Eat me alive

Eat me alive

In light of the recent spate of ‘analyse my playing’ posts, I have decided it is time to throw myself to the lions, as regards my fiddle playing. The difference is, I’ve been playing a lot longer than the other two posters, although I still feel like a beginner - and sometimes sound like one.

A bit of background: I took up the fiddle 10 years ago, having alread played the mandolin for 10 years (about 8 years of that focusing specifically on Irish traditional music). Since, by that time, I had already amassed considerable repertoire and developed some kind of feel for the music, I found it very hard to resist the temptation to just try every tune I could think of on the fiddle, without first learning the basics. (Beginners, beware!) The result is a raspy tone, queasy intonation, poor bow control… It’s tempting to go on, but I’m supposed to be asking *you* for criticism.

So, do your worst. Be as harsh as you like, so long as you can back it up with some useful advice (If your best advice is "Give up!", I’ll probably ignore it - I’ve tried it before and I lapse every time).

https://soundcloud.com/mousecorns/dscn0431

https://soundcloud.com/mousecorns/dscn04324

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Lovely rhythm!

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Well you’ve already pointed out all your faults, so what is there to say? 🙂 Hasty reaction on a single listen: I enjoyed the reels, nice variations and steady tempo. True a sweeter tone and a more confident bow would be a bonus but those are ultimately lesser considerations.

I have to say I didn’t like the jigs quite so much. The long rolls particularly on the low Es of the first tune struck me as a bit smeary and ill-defined, and the overall rhythm was just a bit too jerky for my taste, particularly evident where you stab at two strings on an emphasised crotchet, but throughout the tunes also. It sort of reinforces my notion that despite what everybody thinks, jigs are in some ways harder to play really well than reels. But it’s all personal taste, isn’t it. Good stuff and as gam said in another topic, I’d be happy to have some tunes with you any day.

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Sounds good🙂
You’ve got some very nice rhythm going on, there.
I may be getting a fiddle from a friend in the next few months, it’s been a year at the mandolin, we’ll see how bad I sound on fiddle :D

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Any way you could post some clips of you playing the eight-stringed cheese cutter?

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CMO, after reading your prologue, I was prepared for the worst, but I was quite pleasantly surprised.

The reel set was fine, and so was the jig set too. Just refreshed another window and saw Stiamh’s post, but I think you’re well within the bounds of what is subjectively good in the reels and jigs that you play.

As for the music in general, I think your rhythm is pretty solid and lively as well. As to your general fiddling, and how I think you could improve - I’m getting the impression that you’re doing more ‘tickling’ than digging in, with the bow. Maybe check that out? Message me if you want some help with this.

As to your fiddle itself - you have an almighty ‘wolfer’ on your B note on the A string. Maybe it’s not quite so noticeable when you’re playing it live, but it sure shows up on the recording. Aurally, and visually too - if you look at the audiograph and look at the high peaks - that’s your B that’s doing that, all the way through.

Thanks for posting!

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I could listen to it all day. Keep posting

🙂

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Sounds familiar!

;)

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I have nothing constructive to add except I’d be happy to have some tunes with you, as well. There is something rustic and genuine about your playing. If I were doing a film about rural Ireland back in the day, I’d search you down to do the soundtrack. I hope that conveys something meaningful to you.

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I’d rather listen to this honest fiddling than some of the highly-polished, over-arranged tracks that get put out on CD. As Stiamh Ionas says above — you already know what needs attention. Just keep attending, and you should just about get the hang of it in time to die.

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Please feed the massive more tunes. A sound for sore ears, plz plz plz

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Do NOT give up. Keep playing. What a great joy to hear your music. Thank you.

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Just a little bit tentative and the odd smeared note where a roll takes too long, but nice playing 🙂 Life’s too short for worrying about your playing standard, the music’ll give you more than you give it however good you are

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Nice… I played along with those on my flute.

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That is some fine peaty organic playing!

"Since, by that time, I had already amassed considerable repertoire (on mandolin) and developed some kind of feel for the music, I found it very hard to resist the temptation to just try every tune I could think of on the fiddle, without first learning the basics."

