Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Hey, all,
Pretty soon a friend of mine is going to be giving me his violin because he doesn’t think he’ll be playing it anymore. He’s going to give me a few lessons to get me started and I’m going to take a class at my local college. Does anybody have any tips or information that would help a beginner? I’ve got maybe a dozen tunes memorized. My fear is that I will play them like I do on the mandolin, when a fiddle has so many more things that can be done with it.
Thanks, all

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At least you know the fretting sequence, same as mandolin. Practice scales, at first, until your familiar with fingering for the notes. Be sure the violin is always in tune when you play it. If it’s off key, you’ll end up changing your fingering to accommodate it-bad habit. Keep your wrist bent outward, not up against your fretboard. Learn bowing basics, probably the most important element of getting a good sound from the instrument. And, most of all, be patient, don’t give up. Have fun!

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Thank you:)
What do you mean by bowing basics?

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I was going to say, play in front of a mirror to help you learn to keep the bow travel straight, perpendicular to the strings - but then I realized this may not be of much use to someone who is blind. :-)

The point is that unless you learn to change the angle of your wrist to keep the bow travelling straight, the bow will follow a curve, with the tip heading off over your left shoulder as you play a long up-bow, and then skidding off in the direction of the pegbox as you play a long down-bow. This not only makes it plain to everyone watching that you haven’t much of a clue, but more importantly it will stop you developing a good tone, and not just on long bows.

As Marcia says, it’s really important to spend time learning good bow technique early on. Don’t be in a hurry to acquire lots of tunes - get the basics right (bowing and fingering) first.

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I’m not a fiddler, so I can’t give you specifics. But I think the first thing is to maybe work on slurring with the bow (meaning, playing more than one note with a bow stroke). That will get you to start thinking of it as a different thing than a plectrum, which may be the hardest transition to make. Your natural inclination will probably be to try to pick with your bow, and that’s not necessarily where you want to be…

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Believe it or not, Rev, I think slurring is way too advanced for someone just starting out. It takes ages just to operate the bow in any sensible fashion at all, long before you start worrying about bow patterns. My suggestion, for fiddle, would be to start out on kids’ tunes - Twinkle Twinkle being the best of all. In fact, a month’s good, slow practice on Twinkle Twinkle would stand you in good stead later on. The advantage of that tune is the use of open strings, meaning that you can concentrate on operating the bow. But please, do take everything nice and slow. (I’m thinking of learners other than you, TBB - I think you have a good, humble attitude to these things already.)

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By coincidence, Ben, this video came up on my screen recently — there is a lot to learn even in something as simple as Twinkle Twinkle. If you, Mr Bard, can manage any of this, you will be well on the way to getting started.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idCfYSZmNkE


Ask your friend when he sets you going if there is any way to keep your bowing straight that he can show you — I think that’s going to be a problem (but I could be wrong).

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What I was originally thinking of doing is trying to keep my hand-wrist near the arches on the side, in that little nook of the hour-glass figure kind of? Do you guys know what I mean?
That is kind of close to the bridge, if memory serves me correct.
I’ll be taking it all nice and slow and trying to figure out how all of this works when I get it. My Family is probably going to hate me. My friend has a mute, so, I’m going to try and find a good place to practice. I was thinking the garage, maybe. it’s getting hot here in Vegas, though so I don’t know.
I’m just going to work with scales and working on figuring out the bow before I even touch a tune. I’ll still have my mandolin for tunes and playing :)
I’m sure my friend and I can figure something out, as far as keeping the bow straight. I’ve heard there are some products that you can buy that help with keeping the bowing straight. Worst comes to worst and I have trouble with it, I can get one of those.

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But, all-in-all, I’m really looking forward to it. I love listening to fiddle music and I find the sound so beautiful and invigorating.
I’m probably going to sound like Sh*t for a long time, but half the fun is the journey.
Should I ask my friend to tape the violin? He said he was going to do this, but I asked him not to so I could listen and get it.

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Interesting, gam. Also, out of interest, did you spot that his frog was made of ivory?

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I didn’t catch that, what an arse he is for sure:P poor elephant.
:(

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I don’t know about you as an individual case, TBB, but other blind people I’ve known have generally had excellent proprioception, that is, they really know where their limbs are and where they’re going. Better than the average sighted person. So I’m not sure whether you’ll need a product to keep your bow straight. You may find you’re able to do it with a bit of concentration, and just knowing that it has to be straight.

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Yeah. The problem I have is telling where my limbs are in relation to other things and I wind up running into them:P
I’ll see how it goes. I can’t wait to get started.

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TheBlindBard :
No worrie’s, I taught myself the Fiddle, and how
I done that, was by learning a mandolin.
First a few scales, polka’s, then jig’s and reel’s.
And the bowing came later, so you have -
’ Nothing to Fear, but Fear Itself ’ : )
Best of luck to you,I took the same journey,
37 years ago,,, and I’m glad I did .
jim,,,

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Three rules for getting off to a good start:
1. Get a teacher.
2. I repeat, get a teacher.
3. In case you weren’t listening before, GET A TEACHER.
Technique is so important to fiddling, it is almost impossible to get off to a good start without guidance.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

I will be getting a teacher through my local college

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In terms of the bow, see if you can get an even tone for the length of the bow. In other words, play an open string from the tip to the frog, and try to get that sounding as even — and nice — as possible. You may not end up bowing that way, but it’s a good introduction to the fiddle and it helps calm down your bowing. As you learn more, try doing it with fingered notes.

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Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Short strokes - keep the bow between the bridge and the
end of the fingerboard. Probably more towards the bridge
than the fingerboard.

