Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Blasted 3rd part of dowd’s and more recently paddy fahy’s reel and in memory of coleman have me clamoring to get it fixed :P.

I have big hands so ive been told and i find it hard to catch the b flat; always seems to veer several millimters off course towards b natural.

Any tips?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

minor key tunes happen to be my favs so I wanna get it sorted sooner than later.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

The B flat is less of a reach than B natural. Can you reach B natural? Anyway I find that one dowd’s favorite, on the Tenor Banjo anyway, because of the reach I prefer to move up to second position in the C part, and then transition back to first by using my pinky on Bb. It helps when you are walking down to the F natural. I do struggle with the reach on banjo but find it odd that you are struggling with the reach on fiddle, especially with big hands. Anyway it’s something like this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBcJx_BUPDs


I’m not very good at this tune, but it is definitely worth the struggle. I use my pinky in place of my third finger as do many banjo players to that will be different, I also use the standard third finger when needed. The part that is applicable to violin is moving your first finger up to second position on the g note of the e string for the c part. Since you are playing a whole phrase based off that G minor arpeggio it gives you an opportunity to then sub your pinky for third finger and then go pinky on Bb, third on A, second on G, and first on F making the pinky a good transitional point to switch. The second time through I do it differently. I just do the whole phrase in standard second position fingering as mentioned above except the standard is using my third finger for Bb in second position so then I have to slide my index from second back down to first when the phrase transitions from the G minor arpeggio to the F major arpeggio below it.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Two things. Firstly, when you play, is your left wrist bent, so that the palm of your hand is pretty much touching the neck of the fiddle? If so, that is probably a good bit of your problem. You want there to be almost a line from your forearm into your hand (wrist not bent). Not only does that help with intonation on those more obscure notes, but it also helps enable you to move your fingers faster and more cleanly, with practice.

If your wrist isn’t bent (so it’s how it should be), then I would advise just practicing putting down your pinky on the Bb (E string I assume?) over and over and over again. Try playing a third finger A, then putting your fourth finger down right so it’s touching the third finger. That should be pretty close to a Bb. Practice doing that until you are consistently getting the Bb, then try getting to it from the second finger G. In short, just practice practice practice. If needed, use an electronic tuner to make sure your Bb is in tune. I normally hate using tuners (they’re wrong! That discussion’s already taken place though), but sometimes they can really help.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Re the original question:- I don’t think there’s any other answer than to practice. when I first started I (like most) had most trouble with my pinky. Now I can’t even stop the little…????…. (er… I just promissed Jim Dorans that I’d try and use the word ‘Person’ in future… not that Jim is a wowser of any kind of course, it’s just that we’ve just had a personal discusion on politeness and the presence of different cultures and more innocent thinking people than ourselves on this site, so I decided to stop saying ‘Bastard’). Anyway Arthur, give that little pinky person as much practice as you can. It will come, and it’s so very handy.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Arthur, there are a few very simple exercises in Sevcik Op 1 Book 1 (which I think you have) which do nothing else but home in on using the 4th finger for the Bb and the B. The good thing is that everything else takes a back seat - bowing, ‘the tune’, etc, so you can concentrate solely on getting the Bb / B natural spot on.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

If you consistently hit nearer B than Bb, it would suggest that your brain has built up a circuit (as you might guess, I’m not a neurologist) that is being used in anticipation of your desires. The solution is to consciously aim lower than where you expect the correct pitch to be, so that the circuit isn’t triggered. Once your hand, brain and ear get together and decide on what is the actual correct position for the desired sound, a new circuit will be made, and the neurons from the old one can go back to doing whatever they were meant to do — listening for sabre-tooth tigers, or letting you breathe and stuff.
It might also help if you look at the fingerboard while you are playing, and try to locate a mark or something where you intend your finger to go, and see how close your judgement is to the actual pitch when you actually get there.

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The myth of the straight wrist

Re: "If your wrist isn’t bent (so it’s how it should be)…" Nonsense.
This is a favorite canard of violin teachers who avoid talking about rhythm and phrasing and instead talk about technique. Most of them talk about technique (e.g., the need for a straight wrist) because they don’t know what else to talk about. Fiddlers from Martin Hayes to James Cullinan to Kevin Burke can play with or without a straight wrist, as the tune demands.
Other teachers with whom I have discussed this say that it’s ok for men, who have longer fingers than women, and so can play with a bent wrist, though it’s not good for women to do this because their fingers are shorter. To whom I would offer Liz Carroll as a counter example.
Teachers who interrupt the flow of a tune to insist on a straight wrist remind me of those misguided primary school teachers who’d whack you with a ruler for writing with the wrong hand. If the tune requires a straight wrist (to go into third position or to use a broad vibrato) then a player will do it without thinking too much about it. Otherwise it’s of not much concern.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Ye I guess its a ‘just practice’ case. Just wanted to complain a bit I suppose :).

Will check out he sevcik excerccises too tho cheers Jim.

I didn’t mean it’s harder to reach OUT to b flat but to reach IN to it cos my fingers are long.

Ive been conscious of keeping a straight arm. Altho you guys offer counter examples of ppl who CAN play with bad technique, since I’ve had a cpl of violin lessons where she told me about ‘proper form’ Ive found this can really help to make things easier to play. For instance she said don’t play scrunched up with a concave chest and I found this helps and feels more comfortable when I sat up and widened my shoulders.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

When someone is asking a question about not being able to reach a note with his 4th finger, I’m not certain what "rhythm and phrasing" has to do with it. Seems to me that technique suggestions are entirely appropriate.

For fiddlers, a straight wrist isn’t as important as it is for one playing classical, with shifting and vibrato. But a flexible wrist is. Maybe focus less on "straight" and more on "flexible."

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"examples of ppl who CAN play with bad technique", "proper form", are just the sorts of things that David Levine was highlighting — with which sentiment I heartily concur. It is not ‘bad technique’, it is simply another way of playing. There is no ‘proper form’, only perhaps a general consensus — often disagreed with by those concerned — as to what gives the best results. I caution against taking the word of a teacher as right, let alone authoritative, just because he or she teaches, without a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind it. How anyone can play the fiddle while being conscious of playing ‘with a straight arm’, is beyond me.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

The debate about ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ technique/’classical’ versus ‘trad.’ is pointless as far as I’m concerned. Within classical playing there is variation of technique, but there are some basic principles that are there to ensure that you have as little tension in your hands as possible. Tension in your hands can often equal tension in your sound, and can also lead to injury. Having a straight, flexible wrist is a good example of this - just try putting your wrist in a straight position, and then bending it back. You can immediately feel the tension on the back of your hand. Try wiggling your fingers in both positions - your fingers are much more agile with a straight wrist.

That being said, everyone is made differently, and therefore it is possible for a few people to play with ‘bad’ technique and still be brilliant players. Paganini had a double-jointed thumb, and could leave his thumb at the base of the neck whilst playing in higher positions!

Does a bent wrist matter?

I think it is worth bearing in mind that people have been playing the violin for several hundred years, and the teaching pedagogy has gradually evolved over that time. So when teachers tell you to hold the instrument and bow in a particular way, you can be pretty sure that that is the best way to do it. To do anything else is going to restrict how far you can advance your technique in some way later on. It’s true that as a fiddler rather than a violinist you’ll probably be able to develop a ‘style’ that avoids the bits of technique you can’t do, or develop your own workarounds, but isn’t it better to just make the effort to do things right from the outset? In the case of the bent wrist, it probably doesn’t matter a damn if you are only ever going to play one string at a time. But as soon as you need to finger an individual string without touching its neighbours, for double stops or cross bowing, it’s going to cause you problems.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Ye I think the ‘traditionalists’ are being rebellious for the sake of it to buck the trend.

Its not that I blindly follow what a teacher tells me. Far from it as Jim will tell you I ignore what most ppl tell me :D but that like guy above says it’s about evolution.

The scientific method is able to tease out the most effective method of doing things and the classical lads seem the best at doing things in a more rational manner from what I’ve gathered.

Now I also hate classical for its stuffiness and the grades and exams and that crap I havent been interested in so I just cherry pick what I please from them.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I agree with what manxygirl and Mark posted earlier.

I think Arthur’s problem is something that’s at the very root level of learning. It’s something that could have been dealt with at the very early stages of learning, but it’s been missed, and Arthur knows why ;)

That’s why I suggested the Sevcik exercises, because they home in on the problem in a simple and highly effective way. Tunes, musical genre are totally irrelevant at this level. If you can’t hit simple notes accurately, that will affect everything that you try to play - classical, trad, post-modern industrial psychobilly polkas, or whatever.

Following on from what Mark said earlier about teaching, much of it follows common sense and the logic of simple mechanics.

If your wrist is straight, there is less tension and less effort required to finger the notes. Your fingers also have also have greater reach. If your wrist is bent / pancaked, it does make it more difficult to finger notes. Again, simple mechanics at work. Try picking up a cup or a pen using a bent / pancaked wrist. Not natural, is it? So why play that way if there’s nothing physically wrong with you? Yes, it *can* be done, as we all know.

Arthur, pick your route now :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Well Jim you are saying this is the errors of my ways but the simple fact is I wasn’t interested in the excercises back then and if Id been forced to do them by some draconian hand I may have given up playing the instrument completely because I was not motivated to do them. I was more interested in learning tunes which has been fun, those exercise = not fun.

But now playing the tunes bafdly isn;t so fun either so I have naturally gained an interest in improving my technique.

Now I know WHY Id have to do them they have a purpose rather than being pointless drudgery like I would have seen them in the past.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Arthur, better late than never. In any case even 10 mins solid uninterrupted time on them would help a lot - plus the fact that some of them are in 6/8 time, so think of them as extremely dark, austere jigs …;)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Jim, would you like to explain how playing from those dots for 10 minutes will improve intonation any better than playing the same notes in a jig or reel?*]

If you look at this link (it’s a long one, but it actually opens a pdf of the book) :

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=sevcik%20op.1%20part%201%20for%20violin&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.el-atril.com%2Fpartituras%2FSevcik%2FSchool_of_Violin_Technique_Op1_Book1.pdf&ei=Um1VUt6bNsa57AaF2oCgDw&usg=AFQjCNF7a0Rji10_14ySmQ5OHI43aUvKhQ&sig2=AeJtAwembo8vcXbifA8CAw&bvm=bv.53760139,d.ZGU

If you look at the last 3 lines on page 6, they use simple patterns with lots of instances of playing high B and high B. In other words, homing in on the problem. These exercises are tried and tested methods for left-hand development. Roughly the same amount of notes as a jig too.

If it’s a choice between doing that, and repeatedly playing selected notes in a jig or reel, what do you think is best?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I would like you to answer my question: what exactly is it about these desperately tedious exercises that you believe will improve intonation better than playing lovely tunes would?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*I would like you to answer my question: what exactly is it about these desperately tedious exercises that you believe will improve intonation better than playing lovely tunes would?*]

Because they are designed to aid left-hand development and improve intonation. I don’t know how I can make it any clearer than that. Lovely tunes only sound good if you play them well, and if you have a problem hitting the notes properly, you are playing them badly, and that needs to be addressed.

Those exercises may seem deperately tedious to you, but as I said before they are extremely effective in solving intonation problems (if you understand their purpose and are willing to do them). If you don’t, then they are a waste of time. OK?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

This is interesting since bernie you pretty much voiced my exact views of the same expcercises in the past.

Im still not ‘sold’ on the exercises yet since I havent tried them properly to say one way or the other but Im at least a BIT more open minded about them than I used to be :P.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I think the key thing about exercise such this is that they allow you to concentrate on just one thing, intonation or whatever. When you play a tune there’s a lot more going on.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Yes Jim, you say they are extremely effective, but you don’t explain why they are effective. You say they are "designed to improve intonation", but you don’t explain how that works. Do you want to give that a try? Just explain how reading and playing these particular dots will lead to a greater improvement in intonation than playing Dowd’s Reel.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Whether you practice by playing an exercise designed to focus on the Bb, or by playing a phrase of a Paddy Fahey tune that prominently features a Bb shouldn’t matter too much, as they amount to much the same thing with some trade offs—the exercise is more focused, the tune phrase gives you more context.

I have also used a tuner, as an fidleir suggested above, to really focus on a note. I found it helped to play slowly and really LISTEN to the note. Get the sound into my aural memory, and get my muscles used to the physical position. Play scale intervals up the string—again, s l o w l y—without looking at the tuner. When you get to what you think is the note, peek at the tuner.

10 full minutes of practice/day does seem tedious, but it depends on how badly you want to root out the problem. 10 minutes a day for a week would probably cure it. Or 5 minutes a day for a month! I think it kind of works that way.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I was looking at a discussion between some classical violinists the other day, one of them approvingly quoted a famous player (Heifetz if I remember rightly) who said that controlling intonation is a lifetime’s work. That rings true to me, and the stuff above about ten minutes here and there doesn’t.

So the question really isn’t "will ten minutes of Sevcik exercises improve intonation more than ten minutes of jigs and reels?", but rather "what are you going to spend your life doing?" What you get good at is what you spend time doing over an extended period. If you spend your time on barren exercises you’ll get good at doing barren exercises, and your playing will sound like a barren exercise.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

hah i think you’ve veered me back to the no exercises camp bernie.

also like others have said, of course playing the WHOLE tune there is alot more going on but if you played JUST the specific part you are stuck on over and over till you get it then its similar to the exercises anyway while still having the context. and you arent wasting any of your precious short life on unnecessary exercises.

Ive done this quite a few times but the most recent is in the second part of in memory of coleman where you go from e to a to d string in quick successcion, not sure of the common term for that but its been a toughy to get!

this is the same reason ive never bothered with scales, painfully boring, yet even tho ppl criticize nearly every otehr part of my playing intonation is the one thing they have consistently said is ‘ok’.

Now im sure it could be improved but im just saying is all.

As said I think both probably amount to pretty much the same thing, they are both about small-chunking, just one way is less mind numbing than the other and thus preferable in that you will be more apt to do it consistently.

I would certainly admit tho that my progress may have been slowed by not isolating specific problems to tackle one at a time.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I personally found Wolfahrt violin etudes to be helpful at my intonation and comfort with keys like Ab, because many of the early exercises focus on those keys and some of the difficult patters. If you practice them it will rewire your brain for all those flat notes and keys with flatted notes. I guess playing tunes in those keys will do the same thing, doesn’t really make any difference to me. Etudes are actually just tunes that are written for the express purpose of practising, but there is no reason they have to be drudgery any more than actually practising tune or tune phrases can be. If you are practising well it should be a bit of a job, you really have to focus on what you are doing wrong and why to get better. Whether you do that with etudes or tunes is really a pointless argument. The most important thing about practice in my opinion is not to rush, play as cleanly as possible, keep the rhythm as even as possible (use a metronome if necessary), play the hard parts more than the easy parts (so don’t just play the stuff you can play well every day to entertain the neighbours), pay special attention to the transition between phrases beats and measures (for both of the last two repeat as necessary, set it up in a loop until you can play through that part over and over again without stopping), play musically, and stay inspired.Now whether you are playing trad, country, baroque, or drudgerous exercises, these methods are tried and true.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Arthur’s original problem is not being able to hit a high Bb properly. He’s realized this, and asked for help.

