3-string fiddle

3-string fiddle

ADE … especially for diddley music

Advantages:
• Less compromise in the design between upper and lower registers
• Neater size. I’m imaging thinner and shallower. Though not necessarily shorter, you still have to fit the bow in the case. (though you could get a shorter bow … who needs the whole bow in diddley music anyway?)

Disadvantages:
• Do flute players and pipers moan about not having the bottom D?

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I guess you’re not keen on Ed Reavy or Paddy Fahey tunes, then?

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On the contrary, I love ‘em to bits. But given the choice, I’d rather play the flute repertoire. (not that I have to choose, having four strings, of course, but for the sake of sitting and having tunes with flute players and pipers, I won’t be playing Ed Reavy tunes on my own.)

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less is more !!

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On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.

He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They
remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You
could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do.

We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage - to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to
know that.

You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said - not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone - "You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life - not just for artists but for all of us.

Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

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I’m no Perlman, but isn’t one one the greatest strengths of diddley music that there is so little to it. You can play it all, on three strings, in first possition.

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Anything Perlman can do, Nicolo could do one better…

"In performance Paganini enjoyed playing tricks, like tuning one of his strings a semitone high, or playing the majority of a piece on one string after breaking the other three. He astounded audiences with techniques that included harmonics, double stops, pizzicato with the left as well as the right hand, and near impossible fingerings and bowings."

Re: 3-string fiddle

"• Neater size. I’m imaging thinner and shallower. Though not necessarily shorter, you still have to fit the bow in the case. (though you could get a shorter bow … who needs the whole bow in diddley music anyway?)"

Since few tunes go above B on the E-string, you could also make the neck shorter and the body longer, thus making up for the body volume lost through making it narrower. So your 5th would be at the neck/body join.

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And what about a two string strummy-fing to make backers think on their feet and not pour out the same old cliches?

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Doesn’t the open 4tyh string resonate a bit in sympathy witgh the other ones,.

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Yeah, I’m sure it does. But that just contributes the the general mud in a session anyway, so there’s another reason to do away with it.

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a 3-string fiddle is one thing but i’m more interested in hearing about xrumer that can make me rink.

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Xrumers are so old hat! I got one and it made me rink and rink and rink until I nearly went blind.

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I rinked at a girl the other day. The wind changed and now I’m half blind

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Seems like the mediaeval precursor (a 3-stringer) of the modern fiddle is being reinvented! It makes sense, because the G-string of the violin doesn’t really cut the mustard tone-wise because its pitch is too low for the size of the violin, and from G to C the fundamental frequency is scarcely there. I’ve checked this out on my violins with a spectrogram recording. We usually don’t notice this because the listener’s brain reconstructs the fundamental frequency from the harmonics - we’re hearing what we think should be there, in effect.

And while we’re about it, plain gut D, A and E would give the right sort of traditional tone we’d like to hear (or I would, anyway). And if anyone is wondering, in my experience plain gut strings retain their tone at least as long as the modern synthetic cored equivalents (which are a lot more expensive), you can easily tell by looking at them when they’ve had their day, the tone projects as well as you want, and after they’ve settled in (only a few hours playing) the tuning is no less stable than most other strings.

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Where do you get them then, Trevor?

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Are you serious? I would miss playing Lads Unleashed, Dr. Filbert, Never Was Pimping so Gay, Farewell to Ireland and lots of other tunes that use the G string to great effect.

This I don’t get:

"Disadvantages:
• Do flute players and pipers moan about not having the bottom D?"

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i would hate to have the A string in the middle of the fiddle, to my head it belongs slightly to the right

i would not like to have to then pick up my proper 4 string fiddle and have to re-adjust my left hand

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I’m pleasantly surprised anytime a fiddler says he or she wants to sit & have tunes with flutes and pipes.
😀

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I think we are supposed to go with "the ‘spirit’ of the statement" in the OP as requested a couple of days ago by Michael, even if we are slightly confused and suspect typos.

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"Do flute players and pipers moan about not having the bottom D?"

You mean G? As someone transitioning from mandolin to flute, yeah I miss the notes on the G string. The tunes that go below D are only a few among the ones I know, but they’re tunes I enjoy playing! On a basic (non-keyed) Irish D flute I have to either "fold" the note an octave above, or just drop it. Folding the note can sometimes work in a session but it doesn’t sound good when playing solo.