Wow, that sounds a little too familiar! 😲

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Many thanks to everyone for your comments, both complimentary and constructively critical. It’s good to know I’m doing something right.

sitamh ionas: "I didn’t like the jigs quite so much … the overall rhythm was just a bit too jerky for my taste … jigs are in some ways harder to play really well than reels. But it’s all personal taste, isn’t it…"

When I first started the fiddle, I took to jigs seemingly without any problem, but it took me a long time to be able to get through a reel without a lot of stumbling. Perhaps I have invested all my energy in getting the hang of reels and thus neglecting jigs. Taste notwithstanding (or maybe we just have similar tastes), I think I know what you mean about my jig rhythm - I find it profoundly annoying at times. I think I have latched onto a particular bowing pattern (something like a Nashville shuffle, but in jig time) and find it very hard to escape.

Jim Dorans: "I’m getting the impression that you’re doing more ‘tickling’ than digging in, with the bow."

You’re not the first to say that, so you’re impression is probably correct. I struggle to find the middle ground between tickling and ‘gouging’ so, I suppose, I err on the side of caution.

"As to your fiddle itself - you have an almighty ‘wolfer’ on your B note on the A string."

That’s interesting, Jim. I’ve always thought my fiddle sounded somehow ‘unrefined’ in tone, but I’d never been able to quite put my finger on it.

TheHappyCamper:"Life’s too short for worrying about your playing standard, the music’ll give you more than you give it however good you are"

Absolutely. I get plenty of enjoyment out of playing ; it’s just frustrating when the bow can’t keep up with the muse.

kook: "I could listen to it all day."

No, don’t do that, kook. It would leave you no time to listen to Bobby Casey, Paddy Cronin, Neilih Boyle, Lucy Farr…

Ailin: " There is something rustic and genuine about your playing. If I were doing a film about rural Ireland back in the day, I’d search you down to do the soundtrack."

You mean I sound old and arthritic? That doesn’t bode well for when I *am* old and arthritic. 😉
It does beg the question, Ailin, if I were from rural Ireland, what part of rural Ireland would I be from? (There again, regional styles don’t exist, do they?)

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It isn’t curried?

;)

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I hope you were trying to be funny, Creadur, because I can’t manage to equate "old" with "rustic." As to what part of rural Ireland you sound like you’re from, I think it is obviously the good part.

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"I hope you were trying to be funny, Creadur…"

If you didn’t find it funny, the chances are that I was. 😉 But I think it is the case that a lot of historic recordings of fiddlers are a bit rough in tone because they were caught late in life, when their joints were getting a bit stiff - not that there is any less music in it. I, on the other hand, have no excuse.

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I disagree. I think they simply did not think of what they played as concert music. There is a raw earthiness to it that, for me, makes it the music of working people rather than of the aristocracy. I think part of the appeal of ITM or any traditional music, for that matter, is that it is music of the common folk. You don’t have to dress up to play or hear good trad. It is honest and straight-forward. The intent is not to impress, but rather to fulfill. I think it is an aspect of your playing it might not pay to refine.

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OK, Ailin. I’ll keep that in mind and I very much appreciate your appreciation. What is important for me, though, is to be able to produce the kind of sound I want at any given point. Sometimes I pull it off, sometimes I don’t; it would be nice to have a bit more control over it.

Anyway, I’ll be taking up JD’s offer of a private consultation. 😉

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I hear you and am in the same boat. Nonetheless, as you march toward what you want, it doesn’t hurt to take stock of what you’ve got.

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This has a lot of great things in it, we are always our greatest critics. I think the biggest potential improvement is in the bow arm. Instead of relying on downward pressure coming from the hand, think about how to use the weight of your arm to produce a clean, resonant sound. I’ll describe how your right arm should be functioning, it’s always good to practice sound production on open strings. First, let the motion of the arm begin in the upper back, around the shoulder blade. Feel it supporting the entire arm as it moves. Relax your shoulder and let the muscles of the back support it. Keep your elbow at an appropriate angle, it should be not too high or low, so that the wrist can stay level. Then, drop the full weight of your arm into the string, and simply let it fall with gravity for your down bow. Use the upper back to direct your up bows, still letting the downward weight of your arm produce the sound. Try not to press down with your hand (especially the first finger), instead relying on weight and bow speed.