Contrary to some advice, I’ve learned
that you need to actively put pressure down onto the bow.
The weight of the bow alone is not sufficient to do the job
if you want a strong clear sound. But you’ve also got to
use short strokes most of the time for this to work,
especially when crossing strings.

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Maybe it’s because I have played the fiddle for some years and already know where things are—but I think I use my ears more than my eyes anyway, trying to play it. The micro-adjustments you need to do, to get clear tone and good intonation, are hard to see in detail. But for somebody with a good ear, they are learnable by feel.

If you are reasonably handy on the mandolin, and have a good ear for pitch, I imagine you will do fine on the fiddle. (Well, eventually. Everybody goes through that "sounds-like-a-tortured-cat" phase, at first.) ;-)

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"Contrary to some advice"

Yep. Contrary to most advice. You’ll get the best tone if you just allow the bow to play the strings. It’s the way to get it to really sing out. Hand and arm position are key in getting the weight from your arm to transfer right, though.

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You don’t need to be humble, plenty of fine fiddle players are not humble. It’s getting more and more like a Sunday school here.
You don’t need to play scales, you can just play tunes. I could never be bothered with scales.
You don’t need to play tedious crap like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you can start with beautiful, simple Irish tunes.
You don’t need a teacher. You might like to have a teacher, and a good teacher could be a big help, but there are lots of bad teachers around.
You don’t need to use classical violin technique. Plenty of fine fiddlers don’t use classical violin technique.
You don’t need to use the full length of the bow. Plenty of fine fiddlers move the bow very little.
You don’t need to keep the bow at a perfect right angle to the strings. I noticed two great fiddlers in my session recently who were playing with the bow at the "wrong" angle. They sounded fine. When the angle is too far out, the sound suffers. This is what you should use as a guide, rather than any kind of device. Initially it might help to have someone tell you how and where you are placing the bow, but this is something you need to internalise as soon as possible.

It’s the sound that matters. Not being able to see the fiddle may even be an advantage in some ways, it certainly isn’t a big disadvantage with the fiddle. A lot of fiddle players have their eyes shut as they play. I imagine it would be a bigger challenge to play the piano without seeing it, I expect there are a lot more blind fiddlers than blind pianists. You need to learn to place your fingers in the right places on the strings to make the right sounds. Some sighted learners mark the finger positions with coloured stickers. I think this may be counter-productive, as they will be learning visually when they should be learning aurally.

Have fun!

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Well Ben, I found that description - which is typical - unhelpful in the early days.
It just led me to produce a wispy, uncontrolled sound.
Simon Fischer talks about ‘digging deep’. We all agree about the pressure,
it’s just the words that are different.

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Mark, I was just listening to the clip of your playing which you were brave enough to provide on your profile page. What would you say about the tone you are getting there?

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I second Al’s earlier post on getting a teacher.

"Technique is so important to fiddling, it is almost impossible to get off to a good start without guidance."

So true.

There’s a very good DVD by Simon Fischer, "Secrets of Tone Production", suitable for all levels, beginner to advanced.

Although it is a DVD, there is so much in the the way of audio explanation that you could still get a lot of benefit from it.

@BB - earlier posts reflect a wide range of understanding on what is and is not important in learning to play fiddle, relating to bowing in particular, however, you will need to make your own decision on that one.

If you contact me, I have a few audio-only lessons I have done for visually impaired students, that you are welcome to listen to.

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Like I said Bard, there are some really bad teachers around, people with the capacity to waste a tremendous amount of your time and energy by sending you off in completely the wrong direction.

If you follow Simon Fischer you will be setting off in completely the wrong direction. His teaching is appropriate for violinists, but not for a beginner on the Irish fiddle.

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[*Like I said Bard, there are some really bad teachers around, people with the capacity to waste a tremendous amount of your time and energy by sending you off in completely the wrong direction.*]

I think BB is smart enough to make the right decision. Especially after your posts, Bernie.

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You don’t really absolutely need a teacher, but a decent teacher will help you develop faster. Sometimes paying money motivates you to take things a little more seriously. There’s also the social pressure, however slight, of having someone to answer to.

But if you are a "self starter" with plenty of motivation, you can do worse than to listen to some fluent players, either in person or on recordings, and consider them your teachers.

One of the most important things for learning fiddle is a really good imagination. Because for the first months or years you’re simply going to have to "imagine" what it will be like when you actually start to sound good.

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How many decent teachers of Irish fiddle are there around though Joe? You can see in this thread just how clueless some self-styled teachers can be.

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"Yep. Contrary to most advice. You’ll get the best tone if you just allow the bow to play the strings." It’s the way to get it to really sing out.
The above is an over simplification, You will get different tones dependent upon where you place the bow, for example a different tone is obtained if the player places the bow near the bottom end of the bridge to the centre or towards the finger board, just try it and let your ears decide
there really is some rubbish talked on this forum.

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"1st setting, B part, bar 7. How do you finger it?"

— 2nd finger followed by 3rd?
— Being super quick with the second finger for both notes?
— Shifting up a position?
— Shifting down a position?

Any of them might work, some may work better for one person and work terribly for the next. So long as you’re having fun playing it, the dancers are having fun dancing it, and you’ve not got so hung up on that one passage that the pulse of the tune is interrupted, does it actually matter?

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@ John Townsend: you’ve implied before that I can’t play. Now you’re saying that I’m talking "rubbish". It is obvious that you will get different tones depending on where, exactly, you place the bow. However, if you play with a relaxed arm and let the bow (and the weight of your arm) do the work, any one of those different tones will sing out better than if you try to force the tone. Feel free to dismiss this fairly basic remark as "rubbish".