In a year or two, once I get the basics down on the D flute, I’m thinking it might be nice to have a flute in C, B or even A, just for playing those tunes.

Concerning fiddles, I think the main drawback to the idea is that you’d have few makers to choose from, at least until the idea caught on (if it ever did). You’d gain the possible advantage of having a purpose-built instrument for 3 strings, but you’d lose the Darwinian selection advantage of having so many great-sounding fiddles to choose from, as 4-bangers.

Unless the acoustic design of a 3-string fiddle was markedly superior, I think it’s likely that it would be easier to find a great-sounding standard fiddle for playing on just the top 3 strings.

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We’ve had all this stuff before. More than once, from memory. I think it was Llig the previous times too.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the instrument we’ve got.

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For about thee decades I’ve had a three stringed rebec in my office to play tunes over the lunch hour. Having DAE tuning works just fine. I’m not so sure how it would work in a session— the tone is very dry. The instrument in question is made of a piece of walnut firewood I thought was too pretty to burn.

Re: 2-string viola with a spike to hold it in place

I can’t believe I’ve read down this far into a windup!!!

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"Sorry, fiddlemax, but Snopes doesn’t believe that Perlman story."

Lucky for Paganini that Snopes wasn’t around in his time. They would have had a field day.

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"A man is like a three-stringed fiddle
"Hanging upon the wall
"He plays when somebody takes up the bow
"Though he can’t play at all."
- Richard Thompson, as near as I can remember it.

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"You can play it all, on three strings, in first possition."

@llig - I’m just wondering how you’d attack the G tunes. Can you do us a quick video (needs to be video, not audio, so we can see just the 3 strings)? Nothing fancy, just use your mobile or whatever. Go on, You know it makes sense 🙂

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You don’t need a video, I play them the same way as played on the flute. (… and I don’t attack tunes … you make it sound like they’re the enemy or something)

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Never Was Pimpng So Gay

David Levine: can you point me to a recording or maybe an ABC for ‘Never Was Pimping So Gay’. I’m nor familiar with the tune, I can’t seem to locate it and would like to add it to my repetoire especially as ialledgedly it utilizes the G string on the fiddle so effectively.

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@llig - I just thought a video would lend some credibility to your posts, that’s all. You made a statement about being able to play it all on three strings, when 4 are required. But you did say you were up for taking the p i s s … 🙂
"Attack", as in making them sound alive, that’s all. Common phrase. Particularly those tunes in the key of G, when you’re missing the G string off your instrument.

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Would you ever tell a flute player that he is handicapped when playing traditional Irish music in the key of G?

… and I just don’t get that "attack" thing. It’s just such a hostile word. I really can not think of any connotation of the word that can possibly have anything to do with music … other than maybe punk or death metal.

Tunes are not alive, of course, they are abstract concepts that exist in the ether of collective consciousness. And I don’t see it as bringing them alive when I play them, I see it more as affirming my own sense of being alive. Or in company, we see it as affirming our own senses of being alive and being together.

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"Would you ever tell a flute player that he is handicapped when playing traditional Irish music in the key of G?"

Now I know you are taking the p i s s / trolling, but it’s addictive 🙂

A flute has nothing to do with this subject. You can’t take strings off it on a whim, tho I guess you could block some holes / tape down keys to limit the notes you could play on it.

Back on track, again I say that you showing us all how to play successfully on a fiddle with only 3 strings would be very informative and would demo your case really well.

Next time you bump into Frankie Gavin, or Cathal Haydn, ask them about "attacking" a tune. Some call it attack, some call it punch, or lift, or verve. Anything to stop the tune from sounding lifeless and anodyne. It’s common parlance all over the fiddle world, but possibly with the exception of the ITM one.

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What specifically you seem to be missing is the glorious interchangeability of the music between fiddle pipes and flute. When you sit down with a Concert D flute player the last thing on your mind is playing tunes outwith the easy range of that instrument. And there is enough music in that repertoire to keep any man more than happy for several lifetimes. That beautifully succinct octave and a 6th. If pursuit of happiness compels you to stray outwith this range, then you cannot understand Irish diddley music.