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[*Try not to press down with your hand (especially the first finger), instead relying on weight and bow speed.*]

Brian, are you saying that you should not use your first finger on the bow to control the bow pressure on the string?

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Musicians are often taught to use the first finger to provide pressure, which leads to a "clawed" appearance, with the hand angled towards the first finger. Good technique should always reflect the way the body naturally works. In a Kim Kashkashian masterclass (the violist, not the God awful tv star) she demonstrated to another musician in my studio how to hold onto a waterbottle as if it were a bow. She immediately gripped it evenly, with a balanced, horizontal hand. This is the way to hold the bow, which requires the pinky to have more importance and the first finger less. If you try this without arm weight, you’ll get a shallower sound, which is why it is essential to utilize the downward weight of the arm, which provides much, much more potential pressure than the first finger can provide. That being said, additional first finger pressure is needed for some articulations and bow strokes.

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Thanks for your input, Brian (and for your complimentary remark). What you say about involving the back, shoulder blade, shoulder etc. makes a lot of sense (Dem Bones…). I have just been advised, however, in response to the clips I have posted here, to use the first finger to apply pressure. Clearly there are different schools of thought on this, although, referring back to the old spiritual to which I have alluded, it stands to reason that using the first finger in this way will inevitably involve muscles in the wrist and further up the arm.

My question is, if you are using the full weight of your arm to provide pressure of bow on string, how do you vary that pressure?

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With respect, Brian, if you are a classical violinist, should you be advising us how to play Irish trad? Maybe your recommendations are appropriate; but they do not match what I’ve been taught thus far.

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I’m happy to experiment with both approaches, but I think I would really need to be *shown* rather than *told* to grasp fully what you are talking about. I’d have no reservations about taking a lesson or two in technique from a classical player, if it gives me more control over the instrument - I think there is little danger of my playing ever sounding ‘classical’.

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First off, I am a Celtic fiddler as well as a classical violist, which is why I am on this site. I actually started as a fiddler. I was also taught for years to use first finger pressure, by classical and fiddle teachers, but when I began receiving conservatory level instruction the change was made for the better. This isn’t simply a classical technique, ultimately facility on the instrument is what it is, it’s the same instrument, and is not related to stylistic playing. Control of pressure is caused by how much weight you allow to rest on the string. If you want a soft sound, don’t allow the full weight of the arm to fall. A good thing to try if you’re skeptical of using the weight of the arm for sound production: put the bow on the string at the frog, and let the weight of your arm fall onto the string without moving the bow. You should feel the hair digging vertically into the string without having to press down with the fingers. Then just let your arm drop with gravity, directing it so you get a full downbow. That’s the kind of open, resonant sound you always want, instead of a forced, "creaky" sound from forcing down on the string.
Also something to think about: your arm weighs somewhere between 8 and 12 pounds. Try lifting a 10-pound dumbbell with only your index finger and you can see why there’s more potential sound in the arm.

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I’d be happy to make a short video later next week when I have the time, just to demonstrate the technique visually. Actually this summer I’ll be in Ireland and the UK, I noticed your profile shows you in Wales. If I’m in your neck of the woods I’d be happy to give you a lesson in return for some local insight on what I should see in the area. Also, I applaud your stylistic open-mindedness. As a fiddler and a classical player, I often hear from people on both sides who think that there is something wrong with the other. Classical and folk music have gone hand in hand as far back as music historians know of, so I think they are truly complementary.

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Is "The Walrus" an example of you playing "Celtic fiddle", Brian?

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Don’t worry Ben, you can listen to Tam Lin instead (I recall how irresistible you find that tune).

