Fiddle Skills

If you like trad musicians who are not afraid of a little vibrato, you hear it in the playing of quite a few Scots players. They don’t make a constant thing of it, but little hints of vibrato can sound nice in a slow air.
And certainly, it is not a crime to like both classical and trad.
Follow your heart, I say.
(But also, learn to follow your heart by playing by ear, don’t get chained to the sheet music.)

Re: Fiddle Skills

Right oh …

If you think that Frankie Gavin’s vibrato is tasteful, then you have no taste.

If you don’t understand that scales are just crap tunes you have a mental block.

And if you want to play challenging ‘party pieces’ then you are obviously not in the least bit interested in music.

Sorry

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

One important thing - I’d say it’s fundamental for all musicians - that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned in this discussion is the joint ability to be able to play in tune and subtly alter intonation when required to suit the music. For example, unless you have good control of intonation at all times you’re not likely to be successful in playing a "lonesome" note, or to play a double stop in tune.
A very good reason for doing daily scale and arpeggio practice is to concentrate on getting good intonation without other distractions. If the concentration and listening are there then only a few minutes are needed.

Re: Fiddle Skills

About the scales and arpeggios. I personally think scales and arpeggios are for those that don’t know the instrument that well. You won’t catch me practicing scales and arpeggios on piano.

Warm-ups are warm-ups, not work-outs. If I know i’m struggling playing in a specific key(example, every tune I play in that key sounds crap) then I will take the time to get to know that key. Maybe a few runs through the scale, which could take less than 5 min. OR, if I don’t know how to play in the key at all(fiddle especially, piano is easier) I’ll put a lot of time into learning the key.

I had to work out the BMajor scale when learning Nyan Cat(I’m serious, I love that little tune) because it was so freakin’ hard. It’s still intimidating thinking how hard that key is to play in. But sure enough, the more I practiced that scale, the easier the tune got to play. I already knew the tune, learned it on piano in a couple days. But because I didn’t know the fiddle that well, I had to get to know it a little bit more.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Two years of playing ? Forget ‘party pieces’ - they will sound
like a car crash. I still find simple tunes like the Kesh quite hard
to play. Listen to Tola Custy, Kevin Burke or Martin Hayes. Can
you make simple tunes sound as sweet as they do? Boy, I’m not
in the ballpark yet after 6 years unless I really throw my whole
heart into them and slow down a lot ( obviously not in any session)

Re: Fiddle Skills

BTW, heaps of Trad fiddlers use vibrato as an ornament. There
are too many to list, because it’s nearly everybody who’s made
an album.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Jim ~ Thanks for the link and for providing this material - looks great. I’ll definitely check this out

Hup ~ Trying to make simple tunes sound sweet is really good advice. This is something that my last teacher emphasised and I probably need to spend more time on this. The ‘party pieces’ I refer to are not necessarily that difficult, but there are just some non-ITM pieces I really like and would love to be able to play well eg. I am trying to play ‘O mio Babbino Caro’ which is a classical piece in the ABRSM Grade 3 Violin repertoire. Although it is mostly is third position it is a fairly simple tune.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Fair enough, Dave - I just realised you’re from Cty Down! I can’t
be giving any advice to somebody from Trad Central (Eire, that is -
not Down)

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Boy, I’m not in the ballpark yet after 6 years unless I really throw my whole heart into them and slow down a lot ( obviously not in any session)"

Really? I love playing tunes at a slow pace at a session. True, it only takes one yob speeding up to get the thing up to full-tilt boogie, and then it’s just the same old Kesh as ever, but when you’re playing with people who listen it’s a great thing.

Re: Fiddle Skills

llig leahcim:"If you don’t understand that scales are just crap tunes you have a mental block."

The jury is still out on this one for me. I don’t often play scales at the moment, but Trevor (and others) have demonstrated some good reasons why they might be useful. The key question for me which I haven’t yet seen a good answer to yet s why they can work for one type of music and not another. From what I can see most teachers in any other style of music seem to encourage their use. If they are useful in classical why can they not be useful in ITM for the same reason? Not sure what I have said that makes you think I have a mental block.


"And if you want to play challenging ‘party pieces’ then you are obviously not in the least bit interested in music."

Sorry Llig but that just does not make any sense to me at all - why can I not be interested in music??

"If you think that Frankie Gavin’s vibrato is tasteful, then you have no taste"

Perhaps you can point out some ‘tasteful’ music so that I know what I should and shouldn’t like. :-)


John Galt ~ LOL !!

Re: Fiddle Skills

If what interests you about the music is the challenge of playing it, you’re not playing music, you’re doing some sort of weird gymnastics.

I don’t think that’s what you meant by "challenging", though.