He’s posted samples of his playing here before, and whilst his intonation is not perfect, it’s quite clear that there’s nothing wrong with his musical ear. So, I have to assume the Bb issue is a mechanical problem.

[*Yes Jim, you say they are extremely effective, but you don’t explain why they are effective. You say they are "designed to improve intonation", but you don’t explain how that works. Do you want to give that a try? Just explain how reading and playing these particular dots will lead to a greater improvement in intonation than playing Dowd’s Reel.*]

Bernie, I’ve already answered your question, and tried to clarify it too. I provided a link, a specific page, even the relevant bars and notes. I’ve used that in teaching students. Not just that exercise, but that and similar ones, which home in on a particular issue. They do work.

Those Sevick exercises I linked to earlier, repeatedly call for playing an A then a Bb, plus an A and a B natural in a very short space of time, so giving the ear a chance to hear the difference. It’s homing in on the problem.

Why don’t you do the same for me? A link for Dowd’s, point to the bars / notes, and explain why that will help the problem that Arthur is having - namely being unable to consistently play a Bb in tune. That would help to explain why you think the way you do, or your ‘case for’, if you like.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Jim, would you like to explain how playing from those dots for 10 minutes will improve intonation any better than playing the same notes in a jig or reel?*]

For what my opinion is worth, an exercise isolates and focuses on a single aspect (or a few aspects) of technique. When playing a tune, the use of a particular aspect of technique might emerge once or twice each tiou me round, so each time that you ‘practise’ it is interspersed with the rest of the tune, making it difficult to focus on the technique you are trying to improve; whilst improvement might come with time, you run the risk of simply repeating the same bad technique.

However, it might serve you just as well to isolate the challenging part of the tune - essentially, creating your own ‘exercise’ - as to use a pre-formulated exercise.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I imagine etudes came about at one point to add variety to exercise while a musician was working on harder materials such as sonatas, concertos and the like. This is why they are more popular in classical genres where musicians are constantly working on the same few "big" pieces for months on end and etudes gave them something else to play when they needed a break from orchestral works but wanted to stay in shape or even improve their skills apart from their performance pieces. Traditional tunes have a lot of variety on their own and no single tune is ever a huge time commitment, comparatively speaking. In a sense I agree they may not be as useful to trad musicians who aren’t trying to learn huge composed pieces, but some of us might benefit from trying them. I don’t think you are at any risk of turning drab from trying a couple of etudes, however there are many many etudes out there and some might be more or less useful for trad musicians. I think they are useful, but some will be more helpful than others. It can be hard to find tunes in a particular key for instance. It can be extremely helpful if you have trouble with Bb to find a few tunes to play that have it, because each tune uses Bb in slightly different way it might help you to realize you are only having trouble playing Bb in phrases that also include F natural or if they approach from the A below that is difficult because your fingers are crammed. That being said it can be hard to find tunes on that criteria by merely searching the session or looking for albums to buy.

For instance I sometimes have trouble reaching high B with my pinky, but not in every tune. Tunes like Maid behind the bar that approach scalewise from F natural to high B are very difficult for me because I have to use all four fingers in a row and I often lose my sense of the rhythm or cramp my first finger from bending and stretching it too much, too fast. So I worked out how to play the B part up the neck which did involve going over a few scales, because I had to find where the notes that I play on the E string could be found on other strings. Worked out well, I don’t struggle with the tune anymore. The amazing thing is I played the tune for many years before even recognizing the problem, and repeatedly injuring myself.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"I don’t think you are at any risk of turning drab from trying a couple of etudes"

Of course not. But how much good would it do? What you get good at is what you spend extended periods doing. "A couple of etudes" is a drop in the ocean. To get any real benefit from the exercise it needs to be repeated over an extended period. That time would be better and more enjoyably spent playing lovely tunes.

"It can be hard to find tunes in a particular key for instance."

You don’t need to find tunes in a particular key. Just learn the tunes you want, and when you run into difficulties, practice the parts you find difficult. If you find the whole tune difficult, let somebody else play it and try an easier one, you can come back to the hard one later when you’ve progressed. Arthur has already told us three tunes he has the problem with, apparently he can tell his intonation is out, so all he needs to do is correct it as he’s playing, just like all violinists do. And the improvement will come gradually and naturally as he plays tunes.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"If you spend your time on barren exercises you’ll get good at doing barren exercises, and your playing will sound like a barren exercise."

Okay, sorry about this, but I’m about to go all-out classical. The above statement is the exact reason that you DON’T play these so-called "barren" exercises barrenly. You put your entire heart, soul, and emotions into those simple notes of the exercises. You have to make them as musical and beautiful as you possibly can. I do this every day with my scales. By the way, I used to hate scales, but I have recently found the necessity of them (mainly with orchestral music), and practicing scales a bit every day really does help with everything. So they become enjoyable because of the payoff.

Also, for those of you who are now under the impression that I’m just a mis-placed classical player, I do actively study classical music. However, when I play Irish music, I am able to sort of turn off many of the classical "switches." I still have the technique and intonation but I treat the tunes totally differently than anything classical. It’s a different genre, different style, I treat it that way.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Well, let’s see how Arthur gets on with the Bb problem after all this talk, and how he manages to solve it.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

The easiest way surely is to listen and move your little finger until it’s producing the right note!

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@ Ebor_fiddler
… and the easiest way to score 50 with one dart is to throw it into the bull’s-eye.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

An fidleir: maybe you would like to try a little experiment? Record yourself playing your scales, when you are putting your entire heart, soul and emotions into them. Listen to the result, and try to assess whether it sounds like lovely music, or a barren exercise, and then report back. If you find it sounds like lovely music you could post a recording of it for our enjoyment.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Lol ye an fidlers comment I found so trite! made me cringe. LOL.

Just like I put all my heart and soul into washing my dishes and brushing my teeth.

Well I tried printing off the sevcik and managed to do it for about 30 seconds before my brain ceased up and thought why don’t I just practice the part Im stuck on and tossed it aside and just picked up the tuner and practiced hitting the notes while watching the tuner. I did that for a bit then tried it again without the tuner.

I seemed to be getting better once I slowed down my pace.

Thats what Ive found to work slow down doing ti as slow as I can to make it sound right then gradually speed it up and if I mess up slow down again and repeat. No pompous exercises required.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Different things work for different people, so you’ve just got to try things and work out what practise techniques work best for you. I hated scales and studies when I was younger as I found them tedious. Now I quite enjoy them! The fact that they aren’t the most melodious actually helps me, as it means I have less to think about - you can just focus in on whatever you are practising at that time (whether it’s tone, bowing, intonation etc.).

I make all my fiddle students practise scales, but always in relation to a piece that they are playing in that key, so that they see the purpose. For younger students, I don’t find that they’ll ever stick with exercises like Sevcik, so I write my own studies for them if they have a particular problem, and try to make the study interesting and fun.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

If that’s what you think about an fidleir’s comment Arthur then it’s pretty obvious that everyone is wasting their time trying to help you, and you revealed a great deal about yourself and your attitude.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Much wisdom and many useful pointers in that clip, TomB-R.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Seriously Gam? What exactly did you learn from that? I watched the whole thing, and I feel quite strongly that it was a waste of my time. I learned that you should keep your fingers close to the keys of the flute (wow, what a revelation), and I learned that Galway has a nauseating personality to match the nauseating tone he gets out of his flute.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Tom B-R: I think the people advising Arthur to do scales and classical studies are wasting Arthur’s time. I think he has an excellent attitude, and it has allowed him to correctly identify the solution to his problem.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Yes, I remember that one from way back, Bernie!

Clearly a waste of time your listening to the first GW clip. So sorry!

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

If a fiddle player can hit the high B-nat with the fourth finger in tune, then it seems reasonable to suppose that the B-flat should be easily accessible and in tune. If there is indeed a problem in that area then it may be down to the shape adopted by the left hand, including the player’s general posture, when playing. There is no "one size fits all" answer to this because there is so much anatomical variation between players. The solution lies in face-to-face tuition with an experienced teacher to sort things out on an individual basis. Probably no more than a handful of lessons will be necessary for an adult, with a follow-up lesson a while later to check that things are going to plan.

I went down this road some years ago when I went from a lifetime of cello playing (with the associated thick fingers!) over to the violin. A good teacher dealt with the problems I was running into fairly swiftly.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

A waste of anybody’s time Tom. Unless you can tell me what anybody would get from it? What does anybody get from hearing him say "if you practice scales you will get good like this", followed by him playing a scale? Or his advice that you should have a conversation with your instrument? Or anything else he said or did in those lost 9 minutes and 50 seconds?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I think the general consensus is that some kind of isolation exercise is necessary to try to cure the problem at root level. I know there has been debate on what type of exercise to do, whether it is a selected left-hand development exercise (eg Sevcik), or a scale in the key of the tune, or even just the sections of the tune where the bum note get played.

I simply can’t get my head round the mindset of ‘just ignore those stupid, boring, barren, pointless, pompous exercises, just keep playing the tune’. And more tunes. Because that’s how you’ll get better. Because you spend extended periods doing them.

Imagine a sportsman trying to improve his performance by simply repeatedly entering more competitive events in an attempt to improve, without doing any training. Or a young, fit, strong lad who fancies taking up boxing. He’s stronger than most people his age and weight, and his punching power is devastating. Trouble is, he keeps getting hammered and knocked down in every single fight - usually within the first minute. He keeps taking on opponents, keeps getting hammered, and thinks he’ll improve, because he is determined, but he doesn’t. Ever.

In exasperation, he finally hires a coach, and discovers that he really is totally clueless when it comes to boxing. He’s in way too close all the time, he telegraphs his every move, therefore his opponent simply takes advantage of that and keeps whacking him. Which is why he is such a crap boxer. But, he had to find that out the hard way :)

I know Arthur originally did ask a perfectly sensible question, but he’s been having a laugh along the way, and playing off one against the other, which was a bit naughty.

Never mind, when he’s cracked Dowd’s, I’m sure he’ll post a video or audio to celebrate :)

Me, I might just had a little alcohol before I listen to the James Galway clips!

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I wouldn’t call it naughty. I’d just call it having a discussion and being interested to hear both sides of the case to see which is more persuasive.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I find the minor 6th interval from D on the A string to Bb on the E string, played together, really helps. Helps to practice hearing a minor 6th to tune two notes rather than just going by 4ths and 5ths for tuning. Compare with Open A string and F natural on the E string which is another minor 6th. When those two notes sound just right together your F is in tune and you should be able to make a similar sound with D and Bb.

When you move the F natural up to sharp or the Bb up to natural you have a major 6th which you are probably more used to hearing. It can be useful to understand that a minor 6th inverts to a major 3rd and a major 6th inverts to a minor 3rd. That just means that from D to Bb is a minor 6th and from Bb back up to the next octave D is a major 3rd. When you move that Bb up to B natural you have made that interval one semitone larger which changes a minor 6th to a major one and simultaneously shortens the distance between that Bb and the higher D note, changing the major 3rd into a minor third.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*I wouldn’t call it naughty. I’d just call it having a discussion and being interested to hear both sides of the case to see which is more persuasive.*]

So, are you going for the ‘practice the difficult bit’ like you said before? Just asking. Incidentally, do you have a link for the Dowd’s you are working on? I couldn’t find one on here in Gm / Bb that had the high Bb note. I have it in a few books, though.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Ye, its the one from cranitch’s book.

I have fixed my issue (mostly) now, doing the repeat the trouble part technique.

I’ll record one soon to show ‘proof of the pudding’ :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Ye, its the one from cranitch’s book.
I have fixed my issue (mostly) now, doing the repeat the trouble part technique.
I’ll record one soon to show ‘proof of the pudding’ *]

Good man. I forgot about it being in the Cranitch book - I just looked it up in my copy. You might want to tag on the ‘Ten Pound Float’ after Dowd’s. A nice slope from G minor to G major.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

You can look at it like that, as if you are training for a fight, as if every technical failing is a blow, a defeat, as if it is a competition and you are training for some future event.

Or you can just enjoy playing the tunes you can play, now. You will always be at the stage you are at now, so if you don’t take pleasure in what you can do now, you never will.

There will always be things you can identify as "problems". At an early stage any learner is going to have constant, multiple "problems" with intonation, timing, control, and then as you progress you take on more challenging tunes with new "problems".

You can learn to play Irish music just by listening to and playing tunes for the pleasure of it, and there are plenty of simple but tunes which you can enjoy playing for the rest of your life. By listening to and playing the tunes you can learn about intonation, timing, control, expressiveness and so on spontaneously. This is something in the nature of traditional music.

The importance of relaxation is widely recognised. You are not going to be relaxed if you are thinking of yourself as engaged in a fight against music, anxiously identifying and struggling with its "problems".

There is no musical pleasure in the Sevcik exercise I saw, so there would need to be a good reason to suggest spending time on it.

But nobody has explained how that exercise is supposed to help someone in Arthur’s position, and I don’t see how it is supposed to work. Let’s say I have a problem with intonation when I play "a b c". How is it going to help my intonation to look at the written notes "a b c" and then try to play them? What does that pleasureless, unmusical exercise actually achieve, and how?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*But nobody has explained how that exercise is supposed to help someone in Arthur’s position, and I don’t see how it is supposed to work. Let’s say I have a problem with intonation when I play "a b c". How is it going to help my intonation to look at the written notes "a b c" and then try to play them? What does that pleasureless, unmusical exercise actually achieve, and how?*]

That’s been answered about three times, by me and others earlier. Please re-read, and try to understand. Everyone else seems to be able to.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

>>"You can look at it like that, as if you are training for a fight, as if every technical failing is a blow, a defeat, as if it is a competition and you are training for some future event."

I suppose you could, but I think you’d land up admitting defeat and giving up music pretty quickly. Much better to see every technical failing as a challenge - something to overcome, and a source of great satisfaction when you master it.

>>"Or you can just enjoy playing the tunes you can play, now. You will always be at the stage you are at now, so if you don’t take pleasure in what you can do now, you never will."

But it’s not an either/or situation, is it? It is perfectly possible to take pleasure in playing at your current level AND enjoy pushing yourself forward to new heights.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@Bernie - the point of the Galway clip was just a reminder that it is possible to play scales as if they are music - if you need to practice scales.