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christ on a bike

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… it’s even got frets

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Well named the Banshee

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Yeeeaaaauuuuccchhh. They look like props from a Tim Burton movie.

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It’s more to do with the sound.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmU_3kIT3vY&feature=related


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swRQW8FSAUo&feature=related


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4k3kZwH3yY


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PDUz0ZXl-s


That should give you an idea of the versatility.


Can’t find any diddley - maybe they’re too expensive.

The maker attempts a bit of diddley on this clip though:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8hA4pPmcQA

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Like that Niggle bit where he says "one has to stick wiv a few parameters".

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"If pursuit of happiness compels you to stray outwith this range, then you cannot understand Irish diddley music."

And you do? Well, I guess that makes everything all right! LOL

"Cathal Haydn - any relation?"
Yeah, to Pat & Micheal Haydn.

The 6-string Violectra does look a bit bizarre, but it has a good tone, and it’s surprisingly easy to play. I first thought the neck would feel "clunky", but it was fine. The different bridge curve was quite easy to get used to too. I had about an hour on it at one of the recent Fiddle Hell events.

I tried the fretted Viper 6-string too, but didn’t get long enough on it to evaluate it properly.

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Feckin hell, good tone? ha ha bloody ha. They sound like a swarm of wasps playing kazoos while imprisoned in a doll’s house made of tracing paper.

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"They sound like a swarm of wasps playing kazoos while imprisoned in a doll’s house made of tracing paper."

A bit like you then.

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ha ha

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ha … you mean a bit like every fecker here?

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Yep.

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Worldfiddler do you ever play Irish tunes on flute. The instrument has it’s limitations but I think that can be a good thing with this music. Something along the lines of less being more.

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Tonya, I don’t play the flute, but I do like to hear it being played well. Maybe with a nice sparse bouzouki behind it, playing 4ths and 5ths.

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3-course or 4-course?
😉

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Just ‘cos it sort of got missed along the way:

"Attack" in the way that worldfiddler used it, is a very common useage, and is just a synonym for "approach" or "handle". So, "How would you attack the issue of not enough male teachers in primary schools?" is synonymous with the same sentence, but using "approach" or "handle" instead of "attack".

It’s such a common useage that I presume that Llig was just reacting negatively to it out of meanness.

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Might be too late for discussion, but I liked the mention of the rebec. Maybe ADA, so you have a 5th below and a 5th above? Should be easier for range with volume without too much fretting?

Played a psaltry once at an art fair- happened upon something by Bach, as I remember. Irish music on the ektara might make a contrast for the 3-5 strings of a rebec? A variant on "Air on the G string" by Carolan?

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@mrkelahan : Did you mean ADA?

ADA - if D was the middle string, that would make it 4th below and a 5th above.

GDA - if D was the middle string, that would make it 5th below and a 5th above.

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It’s doesn’t mean the same thing at all. And I suspect its a wrong usage of ‘synonymous’. Dictionary time 😉

Did llig mean DAE in the OP ? Could a mandolin with a body designed for one course of strings less and first position playing only sound better in a session ?

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Yes, DAE. Interesting question about the mandolin though, but I’m not sure. One of the loudest mandolins I’ve heard (with the exception of the resonator ones of course) is a 10 string Sobel. So bearing that in mind, I don’t think that plucky strummy fretted things follow the same kind of rules of constraints of compensation of design between the upper and lower register. I’ve heard some pretty large mandolins that sounded very "toppy" and some quite small ones that sounded quite "basey". Could be wrong though.

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Thanks ‘Worldfiddler’, I needed that; here I was thinking that the same interval could be a 4th in one direction and a 5th in the other (you know, I think I remember that published in a book of music theory once, as hard as that is to believe; could it be worse than chess?)!

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ha ha, priceless

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Hmmm…

😏

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‘llig’, that would probably have to do with the materials and guts of it, i.e., the density and flexibility of the top and placement and stiffness of the internal supports under the soundboard.

I’ve found the same thing in guitars- had a heavy mahogany Alvarez acoustic that was a dud in the bottom end and a little tinnish in the top end because of the stiffness of all mahogany. Beautiful instrument, just played a bit like an old dog!