Re: Fiddle Skills, exercising and exorcism ~ :-P

Sessions ~ they really aren’t, ‘generally speaking’, for practising tunes you don’t yet have a hand on, or for noodling tunes you haven’t a clue about. They are for playing tunes you know and can play at a reasonable tempo. There are exceptions, like some Comhaltas sessions where the first half hour might be given over to learning one tune and playing it relaxed, slowly. But, on the whole, sessions aren’t for learning, aren’t for practising half backed takes, aren’t for noodling, all things that sap the pleasure and satisfaction out of a session of music. If you feel the need to play along with everything ~ heaven help you, and may someone have the sense to tell you to ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sessions ~ use your ears, listen - listen - listen - and enjoy your pint, and the ‘occasional’ tune. Develop an appreciation for listening in a session setting too, and curb the urge to want to play everything…

"sessions aren’t for learning" ~ well, yes they are, but that requires developing your sense of hearing…

Re: Fiddle Skills

Caoimhin O Raghallaigh made an interesting point on the tellie recently (in the context of Sliah Luachra music).

Paraphrasing : if you learn you scale GABCDEF that’s what you get, you’ve learned seven notes and that’s your world. It’s limited i nthe extreme. if you open your ears and listen to the music before you without that limited preconception, you can do anything, you’re free.

And isn’t it just so.

He then went on about playing the down bow on the beat all the time in contrast with how Denis Murphy did it.

May be well worth looking up.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

"The ‘party pieces’ I refer to are not necessarily that difficult, but there are just some non-ITM pieces I really like and would love to be able to play well eg. I am trying to play ‘O mio Babbino Caro’ which is a classical piece in the ABRSM Grade 3 Violin repertoire. Although it is mostly is third position it is a fairly simple tune."

As someone whose session leader has a fondness for Aminor tunes with a top C I’m finding the ability to play in 3rd position dead handy at the moment. Working with a classical teacher on pieces like this will probably also help your tone production. But beyond that the things that you need to do in order to make a classical piece sound good won’t all translate well into Irish fiddle music. So, nothing wrong with this in my book, as long as you are able to keep the two styles of playing distinct.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Party pieces" aren’t about music - they are social devices.

Doina

A Romanian Doina… :-/ And in Romania ~ . . . .

Even here I’d prefer it without the excessive melodrama…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doina

And I’ve heard it better, by Romanians, not so damned laboured and dragged out…

Mind you, the ‘national orchestra’ and classically hampered Romainain takes can be equally drawn out and dire, for what is essentially supposed to be ‘a shepherd’s song’… But, hey, some folks get off on such things, B movie and B music excessive melodrama and wah-wah-wah-waaaaah… :-D

Re: Fiddle Skills

Lots can be learned in a session, but by listening. You can pick up a great deal about playing the music from sitting in sessions with players better than you, by listening carefully and not playing and also by closely following their playing on tunes you know.

Re: Fiddle Skills

In any case, some of the best tunes are the simplest ones, like Rolling in the Ryegrass. No need for party pieces. Being hard to play doesn’t necessarily make it a good tune.

Re: Fiddle Skills

TomB-R : "Party pieces" aren’t about music - they are social devices"
Ok so the use of the term "Party Pieces" seems to be a bit of a distraction from the intent of my original post. But surely playing and performing music is all about social interaction - unless all your music is played in your bedroom with nobody else hearing it (although to be fair most of mine currently is !). What if I changed the term to be "Performance Pieces". I can’t see how this is a bad thing and certainly doesn’t detract from normal group playing in the context of a session.

Re: Fiddle Skills

@Coelacanth
"Doina" is a pipe tune written by Jacky Molard, a Breton musician, not Romanian. It is on the first album of "Gwerz ". What to you might be "excessive melodrama" could to someone else be "feeling".

Posted by .

Fiddle Faddle

Silver Spear! - Yes! "Lots can be learned in a session - by listening carefully and not playing and also by closely following their playing on tunes you know."

gam ~ ‘ceolacanth’ ~

"feelings, nothing more than feelings ~
Feelings, woo, oo, ooo, feelings ~ "

Yes, and some people are very fond of vinyl and chrome studs… Variety of experiences is what it’s all about. Somehow I should have guessed it was a ‘doina’ composed by a Breton. It has that air of modern composition, which for me is generally note pleasant, only rarely pleasurable. But, hey, as you note dear friend, ‘coelacanth’ I am, I am, and I like spinach too, fresh, not stewed to death or tinned.

I too feel, but ‘excessive melodrama’ either raises laughter in me or I find it too irritating to put up with it for long. I have walked out of concerts before, and a minute’s worth of that link to that new age doina was too long, for my sensibilities anyway. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has a huge fan base and I’m in the minority. That wouldn’t be a first. :-D

You know I wish you the best gam, as I do the original poster. But for the original poster, I have lost some faith as the discussion progressed. The problems are sometimes the students rather than the teachers. Sometimes folks can ask and when an answer comes along that they already have set opinions about - they either don’t hear, choose to ignore, or strongly disagree, possibly with "It don’t apply to me!"