Generally.
Whatever one is playing it’s surely important to play music, not a series of notes.

If you don’t isolate problem areas and work on them, the chances are you’re "practicing playing it wrong" - something that almost everyone does sometimes.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Tom B-R: Galway himself says in that clip that the scales he plays so very wankfully "could almost approach being music". He knows they aren’t music.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim. Here are your attempts at explaining how the exercise you suggested is supposed to solve the problem we were presented with:

"If you look at the last 3 lines on page 6, they use simple patterns with lots of instances of playing high B and high B. In other words, homing in on the problem. These exercises are tried and tested methods for left-hand development. Roughly the same amount of notes as a jig too."

"Bernie, I’ve already answered your question, and tried to clarify it too. I provided a link, a specific page, even the relevant bars and notes. I’ve used that in teaching students. Not just that exercise, but that and similar ones, which home in on a particular issue. They do work."

"Those Sevick exercises I linked to earlier, repeatedly call for playing an A then a Bb, plus an A and a B natural in a very short space of time, so giving the ear a chance to hear the difference. It’s homing in on the problem."

This doesn’t explain HOW the exercise you suggested will solve the problem. The student has already "homed in" on the problem himself, he told us at the outset that the problem occurs in certain passages of the tune Dowd’s. He can already identify with his ears that his intonation is out.

Your response to this is to present the student with some notation where the problem notes occur, and ask him to play it. As you acknowledged, you might equally well have presented him with the notation for the relevant passage in Dowd’s. The question is, HOW does reading the notation and trying to play it do anything to solve the problem? HOW does the exercise achieve what you claim?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim Dorans World Fiddler. I have my version posted on here with Bb included in the C part so not sure what you mean when you say you couldn’t find a version with high Bb on the site?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Earl Cameron - yes, you did. I missed it, while looking through the multiple versions.

For everyone else reading : It’s here : https://thesession.org/tunes/229 … then scroll down to the ‘Earl Cameron posting, ie # 6.

Thanks :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I think, a good answer to Bernie 29’s question of "how" repeatedly playing a note or series of notes might help with correcting intonation, is the assumption that along with playing, the person is also listening attentively to what they’re doing. Whether a passage in a tune, or a Sevcik exercise, the key I think, is listening.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@Bernie,

I’ll try to answer your question, (for about the third time), but first I need to say a few things.

I don’t think it’s possible to explain to you the purpose of any exercise or drill that isn’t a ‘tune’, until you can ditch your current mindset, at least until you’ve finished reading this post.

Just looking at the words you used to describe anything that wasn’t a tune - ‘desparately tedious’, ‘barren exercises’, ‘wankfully’, ‘pleasureless’, ‘unmusical’, it seems to me that your mindset shows a strong prejudice against anything that could help development, and lead to improvement.

When you have that kind of attitude, I think your mind is closed to the understanding of these things. Your statement, "There is no musical pleasure in the Sevcik exercise I saw, so there would need to be a good reason to suggest spending time on it" simply shows that you do not understand (or even want to understand) the function or purpose of these exercises.

Violin studies, exercises, scales - they have been used for countless years on all age groups, all over the world, and have benefitted learners of *every* kind of music. That’s a fact - you simply cannot dispute that.

As to how relevant a particular scale or exercise is to the problem at hand - well, that’s not set in stone. However, if someone who is self-taught, like Arthur, has been playing for a short time, is reasonably fluent in a few tunes, and is now struggling with the basics - in this case, playing a single Bb note, then it’s painfully obvious that something has been missed in the ‘early learning stage’.

So, how do you fix that? The tune is Dowd’s. It modulates between Gm and Bb. In the Bb section, Arthur tries to play the high Bb note, but hits a bummer instead. He knows it’s a bummer. It sounds crap to him. That tells me that it’s really a mechanical problem - the pinky doesn’t get used that much, an when it does, it’s usually to play a high B (if playing on the E string). So, the aural connection for a true Bb is not there.

As for the suggestion ‘why not just practise a Bb scale?’ Good point, but I think it’s a bit late for that now. Maybe the Bb will just sound just as bad in the scale as in Dowd’s.

Now that’s where the Sevcik comes in. Those bars I referenced earlier - they are key-less. They are just notes. But, in playing them, there’s movement from A to B, and from A to Bb, so the ear can make a distinction in pitch and the fingers learn exactly where to go. Bb still sounds a bit crap? Try it again. A, B. Then A, Bb. Are you hearing a difference now? Good.

Is this boring? Well, that’s tough tits. If you can’t crack this, or simply cannot be arsed, then you can try other methods if you want, like introducing a tuner. Which is what Arthur decided to do. It may work, and all well and good. But will it be remembered in a few weeks’ time? I hope so, but I doubt it.

I’ve been playing and teaching a lot of people, of all age groups, for many years, and I know from experience that specific exercises do work for students who are struggling with a particular tune, or part of a tune. The reality is that people want to learn as quickly as possible, and adults especially, need the best tools and guidance to be able to do that. Playing problematic tunes repeatedly, in an effort to improve, is usually a waste of time. They’ve been there, done that, and I for one am pissed off hearing complaints about why that method does not work.

Some of my students are already excellent guitarists, and some play mandolin well (and other non-stringed instruments) as a second instrument. Some of them are very good on their main and second instruments, and the predominant problem when learning fiddle is correct intonation. But, that’s normally the only real problem, and so the drills and exercises to improve intonation are fairly simple. Intonation accuracy aside, they have no problem in playing in the ‘flat’ keys, eg F. Bb, Eb - the knowledge and navigation is there.

This is not the case with Arthur.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@ Bernie

The way to get better at doing practically anything is to practice.

So let’s find the best way to improve our fourth finger intonation without using a written exercise.

You could just keep playing a tune that contains the difficult note transition. But that transition comes round just once each time through, so you are spending most of your time playing stuff you can already do, and only a small percentage of your time playing the bit you need to work on. That’s not very efficient, it’s going to take you a long time to improve (and you’ll probably be utterly sick of that tune before you can play it properly). So you strip away the rest of the tune and just repeatedly play the bar that is causing the problem . You’ll improve much quicker this way, because you are playing the tricky bit far more often. But you’re still not focusing completely on your intonation, because at the same time you are having to remember the sequence of notes. And the end of the bar probably doesn’t flow back into the start - you play the bar, stop, then play it again. So you write that one bar out repeatedly along a stave, probably adding a couple of notes to make it flow. So now you can just mindlessly follow the dots and concentrate on your intonation. You are now practicing that tricky note sequence in the most efficient way possible, so you will improve in the shortest possible time.

BUT… you are now practicing from a written exercise, and it really doesn’t matter a damn whether that exercise is your problem bar written out repeatedly in your own fair hand, or a similar note sequence written by someone else.

And that is why playing exercises is the quickest way to correct a problem.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim, when you say this:

"Just looking at the words you used to describe anything that wasn’t a tune - ‘desperately tedious’, ‘barren exercises’, ‘wankfully’, ‘pleasureless’, ‘unmusical’, it seems to me that your mindset shows a strong prejudice against anything that could help development, and lead to improvement."

you are demonstrating a poor grasp of logic. I wouldn’t object to the tedious, pleasureless unmusical exercise you suggested if I thought it would help development and lead to improvement better than playing tunes: my point is that the exercise you suggested will not lead to improvement in the problem area. Understanding why that is will require you to think logically.

This is how you explained how you think the Sevcik exercise works:

"Now that’s where the Sevcik comes in. Those bars I referenced earlier - they are key-less. They are just notes. But, in playing them, there’s movement from A to B, and from A to Bb, so the ear can make a distinction in pitch and the fingers learn exactly where to go. Bb still sounds a bit crap? Try it again. A, B. Then A, Bb. Are you hearing a difference now? Good."

What you need to explain is, why do we need the written music to do that, or to put it the other way, what does the written music contribute?

If you want to play A to B and A to Bb, then you can just play those notes. You don’t need to look at written music to do that. As Ebor fiddler said above, if you can hear that your finger is in the wrong place, you move your finger.

Arthur can already hear that his finger is in the wrong place, so all he needs to do is move it. He’ll get better at that just by playing tunes, he’s already listening to himself. The Sevcik exercise was a waste of his time and energy because it doesn’t contribute to learning and improvement: that’s what I object to.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

That’s all exercises are - the bit you need to practice written out repeatedly, with a few notes added to make it flow and allow you to play continuously. There is nothing intrinsically evil about them.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*The Sevcik exercise was a waste of his time and energy because it doesn’t contribute to learning and improvement: that’s what I object to.*]

How can you say that, when Arthur has not attempted to do the exercises properly, and you have not even attempted to try them, at all? Again, you do not understand the function, purpose or value of these tools. That is glaringly obvious to everyone. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim, thanks for your contribution here. What you have suggested is reasonable. As usual in Mustard land, it’s a case of no good deed unpunished.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

The other thing to consider is that if Arthur has a problem with Bb on the E string, he almost certainly also has a problem with Eb on the A and Ab on the D, he just hasn’t needed those note yet, so doesn’t know he has a problem. By choosing the right exercise he will correct all those problems in one go. If he just keeps plugging away at the tune he’ll have to start again when he hits a tune with Eb in it.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Skreech, you said:

"But it’s not an either/or situation, is it? It is perfectly possible to take pleasure in playing at your current level AND enjoy pushing yourself forward to new heights."

Yes, that is true (except that you you need to push upward rather than forward to reach new heights). The reason I wanted to stress that it is ok and a good idea to take modest pleasure in playing at your current level is that I only learned this rather late myself, so I think it’s not obvious, and I think it isn’t said often enough.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Skreech, you’re making the same logical error as Jim. You’re recommending that the student should correct the problem by doing an exercise, but logic tells us that the exercise (playing the written notes in the Sevcik study) doesn’t contribute to correcting the problem.

Arthur can hear that his intonation is out. If you listen to his playing, you can tell that he has an understanding of intonation even if he isn’t able to get it right consistently yet. All he needs to do when he hears he is out is move his finger to correct it, and he will learn to do this better and better while playing tunes.

I don’t think exercises are intrinsically evil, but they’re not intrinsically good. Tunes are intrinsically good, in that they have positive musical value, they give pleasure. So it is better to learn by playing tunes rather than doing unmusical exercises, if the result is the same. Because it is pleasurable to play tunes, it is relatively easy to keep playing them, in fact it is often difficult to stop. The opposite is true with unmusical exercises.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Yes, What some people seem to forget is that you have to practice your instrument AND play it. Two separate activities, each of which brings its own pleasures and satisfaction, they are different.

Personally I divide my private playing time up even more than that: I have technical practice time, tune learning time, performance practice time, and play for the fun of it time. I don’t always do all four: if there is no performance on the horizon that goes out the window, as does technical practice if I haven’t come across something new I want to learn. But for me the key thing is that when I pick up my fiddle I concentrate on only one of those activities at a time. And whatever boring, repetitive sh*te I’ve been working on, the last part of the session is always ‘play for the fun of it’ (Which usually involves closing my eyes and imagining I’m in the Royal Albert Hall :-) ).

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

>>"Skreech, you’re making the same logical error as Jim. You’re recommending that the student should correct the problem by doing an exercise, but logic tells us that the exercise (playing the written notes in the Sevcik study) doesn’t contribute to correcting the problem. "

Where is the ‘logical error’? We KNOW that the way to improve is to practice over and over again. So playing an exercise that contains repeated examples of the problem note sequence will help you improve. The only time it wouldn’t result in an improvement is if you aren’t listening to yourself. And in that case playing a tune won’t help either.

Would you improve more by repeatedly playing a tune with one instance of the dreaded A,Bb sequence, or a tune where it occurs in every bar? Because that is all an exercise is - a tune where the difficult bit you want to practice occurs frequently.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

>>"So it is better to learn by playing tunes rather than doing unmusical exercises, if the result is the same. "

In general, the result is not the same. The student should practice whatever it is he or she is having an issue with, over and over. Take me. I am new to ITM and I struggle with turns. To learn turns, I don’t play tunes and try to throw in a turn every now and again. What I do, is play a turn slowly. Over and over and over. Playing a tune isn’t going to help me learn turns, and playing tunes is *not* the best way to learn to play a Bb correctly.

Say there’s a basketball player who is a poor free-throw shooter. His coach doesn’t say, "Eh, just play games. You’ll get fouled once in a while and get to shoot a free throw, and eventually, you’ll get the hang of it." What his coach does do is tell him to go shoot 100 free throws after practice. Fiddling isn’t necessarily any different.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

>>" So it is better to learn by playing tunes rather than doing unmusical exercises, if the result is the same. Because it is pleasurable to play tunes, it is relatively easy to keep playing them, in fact it is often difficult to stop. "

Yeah, but if you’re just playing tunes then you’re not practicing the difficult bit very much, if you play an exercise the nasty stuff is concentrated, and you get it over and done with much quicker (and then you can go out and play). Do you want a teaspoon of medicine, or a gallon of dilute medicine?

As for exercises being ‘unmusical’….. They’re as musical as you want to make them - that was the point Galway was making in the clip someone posted earlier. Someone dismissed that clip as ‘wankey’ or some such, because it didn’t suit their taste. Not suiting their taste doesn’t make it unmusical. A scale is just a series of notes. If you don’t like it like that, play your scales as jigs, or strathspeys, or hornpipes. Make them sound musical to your own ears, it doesn’t matter. But you’ll improve your intonation much faster playing scales than you will playing tunes.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Mark, you said: Where is the ‘logical error’? We KNOW that the way to improve is to practice over and over again.

The error is where I said it is. Part of what makes this an interesting topic to me is that the logical error is sitting there right in front of you, it’s been pointed out and explained, and you can’t see it. Here it is again: the logical error is in believing that the written exercise contributes to the improvement. It doesn’t. The written exercise tells you to play the notes A, B and Bb. But you don’t need a written exercise to tell you that. You can just play the notes. If you want to do that over and again, then just do it. You don’t need the written exercise.

Mark: "if you play an exercise the nasty stuff is concentrated, and you get it over and done with much quicker".

The problem we were presented with is in certain passages in certain tunes. If you want to play those passages over and again, then just do it. You don’t need the written exercise.

Mark: As for exercises being ‘unmusical’….. They’re as musical as you want to make them - that was the point Galway was making in the clip someone posted earlier. Someone dismissed that clip as ‘wankey’ or some such, because it didn’t suit their taste. Not suiting their taste doesn’t make it unmusical.

I said Galway’s so-called masterclass was a wankfest. Frankly it was a bloody disgrace, the man was wasting his students’ time, I heard two actually useful observations in the 10 minutes, he told them how to finger a different "A", and he told them to keep their fingers close to the keys. That took about 30 seconds. Apart from that he was simply showing off, preening himself, saying "if you practice scales you will get good, like me, look how good I am". Wanker.