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http://brianvegh.com/cooleys-reel/
There’s a difference between playing in a session and recording a CD. And yes, naturally, my CD is a combination of all of my musical influences, not just Celtic. That doesn’t mean that I can’t go into a session and play along in a more traditional style.

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Gee thanks Randy. I can’t wait. No really. I just can’t.

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Brian. Your example of Cooley’s Reel there strikes me as an almost stereotypical example of someone who has only really experienced classical music, at say good amateur or semi-professional level, thinking they can play any genre of music. It sounds absolutely nothing like any traditional music I’ve ever heard. If you are interested in traditional music, you need to listen to a lot more and get to know the sound and feel. It’s different. There are a few decent players around here who may be able to help. CreadurMawnOrganig has the feel, and knows he’s on the way. I’d suggest you take some advice from him as someone who has travelled the road a way further than you. And there are other, decent folks around here. There’s really lots of good advice available, if you’re interested.

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I must strongly disagree with you, and furthermore, I think that your attitude is insulting and uncalled for. I am fully aware of the sound you describe, as someone who goes to sessions and listens to a considerable amount of music (Dervish, Danu, Lunasa, Martin Hayes, Seamus Connolly, exc). The reason my sound is not session standard is because I am also a classical musician, and fully embrace that sound as well. I’ve been playing fiddle longer then classical viola, though I used to play more American folk music, and used to have the sound you describe. This kind of us vs them mentality in classical and folk music is maddening. Classical musicians I play with think fiddling is rough, talentless, and untrained. Folk musicians think that a smooth open sound is somehow taboo. Personally I have no desire to have an "affected" sound, so I don’t play that way for the approval of random critics.

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I’m not going to try to sidetrack this thread any longer, it’s about Creadur’s playing. Again, fine playing, I can’t seem to get soundcloud to work anymore, but in my earlier listening I heard some great things, your left hand sounds very well developed. Just think about how to use the full weight of the arm to produce sound and relieve the poor hand, and in general, it’s good to think about how to play in a way that’s as relaxed as possible. I find it very disappointing but not surprising to find the same animosity towards other styles and genres here that I see everywhere in the music community. In final protest, if classical music is the enemy, perhaps these critics would like to tackle this next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCePRgqO-HI

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I’m sorry Brian, but my post was an attempt to be helpful, not insulting. You take it how you want. It’s not about "smooth open sound" or having to produce an "affected sound". It’s that you’re not hearing something about the style of traditional music - something that is integral to, and essential for, the music. I took a Philosophy module about learning once, and the central tenet of the course was that you can’t learn a skill until you first learn that there is a skill that you don’t yet have. I don’t think you’re at that stage yet.

It’s nothing to do with "us and them" either, since I, for instance, have been a long-time leader of a Chamber Orchestra. My main music is Trad, though.

Nobody plays "for the approval of random critics". But you’ve affected to be able to help CreadurMawnOrganig, who demonstrably knows more about Trad music than you (just going by the playing). By the sound of it, though, you’re not really interested in help to get there, so I’ll stop.

Have fun, doing whatever it is you’re doing.

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I must have missed something — how do you transmit ‘the full weight of your arm’ to the strings if not by way of your index finger? Come to think of it, isn’t 8 - 12 lbs a bit on the heavy side? I don’t mean to usurp the thread; but I can’t for the life of me understand what you’re saying.

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God knows Ben and I are not often on the same page, Brian, and I agree his tone seemed condescending however he might have intended it, but let me give an added perspective. Actually, I detect nothing particularly "classical" about your playing, especially given your extensive use of double stops. However, your rendition of Cooley’s is, to me, neither fish nor foul. I think what Ben was getting at is that you have produced a rendition that includes a grab bag of styles that is apt not to satisfy any of the practitioners of any of them. Since I am not a fiddler, let me post you a link by Chris Norman, who may not be to the taste of all, but one I think successfully embraces both traditional and classical elements in his flute playing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlhwLLQOn88


It’s a tricky thing to pull off, for sure, and I can only give you my reaction to what I heard from you. All I’m saying is that I think Ben’s point has merit, whether or not it was expressed as well as it might have been.