I too winced when I read ‘party pieces’… Now the discussion starts to verge on another touchy subject in these discussions ~ ‘performance’… And I’m still chuckling… :-D

‘not’ not ‘note’

generally ‘not’ pleasant ~ but there are plenty of doinas out there I do find ‘note’ pleasant… ;-)

I did also appreciate and enjoy Llig’s and John Galt’s contributions above…

Re: Fiddle Skills

David, I’m afraid "performance piece" digs the hole deeper still, at least with this crowd. :-)

I just cringe a little bit inside whenever someone at a session launches into an obviously difficult (mainly for them) tune that obviously no one else at the session will know, just for the sake of saying, "Look at me!"

Re: Fiddle Skills

Yeah… I’m pretty sure John McSherry’s Doinna is the perfect shibolleth.

1) Those who are so steeped in Irish music (like McSherry himself) that they just play "music", often for a living (with all the please the numpties implications of that) won’t see anything wrong with it (and will probably have a variety of ways of looking at it, going from cynicism to loving it)

2) Those who have a "don’t feck about with scales, vibrato and performane pieces" view (as I do) will think it completely over the top, boring as heck and generally not worth listening to.

3) Those who have a "so long as I’m having fun playing it, where’s the harm, irish music is just like any other music, surely the same rules apply" view will think it full of beauty, emotion and feeling.

To be fair, this third category will probably never learn to play irish music in a way that the 2nd category will enjoy. As a member of the 2nd, who is perfectly aware of his own limitations, I think people in the 3rd will never learn to play irish music at all or music I’m interested in listening to for that matter. So obviously advice from people from the 2nd to the 3rd is not likely to work out.

Where people in the 3rd category get confused is they listen to McSherry not realising that the 3rd and 1st category, despite similar tastes are at opposite ends of a spectrum (those who can play irish music and often choose not to, vs those who can’t and possibly never will) and believe they can get where where they are by ignoring the advice of people in the 2nd - I very much doubt it - but the again, I would.

Also, I heard all of two vibrato’s in that piece of Martin Haye’s - and they seemed to me to be a triple pulse ornament which can sit in place of a roll on a dotted quarter.

Posted by .

Re: Fiddle Skills

re "Doinna" McSherry http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0KQTv8qvkE mentioned earlier, the vibrato that is being used sounds like amplitude vibrato, which is appropriate to the pipes, and is not the same as the frequency vibrato used on the fiddle. I like the way he bends a note going into the next phrase.


There is a longstanding British folk band, “Spiro” (line-up - violin, piano accordion, guitar, mandolin), where the professionally trained violinist does not use vibrato as a matter of policy. If vibrato were used it would be too prominent in the ensemble and spoil the mix.

Re: Fiddle Skills

I think I’m quoting llig here, or maybe ceolachan, but the distinction between "dig this" and "dig me" must be observed. The former is great, the latter is a bore.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Yes, Jon. You said what I meant much more precisely. :-)

Re: Fiddle Skills

"David, I’m afraid "performance piece" digs the hole deeper still, at least with this crowd. I just cringe a little bit inside whenever someone at a session launches into an obviously difficult (mainly for them) tune that obviously no one else at the session will know, just for the sake of saying, "Look at me!" "

That is not at all what I had in mind. If you knew me you would realise that I never seek the limelight and always try to blend into the background in a crowd. My ‘party’/’performance’ piece is for the occasion when someone in the family or friends persuade me to play a tune for them when they are round for a drink in the house ! That’s as close to a performance as it’s likely to get for me.

ceolachan ~ Sorry that yu have ‘lost faith’. Yes I do have my own views and likes/dislikes, but my intention and questions were genuine and I appreciate and take on board on suggestions from others.

Many thanks to everyone for all the excellent advice and the entertaining debate :-) I think I should bow out of this conversation before I dig the hole any deeper !

Re: Fiddle Skills

Aw, stick around. We’re friendly, really. :-)

Yeah, okay, I know what you mean by being asked to play for family and friends. Still, don’t need an impressive tune. When I’m in that situation, I play whichever tune or tunes I feel least likely to cock up on that day. Probably Rolling in the Ryegrass.

Re: Fiddle Skills

TSS has a good point. Needing a "party piece" is not a good thing. You’d probably end up trying to play it too fast and mucking it up something awful. (I have heard of such things happening….)

Better to play your simplest piece absolutely perfectly—a la Mr. Hayes.

Re: Fiddle Skills

There’s no point in playing a difficult tune just for the sake of it but, if it’s one you really like, why not?
The chances are that you’ll have made an effort to do it well if that’s the case.

Of course, it still shouldn’t be done in a session where no one else will know it…..if it’s that kind of session… but as a "performance", it’s really OK.

It really depends on what stage you are at and the circumstances. I’m not a "performing person" either and I quite often tend to fall back on what I refer to as my "emergency sets" when I’m put in that position. However, I might also give one of my current favourites an airing too as long as I feel confident enough at the time.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Remember too though that most "punters" and/or family or friends generally don’t know the difference between a hard or easy tune. So, you’re just as well doing that latter. Listeners generally prefer to hear a flawless effort at an easy tune than mistakes in something which is more difficult. You don’t get any extra thanks for "trying", only success.
:-)

Re: Fiddle Skills

"the distinction between "dig this" and "dig me" must be observed. The former is great, the latter is a bore."