He said himself that scales are not music. They are not music because they lack tension and release, among other things. If they were musical they would be pleasurable to listen to. But nobody wants to listen to a musician playing scales for hours on end.

Mark: But you’ll improve your intonation much faster playing scales than you will playing tunes.

Why? I play tunes for an hour or more most days. With every note I play I am trying to get the intonation right, I am practising intonation (and also all the other aspects of playing Irish fiddle). Playing tunes involves playing scales, not just abcdefg, but scales in different orders, with gaps, repeated notes, sliding notes, bent notes, and so I am practising intonation in the context in which I need to use it. What is it about abcdefg that would make it more effective than that? And how long would you be prepared to play abcdefg-type scales for each day Mark? How long do you actually spend doing scales each day?

Teagan, you said "I am new to ITM and I struggle with turns."

Do you mean rolls? I would agree with you that it might be a good idea to practise rolls. But according to the Dorans School of Music methodology, what you should do is to get some sheet music with rolls written on it, and play that. Does that make any sense to you? Would the written-out rolls add anything to the exercise? You see, my objection isn’t to repetitive practice in appropriate cases. My objection to Jim’s approach is that the written exercise he recommended in this particular case doesn’t contribute anything.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I’ll ignore most of that, because you have been given the answers several times, by several different people. If you choose to ignore their advice that is your affair and doesn’t concern me.

But I have to pick you up on this bit:

>>" The logical error is in believing that the written exercise contributes to the improvement."

There is no error in the logic. If you practice doing something repeatedly, you will get better at doing it. Simple. And a written exercise is just a tool that allows the teacher to show the pupil how to practice a particular bit of technique repeatedly. If you think you’ve spotted a logical error there (one which you can see, but just about every violinist and teacher in the last 200 years has missed) then you’ll have to explain where that error is, rather than just telling people they are stupid for not being able to see it. Or better still, explain what logic you used to come to the conclusion that playing exercises doesn’t help.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Do you mean rolls? I would agree with you that it might be a good idea to practise rolls. But according to the Dorans School of Music methodology, what you should do is to get some sheet music with rolls written on it, and play that. Does that make any sense to you? Would the written-out rolls add anything to the exercise? You see, my objection isn’t to repetitive practice in appropriate cases. My objection to Jim’s approach is that the written exercise he recommended in this particular case doesn’t contribute anything.*]

A bit presumptuous there, Bernie. I’d teach a roll on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis, and a roll written out in standard notation and fingered would be a good reminder when the student practiced it later, alone. Probably with a take-home audio of the roll from the lesson.

A couple of questions for you now. I had a quick look at your profile, and all it says ‘I play the fiddle a bit’. Are you an experienced player? Do you teach students? Have you ever taught a student? I ask, because your responses so far fly in the face of everyone else’s, and that does concern me a bit.

Could you describe and name all notes and fingering in a roll? Say, a roll starting on G (1st string, 2nd finger)? That would help teagan.

[*My objection to Jim’s approach is that the written exercise he recommended in this particular case doesn’t contribute anything.*]

Because it’s written down? Or, because of its content? Have a look again. Read the music, pay attention to the note and their sequences, *play* the notes, and tell me in your own words why it does not contribute anything to the quarter-tone Bb problem. Answer this specific question, please.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

It should really be pointed out that Sevcik is most likely above Arthur’s current level, judging by the recordings I have heard. Once again I will say that Wolfarhdt or something a bit more basic would be better to start on etudes. So I would agree that Sevcik has little value to the OP simply because it is too advanced for him. Wolfarhdt is also better for fiddlers because the exercises have less bow markings and are meant to be practiced with a wide variety of bowing "patterns." That means you can use the exercises as pure left hand exercises if you want or you can follow the bowing recommendations for the exercise for and extra challenge.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@Earl, have you seen the lines I am referring to? All that is required is to play the simple clusters of note patterns, at your own comfortable speed. They are all 1st position too. The point of those lines was simply to show the B and Bb within a short space of time, and the difference in sound. Bowing and speed are not important in these ones, either. It’s predominantly a left-hand development exercise. So are most of them in part 1, it’s just that I singled out those particular lines for their relevance.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Nevermind I just saw the exercise, it looks easy enough, but I do still think that the Wolfarht exercises are more tuneful, while the Sevcik exercise does look a bit hard if you try to play through the whole thing straight. I’m assuming that is not how it’s meant to be played.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Wolfarht book 1 No.5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 19, 20. They seem to tackle the flatted note problem pretty quick in this book. Pay attention to the finger shapes for the scales. Often your first second and third finger are a whole step apart, with your first finger next to the nut, while your fourth finger is tucked next to your third finger a half step away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU-irB7_SPE


I can tell you I’ve taken the time to play through most of the exercises I mentioned particularly to get better at flat keys, particularly because of my love for G minor. I highly recommend it. My playing is posted above. Not saying I’m the greatest but I think I have at least a little bit of ability. I don’t play much fiddle anymore lately just because I play in a band with one and have a great need to getting proficient on other instruments to round out the band’s sound. Double fiddle is a little boring to me as well and there are so many fiddler’s at sessions around here.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

There’s actually an explanation on page 1 about possible bowings, but it’s generally accepted that the student just get the notes out cleanly, with whatever bowing pattern is easiest for them. It’s a very easy exercise, if maybe a little bit unfamiliar.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Mark, you said:

"There is no error in the logic. If you practice doing something repeatedly, you will get better at doing it. Simple. And a written exercise is just a tool that allows the teacher to show the pupil how to practice a particular bit of technique repeatedly. If you think you’ve spotted a logical error there (one which you can see, but just about every violinist and teacher in the last 200 years has missed) then you’ll have to explain where that error is, rather than just telling people they are stupid for not being able to see it. Or better still, explain what logic you used to come to the conclusion that playing exercises doesn’t help."

I haven’t said that anybody is stupid for not seeing the logical point I am making. I don’t know why you’re not seeing it. But you’re not seeing it.

I am not claiming that playing exercises doesn’t help. I’ve never said anything like that. I’ve been quite careful in stating my argument. If you think I am claiming that playing exercises doesn’t help, then you can’t have understood the point I am actually making. I don’t know why you haven’t understood it. I’d be interested to find out. But when I carefully explained what I am claiming and why, above, you said "I’m going to ignore that".

I’ll tell you my argument again:

…………………………….
If you can hear that your intonation is out when you play a particular passage, then all you need to do is to change the place you put your finger. You don’t need to look at written notes for the passage, or written notes for other similar passages in a study like the Sevcik. The written exercise doesn’t contribute to the solution of the problem.
…………………………….

That’s the essence of it. If necessary I’m happy to discuss it with you further until you understand it, then you can tell me if you disagree for some reason.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

1"I would like you to answer my question: what exactly is it about these desperately tedious exercises that you believe will improve intonation better than playing lovely tunes would?"
2"I am not claiming that playing exercises doesn’t help. I’ve never said anything like that. I’ve been quite careful in stating my argument. "

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I’d just like to say that without this discussion, I wouldn’t have known about the Wolfhardt etudes. I play mandolin, not violin, but I’m guessing I’m at roughly the same general level as Arthur. I looked up Wolfhardt on IMSLP (http://javanese.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/2/24/IMSLP19882-PMLP46562-Wohlfahrt_Op_45_Bk_1.pdf) and have spent an hour or so playing through the first few etudes. I can already tell that playing through them will be good for me in a way that "just play the tunes" and "just play the problem bars over and over again" has not been so far. I’ve been doing both of those already, but I still have a ways to go.

So for those of you who think you’re wasting your time arguing back and forth, please know that at least one person has gotten something useful out of this extended discussion!

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*So for those of you who think you’re wasting your time arguing back and forth, please know that at least one person has gotten something useful out of this extended discussion!*]

Which can only be a good thing :) … @ atleebreland - thanks for the link. I have it somewhere, but …:)

It would be interesting to have a vote button on the site, for maybe three options. Regardless of your playing standard, or your choice of tune, when you have a technical or musical obstacle in that tune, do you :

1. Keep practicing the tune, stopping at the obstacle and retrying, until you have overcome it.

2. Tackle the obstacle outside of the tune, ie keep working on just the obstacle (which is a part of the tune).

3. Tackle the obstacle by way of an exercise / study designed to overcome that type of obstacle, then go back to your tune when you’ve cracked the difficulty.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Some general advice about "looping" - repeating something until you get it right.

First - practice slow so that you can listen intensively to what you’re doing, and are able to think. If you don’t then you’re wasting your time. Don’t speed up until you get it right.
Secondly - when you’ve nailed the problem, stop, and go on to something else, like the next problem, or just play another tune. Continuing the looping when you’ve cracked a problem is not advisable because low level boredom can set in, and if that happens then all the good work starts to get undone; and, again it’s wasting time.

How many times should you loop a problem bit? It all depends, of course. You might find that that bit of duff intonation on the G# on the D-string gets sorted out after half a dozen loops. On the other hand, after 10 minutes or so sweating over some cross-string bowing or difficult fingering you realize you’re not getting anywhere and frustration (and consequent tenseness) sets in. So give it a rest, think about it, and come back to it the next day. If there is still no joy then it is probably time to get help from another player who might immediately see what the problem is, and how to overcome it. Interestingly, one of the greatest violin teachers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Leopold Auer, expected his pupils to help each other out on technical problems while he himself concentrated on how the music was to be interpreted and performed. I think there should be more of that today.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@ Jim. — Number two is my own way of working, but with certain provisos. You have to be very sure of what ‘the obstacle’ actually is. The cause of difficulty might not be so obvious; for example you may play a certain phrase with the same bowing everywhere it appears in a tune except one particular occurrence, where the bowing is thrown off by the preceding note(s). Your brain wants to play one thing, but your muscles want to do what they usually do. Also, the preceding, or even the following note(s) may warrant a different approach in that specific instance, but not elsewhere. In short, isolate enough of the tune to include all the relevant bits, and examine everything that might be relevant.
Trevor’s advice about having a rest is sound — there is evidence to show that sleeping on a problem is actually beneficial.

Posted by .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"Why don’t we sleep on it? I’ll give you an answer in the morning"-Meat Loaf

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

gam you are on to a huge source of mistakes. I have encountered the bowing conundrum on fiddle and even on banjo I find I have a huge preference for doubling back and doing strong beats with a down pick. I recently began forcing myself not to do this and I am quite pleased with the sound, subtly the rhythm will sound a bit jagged but also more even at the same time, and is just a different way of attacking with the pick that I have to remember to use. Just sounds more "back and forth" cause that’s literally what it is. The tune Belle View on my channel is demonstrated with pure back and forth picking which may not sound that different to the untrained ear but it is sooo different. I can barely play that way for one but I think if I practice it a whole lot more it will eventually free me to the point where I can accent any picking action whether an up pick or a downpick and I won’t miss as many notes because I won’t need to use extra energy to double back with the pick. Ahh ramble on, hope this made sense.

~

#comment579416

Posted by .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@gam - thanks for your input. I’d guess most people would go for the #2 option.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Atleebreeland:

You’re wrong I’m afraid, I have been wasting my time in presenting my argument, at least as far as you are concerned, because you have completely failed to understand what I was talking about. Jim also has not yet understood what I said to him, neither has Skreetch.

Jim suggested the Sevcik exercise as a method of correcting intonation. My argument is that the written exercise contributes nothing to improving intonation, you do that with your ears and fingers,.

You play the mandolin. Intonation is not an issue for you, it’s determined by the frets.

It might therefore be interesting if you could tell us by what mechanism the Wolfhardt studies have improved your intonation on the mandolin.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Trevor, you said:

"How many times should you loop a problem bit? It all depends, of course. You might find that that bit of duff intonation on the G# on the D-string gets sorted out after half a dozen loops."

Suppose that happened to you, or someone else you were playing with: would you go and get some written notation with the problem bit written down on it, so that you or the other person could play it?

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

>>"You’re wrong I’m afraid, I have been wasting my time in presenting my argument, at least as far as you are concerned, because you have completely failed to understand what I was talking about. Jim also has not yet understood what I said to him, neither has Skreetch. "

It’s not that we don’t understand what you are saying, it is just that we don’t agree with you.

If you accept that repeated practice helps correct intonation, PLEASE explain why you thing that and exercise that gets you to repeatedly practice the problem fingering "contributes nothing to improving intonation"?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie - I don’t see the point in telling someone that they are wrong for saying that they got something out of playing studies (I don’t think they even mentioned intonation - just that they though they would be helpful to them). This discussion is just going round in circles, and I fail to see why it is hard to acknowledge that different ways of practising work for different people (even if you can’t understand how it works for them).

I’ve got 10 years experience of teaching fiddle as a full-time job, and I can assure you that different people learn and practice in different ways - I would never tell a student that there was a right or wrong way to practise if it was working for them! You have to adapt how you teach to each individual.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[Bernie: *My objection to Jim’s approach is that the written exercise he recommended in this particular case doesn’t contribute anything.*]

[Jim: "Because it’s written down? Or, because of its content? Have a look again. Read the music, pay attention to the note and their sequences, *play* the notes, and tell me in your own words why it does not contribute anything to the quarter-tone Bb problem. Answer this specific question, please."]

Most of what I have said in this discussion has been a simple and direct answer to this specific question, but it seems you haven’t grasped that. Here it is again then:

……………………………………..

Fiddlers who can identify a problem with the intonation of a sequence of notes in a tune can correct their intonation by changing where they place their fingers. That’s all. It’s neither necessary nor useful for them to look at and play from written notation, of that tune or anything else.

……………………………………..

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie, I’m sorry but it’s not that simple. First of all. as my previous post indicates you seem to have changed your position from originally saying that exercises were worthless and that playing tunes would solve all your problems. Now you seem to be saying that the exercises will work but that writing them down is worthless. Music notation is one way to convey exercises, if you are capable of reading it. If you are not,of course it’s worthless to you,but not to the whole world. Morever you have said several times that to fix your intonation all you have to do is change where you place your finger. Gam’s comment about throwing a bull’s-eye is appplicable here. If it were that simple all darts players would be champions and all fiddlers would play with perfect intonation. Being able to place your fingers correctly requires consistent and focused practice and exercises are an efficient way to do this. Writing the exercise down is an efficient way to convey it to others. If the exercise is simple and concise it can be memorized easily and then the player can do it without staring at the dots,which is what seems to offend you.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

>>" tune can correct their intonation by changing where they place their fingers. That’s all."

No, that’s not all (though I wish that learning to play the fiddle really was that simple). In order to be able to hit that note accurately and consistently, you need to practice doing it right over and over again until it becomes second nature to you. And that is where exercises come in.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Cross post.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Hi manxygirl, you said:

"I don’t see the point in telling someone that they are wrong for saying that they got something out of playing studies."