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@John Townsend - I can assure you that Ben actually is a competent player. I’ve played with him in session, and other folk remarked on his playing in a very positive way.

I understood perfectly well what he meant by the "You’ll get the best tone if you just allow the bow to play the strings" comment (well I would, wouldn’t I?) - although I do admit there was a bit of ambiguity and lack of clarity in its intended meaning.

@Oirish - I was hoping Bernie would answer that question about the fingering : "1st setting, B part, bar 7. How do you finger it?"

However, I’ll make a few comments anyway :

"— 2nd finger followed by 3rd?" - the only sensible solution. After using the 2nd finger, the 3rd finger is directly above the note you need to play. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

"— Being super quick with the second finger for both notes?" - Do-able, but extremely clumsy and inefficient. A bit like trying to open a bottle with one hand. What if you need to repeat those two notes?

"— Shifting up a position?" - why? both notes are well within 1st position and laterally only a semitone apart.

"— Shifting down a position?" - how can you, when you are already in 1st position?

So yes, it does matter. It matters a lot :)

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Deleted, talking rubbish.

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…and keep it whacked down for the entirety of the whole bar :)

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You know, I’ve been thinking: I frequently *do* spout rubbish. I probably sound rubbish too on a fair few occasions; I know I often think so. Still, it would be nice to know what was "rubbish" about what I said above. John Townsend has given some unrelated statements about bow position, which nobody could really disagree with, and then said that what I said was "rubbish". Why, John? In what respect?

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I have not implied anything about your playing, neither have i said that you were talking rubbish. I would suggest you reread my post and be less defensive.
A relaxed wrist is what is required.

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Bernie29, I think I have a strong tone in that clip,
not particularly nice but nice tone is not my goal;
it’s being able to play good tunes with unambiguous rhythm.

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Mark, I think you have the right idea and your goals are correct.

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Jim, that’s simply not the sort of thing I think about.

Mark, when I heard the recording I thought there was something wrong with your fiddle and/or bow. It’s interesting that you feel the need to apply pressure, that you feel the fiddle has a weak sound unless you do that. Maybe the fiddle and/or bow are responsible.

I’d be interested to hear what anyone else thinks about that.

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"Do-able, but extremely clumsy and inefficient. A bit like trying to open a bottle with one hand. What if you need to repeat those two notes?"

I disagree.

Anyway.

Bernie 29 — I see where you’re coming from. There were places where I didn’t hear much "bite" from the bow.

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That was a couple of months ago. You can see I’m right
near the fingerboard in that video and since then I’ve been playing closer
to the bridge. I’ll have to post another one soon.

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Near the fingerboard is a good place to play Irish fiddle, at least when you are playing solo or when you’re not battling to be heard above other instruments. You get a sweet tone there. I still think your fiddle and/or bow are at fault. You shouldn’t need to press hard or play near the bridge to get a decent tone.

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Mark, your bridge looks to me as though it is well away from the f-hole nicks, set back towards the tailpiece. Is that right? If so, it can’t be in the correct relationship to the soundpost, and the sound will be affected.

Take the fiddle to somebody who knows what they are doing, or if you feel capable of doing it yourself, and the fiddle isn’t terribly valuable, loosen the strings, slide the bridge into the correct position between the f-hole nicks, and see where it is in relation to the soundpost.

It’s possible that the soundpost will fall when you loosen the strings. You can try to prevent this by wrapping something gently around the fiddle to keep the pressure on. If the post falls you can put it back yourself, using a bent wire (I modified a steel barbecue skewer), I use a thick needle set into a wooden handle to pick up the post and initially position it. Or of course you could get a proper soundpost tool.

I repeat, don’t do this stuff if the fiddle is of any great value, as it is easy to damage the f-holes, and it’s possible to crack the belly or back.

There are videos about soundpost setting available.

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["*Do-able, but extremely clumsy and inefficient. A bit like trying to open a bottle with one hand. What if you need to repeat those two notes?"

I disagree.

Anyway.]

Any way indeed. But, you’re not alone :) :)

https://thesession.org/discussions/21079

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I think your wrist could be a bit looser and that then that might translate to more precise (or should i say fluid) control over the bow - particularly when changing directions and also crossing the strings. It seems to me that you might be placing too much emphasis on trying to cross the strings with slurs and keeping the bow travelling smoothly, but without the occasional "kick" from the wrist the bow isn’t working the tune enough, leaving the left hand to attempt to carry the melody and a lot of the rhythmic work which is effectively like flying a plane with only one engine - you’ll get through it - but its not as smooth a flight. Any its just my opinion, I agree with Bernie, that something requires a bit of tweaking - its not as if anyone is suggesting you’ve been holding the bloody fiddle upside down all this time. In my view I think your wrist looks (and sounds) too rigid. Loosening it up would only take a few weeks I’d say with focused exercises. I think you’d hear a major difference though.

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While I was musing on whether to post something about your bowing, Mark, and wondering how best to put it, Mikiemax has stepped in and said what needs to be said very well. The odd thing is that you talk about pressure, and how disregarding the usual advice has enabled you (presumably) to improve on the "wispy and uncontrolled sound" that you had at the beginning — and yet "wispy and uncontrolled" is actually a perfect description of your sound in that video whenever you have to play those passages of quicker notes and/or string crossing.

Places like that are exactly where you would expect someone who is trying to apply pressure to sound gritty and skrawnchy, but you don’t. Something requires serious attention and like Mikie I think it has to be the wrist. Getting those quicker bow strokes and changes to sound better will bring about an immense transformation in your playing and help you get that unambiguous rhythm you are striving for.