Perfect, Jon. Absolutely perfect. Well said (even if it is a quote from someone else, it’s important that somebody said it). For once, I could not agree with you more.

m.d.

Re: Fiddle Skills

There is nothing sadder than hearing someone having a lonely, yet prolonged and epic battle with a Scott Skinner strathspey. If only they had played Rolling in the Ryegrass….

Re: Fiddle Skills

"You don’t get any extra thanks for "trying", only success."

What I mean by success is just being able to get through the tune from beginning to end as opposed to trying to impress. It’s not a competition or even a talent show.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Looks like I need to learn Rolling in the Ryegrass :-)

Re: Fiddle Skills

Well Ive never had a classical violin lesson in my life, a few pointers right enough but for me the first and foremost method of attaining mastey over any instrument is the basics, the fundaments, scales, intonation, solid tone and intonation. In fact the master and the novice do basically the same thing, just to diffferent levels of achievement.
I know folk say its boring, but I disagree, boredom being an attitude, a way of looking at things rather than something that just happens, so for me scales are so fundamental when I see the discussions here I am regularily amazed at some of the attitudes.
My basic practice on all instruments is about scales patterns and arpeggios etc etc etc etc this is what I practice and preach. :-)
The tunes play themselves when the fingers are up for the job, thats the fun bit, the payoff for all the groundwork on cranns and the like.

Re: Fiddle Skills

… correction…attaining mastery….. damn no spell check on this pc.

Fiddle sticks

Tirno, love it… Trevor, yes! I like his bends too… :-D & Jon too, now the laughter is deep!

No, I haven’t lost faith, or I’d not have sent you what you’ve got in your inbox, which includes a list of other digital sources, videos, DVDs, and actual music… But I was starting to move into Llig’s camp and Tirno put that niggling slip in faith well, in words that echo my feelings at the moment. But I’d not deny anyone their bit of fun, though I may not necessarily be able to appreciate it.

As Silver says, stick around, we are basically a friendly lot, but giving out guff, or a bit of slaggin’, that is all part of the take on things.

& the two Johns too, well said.

"It’s not a competition or even a talent show." ~ one would hope…

"Looks like I need to learn Rolling in the Ryegrass" ~ & with control and well… :-D

PF ~ ‘boredom’ is a decision… Get the basics right, however, the rest will follow. We all learn differently and for some a ‘warm-up’ with scales and apreggios helps, for others using basic tunes in a similar way does it. In the end the ears rule, and if you can get a face-to-face lesson, however, grap the opportunity, seek it, widen your perspective on it all, as hopefully this thread will have achieved for you…

Distance makes the understanding grow stronger

Do your damnedest to escape the tyranny of the dots. You can come back to them later after you’ve gained a better understanding. You’ll also have a better appreciation for them in having done so.

Re: Fiddle Skills

It’s amazing how many people were born with mastery over their instruments.
You admit you are starting out - scales and arpeggios aren’t for memorizing. They are to build your finger strength and dexterity. Loosen those fingers up.
You want to learn vibrato - even at the most basic it makes you hold the string firmly and builds hand strength which lead to finger strength.
In 1982, I was working backstage at a Buddy Rich show (drummer). Buddy and his entire band "warmed up" together and individually for an hour before the show. There is nothing wrong with a warm-up. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do better.
Make your habits - good habits.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"You admit you are starting out - scales and arpeggios aren’t for memorizing. They are to build your finger strength and dexterity. Loosen those fingers up."


Can’t a run through Donnybrook Fair loosen up the fingers? Can’t you warm up with Tobin’s Arpeggiated Jig instead of some arpeggios in D?

Re: Fiddle Skills

Of course, you can warm up with a few tunes instead or even make up a few patterns of your own to help loosen up the fingers.

However, ideally, it’s best to choose tunes etc which are typical of the sort of music you are likely to be playing and in various keys etc. Otherwise, it’s probably a wasted and aimless exercise.

If you are new to traditional music and possibly even the instrument, then you don’t have your previous repertoire and experience to fall back upon for practise and/or warming up. So, surely playing a few scales etc is a good idea in these circumstances?

In a session, it’s very true that you can "warm up" as you are going along but one doesn’t have this luxury before a "performance"…. but, of course, we don’t do performances here.
:-)

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Can’t a run through Donnybrook Fair loosen up the fingers? Can’t you warm up with Tobin’s Arpeggiated Jig instead of some arpeggios in D?"
In the immortal words of Curly - Sur-tan-lee.
But you have to learn them first and an experienced musician loosening up is very different.

Re: Fiddle Skills

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the responses/suggestions from you all. Thanks again for these.

I guess what has really came across is that there is no one right way - as with anything in life I suppose. I think I do see the benefits in scales and arpeggios, but it probably isn’t something I’ll make a lot of use of.