That isn’t what I said. I asked them to explain how a mandolinist could got something out of an intonation exercise for violin when the mandolin has fixed intonation.

The Wolfhardt study Earl played is very much like an Irish tune but with everything that gives Irish music its special beauty and pleasure taken out of it. I’m not talking about the standard of Earl’s playing, I’m talking about the study itself. It consists of sequences of notes you would find in a reel or jig, but arranged in an unsatisfying order.

Anything the mandolinist got out of it could have been got from beautiful and pleasurable tunes instead, and the mandolinist would then also have been learning to play new tunes and also all the other aspects of Irish music that the Wolfhardt study leaves out.

I just listened to Earl playing the thing again, and my attitude has only hardened against it.

Earl: that Wolfhardt thing is just a bad tune. There are plenty of classical and Irish and other tunes that have equivalent sequences of notes but arranged in an almost infinitely more satisfying order. I can’t see what you think you’re getting out of it that you couldn’t get out of better tunes.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie - perhaps you should think a little more about how a mandolin works.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Mandolins have fixed intonation?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I’m perfectly aware that my instrument has frets and a violin doesn’t. I’m also perfectly aware that I tend not to hit the Bb/B/C frets with the accuracy, angle, and force necessary to get a strong clean sound out of them. You’ve still got the basic problem of putting your finger in the right place, even if the frets give you a bit more leeway with what that right place is. I’m new to the mandolin, but I took years and years of piano lessons as a kid, and it was the same there too. "Push the right key" or "hit the right fret" might be a little easier expression of the problem than hitting the right spot on a violin, but there’s still more involved than pushing a button. It ultimately comes down to the fact that I haven’t been playing long enough to instinctively know what the right place is and do it consistently every time. Saying "just do it better " is not really helpful to the person who doesn’t have enough experience to understand how to do that.

I think we all agree that the only way to get that knowledge firmly into your fingers is to do it a whole heck of a lot. I’ll play a better B when I’ve played it a thousand thoughtful times more than I have now, so it’s just a question of what’s the best way to go about doing that. I could play Battle of Aughrim, with three Bs, 333 times straight through, or I could loop through the three or four bars of it that give me trouble 333 times. Alternately, I could play through the first Wolfhardt etude, which makes me hit a note at the seventh fret 14 times. It’s no longer than Aughrim, less boring than playing three bars 333 times, and I’d only have to play it 71 times to get the same number of 7th frets out of it. I played it six times through yesterday, four times in straight rhythm and twice as a hornpipe. When I then went and played Aughrim a few times over, my Bs were a bit cleaner.

I’ve been trying it your way — just play the tunes, just play the problem bars, just stop being an idiot and play it right — and it hasn’t gotten me where I want to be yet. I got more out of spending the equivalent time on this particular etude yesterday than I got out of spending the same time on the tune the day before. It would not have occurred to me to construct an equivalent sequence of notes on my own, and if it had, it probably would have been even less musically interesting than the Wolfhardt. So yes, I’d say trying out the Wolfhardt was worth it to me already, and I expect I’ll continue to improve if I spend ten or fifteen minutes a day on same for a few months.

I’m not saying that applies universally, but I do think I have enough meta-knowledge about how I learn music to know that this approach will be more helpful to *me* on the mandolin. Maybe it would be similarly more productive for Arthur, maybe not — that’s not really provable unless he tries it. But what I hear you saying is that exercises (written or otherwise) cannot possibly be useful to anyone, and that I am therefore wrong when I say that they were worthwhile for me. That’s an interesting position to take when you don’t really know anything about the person in question, not to mention a rather rude one.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Aw, I was wanting Bernie to think about it. Could also add that applying more force than needed will drive the note sharp (and may be tiring). Is there any instrument where there is not an optimum technique for any required effect ?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Hi manxygirl, you said:

"I don’t see the point in telling someone that they are wrong for saying that they got something out of playing studies."

That isn’t what I said. I asked them to explain how a mandolinist could got something out of an intonation exercise for violin when the mandolin has fixed intonation.

The Wolfhardt study Earl played is very much like an Irish tune but with everything that gives Irish music its special beauty and pleasure taken out of it. I’m not talking about the standard of Earl’s playing, I’m talking about the study itself. It consists of sequences of notes you would find in a reel or jig, but arranged in an unsatisfying order.

Anything the mandolinist got out of it could have been got from beautiful and pleasurable tunes instead, and the mandolinist would then also have been learning to play new tunes and also all the other aspects of Irish music that the Wolfhardt study leaves out.

I just listened to Earl playing the thing again, and my attitude has only hardened against it.

Earl: that Wolfhardt thing is just a bad tune. There are plenty of classical and Irish and other tunes that have equivalent sequences of notes but arranged in an almost infinitely more satisfying order. I can’t see what you think you’re getting out of it that you couldn’t get out of better tunes.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"I asked them to explain how a mandolinist could got something out of an intonation exercise for violin when the mandolin has fixed intonation."

Also, I happened to talk about this discussion last night with a friend who is a classical violin student. He told me that the Wolfhardt etudes are bowing exercises as much as fingering and intonation exercises — apparently there are a bunch of different bowings, and you play through a given piece with all of them. So I think characterizing then as "intonation exercises" is probably incorrect — they’re designed to help multiple skills at the same time. Obviously, bowing doesn’t apply to me any more than does intonation (though it does to Arthur). However, what I care about is whether a particular piece helps me move my fingers more efficiently and effectively, and produces a better sound out of my instrument.

I have a decent ear for music, I sight-read very well, and I’m good at memorizing new pieces quickly. I’ve got all the time in the world to learn new tunes, and I’m not in any kind of hurry. What I really want to do is learn to make the music sound as good coming out of my fingers as it does in my head. At the stage I’m at, I can get something out of these pieces that I probably can’t out of learning new ITM tunes. I’d rather spend a few months splitting my time between non-exciting technical work and learning some new tunes, than just knowing the notes to a bunch of jigs and reels that still don’t sound all that great when I play them.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

atleebreland has nailed it Bernie:

>>"I could play Battle of Aughrim, with three Bs, 333 times straight through, or I could loop through the three or four bars of it that give me trouble 333 times. Alternately, I could play through the first Wolfhardt etude, which makes me hit a note at the seventh fret 14 times. It’s no longer than Aughrim, less boring than playing three bars 333 times, and I’d only have to play it 71 times to get the same number of 7th frets out of it. "

Yes, if you just keep playing tunes you’ll eventually improve. But playing exercises achieves the same result far faster.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Atlee, you said:

But what I hear you saying is that exercises (written or otherwise) cannot possibly be useful to anyone, and that I am therefore wrong when I say that they were worthwhile for me.

…………………………………..

I am starting to lose patience with people telling me I said things I didn’t say. Maybe you could try quoting my words and responding to them, rather than what you "hear" me saying.

I’m saying that the suggested written exercises make no contribution to learning intonation in addition to what you would get from playing tunes, and perhaps repeating the part of the tune that causes the problem.

You say you already know that your fingers are not in the right place when you play certain notes and passages. So put them in the right place. That is all you need to do.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Hi David, you wrote:

"Perhaps you should think a little more about how a mandolin works".

Mandolin is very much not my main instrument, but I have one here, and I find it very difficult to vary the intonation by pressing harder or moving my finger up and down the neck. I can get some change in pitch but it is only very small and it takes a lot of effort. I’ve got a sore finger now after just a few tries. I used a tuner to check the pitch change. Last time I played the mandolin I was frustrated by its virtually fixed intonation, I wanted to bend and slide notes like on the fiddle.

On that basis I continue to maintain that the mandolin’s intonation is fixed, for practical purposes, and that intonation exercises are pointless for the mandolinist.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie. atleebreland said most of what I was thinking, about getting it ‘just right’ to get a clear sound. Fair enough, down at the 7th fret an accidental push sideways is likely to have more effect.

However, the main point is that with many instruments we have to reach the optimum muscle position coming from different prior positions. I don’t see how that is different for, say, a mandolin, fiddle or whistle. In the latter case the player does not have the advantage of fixed pitches for some of the notes that you fiddlers have as a point of reference for intonation.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"intonation exercises are pointless for the mandolinist"

I can’t get a Bb out of the 7th fret, but I’m perfectly capable of getting an unmusical chnk if I hit too close to the 6th fret — and I do, all the time, especially when I’m playing as quickly as my ear wants to hear the music. I’d be getting a flat note instead of the chnk if I were playing the violin, but the basic problem is that I’m still landing a little bit shy of the right spot. I still don’t have the finger strength, flexibility, and control to hit exactly where I want.

"You say you already know that your fingers are not in the right place when you play certain notes and passages. So put them in the right place. That is all you need to do."

That’s it in a nutshell: how do you *learn* to put them in the right place? If I could just do it every time I wanted to simply by thinking about it, there wouldn’t be a problem to begin with. Again, I’m sure it’s easier on the mandolin than the fiddle, but it’s still a hurdle you have to get over as a beginner. It’s not as simple as just saying "play it right", or at least it isn’t for me — I don’t know, maybe you were a musical super-genius when you started out and had good technique at full speed within a few months. Me, I’m trying to work up from a slow-session pace, but I just don’t have the skill to hit the high notes as cleanly as I want yet.

I feel pretty good about where I am given how long I’ve been at it, but I have a long way to go. Clearly the answer is more practice, but I would much prefer a very focused practice that lets me improve as quickly as possible. At my current skill level, I think those etudes force me to hit my problem areas very efficiently in a short period of time, which says to me that they’re worthwhile.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Good catch, sixth, and anyhow (having now looked the tunes up) in not *that* Bb. I had sort of generalized in my mind to a more common problem: all those fiddlers and whistlers not quite getting the same notes - especially the high B.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

David50: You said: Atleebreeland said most of what I was thinking, about getting it ‘just right’ to get a clear sound. Fair enough, down at the 7th fret an accidental push sideways is likely to have more effect.

………………………………………………

But you have to push really quite hard to make even a small difference in pitch. So intonation exercises are an absolute waste of time for a mandolinist. Atleebreeland is confused about the issue, which is understandable as he or she is a beginner who has been following misguided advice.

That is putting it very mildly.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I think etudes and exercises are useful in isolating and focusing on nuts and bolts technique, especially for beginners just coming to grips with the fiddle, but it’s important to keep in mind that this kind of abstract study should ultimately be a very small part of your total playing time. You DO need to play tunes, a lot, along with a great deal of time listening to fluent players. I think we’ve all heard technically proficient players who sound a bit stiff and formal, somehow missing lift and lilt.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

The exercise is being used to help get ones fingers accurately to a specific place at a specific time when coming from other places. It does not matter if one is listening for a ‘strong clear note’ or for the intonation.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Skreetch, you said: It’s not that we don’t understand what you are saying, it is just that we don’t agree with you.

If you accept that repeated practice helps correct intonation, PLEASE explain why you think that an exercise that gets you to repeatedly practice the problem fingering "contributes nothing to improving intonation"?

……………………………………………………..

I’ve explained that very clearly above, you refused to respond to it. Go back to that explanation and if you have any questions I’ll deal with them.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"intonation exercises are an absolute waste of time for a mandolinist"

Oh, I’m so sorry! I totally missed the giant warning label on the first page of Wohlfahrt that says these exercises are only to be used to develop intonation on the violin only, and that they are absolutely useless for finger strength, flexibility, and general control. Thanks ever so much for enlightening me that nothing whatsoever in those etudes will translate to the mandolin!

Seriously, though, I perfectly understand that I don’t have the same intonation problems a fiddler has. I just don’t like the noise it makes when I play what would be a flat B on the violin — it may not be flat, but it still sounds dull and muted instead of clear and ringing. It sounds so much nicer when I hit it dead on with my pinky finger in the absolutely correct position. Anything that makes me play those notes enough so that I do that consistently is going to help me be a better mandolinist.

If you want to make this be about something other than condescension, how about maybe suggesting a tune or five which you think packs the equivalent complexity of fingering? Most of the tunes I know don’t have more than two or three Bs at most.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Skreetch, you said: It’s not that we don’t understand what you are saying, it is just that we don’t agree with you.*]

@Bernie - most of the posters here, including at least two very experienced teachers of the instrument, knowy that using exercises are the best way to solve a problem with fingering, intonation and a lot more - rather than simply try to play the tune, despite your (and Arthur) not even having tried the exercises (the Sevcik ones I linked to earlier).

atleebreland has also stated that exercises have helped him too.

The teachers in this thread (myself included) have found from repeated real-life experience, with a lot of different students of all abilities and age groups, that studies and isolation exercises (that be ‘not the tune’) are the best, quickest and most efficient way to sort out a problem at root level (and the OP’s problem lies at a root level - that is undeniable).

I quote you, "You say you already know that your fingers are not in the right place when you play certain notes and passages. So put them in the right place. That is all you need to do."

That is like telling someone to score a bull’s-eye in a darts match, just by throwing the dart in the right place, as was mentioned before.

I think your posts are well-intentioned, but I think your technique tips and opinions only apply to you, and you alone.

You could easily pad out this discussion for ever more, and I’m sure you will, but please just have a read through this whole discussion again, and take note of how many people disagree with you.

We know what you’ve said, we all understand it, but I think it is becoming more and more clear that you are simply wrong. Very wrong.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I know what you mean atleebreland. Even if you know where your finger has to go it is not always physically easy to get it there. For me it even more of an issue because banjo frets are twice as far apart to reach the "same" notes. I have to practice hitting a high B constantly in order to do it effectively when I am playing with other people. It’s not just hitting a B, that’s easy but going from some other note to high B usually F# right before or after a B is enough to injure me If I haven’t been keeping my hands in shape.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Here’s my actual playing on the Wohlfahrt Etude #2, just for reference purposes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt-iFn7Pgl0&feature=youtu.be


I think it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m at a level where spending fifteen minutes of practice time per day on this kind of piece could do a lot for me.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Cheers, Joe!

Jim, thanks for the Sevcik link. I grabbed two of those lines you mentioned from page six & made a little exercise of my own. Let me know what you think.

X:1
M:12/8
K:C
(^fef aga gfg bab)|(aga ^fef bab gfg)||(^fef aga gfg _bab)|(aga ^fef _bab gfg)||
(fef aga gfg _bab)|(aga fef _bab gfg)||(fef _aga gfg bab)|(_aga fef) _b2g ^fdB||
de^f gfg a2g fga|bag ag^f def g2a||bag a^fd gag fed|de^f gdB cAF GBc||
dBG G^FG dBG GAB|cAF FEF cAF FBc||dBG GBd gag ^fed|de^f gdB cAF GBd||

http://mandolintab.net/abcconverter.php

Posted by .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

That will get your fingers and brain working together.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Hi atleebreland,

Do you want to learn Irish music?