This is perhaps yet another demonstration (if one were needed) of how focusing on elements of verbal descriptions - terms like pressure and weight of the bow - can lead us up the garden path. Discuss. :-)

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Get a teacher. And don’t use the forums for advice on how to play or improve your playing, at least not before you’ve clocked a couple hundred hours of practice.

Intonation and generation of a pleasant tone are probably the biggest challenges for early players of that instrument, and you’re only going to improve that by putting in hours on it, and getting sound advice from someone who can watch you do it. You run the risk of generating some bad habits if you do otherwise.

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Good advice, Alex.
My advice is get a good teacher, then watch yourself in front of a mirror, then work on wrist not arm control, try the classical wrist exercise that uses a pencil when you are not playing the fiddle, ask your teacher about your thumb grip, if the thumb is bent and can flex whilst you are bowing your wrist will be more relaxed and able to move whilst bowing,.
I am of the opinion that this will benefit your tone, it will also mean you are less likely to have future muscular problems in your arm and shoulder.
Finally observe your overall posture, this is one of the advantages of playing in front of a mirror.

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"Intonation and generation of a pleasant tone are probably the biggest challenges for early players of that instrument, and you’re only going to improve that by putting in hours on it, and getting sound advice from someone who can watch you do it. "

How is having somebody watching you going to help with intonation, or tone?

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[*Jim, that’s simply not the sort of thing I think about.*]

Bernie, does that mean you are unable to answer my question?

******

[*How is having somebody watching you going to help with intonation, or tone?*]

A teacher could possibly help with poor intonation, but most certainly can certainly help with tone.

It’s the tone you need to produce (and be able to project) that is the important tone. It’s how you will be heard by others, and judged by skilled players / teachers (and Mr Internetgeezer too).

Not the tone you as a player hears when the instrument is under your chin. That’s a very common mistake a lot of players make (or simply are not aware of). Nice, sweet, pure tone under the ear, but weasly and scratchy to listeners because the bow-noise-to-tone ratio is totally wrong.

Sometimes refererred to as ‘tickling the instrument.’

Not directed personally at anyone, I’m just stating a fact.

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"How is having somebody watching you going to help with intonation, or tone?"

My instructor has, over the past year, dramatically improved my tone, and intonation* as well, by watching me play and then advising small, but profound, changes in bow position and left hand position. I have been amazed how some of the smallest changes change result in dramatic improvement in very short periods of time. Some of the suggested changes would be difficult or impossible to pick up in just watching others play.

When young, I studied the string bass for 10 years. As an adult, I studied Highland pipes for many years with a legendary instructor in the Northeast. In my experience, the difficulties and intricacies of those two instruments in no way match the demands of learning the fiddle. Why someone wouldn’t want competent assistance with technique is a mystery to me.

This is a silly sketch.

* or, in my case, the ease of achieving solid intonation, since I already have a good ear

Cheers.

Matt

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Cross-posted with Matt.

Yes, some people get a mental bluescreen at the mention of ‘classical’ or ‘teacher’. Silly, but funny too :)

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BB. I wasn’t going to respond to this thread before I realised that it was you. You’ve done so well and been so enthusiastic with the mandolin that I believe that you’ll double that on the fiddle. Just go for it (teacher or not).

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"How is having somebody watching you going to help with intonation, or tone?"
The person watching can observe the bow, for example where the bow is in relation to distance from bridge, is the bow travelling straight, is the persons thumb and wrist flexing whilst bow is travelling, This is important for tone.
Intonation can also be helped by someone watching, but to a lesser extent, intonation is mainly learned by listening, however having a teacher present[and recording with technology] and watching can also help, the teacher points out to the pupil when they are out and instantly stops them and gets them to listen again, and even gets them to watch themselves in the mirror, and adjust their intonation.
Learning intonation is mostly about listening but IS to a lesser extent about watching.

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This is an interesting point John. personally I can never undesrtand why people watch their fingers while they play. I only listen. This has always puzzled me. Which is right?

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I watch my fingers so that I can keep an eye on my little finger, remembering to keep it poised and ready to strike, like a snake on a rat.

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They are both right, Listening is in my opinion more important but watching should not be dismissed, by watching fingers, the musician can see if they are upright this is important for all stringed instruments, fretted or non fretted, position of finger affects intonation, fingers must not mute other strings unintentionally.
Watching Fingers is of importance.

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I’ll be sure to keep a close eye on all of the things everybody has posted above. I’ve got a mirror in my bathroom, so, worst comes to worst I can play in there without annoying too many people.

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I’ve come from mandolin to fiddle. Mandolin helps enormously with intonation but is a bowing disaster and initially I instinctively removed the bow smartly from the string after sounding each note. I have had to work and work to cure that and after 8 months an impatient bouncy mandolin-y sound remains, especially when I’m tired. I do not bow straight and looking in a mirror does not help at all. I have, therefore, ordered a Bowzo clip-on bowing aid to force my bow to stay straight. It hasn’t arrived yet but I am hoping it will help when it does. (There is a cheaper device called a Bow-right which performs the same function and I have no idea whether the Bowzo is better or worse. I picked it on whim). I hope that if I am forced to play straight and just keep doing it then the correct movement will become a habit. The other gadget I have now is a rubber mute which clips over the bridge. I wish I had got one ages ago - and I bet the neighbours do as well. There are days when I seem to play quite well and days when I am afraid someone will send for an emergency vet.