Here are my new plans/goals for improving this year:

1. Listen to even more music
2. Learn (or relearn) all tunes by ear
3. Learn less tunes - focus on improving the ones I know
4. Record everything I play and use this as feedback
5. Play along with recordings much more
6. Get out to sessions this year
7. Take some lessons (I have already arranged a lesson)
**Please stop here if you are are of a sensitive nature - you may be offended ;-)
8. Learn Vibrato (sorry guys but I just really want to be able to play this)
9. Learn some ‘Party Pieces’ to join in with my Kid’s when they have their regular Christmas Day concert - flute and piano; haven’t managed to convert them to Trad yet but I’m working on it
and of course ….
10. Spend some more time here (but remember to leave my ‘Classical’ Alter Ego behind - he can always visit violinist.com )

Re: Fiddle Skills

Jon: "Can’t a run through Donnybrook Fair loosen up the fingers? "

That’s spooky - Donnybrook fair is the tune I always start practicing with - no idea why. I just always start playing this instinctively to warm up.

Re: Fiddle Skills

9. ) Christmas ~ a favourite treasure trove: "The Oxford Book of Carols"

Maybe ‘festival numbers’ would be softer than ‘party pieces’. The latter always seems to bring to mind nutters that pull prophylactics over their heads and then proceed to blow them up till they burst… OUCH!

Re: Fiddle Skills

ceolachan ~ Just checked my mail - many thanks for all the info - I have watched a lot of online videos but hadn’t came across these before. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"That’s spooky - Donnybrook fair is the tune I always start practicing with - no idea why."

‘Cause it’s a great tune, is why I do it.

Re: Fiddle Skills

It’s good to see you assessing the vast wealth of advice and encouragement that you’ve been given here. Of course, if you want to learn vibrato, by all means, you should do so, but be aware that it isn’t really all that helpful in playing traditional Irish music in a conventional way (as many people have pointed out).

Bear in mind that the very limited vibrato that you’ll hear in traditional Irish fiddle music is substantially different from the vibrato you’ll hear everywhere in Western Art Music. ‘Proper’ vibrato (something I’ve never mastered) is played from the wrist, rocking slightly backward and forward. It has a deep resonance and tone. The way most Irish players vibrate the string seems to be more of a sideways movement, and is rather more superficial in the tone it produces. The vibrato that ‘classical’ players use is largely unsuitable for Irish music, and makes them stand out (unfavourably) from those players who know what they’re really aiming for.

Good luck on your musical journey, and keep working at it, no matter how hard it seems. The rewards are worth it.

Re: Fiddle Skills

I have heard that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there’s two kinds of everything, and those who don’t. :-)

Vibrato comes in all shapes and sizes. Check out Martin Byrnes’s first notes of Maudabawn Chapel, on Paddy in the Smoke. Those notes remind me more of funky fiddler Papa John Creach, than most Irish trad fiddlers. But I would never assume that I know more about what belongs in Irish music than somebody like Martin Byrnes—that would just be silly.

But keep in mind that it’s a fine line, with things like vibrato and unconventional intonation. If you don’t do it just right, it sounds like a mistake. Or even worse, an incompetent attempt to do something beyond your skill level. Best to save those for home, without an audience.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Umm, vibrato doesn’t start at the wrist.
It starts with the large muscles in the back, then the arm, then the wrist and fingers.
I don’t use vibrato on trad tunes, unless it is a slow air, or an old-time waltz. It’s different from the vibrato that I use for classical music.

Re: Fiddle Skills

It doesn’t start with the large muscles in the back either. It starts in the ears.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

well, yes, of course!

Re: Fiddle Skills

Which is why I demonstrated vibrato at a lesson last night by playing it and singing it.
Then demonstrating and giving an explanation about the physical aspect of it.
I remember one violin lesson in 5th grade where I worked on it with my teacher. It was something that came naturally for me. But, I’m also a pretty good mimc.

Re: Fiddle Skills

One of the big differences between an ok classical player and a mature classical musician, is the ability to know when to play and when to not play, vibrato.

I.E.: Playing vibrato on every note in classical is for kids/beginners who are learning vibrato, and people who don’t know any better.

Vibrato isn’t hard on violin, or shouldn’t be. If it is difficult you are probably making it more difficult than it really is. That, and like many, many other things in music, you have to start slow.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Well Ive never had a classical violin lesson in my life, a few pointers right enough but for me the first and foremost method of attaining mastey over any instrument is the basics, the fundaments, scales, intonation, solid tone and intonation. In fact the master and the novice do basically the same thing, just to diffferent levels of achievement.
I know folk say its boring, but I disagree, boredom being an attitude, a way of looking at things rather than something that just happens, so for me scales are so fundamental when I see the discussions here I am regularily amazed at some of the attitudes.
My basic practice on all instruments is about scales patterns and arpeggios etc etc etc etc this is what I practice and preach.
The tunes play themselves when the fingers are up for the job, thats the fun bit, the payoff for all the groundwork on cranns and the like.

# Posted on January 20th 2012 by piobagusfidil

Good to see someone is back on form!