Have you learned to play the aptly named Wolffart study by ear, or are you reading the dots as you play?

Roughly how many Irish tunes can you play?

How do you set about learning new tunes?

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I have about 25 tunes in memory that sound good at slow session pace, plus several classical pieces — I enjoy playing classical as well as ITM. I can play a number of others with the dots in front of me. I sight-read well thanks to piano, and I memorize quickly.

My current problem is that my brain can write a lot of checks that my fingers can’t always cash. The pieces I know don’t always sound as clean as I want them to, especially when I speed them up. Learning new tunes hasn’t seemed to be helping me get over that hump — right now it feels like I’m capable of expanding the number of pieces I can play a lot faster than the skill level at which I play them.

That video I posted above represents a couple of hours’ work in learning a piece. I sight-read it for the first time yesterday evening, listened to it on YouTube a few times through, and had it memorized after a few repetitions. I played it enough that I could do it consistently without major errors, tried ten times to get a recording that didn’t feature too many kids and dogs, and that’s what it sounded like. If I had spent the same time on a new reel, it’d be about the same quality, but I put a whole lot more effort into my 7th frets than I would have if I’d learned Teetotaler’s instead. I really could hear and feel an improvement when I played a few tunes after that — I hit some notes consistently that I was struggling with on Friday.

I know what I usually get out of a couple hours’ ITM practice or learning a new tune, and I improved more for the time put in than I usually do after learning a new tune. That’s a win in my book.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Hi Atleebreland,

Thanks for that.

All you needed to do on Friday was to play the passages you were struggling with. You could play them each time they came round, or you could repeat the bars in question a few extra times each time through the tune, or you could play the bars in question in isolation, as many times as you like.

The study you played does not add anything to that. That means that the time and effort you spent downloading and reading the study was wasted. The time and effort you spent on memorising the awful, joyless tune was wasted. The time you spent rehearsing and recording the tune was wasted.

The little finger is only used from time to time in the study, the rest of the time you are playing with other fingers. When you play you are concentrating on getting all the other parts of the awful tune right (from memory!) as much as you are on your little finger, so that when the little finger does come around you don’t appear to pay it any special attention, so for example at around 30 seconds you make exactly the error you were trying to overcome, and the one the study was supposed to address. The instruction was to play carefully and deliberately, ensuring that the fingers went in the right place, and homing in on the problem area, but you don’t yet have the command of the instrument or the tune to allow you to play the whole tune and remain focussed on the problem area. In order to improve on this, you would need to continue to practice the awful tune until you were able to play it more or less automatically, a further waste of your time and energy.

If you had simply played the passages you were struggling with on Friday, you could have been playing passages of Irish music in an appropriate way, with appropriate rhythm, variation, technique and feeling. There is none of that in the study you played, and so it didn’t help you learn those aspects.

If I were playing a passage like those in the study but in an Irish tune, I don’t think I would use my little finger except on the E string. I’d use open strings, on both fiddle and mandolin. This use of open strings is characteristic of traditional Irish fiddle music.

So that study isn’t just unnecessary if you want to learn to play Irish music, it may actually be detrimental to your learning, because you are practising inappropriate techniques while not practising the appropriate ones.

You told us that you can play some 25 tunes from memory at slow session pace. The implication is that you can’t actually play any tunes at all properly. But instead of working on your 25 tunes, getting some of them them up to speed, getting the rhythm steady, varying and ornamenting them, so that you can play them properly and perhaps with other people at a session, you have spent 2 hours or more downloading, reading, listening to, memorising, learning, playing and recording an ugly, pleasureless sequence of notes that nobody would ever want to hear or play with you, a study that wasn’t intended for your instrument and is intended to address a problem that your instrument isn’t affected by.

I think it’s really quite sad that you have been bamboozled into wasting your time and effort in this way.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim Dorans said it all for me about this discussion! Bernie - I think you’ve been asked before, and I’m not sure I ever saw a response from you: what teaching/professional experience do you have that gives you the authority to make the statements that you have?

If it’s just your own opinion on the matter, then that’s fine, but have the grace to accept that different things work for different people.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Sometimes it is easier and more appropriate to use your little finger instead of the open string above. There is no rule that says open strings must be used whenever possible.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I have yet to hear a recording of Bernie’s playing.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

manxygirl:

It think it is a mistake to involve people’s professional status in a discussion like this in a forum like this.

For one thing it puts you in a vulnerable position. It is wise in a discussion like this always to remember that you can be wrong, and if you stake your professional reputation on something and you turn out to be wrong you only have further to fall.

Also, a person’s status as a teacher doesn’t endow them with the degree of authority you seem to imagine. You can’t just say "I am a teacher so I must be right". Teachers can get things very badly wrong.

The authority of a teacher doesn’t extend over logic. The claim I am making is based on logic, it could be either true or false, and it is not just my personal opinion. It’s not about individual people’s experiences and opinions, it is about the theoretical capacity of the written study to improve intonation. I say that the written study can logically achieve nothing in addition to what repeating tunes or parts of tunes could achieve.

I try always to be ready to be proved wrong, but you’ll need to come up with something better than "I’m a teacher and some other people in the forum agree with me". Specifically you’ll have to explain what the study could theoretically provide that repeating tunes and parts of tunes couldn’t.

It does seem to be a question of real practical significance: if I’m right, atleebreland wasted a significant amount of time and effort on that study and intends to waste more time doing similar things in future. Surely it’s important for teachers not to waste students’ time with inappropriate studies?

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I’ve never said that I must be right because I’m a teacher, and I’ve certainly never made any statements that will go against my professional reputation. All I’ve said is that people learn in different ways, and what works for one person does not work for another! This is based on my experience of teaching, and I’ll always stand by the fact that a good teacher adapts how they teach to the individual. Making blanket statements about what does and doesn’t work is plain wrong in my book.

If atleebreland thinks that the studies are working for them, then leave them to it!

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Earl said: "Sometimes it is easier and more appropriate to use your little finger instead of the open string above. There is no rule that says open strings must be used whenever possible."

……………………………………….

However in classical violin, as I understand it, there is a general rule that open strings should not be used, to allow vibrato and ensure consistency of tone, among other reasons.

But in Irish fiddle I’d say it’s pretty rare you use the little finger on the A, D and G strings, and on the mandolin I suppose you don’t even use it for cuts and rolls.

So it seems the more you think about it the more inappropriate, useless and counterproductive the exercise was.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Depends what classical music you’re playing….in Baroque you’re more likely to use open strings.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"It’s not about individual people’s experiences and opinions, it is about the theoretical capacity of the written study to improve intonation."
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
If individual people’s experience is that the exercise or etude helps them, then it works FOR THEM no matter what your logic says. And therefore,logically,if that is the case then your logic is Wrong. Wrong. Wrong

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

What’s more, I use my little finger on the mandolin all the time for cuts and even occasionally for rolls

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

manxygirl, you said: if atleebreland thinks that the studies are working for them, then leave them to it!

……………………………………………

I think that is really a stupid attitude. She’s a raw beginner with very little understanding of the issues and she is using a demonstrably counterproductive learning process.

She wants to learn to play Irish music. Did you hear what she ended up with, learned by ear and from the written notation? It was like the direct opposite of Irish music. She spent more than two hours carefully learning a horrible, useless antitune, for no good reason.

I can’t see what you think justifies not putting her straight.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*It is wise in a discussion like this always to remember that you can be wrong, and if you stake your professional reputation on something and you turn out to be wrong you only have further to fall. *]

Bernie, the other side of the coin is that if you do not a professional reputation, or indeed any reputation as a fiddle player (just going by the few words you say about yourself in your profile), then you can say whatever you want, and so it doesn’t matter if you are wrong. That’s a little bit of my logic.

[*It’s not about individual people’s experiences and opinions, it is about the theoretical capacity of the written study to improve intonation. I say that the written study can logically achieve nothing in addition to what repeating tunes or parts of tunes could achieve. *]

You could try substituting practical logic for theoretical logic. Then that way you could prove to yourself that diddley tunes were better that exercises when it comes to solving a small technical problem at root level. You simply *have* to play the exercises, *and* play the tunes (which you already do) to be able to make a proper comparison.

Everyone is a theorist. From people like you, through the man in the pub having the God debate with beer dimensions, right through to the top theorists who are also able to back up what they say by real examples.

You either can’t, or won’t.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

5stringFool, you wrote:

"If individual people’s experience is that the exercise or etude helps them, then it works FOR THEM no matter what your logic says."

………………………………………….

This is a fairly widespread attitude, although it is obviously nonsense. It’s fine to believe things like this as long as you aren’t responsible for achieving tangible results.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

It is not nonsense,it is empirical evidence. Your theories are not supported by any empirical fact and you seem to be dismising empirical fact out of hand. Moreover you have already made several statements which demonstrate ignorance on the subject you were addressing,such as the one about mandolin players not using their little finger.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim said:
"You could try substituting practical logic for theoretical logic. Then that way you could prove to yourself that diddley tunes were better than exercises when it comes to solving a small technical problem at root level. You simply *have* to play the exercises, *and* play the tunes (which you already do) to be able to make a proper comparison."

……………………………………..
Atleebreeland has carried out just the practical demonstration you called for Jim!

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Jt-iFn7Pgl0


She could have been playing and learning tunes for those two hours, repeating any problem passages as often as desired and learning lift, ornamentation and nyah all at the same time, and she would have ended up with beautiful tunes she could play and enjoy for the rest of her life.

Having spent two hours on the exercise she ended up learning a horrible non-tune nobody would want to hear or play with her, with no lift, ornamentation or nyah of any kind.

In a practical experiment the exercise proved disastrous as a method of learning to play Irish music.

I think that neatly concludes the discussion.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I am pretty sure I can hear my former piano teacher laughing somewhere, because this is pretty much the exact argument that ten-year-old Atlee once had with her. I’m new to the mandolin, and new to Irish music, but I’m not totally new to music, and I’ve been through this same learning process before.

When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was play tunes. I fought my teacher on it really hard for a while, until I got stuck at the point where technique started to catch up with me. I kept playing my Anna Magdalena Bach minuets over and over, but they weren’t really getting much better. My teacher told me that she would bet me a new book of music that if I would do consistent exercise work for 15 minutes every day for three months, I would see improvement. My teacher won that bet, and when I went back to learning new pieces, I played them better. She didn’t have to fight me so hard on scales after that.

The scales and arpeggios and etudes I played on the piano were about the same level of complexity and interest — honestly, these etudes are more fun and more listenable than scales. I actually went just now and dug my old exercises out of the piano, and surprise surprise, they look a whole lot like the Wohlfahrt. They don’t have any more relation to classical than they do to Irish music, and they don’t teach you anything more about the musicality of that style either.

Was it a waste of my time as a classical piano student to do those exercises, or did they help me improve my basic fingering technique? If you want to assert that they’re a waste across the board, why are they so universally used in the classical world? Alternately, if you want to say that they’re helpful for classical players — and please keep in mind that I do have an interest in playing classical music as well as Irish, simply because I like it — you’ve got to address why such very basic musical building blocks are relevant for one style but not another.

"learning lift, ornamentation and nyah all at the same time"

I think a couple of posters above mentioned that the whole point of this kind of exercise is to take all that stuff away so that you can focus on the fingering. It’s not meant to be performed or listened to. It’s meant to improve your technique so that you play your actual pieces better. As you helpfully point out, I still whiff some notes — but fewer than I did, which is kind of the point.

I’ve already been doing it the way you suggest, learning tunes and repeating problem bars a few times, and I’m not happy yet with where I am after a few months of that. Previous experience showed me that scales and exercises can produce results, and I did see improvement in the notes of my Irish tunes for the few hours I put into it — notably, more improvement than I’ve been seeing for the same amount of practice time. You haven’t heard me play any Irish tunes, either before or after this little experiment, so it seems to me like you really don’t have the evidence necessary to decide whether those tunes sound better. You’re obviously not willing to take my word for it that they are coming a little bit easier, you’re making a lot of assumptions about how I intend to incorporate exercises into my practice, and honestly, you’re being a bit insulting about the whole affair. I’d rather spend the time playing than arguing about it any more.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

In the interests of fairness, and because A/B experiments are always fun, here’s a brand new tune I’ve never played before tonight, picked quasi-randomly out of my tunebook. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A1qGt4cTDk


That’s about an hour and a half worth of work from first sight read, listening, learning by ear, repetitions, and zooming in on the triplet bars. Obviously, I flubbed a passage in the middle, but I think I have the basic shape of it.

I feel like my triplets are better than they were, and it’s good to work on my ear, a skill I’m trying to improve. It’s a pretty piece and I had fun with it, and I’m sure it’s pleasanter to listen to. That said, I’m not sure it did a whole lot to improve the underlying nimbleness and strength of my fingers. I could (and will) spend more time on it, and I hope it will sound better and lose the mistakes, but I didn’t feel such a stretch there, if that makes any sense at all.

It’s been interesting to record myself, if nothing else — I didn’t realize I let my fingers fly so far up off the fretboard. Clearly that’s a thing to work on too.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I think it can help to slow your triplets down at least for now. You really want to make sure you are digging into each note and go as slow as you need to make that happen.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*I grabbed two of those lines you mentioned from page six & made a little exercise of my own. Let me know what you think.

X:1
M:12/8
K:C
(^fef aga gfg bab)|(aga ^fef bab gfg)||(^fef aga gfg _bab)|(aga ^fef _bab gfg)||
(fef aga gfg _bab)|(aga fef _bab gfg)||(fef _aga gfg bab)|(_aga fef) _b2g ^fdB||
de^f gfg a2g fga|bag ag^f def g2a||bag a^fd gag fed|de^f gdB cAF GBc||
dBG G^FG dBG GAB|cAF FEF cAF FBc||dBG GBd gag ^fed|de^f gdB cAF GBd|| *]

Ben, thanks for the ‘new exercise.’

The first 5 bars are identical to the original - are they just there for context or as a place holder? After that, you have changed the pattern by adding notes of diffferent time values, thus introducing bowing changes (which would give the student an extra unnecessary thing to handle, as this is a left-hand exercise (with a plain bowing pattern throughout.)

You have also removed the ocurrences of the B nat and Bb, which is what this exercise is meant to address - playing B nat and Bb accurately, after any preceding finger pattern.

Aside from taking away that element, it looks like you have taken away the exercise value, and tried to make it into a little tune.

In other words, you have Bernified it :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Atlee, you said:

"learning lift, ornamentation and nyah all at the same time"

I think a couple of posters above mentioned that the whole point of this kind of exercise is to take all that stuff away so that you can focus on the fingering.

………………………………………

And that in my opinion is a major mistake, certainly the way you have approached it. You spent two hours learning a tune with none of that stuff in it, and at the end of it you still weren’t able to focus on the fingering, because your mind was busy with the tune.