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I got a chance to play today with my friend teaching me how to hold the fiddle and the bow. The bowing was a challenge, especially trying to keep it straight and get a good sound. The bow my friend has was another student’s bow and they didn’t take very good care of it so a lot of the hairs were broken. He was going to be getting it re-haired and cleaning up the fiddle before giving it to me.
I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to suck sucking once again, but I’m loving it so far.

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It’s a challenging instrument for sure, but it’ll be worth it when sounds in the the general shape of music start to come out. Or at least that’ll probably be enough to hook you and keep you from using it as kindling, maybe.

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haha. My biggest problem from playing today I think is going to be keeping the bow straight and in a consistant area to make a good tone.

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I kept getting a nice tone then I would slip out of it or away from that area and the screeching would start.
Then there was a point at which my Dad came up behind me and put a napkin over the bridge so I wasn’t getting any noise and he was pretending to watch so I figured I was making the mistake.
lol

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HA! Dads make the best trolls, ask my son!

One thing you can try is to take empty paper towel roll and hold it up by your shoulder where the fiddle would be and practice stroking up and down with your bow, or even a dowel rod or something, going through it. That’ll keep your bow in the same place and let your hand/wrist/arm a feel for what it take to keep it straight.

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That’s actually not half a bad idea.
I’ll try it out and see if I get anywhere.
Worst comes to worst I just practice and get my friend to help me and make sure that I’m doing it all right.
Holding the fiddle and bow isn’t as difficult as I thought. My left arm is hurting quite a bit from holding the fiddle and resting my chin lightly on the chinrest.

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Yeah, it was pretty funny in retrospect what my Dad did. I was just like "damnit, Dad, really? bastard!"
lol

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"Holding the fiddle and bow isn’t as difficult as I thought."

Hold that thought. You will get a thousand corrections in your first few months of lessons. The bow hold slips, the wrist starts to collapse, the left arm isn’t tucked in enough…

I’m glad you are going to find a teacher for the fiddle. If there is anything intuitive about playing the fiddle I’ve not encountered it yet.

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It doesn’t seem necessarily intuative, but it made sense kind of. Moving my fingers around on the neck was sometimes a strain, but, it worked out.

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Is there a particular type of strings anybody would recommend? My friend is going to get the violin a new set of strings and re-hair the bow. I’ve heard the hair can effect the sound, but not sure.
Anything I should let my friend know, as far as accessories go?
Just curious, because I know strings on mandolin have a huge difference in sound depending on the winding or matterials used.

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Dominant strings (made by Thomastic) are the ‘industry standard’ set that makers fit on their new instruments. They are fairly good quality synthetic core (as opposed to gut core or steel core) and have a reasonably ‘bright’ sound.

If the fiddle is a ‘good’ one, it could benefit from better quality strings like Pirastro Obligatos or Evah Pirazzis.

If it’s a hopeless howler / grunter, usually Corelli Crystal strings can soften up the harshness. They are generally a good choice for budget instruments too.

The quality of bow does have a big effect on the sound you can produce. Some players will spend a quarter of the price of the instrument on a good bow, although that can be a lot less these days with the excellent quality and relatively low price of good carbon fibre bows.

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The girl who originally owned the bow didn’t take very good care of it. My friend rosined it up because it didn’t have much rosin on it and it sounded fine to me. He was just going to get it re-haired.
He compared rosining up the bow to another movement that made me laugh quite a bit :P

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I didn’t SEE that, jese.
I’ll have to have a talk with him about that, could’ve scarred my sister for live!

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For those who are still trying to get their bows straight, the Bowzo I got works - but it tends to scratch the varnish so don’t put it on the Strad! There’s a video showing it in use at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq4_ZCl-nf8 and I notice she puts on the Bowzo and then slides it forward. That’s when you scratch the varnish. Either don’t slide it forward or else stick something on it or put something under it to pad it. Playing scales with the Bowzo on is absolutely dead boring but a few sessions of 15 minutes each have definitely straightened out my bowing. (I was trying to do 20 minutes but it really is deadly!)

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So, my original friend didn’t end up giving me his violin, but another friend gave me his old violin from middle-school and it’s in my posession and it’s sitting on top of my mandolin case. It’s a good thing my parents don’t need to sleep tomorrow because I know what I’m doing :)

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The fiddle might benefit from a set-up - soundpost and bridge adjustments, fingerboard might be worn etc. Do you have a local shop or luthier that could do it? It’s no fun fighting a fiddle that’s hard to play and a bit of routine maintenance can make all the difference.

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My friend who was originally going to give me his violin took a look at it and said it’s in good playing condition and he’s been playing since middle-school, so that’s 7 years, including high school.
Next time I get some money, I’ll ask my friend what some good shops are to take the violin in to be looked at.
What exactly is the sound post? I’m 99% sure the bridge is in the right area. The little nicks in the F-holes are lined up with the bridge.

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The soundpost is a piece of dowel inside the fiddle between the back and the belly. Its roughly in the area of the end of the bridge and its position affects the tone of the fiddle and as it is wedged in not fixed it can and will move over time. Tiny differences in its position make a lot of difference to how good the fiddle sounds. The French name for the soundpost is ‘âme’ which means ‘soul’, which gives a clue as to how important it is. It’s not a big job to adjust but you need to know what you are doing.

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A few questions:
Isn’t the surface of a cake of rosin supposed to be rough to get on the strings? Mine is somewhat smoothish.
How many times should you rub the rosin across the bow.
Is there any way I can tell when my bow needs more rosin? any way I can tell without touching it? I’m trying to not touch the bow-hairs. Re-hairing the bow isn’t expensive from what I know, but I’d rather avoid it.