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Well, there is certainly nothing wrong with classical music, but a clip like that on a Trad music thread just makes my ears hurt! Sorry if that offends anyone.

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I enjoyed that. Ailin ^

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Interesting thing, see, that. Chris Norman’s style is not to my taste. Neither is David Greenberg’s. Plus, I’ve heard that particular clip a few times before and not liked it. Yet tonight I thoroughly enjoyed it. the interesting thing, which has always fascinated me, is the distinction between taste and what is good or otherwise. On the previous occasions when I haven’t enjoyed that clip, I’d still have acknowledged that it’s brilliant music - just not to my taste.

But it was to my taste tonight, and it was good fun. Good result. 🙂

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As with everything, there are various schools of thought, and violin playing is no exception. Some SOT will promote grace and appearance over practicality, so it comes as no surprise that there is less emphasis on the use of the 1st finger. If you think about it, the natural weight of the bow plus the weight of the arm will easily push the bow hair against the wood.

It has long been realised that once that main pressure is at a reasonable level, the bow can be drawn across the string(s) to produce a clear an even tone. Variation of 1st finger pressure (counterbalanced by the little finger) is, and has been for hundreds of years, the way that volume and tone are produced (plus of course bow angle and position between bridge and fingerboard). Actually the whole bow pressure aspect is what sometimes makes the difference between ‘tickling’ and ‘really playing’ 🙂

It’s all down to quite simple and basic mechanics really. I really do wonder at some of the ways that pedagogues describe the aspect of bowing - I’ve heard things like ‘your hand should follow your bow’, ‘you feel the balance throughout your whole upper body’, etc etc … very strange.

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I also enjoyed Ailin’s clip, and not usually my kind of thing.

However I couldn’t help finding the video rather strange; was it Kenneth Anger ? (Shamrock Rising perhaps?)

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CMO is much more "in tune" with the philosophy and approach of Irish melodic music than Brian.
He has the feel and the humility whereas Brian’s sounds lifeless and robotic without the swing and the soul or the recognisable ebb and flow or grammar of our music IMO. Sorry Brian. It seems like you enjoy giving advice but don’t seem a bit prepared to take it.
CMO’s approach is good. Mighty. I’m sure plenty of people would be happy to produce a sound as honest as that. Keep ‘er lit

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Michael’s right. If CMO’s reels were representative, I’d buy the album! I didn’t think Gallagher’s Frolics was good (rhythmic and intonation problems), but Tatter Jack Walsh was excellent. Even though the reels were a rather slow 96 bmp, they might benefit from slowing down a tiny bit more. Michael’s description of Brian’s playing is also spot on.

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It is one thing to state criticism harshly, it is another to be openly rude and hurtful. As someone who makes his living as a musician, I don’t find the need for online validation. Farewell to the Session, and the "authentic" players who use sheet music.

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I think Ben’s point to Brian was expressed perfectly. It wasn’t rudeness but honesty, and anybody who puts themselves up for scrutiny on here should expect honesty. And Creadur, I’ve only just got round to it, but I have to say I just love your playing. It has the touch.

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Just read through the thread and will second what Gobby just stated: Ben nailed it. Michael McCague was also spot on. Maybe lightening will strike and Brian will start welcoming the chagrinning essential to real learning and growth, but it appears he’s already left the building.

Nice playing Creadur, I enjoyed that. Keep at it!

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Enjoyed your playing Dave (CMO). I’ve only ever heard you as a mandolin player before, and you’re very proficient in that department, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear you on the fiddle. I can’t add to your own criticisms, except, although I *slightly* agree with them I feel you were being far too hard on yourself. That said, I know next to nothing about fiddle technique, but I know what I like, and you’re going in the right direction.