You also said I’m being insulting to you. I’ve tried hard not to insult you, and I don’t think I have.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Speaking as an American, I’m just going to say how nice it is to be reminded that people can still have knock-down drag-outs about something other than politics.

And thank you for the suggestions, Na éisc and Earl.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim, your response leads me to believe you didn’t read, much less play the abcs I posted.

Posted by .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Since the entropy of this thread seems to have reached such an interesting level (!) I thought it time to revisit Arthur’s original post. In it there appears to be a hint as to a possible cause of his problem. Arthur writes, " … the b flat … always seems to veer several millimeters off course towards b natural." This is the sort of problem that is specific to the violin and is irrelevant to fretted instruments.

I haven’t seen a video or photo of Arthur’s playing, but what he says suggests that his finger isn’t coming down vertically enough on to the string. If it is indeed coming down too flat, which is not uncommon, it will take up more room on the fingerboard than it should and may tend to play sharp because the point of contact is spread out. If this is the case then the positioning of the left arm, hand and fingers needs to be looked at.

A few pointers, some of which have probably already been mentioned:

1. A relaxed left arm and hand from the shoulder to the finger tips is a must. Any stiffness will prevent the fingers from working as efficiently as they should.

2. The hand must never grip the neck of the violin. The neck is supported only by the light frictional contact of the distal pad of the thumb on the neck, and by equal or even more light contact of the lower part of the index finger with the other side of the neck. In the case of the index finger it is natural for this contact to be lost as the hand moves around.

3. The thumb will normally be almost straight or slightly bent, but never stiff. From the playing position all that the player should be able to see of the thumb nail is the outer edge; if the face of the nail is visible then the thumb is in the wrong position.

4. The back of the hand, wrist and forearm should be in a straight line, except when playing up the fingerboard beyond the neck - not usually a concern in Irish music.

5. The violin is ideally held so that the scroll is more or less in horizontal alignment with the centre of the face. This gives the best freedom of movement for left arm and for efficient bowing, and optimises quality and volume of tone. I’m not going to open that can of worms dealing with chin rests and shoulder rests except to say that no matter what support add-on is used the tailpiece end of the violin should always rest on the collar bone and never on the shoulder.

6. The left arm should hang freely from the shoulder and not in contact with the torso, so that the elbow can move a little from side to side according to the string that is being played on. When playing on the E-string the elbow should move to the left under the violin; when playing on the G it should move to the right (you should be able to glimpse it). This elbow movement, which gives the best freedom of access to all the strings is only possible if the preceding advice is followed, in particular items (2), (4) and (5).

7. The left fingers should wherever possible come down vertically onto the string, aiming for a minimum area of contact as possible. The fingers will therefore be bent at the first and second joints, and normally never straight. Doing this helps the fingers to be close together when required and enables precision of intonation. Note that items (1) - (4) and (6) are most important for this. Get into the habit of not raising the fingers too far from the strings - the greater the distance the more room for error in intonation, timing and speed. It is normally not necessary to hammer the string into contact with the fingerboard. The lighter the finger touch the better for speed.

8. Quickly get into the habit of not looking at your fingers when playing. You need from the start to develop the essential proprioception skill of knowing at all times where the fingers are on the strings without looking at them, which means listening and then placing or adjusting the finger position without looking; also being aware of what the left arm is doing, and general posture. It doesn’t take too long to acquire the skill under guidance. Note that you naturally use proprioception skills when you drive a car and don’t look at the gear-stick when you change gear - I hope!

9. - following on from (8). Tape on the fingerboard to "help" the beginner play in tune is a big no-no. It will slow down progress and encourage the player to use his eyes instead of his ears. Anyway, the foreshortened view a violinist has of the fingerboard doesn’t help in the least.

There is of course a lot more fine detail in this that really needs to be learned face-to-face from a teacher or other experienced player who can see the solutions to individual problems.

There is a useful ’60s film on YouTube of the Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986) playing Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin. This is a gold standard performance if there ever was one. Not only that, but the camera work in the film is so good that Grumiaux’s playing here can be considered a masterclass in left hand technique, a lot of which is in the first position. It is worthwhile downloading the video, and viewing it in still frame and slow motion.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqpo—lu8yQ

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Trevor, very good post and great video too. Thanks. Apparently his contemporaries used to refer to him as Old Grumpy Axe, just because of his name :)

On the subject of intonation and hand / finger placement, if what you suggest is correct, don’t you think that intonation errors with Arthur (the OP) would have shown up in on more notes? As it is, his intonation seems good for the time he has been playing. I’m also thinking that if the Bb was consistently flat when playing the Sevcik exercises (which he did not play) as well as flat in the original Dowd’s tune, then that would be a good reason to check out the points in your list.

I might add a 7.5 to your list - clustering. In addition to your economy of movement and accuracy of intonation tips, the ‘clustering’ would be on ,eg a scale in D major, from the open D string. The fingers 1,2,3 go down on succession, then the fingers are kept in that position, or cluster, then moved as a unit, then used on the A string to continue the scale. In other words, if you didn’t break the cluster, you’d be more likely to hit the notes on the A string more accurately, because the finger positions are identical. Feel free to disagree, of course :)

[*Jim, your response leads me to believe you didn’t read, much less play the abcs I posted.*]

@Na Eisc, I couldn’t get the abc to go through the mandolin.net mincer, so I put it into the Tune-o-Tron mincer at www.concertina.net. I then saved the file as a .pdf, printed it off, and played it through on my fiddle.

Did you play it through on fiddle too?

You asked me to let you know what I thought.

A reminder of my response :

{"Ben, thanks for the ‘new exercise.’

The first 5 bars are identical to the original - are they just there for context or as a place holder? After that, you have changed the pattern by adding notes of different time values, thus introducing bowing changes (which would give the student an extra unnecessary thing to handle, as this is a left-hand exercise (with a plain bowing pattern throughout.)

You have also removed the occurrences of the B nat and Bb, which is what this exercise is meant to address - playing B nat and Bb accurately, after any preceding finger pattern.

Aside from taking away that element, it looks like you have taken away the exercise value, and tried to make it into a little tune.

In other words, you have Bernified it :)"}

That to me looks like I’ve invested a bit of time and effort to read, print and play it, and give an honest evaluation of it.

What response did you expect?

What was the purpose of the exercise? You didn’t mention that when you posted it.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

But he doesn’t play like someone raised with trad: no pulse, no lift, ornaments poorly executed and bolted on. Dire. Simply dire. Someone with French conservatoire training perhaps?

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Probably should add that I studied at the Conservatoire de Paris.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*But he doesn’t play like someone raised with trad: no pulse, no lift, ornaments poorly executed and bolted on. Dire. Simply dire.*]

Yes, I’ve heard it all before :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

It’s obviously not an American. It’s unmistakably a French trained bow hand. Isn’t it? Surely to God I can’t be wrong about that. And something of a Middle Eastern influence in the left hand? Perhaps an Israeli violinist? But their influences tend to the Central European or Russian schools.

I give up. Whoever it is, they’ve never lilted a tune nor danced a set in their life. Come on, spill!

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

He sounds like he is much closer to getting it than most people starting out without that training. Etudes are meant for training virtuosos. If you just want to play in sessions I can see them not having much value to you. If you want to perform in front of large audiences and go into the recording studio you might find value in something that is designed to train musicians the way drills train athletes. It depends am I just shooting hoops with my buddies or do I want to join a team and enter tournaments. Everything just depends how far you want to take it.

Also I think few of us can really criticize the level of playing in that clip, it is at least not obtrusive and disciplined. He would be a welcome player at most sessions I am sure, and with some focus how would he not be absolutely great? Anybody accusing this playing of being bad please post yourself playing so we can hear how it should sound.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim: it seems like you think I am arguing that all exercises are bad. I’m not. The idea I’m presenting is more nuanced than that.

There’s a theoretical reason why that study was unhelpful in the circumstances. As a teacher you should be interested in understanding that.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I posted the audio only for two reasons : so I could edit out all the extraneous noises before the music started, and secondly, to avoid visual distraction.

Here’s the actual clip : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5WeC_ScPas


This subject was debated before, and there were similar comments from few people.

@Bernie : theoretical reasons are irrelevant. It’s results that count. I think everyone else here disagrees with you theories, so that should tell you something, but I’m sure it doesn’t.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim,

Do you actually have any teaching qualifications?

You recommended an exercise to a student. Before a teacher does that, they must have some theoretical reason to believe the exercise will be of value. Otherwise you are just ripping your students off.

If we are to judge by the results, as we have been able to do thanks to Atlee talking about her experiences and posting her playing, we must conclude that the results of your advice were disastrous.

If you had understood the theory of what you were doing, you wouldn’t have suggested that exercise, you would have understood that it would be counterproductive.

The other people in this discussion who agree with you don’t understand the theory either, and they are no better than you at putting forward their thoughts in a coherent and logical manner.

The philosopher John Searle has wisely said that if you can’t explain something to others in ordinary language, you don’t understand it yourself.

Can you explain my theory in ordinary language?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"Anybody accusing this playing of being bad please post yourself playing so we can hear how it should sound." Quite agree Earl.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Nonsense Tom, Earl.

I am saying nothing about the playing, it’s completely irrelevant to the discussion, and if you think it is relevant, you don’t know what we are talking about.

You don’t need to be able to play an instrument at all to identify whether somebody is playing it badly or well.

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Being able to play an instrument is no guarantee that you can identify whether someone is playing badly or well. Or if someone who is just learning is taking a route that will get them somewhere.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I wasn’t talking to you Bernie.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

You were talking to everyone on the forum. And you were talking rubbish.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

For the last two centuries everyone has thought that Paganini was the best ever, both technically and as a showman. Now, I wonder. View ye this,
http://youtu.be/t5kzdf8kUeM

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I’m imagining a student coming to Bernie for lessons-"How do I improve my playing?"
"Just play tunes."
"I’m having trouble getting my little finger to play in tune, any suggestions?"
"Just put your finger in the right spot. That’ll be thirty dollars ."

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

5stringfool

I don’t give lessons and if I did I wouldn’t charge for them. You’re effectively condemning me for ripping off students, when I don’t have any students.

That does not seem reasonable or acceptable to me. Can I have a retraction and an apology please?

Posted .

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie I think 5stringfool was trying to be funny. Kind of like your advice ~ ‘all one needs to do is …’

"Arthur can already hear that his finger is in the wrong place, so all he needs to do is move it."
"All he needs to do when he hears he is out is move his finger to correct it…"
"If you can hear that your intonation is out when you play a particular passage, then all you need to do is to change the place you put your finger."
"Fiddlers who can identify a problem with the intonation of a sequence of notes in a tune can correct their intonation by changing where they place their fingers. That’s all."
"You say you already know that your fingers are not in the right place when you play certain notes and passages. So put them in the right place. That is all you need to do."

Seriously though, imho Trevor Jennings has given some of the best advice on this thread > > https://thesession.org/discussions/32587#comment697603

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie apparently you don’t understand the meaning of the word "imagine". Moreover as far as I’m concerned I was doing what you asked-stating your"thoery" in plain and simple language. If that offends you,then I apologise.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"theory"

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

No, 5string, it wasn’t your statement of the theory that offended me, it was the implication that I would rip off students. Can I have an apology for that please?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Na eisc:

Actually I think it was Ebor fiddler who formulated the "move your finger" theory, but I do endorse it.

Are you able to explain what you think is wrong with the advice?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*I don’t give lessons and if I did I wouldn’t charge for them. You’re effectively condemning me for ripping off students, when I don’t have any students. *]

You do have students. You’ve been teaching Atlee, free of charge. The whole forum knows about it.

Do I have any teaching qualifications? No, just years of playing, teaching and getting good results. So that must be a rip-off all round.

5 string : "Bernie, so tell me again how you manage to ensure that your notes are in tune?"

Bernie : " I just play the tunes. If the notes are out of tune I just put my finger in the right place."

5 string : "Er … just run that by me one more time?"

Bernie : "I said, I just play the tunes. If the notes are out of tune I just put my finger in the right place."

5 string : "Bernie, does your fiddle have any strings on it?"

Bernie : "Er …. no."

5 string : "Do you think you’d need strings on it to play Sevcik exercises?"

Bernie : "Well of course you would. Come on, even I know that!"

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Also I think few of us can really criticize the level of playing in that clip, it is at least not obtrusive and disciplined. He would be a welcome player at most sessions I am sure, and with some focus how would he not be absolutely great? Anybody accusing this playing of being bad please post yourself playing so we can hear how it should sound.*]

@Earl - I personally don’t agree with Hurler, but I can understand your sentiment.

I also know from experience that posting an example of your playing on here, in response to ‘prove it’, simply does not work. Whilst it may give a bit of credibility to the critic, it usually doesn’t work, because after seeing the clip, many would simply see it as a chance to rip it to buggery. Not suggesting *you* would, btw.

What usually happens is that the challenged one simply posts a clip of someone else playing, to get his point across.

From the critic’s point of view, it’s either an honest appraisal, or simply sour grapes. It’s hard to tell :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie-If you accept that I was accurately stating your theory, why would telling a student the same thing be a rip-off?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"You’re effectively condemning me for ripping off students, when I don’t have any students. That does not seem reasonable or acceptable to me." "it was the implication that I would rip off students. Can I have an apology for that please?"

That’s an interesting response coming from someone who has spent several hundred words saying that other self-identified professional teachers on this thread "waste time" and "bamboozle" them by assigning written exercises.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

@Trevor, that’s quite a performance there in that clip. I loved all the double-stops, and the way he used the entire bow to coax out some of those notes. Do you often find the piano obtrusive in these piano / violin clips? I do.

I’ve heard lots of players playing Paganini’s Caprice # 5, but this is the first time I’ve heard it played as originally written, played 4 notes per bow (for most of the piece) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLgBejh5TLA


Amazing skill, but you can see why most people play it one-note-per-bow - the sound is more distinct and carries better in a large hall.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Didn’t sell many tickets for the gig though.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"I’ve heard lots of players playing Paganini’s Caprice # 5, but this is the first time I’ve heard it played as originally written, played 4 notes per bow (for most of the piece)"

Just being pedantic for a moment (because there was an opportunity ;-) ) wasn’t it originally written for 3 notes down, one up, three notes down, one up, four notes down, four notes up? I mean, it’s an exercise in doing that sort of bowing, isn’t it? But then again, most performers, as far as I can recall, if they’re playing it in performance, and not just for private study, play a combination of some bows going the same way with some separate bows. Much as yer man does here, although the proportion of separate bows to tied ones varies a fair bit from player to player.