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A new cake of rosin is shiny from where it was poured into the mould as a liquid, rather like glass. The usual suggestion is to lightly rub the surface with fine sandpaper, or your sister’s emery board if she isn’t looking, just to take the shine off. After that, you never need touch it again except with the bow hair. You should never touch the bow hair except with the rosin and never touch anything with the bow hair except the rosin and the strings.
When you rub the hair over the rosin, you should feel a slight drag, and hear a slight scraping, hissing sort of sound that should be constant along the length of the bow. Any quiet bits are mean there is grease or dirt preventing the rosin from adhering to the hair. A little extra attention, sometimes using the edge of the rosin to increase the pressure in a small area, will cure any slippery patches, provided they are not too contaminated.
When the bow starts sliding over the strings without much effect, it is time to use a bit of rosin. Once a day should be more than enough, depending on how much use it gets.

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Thanks, Gam.
Should the rosin feel rough to the touch at all? I have an emori board of my own I use to file my nails down, I’ll use that.
back to practicing :)

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The rosin is there to make sure the bow ‘grabs’ the string. If it starts to feel like the bow is sliding and not gripping the string then reapply. As simple as that sounds it will take a while to get a feel for it, because at first you won’t know what it should feel like.

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The rosin won’t feel rough to the touch like sandpaper, but not smooth like glass. More like newspaper or cardboard. If you rub it gently close to your ear you will hear a ‘shushing’ noise. If you press it, it is about as sticky as silly putty, but hard, of course.
Try to avoid touching the surface, keep it away from dust, which will stop it working, heat, which will make it too sticky and put it out of shape, and keep it away from the butter and the baby oil (assuming you have some in your bedroom :) ).

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butter and baby oil? Why would I have such crazy things in my bedroom?
For tightening-loosening the bow. Touching the hairs that are facing the stick with my fingers lightly can’t hurt, right? I’m trying to figure out hwen my bow is tightened to a good level. I read somewhere that if the hair is a pencil’s width away from the stick, that was good.
Thanks for all of the help and descriptions. I think the resin I have is a "cake" of resin. it came in a little plastic container and has a cloth on the back of it so you can rub the cake on the strings.
So far, I’m loving it. I’m trying to work on getting a nice tone out of the fiddle. There are time when it squeeks and sounds painful but I’m slowly figuring out where the sweet spot is. Thank you, ears.

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It’s a personal thing as to to how tight you want your bow to be. I like mine a little bit on the slack side. No, it it’s not going to instantly ruin your bow to press on it to test the tightness, and you may need to. Experiment with small increments and see how it effects the tone and feel.

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Sounds good, thank you:)

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Do different rosins make a difference at all?

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They do, but I think you have to have a bit off a feel for the bow before you would start to notice. Does yours have a brand name? I’ve come across a couple no-name cakes that weren’t very good, like the kind they put in cheap beginner sets.

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Butter and baby oil in the bedroom? Oh you are naughty Gam!

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I’m not sure the type of rosin. I’ll ask my sister to take a look tomorrow. Is there any type of rosin that people would recommend? I’ve heard rosin is pretty inexpensive. Any recommendations are welcome. Will cheaper rosins damage strings-are they not recommended?
Butter and baby oil: Well then. Why would I need such silly things for "practice"?

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More importantly: why would I need to "practice," I perform beautifully!

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Rosin only gets expensive if you keep dropping or misplacing it. Otherwise a cake should last a lifetime. I don’t know, has anyone ever actually finished off a cake of rosin?

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Ah. That makes sense. I don’t see myself dropping this cake in the near future, it might happen though.

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[*Touching the hairs that are facing the stick with my fingers lightly can’t hurt, right? *]

Wrong, I’m afraid. It will mean that that part of the bow will be difficult to draw tone out because it will get dirty from your fingers. I usually gets to the point where rosin won’t stick to it either.

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I’ll just use the back of my palm to figure out how tight it is, then.

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Jim, did you notice that he said ‘the hairs that are facing the stick’ as opposed to the business side of the hairs? Not to quibble, but given that he can’t get visual feedback on how tight his bow is I think he’s going to need some way to gauge it until he can feel it by actual use. I may just be over thinking it though.

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I did indeed mean the ones facing the stick, not the business end. Thank you, Cheeky

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The tension on the bow can make a significant difference to how the fiddle sounds and plays. Too slack and the stick will touch the strings when you press down, too tight and the tone becomes "glassy" and unpleasant.

Trying to gauge the tightness by putting your finger between the stick and the hair will not be easy, I have just tried it. I would suggest that you start with the hair slack, get the feel for when the stick is touching the string, and tighten the hair gradually until that stops happening. I find I get the sweetest tone when the bow hair is as slack as possible without the stick hitting the string, but I tighten it up when playing in a noisy environment to get more volume.

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Is there any place in particular I should be bowing? I find that sometimes my bow drifts towards the bridge quite a bit and sometimes I am not sure, but I may be bowing *on* the bridge.
Still trying to get used to it, and probably will be for a long time
Any advice?

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I’m also not entirely sure my bow is tightened all the way. I’ll have to ask my sister when she gets home or ask my friend next time I see him. Sometimes my tone is ok, nice even, sometimes I play an open string and it sounds fine, and as I go up the D scale the notes are muted. Sometimes I play a note but I get this…. real glassy insubstantial sound. other times it squeeks.