Re: Fiddle Skills

I don’t understand why you’d squander time with scalar exercises for this music, at least on fiddle. I mean, with the first position intervals for just the G and D major scales, you can probably play half the repertoire. There are so many other things to focus on and develop, like (in no particular order) lilt, tone, timing, speed, repertoire, internalization etc etc. You can kill multiple birds with one stone, as it were, by just playing the tunes. You’ll get your scalar workout just fine, but can address all those more meaningful issues at the same time.

FWIW, I’ve long thought that if a beginner (or anyone, actually) wanted to focus on just one tune until they knew it really, really well, forwards and backwards, it should be Rolling In The Ryegrass. Top tune.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Vibrato isn’t hard on violin, or shouldn’t be"
I take great encouragement from that, although anything tends to be easy once you know how to do it. When I started playing guitar I never thought I would be able to play a chord, then once that became easier I thought playing barre chords would be impossible. Having gone through that I now take the attitude that I’m bound to be able to play Vibrato well if I practice it for long enough, even though it feels pretty much impossible right now.

Re: Fiddle Skills

A well-known (sorry, can’t remember who) choral singing teacher used to say "I don’t teach vibrato. Your voice will go wobbly and uncontrollable on its own as you get old, without my assistance".

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Looks like I need to learn Rolling in the Ryegrass" - as a highland fling… :-)

Re: Fiddle Skills

"for me scales are so fundamental when I see the discussions here I am regularily amazed at some of the attitudes"

I suppose that must mean you don’t understand what the other people are saying. You may think scales are fundamental, but other people think they are a pointless, unenjoyable waste of time. A waste of time because you can learn and play the music perfectly well without ever playing a scale. If you can learn perfectlly well without them, they can’t really be fundamental, can they?

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

I occasionally practise the odd scale or two and it takes all of ten minutes. So, if you feel inclined to do so, it’s no big deal.

However, if you are a slave to them, then I’d suggest that this could also hinder rather than assist your progress especially with some of these tunes which "break the rules", eg there may be accidentals and so on which may confuse your fingers if they have been too rigidly "trained" to behave in a certain way.

There are also certain tunes where I might use unorthodox fingering and sometimes you need to think ahead and decide whether or not to use the pinky or third finger, for example, or even play in a different position. Or you might choose to "cross" strings or not. So, it’s important to be flexible in your approach.

Of course, the great majority of tunes require little thought once you can find your way around the fiddle neck or fretboard but there a few notable exceptions.

As stated in my profile, I’m now learning the PA and dabbling with the harp and I’ve found that (at my stage, anyway) I have to think even more about finger positions prior to commencing a new tune as it’s not as straight forward as going up and down a scale with a set finger(s) for a particular note. You need to anticipate in advance where to place your fingers depending on where the tune is heading.
Generally, this is less essential on the fiddle or mandolin although it is occasionanally necessary.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Hi JohnDsamuels, you said

"I certainly wouldn’t want to be the person to tell this chap that vibrato has
no place in Irish music:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0bUkuCN0Ko&feature=related"


The camera jumps all over the place in that video and never looks at Martin
Hayes’ left hand for more than a split second.

Here’s another video where we can see much better:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aRseSLEzgY


Look at his arm and wrist. I can see one note where he does something that might
be described as minimal vibrato, at around 3 minutes 40 but even then his wrist
barely moves, it looks more like he wiggles his fingers a bit, including the
ones that aren’t on the strings. The next time he plays the same phrase he
doesn’t do the minivibrato, but it doesn’t sound much different to me.

I do this myself, the finger wiggling, occasionally, but it’s really not what a
classical player would call vibrato, is it?

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

Wow!!

..perhaps I’ll just start with Rolling in the Ryegrass after all ;-)

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Wow!" was to the Anna Karkowska clip.

Watching Aly Bain in the Transatlantic sessions was one of the reasons I wanted to learn Vibrato. I honestly think a lot of slow airs/waltzes would be missing something without some vibrato. Here is another favourite of mine from Aly Bain (with Jay Ungar):

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

Re: Fiddle Skills

Lol, I love that clip, the one where Aly Bain plays it better than the composer.

Re: Fiddle Skills

sorry if something like this has already been said, I didn’t bother reading through even a quarter of the other comments, but I did notice that you said that you weren’t seeing much improvement. Well, when I first started the fiddle, I was trying to play like I heard most other people play, and it was fun for a little while, then it got boring and I dropped it for a while. I then went on to the flute (which I really like). Anyway, just recently (like, in the last month), I have suddenly started liking the fiddle much more because I found my own style of playing. I found it much more interesting than how I had played before. I think it sounds like a Cape Breton-ish style, but it’s just really fun now. I’ve also noticed a sharp incline in my "skill" on the fiddle, and so I think that might be part of your problem.

Re: Fiddle Skills

If playing like other people you hear play bores you, you may not be ideally suited to traditional music.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

I was mainly just hearing the wrong people. I’ve since then found many people that play closer to "my style," and they’re much more interesting to me. So, I wouldn’t say that I’m not ideally suited to traditional music, just suited to an ever so slightly different kind of traditional music. Would you say that Natalie MacMaster isn’t ideally suited to traditional music? If you do, then, according to you, you’re right.