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I wasn’t going to reply to this because I think it’s completely out of the point, which is helpful advice for Cread, but I feel that I should make one last statement this morning after the dust has cleared. I must specify that that recording was made a year ago, and since then I have been going to sessions, listening intently to great trad fiddle players, and learning all of my tunes by ear. My playing is more stylistic now, and continues to develop, though it will never be the rough, affected sound you romanticize, as I am not a fan and also actually have to make a living on it. My instant defensiveness came from the fact that, whatever you say your intentions were Ben, you immediately began without provocation to mock my music, which is a very personal thing to do. This was not simply constructive criticism, it was making jokes at my expense and then delivering a condescending lecture, instead of offering your advice. This was followed by a volley of unfounded and very insulting comments not only on my style, but on my basic ability. My original comments were all advice about practical physical technique, which as a violinist who has trained and learned from very successful and even world class teachers, I am certainly qualified to offer. I didn’t feign to know more about trad style than Cread, and didn’t offer any advice on it. In the end, I can see that the Session is a very aggressive forum, which is unfortunate since I have never encountered mockery, ridicule, and insults in a real life Session.

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So, Brian, since you are qualified to offer advice, would you be good enough to explain how you can apply the whole weight of your arm to the bow without using your index finger. It *sounds* like good advice, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.

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Brian, nobody mocked you or insulted you. If they had, they would now be suspended—I take a zero tolerance attitude to uncivil behaviour.

People gave you constructive criticism.

I agree that quite often, people don’t take other people’s feelings into consideration and that they should be kinder when giving feedback, but in this case, the feedback was reasonable.

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Brian - I’m also interesting in hearing about your method of applying bow pressure without using your index finger. (While still more of an ITM fiddler than say, a classical violinist, there’s always room for improving my technique)

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I don’t understand why this thread has gone in the direction it has. CMO offered an example of his playing and asked for feedback, which he got from me and several others.

Brian offered some technical advice on bowing, which I think is still misunderstood / in dispute, in part anyway.

I’ve tried to clarify that advice (the 1st finger business in my earlier post), and I hope it been clear and understood.

What I didn’t understand was why Brian’s playing should be brought into the equation. Whilst the comments about it are perfectly reasonable (and Jeremy, the site owner, has said a few things too), unlike CMO, Brian didn’t ask for an evaluation of his playing, so I can in some respects sympathise with his reaction.

In any case, it was a bit one-sided, imo. There was criticism of it from an ‘authenticity’ aspect, but no-one seemed to notice the excellent tone he was drawing from his fiddle. That aspect was something about CMO’s playing that was noticed to be lacking a bit (and making that statement is not a problem, as I had made it earlier on in response to a request for honest evaluation).

Fair’s fair, and all that?

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Yes Jim, you are right, fair is fair, and maybe we need to remember that Creadur was the one who gave the invitation to eat him alive, not Brian. I think the differences of opinion were merely about style and getting the style right in this genre, and I for one lack no respect for Brian’s playing ability or his knowledge. Jim noted that, " no-one seemed to notice the excellent tone he was drawing from his fiddle". I’m sure that many of us did, but again, we were too focused on the style issue. With all due respect to Brian I second Gam’s request for him to explain further his suggested bowing technique. I tried it yesterday but could get nowhere, but then, like Gam, I can’t grasp what Brian intends, and I am genuinely interested.

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Brian’s advice was, as I see it, place less importance on the first finger and more on the fourth ("pinky") finger. Not to ignore it completely.

Bearing that in mind, take your bow and apply plenty of pressure on to the strings using your index finger and see how relaxed your wrist remains.

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Jim, I think I can clear that up. First, as you know, most threads that go on for awhile tend to meander a bit. Ben asked about a recording of Brian’s that I guess he had heard. Brian gave the following response:

"There’s a difference between playing in a session and recording a CD. And yes, naturally, my CD is a combination of all of my musical influences, not just Celtic. That doesn’t mean that I can’t go into a session and play along in a more traditional style."

That was when he posted the site that contained his rendition of Cooley’s Reel. At that point, since Brian was giving advice, he opened himself up to comment on his own playing. You’ve read my posts and you know I get plenty of grief from time to time. It comes with the territory and I give as good as I get. I tried to calm Brian down while not invalidating the point Ben was making, but he chose to react as he did, not once but twice. Show me a thread that goes beyond ten posts and stays strictly on topic and I’ll show you a website that doesn’t exist.