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I’ve just done a little experimenting, and found a way that might work for you. If you hold your bow vertical, at right angles to the normal playing position, and touch the side of the fiddle with your fingers and thumb as they hold the bow.Follow that little curve at the ‘waist’ of the fiddle, and the usual playing position for Irish music is about when the back of your middle finger touches the far side. If you move your hand towards your chin until you thumb touches the nearer side of that curve, your bow will be about where the bridge is, which is where you get the glassy, insubstantial sound. Any closer to your chin, and you’re on the short ends of the strings, which either squeak or sound very high-pitched. You could try checking your position from time to time by feeling the side of the fiddle with an extended middle finger (downwards, not up as is usual for that finger).

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You get the sweetest tone with the bow near the end of the fingerboard, so away from the bridge, towards your left hand. If you go too far in that direction you will start hitting the pointy corners of the fiddle, the bow will suddenly stop making a sound as it is lifted off the strings.

Sighted beginners on the violin have difficulty keeping the bow in the right place, and they get any amount of squeaks and horrible tone. There are all sorts of ways it can go wrong. For example the bow needs to cross the strings at a right angle, more or less. If the angle goes too far wrong, you will get a weird tone.

You will just have to be patient and persistent and it will get easier.

Regarding the tightness of the bow, don’t get too hung up about it, at the moment it will not be your biggest problem. You don’t want to overtighten it, that can pull the hair out, so just get it so that the stick is clear of the strings.

I would suggest that you ask somebody who understands the fiddle to watch you and tell you where the bow is,

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Thanks, Gam. That helps a lot. I won’t be able to play now, but I can play some later. I’m going to ask my sister to help me figure out a way I can tighten the bow and know that it’s tightened well enough.

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[*Jim, did you notice that he said ‘the hairs that are facing the stick’ as opposed to the business side of the hairs? Not to quibble, but given that he can’t get visual feedback on how tight his bow is I think he’s going to need some way to gauge it until he can feel it by actual use. I may just be over thinking it though.*]

Yes, good point, but I was actually saying not to touch the bow hair at all, anywhere. It does matter.

However, given BB’s circumstances, I should say a bit more on that :

BB, if you’re working alone a lot of the time, here are a few things you can try. Get your sister here for this one-off bit to locate the mid-point of the bow :

The bow itself - you need a reference point for the middle of the bow. You can tie a piece of very thin elastic round the wood on the mid-point - which is the mid-point of half of the length of the usable bow hair.

So, now you have the (tactile) mid-point. Tighten the bow up a little bit - now slide a pencil through the gap between the hair and the wood, right at the frog end. Move the pencil slowly all the way along the bow to the other end.
As a rough guide, if it’s tensioned enough, then the pencil will make contact with the hair and wood at the mid-point, then gradually lose contact as you move further toward the tip of the bow.

That’s your starting point - now see how you things sound …

As to the distance you are bowing between the bridge and the fingerboard - if you hold the bow normally, touch the heel of your hand against the nearest part of the edge of the cutaway on the right-hand side of the instrument, as you are looking at it from a playing posture. Now make contact with the strings - this should now be you bowing close to the fingerboard.

Now, use the base joint of your thumb to contact the same part of the cutaway, and make contact with the string - this should be you bowing almost at the bridge. Hear the difference in tone …

Once you’ve got used to the mid-point on the bow on the string, you can play a few short notes mid-bow with a very short stroke, then move the bow closer to the bridge, play again, then move it away from you.

Hopefully this will familiarize you with the different positions and the different sounds you can make.

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Also: when tightened: should the bow-hair be closer or further from the string? Atm when I turn the screw to the right (righty tighty lefty loosey?)
The bow-hair gets closer to the stick. When I turn the screw to the left, the hair gets further from the stick and there is a gap between the hair and the stick.

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Jim, you answered my question. I didn’t see your post before I wrote mine. Thank you

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I’m not sure what you mean there, BB - ‘righty tighty’ is correct - if you turn the nut clockwise, you are tightening the bow hair - as the hair is tightened, the stick starts to straighten out a little bit as the hair at either end pulls on it.

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Just to clarify there, BB — the wood part of the bow is slightly curved, if you hadn’t already realised it. When the screw is loose, the curve is at its maximum, and the hairs touch the middle of the curve. As you tighten the screw — righty-tighty — the hairs pull the two ends closer together, which makes the curve straighten out a bit, which lifts it clear of the hair.
Hold the frog in your left hand and unscrew the screw with your right. When it is too loose, you will be able to stick your thumbnail between the screw and the end of the wood. Tighten it up until you can’t get your nail in there, which is when the hairs are just starting to tighten. You might feel the wood of the stick slide through the frog with your left fingers and thumb. About four or five full turns of the screw after that will be about right — any more is too much and the bow will start to bounce around on the strings — not enough, and the wood part will hit the strings in the middle.

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Ok, thanks, that helps out a lot as far as figuring out when the bow is tightened.

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I’ll play more later tonight (such a generous term!)
Thanks for the tips and help, guys.

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Are shoulder-rests necessary? I find it rather uncomfortible at times. I lost it earlier and was practicing with it off earlier until I could find it. Is it just something that grows on you?

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The idea is that you want to be able to hold the fiddle securely and comfortably between your chin and your shoulder without any support from your left hand. A lot of people find that a shoulder rest helps, but we’re all built a little differently.

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I think not having it is actually a bit more comfortible for me.

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I don’t like shoulder-rests either. I have had several fiddles, and each one without fail I have had to raise the chin-rest by about half an inch. This gives the added advantage of having your ear higher above the fiddle, which makes it sound louder, and you hear less of the bow noise. It’s all a matter of choice, of course — a few people play without a chin-rest or a shoulder rest.

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How do you raise the chin-rest?
That’s nice
It just seems a bit more comfortible with no shoulder-rest.