Re: Fiddle Skills

If it’s vibrato you want- listen to Duncan Chisholm. Beautiful stuff.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Bernie29 you glibly say that it’s possible to play trad without ever playing scales ashas often been said here and fir some instruments I’d agree. But what experience do you talk from? Your own? Or hearsay? It’s just that in my experience some instruments are much harder than others , every person has different capabilities and with a blythe overeaching statement such as yours I wonder on what experience it s based?
Scales etc are merely short cts to attaining mechanical ability , , a tool and nomore, IMO by focusing on these fundamentals and being patient about playing tunes is good advice. It’s not instead of, but groundwork to prepare thebody and train the ear/mind/ body connection. I concur with Patsy Touhey whereby he recomends 6 months of basic scales etcbefore ever touching a dance tune.
And don’t believe any nonesense that trad players " don’t play scales" I’m gigging with a fine piper and fiddler this week withgenerations of the tradition behind him. But when he’s getting used tomy fiddle, he plays scales!! (As well as airs) Shock horror! :-)
training the ears and fingers is a simple process , there is no need
To complicate things .

Re: Fiddle Skills

"training the ears and fingers is a simple process , there is no need
To complicate things ."

Yeah well, scales, tunes, both are simple.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Also, there’s a reason why classical players use both scales and etudes to practise. A Gmaj scale over 3 octaves will help with intonation and finger position, but not so much with other things.

Given ITM doesn’t really have etudes, why not use some tunes instead?

Re: Fiddle Skills

One point that I don’t think has been clearly made yet. You don’t have to practice scales and arpeggios for the rest of your life, for hours a days. No, that’s not necessary. Just, a couple minutes a day, for a short period of time. If I remember correctly, I practise scales when I’m terrbibly unfamiliar with a key and it causes me to make mistakes in a piece of music that I know really well. It’s possible, because it’s caused by not knowing the instrument well enough rather than not knowing the piece.

Oh, and to poke a little fun. I love Caoimhin O Raghallaighs’ playing, it’s phenomenal, but I need to comment on this *paraphrased quote…

"Caoimhin O Raghallaigh made an interesting point on the tellie recently (in the context of Sliah Luachra music).

Paraphrasing : if you learn you scale GABCDEF that’s what you get, you’ve learned seven notes and that’s your world. It’s limited i nthe extreme. if you open your ears and listen to the music before you without that limited preconception, you can do anything, you’re free."

That’s why we practise chromatic scales ;)

A comment I saw higher up…

"Can’t a run through Donnybrook Fair loosen up the fingers? Can’t you warm up with Tobin’s Arpeggiated Jig instead of some arpeggios in D?"

The thing about practising tunes is, you can only learn from what the tune has to offer. An individual tune only covers a few patterns. But a scale covers all the notes used in the key. What you get out of practising scales and arpeggios is limited by your own creativity.

Re: Fiddle Skills

Give a thought, fiddlelearner, to why you might sound to some as "classically trained". It might be your approach to This Music. It isn’t note-based i.e scales—it’s phrase (and phrasing) based.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Bernie29 you glibly say that it’s possible to play trad without ever playing scales as has often been said here and for some instruments I’d agree. But what experience do you talk from? Your own? Or hearsay? It’s just that in my experience some instruments are much harder than others , every person has different capabilities and with a blythe overeaching statement such as yours I wonder on what experience it s based?"

Ok, well I play ITM on fiddle, I’ve been playing off and on for several decades, and I have learned this instrument simply by playing tunes. I’ve never played any scales in isolation.

I play a bit of jazz on the sax, a bit of jazz and classical music on piano. If I was to attempt to get my jazz and classical playing up to the standard of my ITM playing, I believe I would have to knuckle down and learn scales.

"I concur with Patsy Touhey whereby he recomends 6 months of basic scales etc before ever touching a dance tune."

I think that is the most ridiculous piece of advice about learning music I have ever read here, and possibly anywhere.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

Six months of scales, especially on an uilleann pipe chanter, would be the most boring thing in the world.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"It might be your approach to This Music. It isn’t note-based i.e scales—it’s phrase (and phrasing) based."

But how could I focus on phrasing if my focus is on where my fingers are suppose to go?

I do like your quote though. And when I think about it even more, I do think an awful lot about the individual notes. But to check myself, phrasing is done by bowing and accenting right?

Re: Fiddle Skills

"Six months of scales, especially on an uilleann pipe chanter, would be the most boring thing in the world."

Six months of scales on anything is boring. Well, maybe except for the steel drums. Coolest percussion instrument ever lol

Speaking of, one of the guys at our session plays uilleann pipes, and he brought them out the other week. It was soooooo cooooool! I saw uilleann pipes for the FIRST time, and got to hear them. They are a lot quieter than I assumed. But man, THEY ARE SOO COOLLL! :)

Re: Fiddle Skills

‘That’s why we practise chromatic scales ;)’

Your comment really really shows you haven’t an inkling as to what he is saying there.