All of which is a bit like you find in trad players, I reckon - lots of variety in bowing styles even for the same piece.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Just being pedantic for a moment (because there was an opportunity ;-) ) wasn’t it originally written for 3 notes down, one up, three notes down, one up, four notes down, four notes up? I mean, it’s an exercise in doing that sort of bowing, isn’t it? But then again, most performers, as far as I can recall, if they’re playing it in performance, and not just for private study, play a combination of some bows going the same way with some separate bows. Much as yer man does here, although the proportion of separate bows to tied ones varies a fair bit from player to player. *]

Good point, Ben, and you may well be right. I have the Kalmus edition, with the very old typeface. The slurs are only notated for the first 3 bars, and it’s hard to tell whether the slur goes over just three notes, or over four.

Re: “Are you able to explain what you think is wrong with the advice?” ~ Bernie

Bernie, don’t take it too personal. I find your mantric "advice" a hilarious release valve from the much more accurate & practical advice provided by Trevor (to say the least). I laugh out loud every time I imagine you repeating any one of those lines (which I quoted above ^) to a newbie fiddler who is standing right in front of you. Priceless!

Bernie, you’re a brilliant satirist.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Na eisc: my advice isn’t an alternative to Trevor’s advice, it is additional to it and deals with a different issue.

Trevor’s advice wouldn’t be damaging to a novice fiddler like Jim’s would, but I would also take account of the words of a respected teacher of traditional Irish fiddle, Matt Cranitch, who observes that there is "no one correct way" of holding the instrument.

Very few of the traditional fiddlers whose playing we admire and wish to emulate would comply with the formal standard set down for classical violinists, which is where Trevor’s advice comes from.

I’ve been genuinely surprised at the level of ignorance and stupidity displayed in this discussion. It isn’t Trevor I have in mind there though.

I notice that still none of you have been able to say what is wrong with the advice "if you hear you are out of tune, move your finger".

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie-If you accept that I was accurately stating your theory, why would telling a student the same thing be a rip-off?

Charging $30 dollars for that advice would be a rip-off 5stringfool.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

So what is your advice worth? Since you’ve already stated that you would not charge for lessons, the answer would seem to be that in your own opinion your advice is worth nothing.Which is the only accurate opinion you have expressed in this entire thread.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

You really do live up to your nickname don’t you.

Do you think money is the only thing with value?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"Do you think money is the only thing with value?" Time. How about time ? As in "waste of time".

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Here are somethings I value more than money:Kindness and patience especially towards those who are less experienced than myself, humility, the ability to admit I might be wrong, the ability to recognise the value of other’s experience, logical rigor and a sense of humor.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

David50-you are right. This whole argument has been a waste of time and I apologise to everyone who read it for continuing the thread for this long

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

I’ve learned a lot from this discussion, primarily about the contributors. It’s difficult to express how much my estimation of some of you has fallen. I’ll know never to take anything you say seriously again. That will save me some time.

And I’ve enjoyed winning the argument, although it was a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Dead fish.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie, let me be specific about why I consider Trevor Jennings’ post is helpful. In the following quote he approaches the ‘specific’ question from the OP, considers what he does & doesn’t know about Arthur’s playing, & makes his recommendation based on varying ways in which the finger comes into contact with the fingerboard & how this effects pitch. It is accurate, practical, addresses the question & is a logical starting point for someone just learning their instrument. "I haven’t seen a video or photo of Arthur’s playing, but what he says suggests that his finger isn’t coming down vertically enough on to the string. If it is indeed coming down too flat, which is not uncommon, it will take up more room on the fingerboard than it should and may tend to play sharp because the point of contact is spread out."

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Coming back a little late into the discussion (walking the dog on a gorgeous afternoon). I think it is useful to say a little more about this …
"Matt Cranitch, who observes that there is no one correct way" of holding the instrument".

Matt Cranitch is quite right in saying that there is no one correct way of holding the violin - or bow for that matter. However, there are many inefficient ways, including poor posture, that can ultimately lead to physical problems such as aches in various muscle groups and joints, or worse, as well as hindering the student from reaching their potential. Unless someone is told, they probably won’t realise what the fundamental differences between "correct" and "inefficient" are.

This is why it is so important to get things right for a beginner right from the start, and prevent bad habits from taking root. A wise teacher will look at a player’s current technique and deconstruct it if there are things fundamentally out of kilter - essential if they have been self-taught or otherwise have not been taught properly in the first place. I traveled that particular road some years ago. Replacing poor technique with an efficient one need not take all that long with a teacher who knows what they’re doing and explains and discusses the whys and wherefores, depending on the student’s age and maturity. The teacher will not only take into account the student’s physique - long neck or short fingers for example - but also the student’s psychology and other circumstances when planning a course of lessons.

Someone here, possibly on this thread (?), remarked recently that violin technique has developed over several centuries to enable musicians to play the instrument efficiently and without risk of injury - irrespective of the type of music being played. I don’t think it is at all a good idea to ignore this wealth of experience.

My background, for the purposes of this discussion …

Classical cellist since early teens, and have been playing in orchestras ever since. Started playing Irish fiddle around the turn of the century. Became dissatisfied some years later with lack of technical progress and was recommended a good teacher six years ago. My teacher trained in classical violin to a professional level at the Suzuki school in Japan, one of her teachers being Shinichi Suzuki himself, but on returning to the UK has been professionally playing folk music (in the band Spiro) for the last twenty years, and teaching. The technical side of Suzuki’s method has a lineage going straight back to two of the most influential violin teachers of the 19th century (Joseph Joachim and Leopold Auer).

Four years ago, under my teacher’s guidance, I was able to make the transfer from cello to violin in orchestral playing, something I had wanted to do for some time, and now play violin in symphony and chamber orchestras in Bristol, loving every minute of it.

I still have regular lessons.

I don’t teach.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Apap! Damm I should have got that. All the clues were there. What’s funny is that I’ve played on stage with him and in sessions a few times. He’s a very fine musician, quick to lift a tune and great company. But he’d the first to admit that he’s a cultural magpie, dipping in and out of genres, taking from each to create something of his own. Certainly when we last spoke, which would be five or six years ago now, he was quite happy to admit that he was still learning and couldn’t play trad properly. He said the same about Algerian folk music (we both know and admire Djamel Benyelles). Being able to speak what passes for fluent French, we had a great long conversation about music, both classical and trad. We joked about how traditional music across the world is all about the detail, the subtle nuances that outsiders often don’t notice. I remember him saying that to become a master like El Hadj M’Hamed El Anka takes a lifetime, just as it does to be a first rank classical soloist and that the rigor bored him.

If you’re looking for a credible example of a someone with genuine classical training, not just ten years of weekly lessons, who plays trad, you’d do better to track down a recording of Aoife Ní Bhríain winning the Comórtas Bonn Óir Gold a couple of years back.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Yes, Aoife Ní Bhríain is a very good player. I saw her doing the ‘RTE Breakthrough Music Bursary 2011’.
I couldn’t find a clip of her playing the stuff you referred to, but as for playing diddly - for her it would be an absolute doddle.

As for yer wee man Giles - I’m sure his comment that he "couldn’t play trad properly" was just a bit of false modesty. Anyone can tell that he can play it - and play it extremely well. Except you. But, that is your right. As for your comment "Whoever it is, they’ve never lilted a tune nor danced a set in their life", I’m sure you were even more pissed off to find out that he’s not Oirish oither. Fair play.

@Trevor - great post - again!

@Bernie - Matt Cranitch had classical training on violin. He is also a respected academic in his field.

@Bernie - you still fail to grasp that the OP’s problem is one that is at root level. It’s actually got fcek-all to do with Irish music, even if the tune he is playing is Dowd’s. The problem is hitting one note correctly. Playing *any* tune is a distraction from the problem at hand - the inability to play a single note correctly.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Pah, extremely well.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Tom Zero, to whom do you refer? :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"As for yer wee man Giles - I’m sure his comment that he "couldn’t play trad properly" was just a bit of false modesty."

I doubt it. Rather I think he wisely recognises that to play this music well you have to immerse yourself in it, not just dabble in it.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Jim,

I’m well aware of what Arthur says his problem is. Trevor’s suggestion is that Arthur may need to change his finger movement. Changing his finger movement might involve moving his elbow under the fiddle for example, or straightening his wrist.

Your solution is that Arthur should play a written study.

That isn’t going to help him, if the problem is that he needs to bring his elbow under the fiddle.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Could exploring the fingering of the problem note when it is preceded by various different notes and followed by various different notes help in the assessment of the pros and cons of alternative elbow and wrist positions ?

Could focusing on one passage only result in a solution that worked in one situation but not others ?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Could exploring the fingering of the problem note when it is preceded by various different notes and followed by various different notes help in the assessment of the pros and cons of alternative elbow and wrist positions ? *]

The 3 lines in the Sevcik exercise I linked to would do just that.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"Tom Zero, to whom do you refer? :)"

Monsieur Apap.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

You’re welcome!

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Thanks Jim, but the question was addressed to someone who thought that the argument was won ;-)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

[*Thanks Jim, but the question was addressed to someone who thought that the argument was won *]

Thanks, David. I forgot about that. I was right, but I lost the argument. Fair enough. Thanks for the reminder :)

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Thanks, Jim, for providing my epitaph —


I was right
But I lost the argument.

Brilliant.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"Could exploring the fingering of the problem note when it is preceded by various different notes and followed by various different notes help in the assessment of the pros and cons of alternative elbow and wrist positions ?"

Yes David it could. But that wasn’t what Jim suggested. He simply suggested that the student should play the written exercise. So Jim’s student is sent off to play the written exercise without the advice about alternative posture etc, and the exercise therefore adds nothing that the student couldn’t gain by playing different notes in tunes. Not only that, the exercise is actually less useful than playing similar notes in tunes, because the exercise is intended to be played slowly and deliberately, whereas the problem the student presented with occurs when playing at reel pace.

Jim has given us all ample opportunity during this discussion to assess his general level of intelligence and his reasoning capacity, he has told us that he has no teaching qualifications and he has no theory to back up his advice, in fact he feels that there is no role for theory in his approach to teaching.

The argument that shows that Jim is wrong and that the study adds nothing of value to the student is not a difficult one, but Jim is unable to understand it, despite multiple attempts to explain it to him.

Do you understand my argument? If you can understand it, you should be able to explain it to Jim, even if you don’t agree with it and even he is still unable to grasp it. Would you like to try that? I’ve had enough of it really, but I don’t like to leave questions like yours unanswered.

I’d actually like to move on and discuss some of the more subtle aspects of this issue, I’m in the middle of drafting a response to Na Eisc along those lines, and I’d much rather do that than go over and over the same ground with people who don’t seem likely ever to catch on.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie. There is no ‘argument’ to understand. You are just saying the same thing over and over without any reasoning behind it. Could you try something a bit more persuasive ?

My other question was: could focusing on one passage only result in a solution that worked in one situation but not others ?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Here’s the argument again David50:

Hi Atleebreland,

Thanks for that.

All you needed to do on Friday was to play the passages you were struggling with. You could play them each time they came round, or you could repeat the bars in question a few extra times each time through the tune, or you could play the bars in question in isolation, as many times as you like.

The study you played does not add anything to that. That means that the time and effort you spent downloading and reading the study was wasted. The time and effort you spent on memorising the awful, joyless tune was wasted. The time you spent rehearsing and recording the tune was wasted.

The little finger is only used from time to time in the study, the rest of the time you are playing with other fingers. When you play you are concentrating on getting all the other parts of the awful tune right (from memory!) as much as you are on your little finger, so that when the little finger does come around you don’t appear to pay it any special attention, so for example at around 30 seconds you make exactly the error you were trying to overcome, and the one the study was supposed to address. The instruction was to play carefully and deliberately, ensuring that the fingers went in the right place, and homing in on the problem area, but you don’t yet have the command of the instrument or the tune to allow you to play the whole tune and remain focussed on the problem area. In order to improve on this, you would need to continue to practice the awful tune until you were able to play it more or less automatically, a further waste of your time and energy.

If you had simply played the passages you were struggling with on Friday, you could have been playing passages of Irish music in an appropriate way, with appropriate rhythm, variation, technique and feeling. There is none of that in the study you played, and so it didn’t help you learn those aspects.

If I were playing a passage like those in the study but in an Irish tune, I don’t think I would use my little finger except on the E string. I’d use open strings, on both fiddle and mandolin. This use of open strings is characteristic of traditional Irish fiddle music.

So that study isn’t just unnecessary if you want to learn to play Irish music, it may actually be detrimental to your learning, because you are practising inappropriate techniques while not practising the appropriate ones.

You told us that you can play some 25 tunes from memory at slow session pace. The implication is that you can’t actually play any tunes at all properly. But instead of working on your 25 tunes, getting some of them them up to speed, getting the rhythm steady, varying and ornamenting them, so that you can play them properly and perhaps with other people at a session, you have spent 2 hours or more downloading, reading, listening to, memorising, learning, playing and recording an ugly, pleasureless sequence of notes that nobody would ever want to hear or play with you, a study that wasn’t intended for your instrument and is intended to address a problem that your instrument isn’t affected by.

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

"Anyone can tell that he can play it - and play it extremely well.".

That’s the root of it there. "Anyone" can’t tell that he can play it properly because "anyone" doesn’t have the experience and expertise to know what good sounds like, because not everyone has been immersed in a community where trad is a common thread that binds the community to the land, to the past and to the future. Apap undestands that.

Part of the beauty of trad is that it’s relatively easy for someone with the minimum of technique to play tunes and join in a session, while at the same time it’s an incredibly rich and nuanced art form capable of a breadth and depth of expression. The tunes are simple, but the art is not. My expectations of the art form are perhaps higher than yours. That’s understandable: my children play, I play, my parents play, my grandparents played, as did my great grandparents, and at least one great, great grandparent. In this townland some of the tunes and settings we play are named after relations and neighbors long passed. We sing songs about events that happened here two hundred years ago. Asking why I play trad is like asking why I love my children, it’s ineffable.

As for "I’m sure you were even more pissed off to find out that he’s not Oirish oither.". Shame on you! Playing trad well has nothing to do with race or nationality. It’s something that can be learned but only over time and with immersion in communities where one is surrounded by exemplars. Beyond a doubt, the most talented young piper at the moment is Martino Vacca, who I know for a fact can lilt and dance a set. Can you?

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Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

Bernie, that’s not an argument. Its a series of statements with nothing to back them up. And you still haven’t answered the second question.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

How about addressing my second question Bernie ?

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

No comment on the rest of the discussion, or the pointlessly insulting stuff you’ve said Bernie, but taking your "All you needed to do on Friday……" post in isolation, that one made sense.

Re: Having trouble reaching B flat with my pinky finger on fiddle!

David, the answer to your second question is covered by earlier responses. You can play right through a tune, play any part of it as often as you want. It’s not a very interesting question.

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