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If anyone would like to see visually what I’m talking about and try it out to see what they think, just message me and I’d be happy to email you a video, I can make one early next week. I’ll also play a tune at the end, I’d be happy to get stylistic feedback from you. Despite some posts on my apparent lack of humility, I am happy to receive feedback, providing it doesn’t contain phrases like "soulless and mechanical" or "so this is how you play ‘Celtic Music’". I have no intention of posting this video on the thread, I think I’ve had quite enough of that. But for those genuinely interested in discussion, I would be happy to trade advice for advice.

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I was going to stay out of this but can’t resist. As a 3rd person observer, what I read was a condescending offer to help CMO to "correct" his playing by someone who, upon listening, hasn’t really a clue as to what its all about. Good stuff, by the way CMO. Brian comes across as a player who doesn’t listen much to actual Irish music. That’s not to say he doesn’t have skill and art— he just hasn’t really listened to the style. It sounds stiff and wooden. As Ben says, it’s an almost stereotypical of a classical player trying to do ‘Irish’.

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I’m sorry— "hasn’t a clue" is way too extreme. What I meant was, hasn’t quite nailed it, yet.

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Sorry dude. I bet I come across as a dick.

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From Jim Dorans: "What I didn’t understand was why Brian’s playing should be brought into the equation."

From Brian Vegh: "If I’m in your neck of the woods I’d be happy to give you a lesson in return for some local insight."

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"Brian’s advice was, as I see it, place less importance on the first finger and more on the fourth…"

Brian’s advice was, as I see it, to use the full weight of the arm while trying not to press down with the hand, especially the first finger. If someone can tell me how it is possible to use the weight of the arm — any of it, let alone the full weight, without pressing with the hand, or, more precisely, the index finger (try lifting your index finger off the bow and see what happens) — I’ll eat my hat (I’ve got a spare one made of cheese, just in case).

@Theirlandais — that’s cruel: I’d just got that image out of my head from last time I was tricked into watching it.

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I totally agree. That’s how I read it, and my conlusion is the same. I mainly use the top third of my bow and try to keep a light balance and adjust the pressure mainly with my forefinger and wrist action. I’m not aware of using the weight of my arm and I don’t know how I could. Have I been doing it wrong? @Theirlandais..,.No, I didn’t fall for it!

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And I meant my first finger, not my fourth (depends which way you count)

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@gam, In the youtube clip, I think she doesn’t seem to apply the full weight of her arm (it’s a bit tense looking, and the index finger is looking a bit dominant, but I’m no expert, maybe her arm isn’t heavy enough, it’s hard to tell) as for the music there’s nothing drowsy about her playing, she nailed it, she knows it, and the crowd know it, and that’s the ultimate test of any musician.

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Brian, can you say more about the water bottle demonstration? Also, did you hear anything in CMO’s rhythm that you might like to apply to your own fiddling?

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After I listened to Brian’s version of Cooley’s http://brianvegh.com/cooleys-reel/, (which is not what I prefer to hear - not because of him or his creds, but because of my tastes), I went to YT and searched for Cooley’s and found this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQt-lzcLmOM


Then I went to his previous tune "The Walrus", and to my ears, it sounded ‘flat’ - I mean, out of tune.

Clearly, it takes a long time to get to the level of playing that Brian has achieved, however, playing notes is not the same as playing tunes - and this is what I hear. I played in a band, for a couple of years with a symphony violinist, who was totally fluent with notes, but had this same sound - - - stiff, but educated. Unfortunately, it doesn’t evoke the ‘message’ or the ‘flow’ of the the music - but it states the notes.

I think Brian has a lot to offer to beginners who are learning the ‘fiddle contraption’ and the bowing techniques, but to go beyond that, in the style, there are differences that clearly don’t translate without a deep knowledge of the music and the effect they are supposed to evoke.

As for CMO - his playing is more what I expect to hear - and play with in a session.