There’s quite the range of notes that have their intonation fall between the usual scales and they’re extremely important in Irish Traditional music.

You need to look up the program (the Sliabh Luachra one , on TG4) and see him launch into a couple of Denis Murphy tunes that made his point oh so eloquently.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

"You need to look up the program (the Sliabh Luachra one , on TG4) and see him launch into a couple of Denis Murphy tunes that made his point oh so eloquently."

Where can I find this?

Re: Fiddle Skills

Ok bernie29 , so you never played. Scales, are you a better fiddler for it? Did you have a teacher? Do you accept that although you feel you have done well without scales on the fiddle that your approach might nor neccassarily work for others? And on instruments you have no experience of? Such as Patsy Touhey’s advice in relation to the uilleann pipes? As regards 6 months of scales being boring, not at all, don’t be so impatient for. Results that you actually restrict your potential progress by missing out on fundamentals .
With all due respect I would rather follow the advice of a universally declared master who puts some ( most?)modern pipers to shame than that of a annonymouse poster on a forum.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"6 months of scales being boring, not at all"

Mmmm I just LOVED it when I hit that top Bb after 6 weeks. After that it kept getting better. The 3 octave Emaj scale with an octave to each bow was a particular highlight in week 10, and I could always rely on a quick Gmaj arpeggio for those times when Dminor was getting me down.

Re: Fiddle Skills

"The 3 octave Emaj scale with an octave to each bow was a particular highlight in week 10"
Haha, lol XD

Re: Fiddle Skills

Yes Piob, I’m a better fiddler for not wasting 6 months on pointlessly playing scales. 6 months better.

Patsy Touhey’s advice is more than 100 years old. People in those days often took an excessively authoritarian and dogmatic approach to teaching and learning. I doubt Touhey actually did what he suggests, and I doubt that anybody else has ever actually followed his daft advice, including today’s finest pipers and you yourself.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

@ Bernie R 29. yes of course I do! after 35 yrs daily fixation of I play 9 instruments fluently, yes aspergers comes to mind :-) At the moment Im learning the Uilleann pipes, slowly, patiently, no hurry, Ive been playing basically scales and technical exercises now for 2 years, yes I can play tunes, and I do, but rarely, what on earth is the point in trying to run before I can walk?
Personally I already have a stock of hundreds of tunes and If people want to learn tunes I suggest they start on the tin whistle while dedicating as much time as possible to mastering the mechanics of some of the , shall we say, trickier, instruments.
Fair play to those of you who can master their instrument without this approach but its worked for me so I dont see any reason to adopt a method I personally abandoned 20 odd yrs ago in favor of a more methodical and technical approach to the mechanical difficulties and issues I encountered over the years.

@STW WTF ?! week 10? E maj ? and B maj too…;-)

Re: Fiddle Skills

@piobagusfidil - pics and vids or GTFO.

:)

Re: Fiddle Skills

You play 9 instruments fluently? Plus fiddle and guitar?

Re: Fiddle Skills

You can waste your own life if you like Piob, but you’ll not waste any more of mine.

Posted .

Re: Fiddle Skills

No worries bernie, it’s a difficult venue to communicate, so much nuance in human interactions it’s not possible to write them out! Just as in the music it’s not possible to communicate even half of what Is happening with representative symbols which after all mean different thingsin different cultures. Im always laughing and taking the p*ss out of any and every one. Everyone knows that so no offence is caused Im also somewhat forthright with my views, I m not afraid to express my thoughts and experience. I have recieved here.So I managed to insult and alienate most of the precious folk here in my first week online :-) oops. jeez is it all so serious folk? It’s a bit if music and craic.
But at the same time the music is also a priceless cultural treasure and heritage so of course we feel it deserves serious respect and we know full well it requires serious dedication to really do the music justice so that is the angle I am coming from. As regards whether I can play or not, well I cansafely rely on the views of people who know me and I rest comfortably assured that in the views of stalwarts of the tradition I can hold my own in any company. But like llig says , and I’m really loathe to quote him, but it’s true; The argument should stand on it’s own merit not on how many people subscribe to a view or how rude ’ loud’ and aggresive forum members can be.
Back to the subject, IMO there are 2 facets to the music, the technical ability , the tools, and the music we make. Yes it may well be possible to turn a chanter useing some dodgy shtick from the ditch and useing blunt tools but I promise you if you sharpen your tools and search out old growth green ebony your satisfaction and quality of produce will increase imeasurably .But don’t mistake my emphasis on technical ability to be a celebration of the anal analytical intellectual approach because it’s not. There is a significant feeling in some of the guys I respect that the technique is of little moment in relation to the whole and despite the immense technical ability some of the young players have that in the process of modification that the music is lacking a certain something. That maybe the sophistication and influence of Jazz and the like are not suitable or appropriate and that the process of modernisation has already gone too far and there is a push for a resurgance for a more traditional approach, whereby people play from the heart. Cheers .