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Theirlandais- that clip made me want to kill myself.

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Is the clip that theirelandais posted an example of a classical player playing Irish music? a whee bit confused here.

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It’s titled ‘Celtic Violinist’. Whatever that means.

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I honestly believed that the Celtic violinist clip was intended as a joke. I’d seen her before so I didn’t watch it in case I got the urge to poke my eyes out and cut my ears off.

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If you do get the urge, Gobby, be sure to do the ears first — I made that mistake when I saw the first clip.

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Pardon?

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Who said that?

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"Brian’s advice was, as I see it, to use the full weight of the arm while trying not to press down with the hand, especially the first finger. If someone can tell me how it is possible to use the weight of the arm — any of it, let alone the full weight, without pressing with the hand, or, more precisely, the index finger (try lifting your index finger off the bow and see what happens)"

Arm weight is typically transferred into the stick using all four fingers. This only works for the bottom half of the bow. The other means of engaging the bow hairs is pronation of the forearm (the movement of twisting a key in a lock anti-clockwise) for which the force is transferred through the first finger. In either case the fingers and the hand are acting to transfer the force, they are not pressing in their own right.

This Todd Ehle video demonstrates how to integrate these two things into a single full bow stroke. In case anyone gets confused, the lifting of the fingers is just an exercise to get the feel for it. You wouldn’t actually do that in practice.
https://thesession.org/discussions/33875#comment722945

Obviously this is all from a perspective of a violinistic approach to tone production and I appreciate that not everyone would want to go down that route.

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Which video?

"Arm weight is typically transferred into the stick using all four fingers"
This is physically impossible. If you were holding the stick vertically, you could ‘transfer the weight of your arm’ (i.e. press) downwards. But your fingers are operating a lever. You can take the two smallest fingers off the bow and still play, but you can’t do that with the other two.
If I am to make any sense out of what is being said, it is to do with not rotating the wrist in order to vary the pressure by levering more with the index finger — which has nothing to do with using ‘the full weight of the arm’.

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As is doubtless obvious to everyone here, Brian’s style of playing is a very long way from what I am aiming for. I agree that the clips he has posted do not sound much like traditional music, but beyond that, I am not interested in critcising - it’s his music. He clearly knows more about technique than me (regardless of whether or not his verbal description makes sense). If I were to learn the mechanics of how to produce a tone like his, the chances are, I would not feel the need for such a tone; but it could give me access to a whole spectrum of timbres in between that of his playing and that of mine, allowing me to find the sound I want, instead of being restricted to the only sound I know how to make.

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@Gam, Todd’s Irish video was ‘Pigeon on the Gate’, which he did for his Youtube followers in 2010, I think, round about Paddy’s Day. It was well played, but to me it didn’t sound very ‘Irish’, I admit … anyway, he took it down shortly after that, after reading some feedback comments about it.

About 6 months later he did another one, ‘Glass of Beer / Ciaran O’ Reilly which was much, much better. I couldn’t find it right now, but he’s got tons and tons of videos up there. We follow each others’ uploads - that’s the only reason I know about this stuff🙂

I do like his tutorials - also Kurt Sassmannshaus (http://www.violinmasterclass.com/) and Itzhak Perlman as a great teacher too.

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As far as I am concerned Brians’ version of Cooleys is acceptable, He plays in tune and his music is danceable to.
I have heard better and worse versions.
I have listened to Ben Hall in my opinion, and it is only an opinion, he is no better or worse stylistically than Brian.

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@CMO "If I were to learn the mechanics of how to produce a tone like his, the chances are, I would not feel the need for such a tone; but it could give me access to a whole spectrum of timbres in between that of his playing and that of mine, allowing me to find the sound I want, instead of being restricted to the only sound I know how to make."

I think that’s exactly right. Clearly there is nothing stopping you from learning those mechanics but you probably need to go deeper than the snippets of advice that you can get on a forum such as this.

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I’m glad I decided not to learn fiddle, it looks hard. Though the discussion had me thinking about what someone who used to post here said about technique even before I saw Oirish’s last link.