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Raising the chin-rest involves a bit of fiddly gluing and drilling. Basically it means sticking two bits of wood or cork or something depending on what the bridge is made of, under the feet, shaping them to match, and drilling two new holes for the clamp. You can buy them ready-made, or adjustable, but they’re quite expensive and still need to be adjusted to suit your particular chin. If you don’t need much adding, two thick slices of cork underneath instead of the very thin stuff that’s usually there will do the trick.

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Ah, I thought fiddles already had adjustable chin-rests. Was just curious.
Thanks for all of the help and advice, guys. I was playing earlier today and the suggestions you gave me, Gam, were certainly helping.

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I play without a shoulder rest and I have a custom built chin rest. However, if these had been on the market earlier then I would probably have gone down that route:
http://www.kreddle.com/

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/\ That looks really sexy! I remember seeing this on kick-starter, nice to see they got it off the ground.

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Finn said:
"Sighted beginners on the violin have difficulty keeping the bow in the right place, and they get any amount of squeaks and horrible tone. There are all sorts of ways it can go wrong. For example the bow needs to cross the strings at a right angle, more or less. If the angle goes too far wrong, you will get a weird tone."

This is SO true. In you’re case I would strongly consider something like a ‘Bow-Right’ to train your bowing arm to keep your bow in the sweet zone. You could do it by ear alone, but I bet this would really shorten your learning curve.

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I am not a fan of external devices like the "Bow Right", I think you are just delaying learning to do it unassisted.

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I’ll keep playing at it and see if I can get a decent tone constantly. Does anybody know if ultra practice mutes dim the volume considerably? I am considering getting one for practicing when it otherwise wouldn’t be good to.

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One other question: As far as "bowing" goes
At the moment, I am just doing slight up-down bows to work at getting a nice tone. Are there any things people would recommend I work on as well as far as bowing goes?

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How about trying to get a nice jig rhythm going? DAT da da Dat da da…

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I sure can try. I can’t promise it’ll sound jiggish or musical at all:D

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Don’t work on bowing, and in general don’t break the music into little bits, play simple tunes instead, make music. Play the simplest tunes you know already from the mandolin. Play Shoe the Donkey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyts06hf9XU

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@Finn O’Connor — why do you say don’t work on bowing and don’t break the tune into little bits? Not that I’m disagreeing; but it would help if you gave explanations and reasons instead of just proscriptions.

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I often don’t provide explanations because I rely on the reader’s good sense and intelligence to work out the explanation.

I don’t think the players we follow learned to play by pulling the music apart and focusing on the fragments. I don’t think Bobby Casey learned to play jigs by bowing a jig rhythm on open strings, I think he took his father’s fiddle, which was the only one in the house, and tried to play tunes.

The simplest tune can be beautiful and pleasurable for both players and listeners, that encourages the learner to persist.

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@TBB I suggest you dont whatever you do attempt to play dance music on the fiddle untill you can play the instrument itself. learn to draw a good tone , get good intonation in simple scales , be patient and persistant.
I dont use a shoulder rest but i did for years. IMO its important to get the instrument set up so it feels comfortable and natural.
@ Michael Finn…. You think…. or you know? reality or projection of your fantasy ? If a player brought up in a musical household in Clare, fiddling father , immersed in it from birth, learns a particular way are you suggesting that this method is universally applicable? If not what relevance might it have to TBB ?

To quote a famous fiddler ;>>What I would recommend to anybody who wants to learn is scales, scales, scales, scales. Over and over and over and over and over again until you go mad. And then, um… I’d also recommend when you’re learning the tunes, break em down into tiny pieces.<<

By all means use good your sense and intelligence to evaluate advice here from mr Gill or whoever he is in relation to the advice you just received from Kevin Burke after all ‘finn’, for all we know, could be the worst fiddler in the world! …. just saying .
Just to keep a reality check on the forum….

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"To quote a famous fiddler"

You do have to name the fiddler, or else the quote doesn’t really work.

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And just to keep your reality check in check, you can’t *really* call someone else out for not posting an example of their playing, when for all we know, YOU could be the worst fiddler in the world! …. just saying.

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I did Tom ….

@cheeky elf you just edited your comment so this reply is to your first post;, I could be, so double check my advice and all advice here ,. all, with the advice from guys like Kevin Burke for example.!!
As it happens however the OP already knows me as a fiddler and Im offering my advice to him .
Everyone is entitled to their opinion on fiddle tips for beginers and to post here. What the OP and others have to do is cross check. Dont blindly follow anyones advice without checking it against advice from the likes of Matt Crannitch etc be sceptical and question, can they support their position with demonstrations? does their advice tally with people who have international reputations? if Liz Doherty says one thing and joe bloggs on the internet says the direct opposite !!surely its only common sense to value the advice from Liz as being intrinsically more valuable than Joe.

It happens here all the time, people mean well often but they have no actual experience and are basically making it up as they go along, Advice from flute players telling us how to start fiddling? advice to use chromatic ET tuners for fiddle and pipes , the list could go on and on. Im merely pointing out a basic reality ; sex advice from virgins who’ve watched a lot of porn has no value , 8-)Dont learn to fight be imitating hollywood….

question everything.

@ cheeky elf , this reply is to your second post overwritten on your first. >> you can’t *really* call someone else out for not posting an example of their playing, when for all we know>>
I havent ‘called anyone out’ as you say so your imagining things or trying to put words in my mouth i didnt say. cheers

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"I did Tom …. "

If you mean it was Kevin Burke, then name him in the relevant paragraph!!!

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[*Don’t work on bowing, and in general don’t break the music into little bits, play simple tunes instead*]

Unfortunately, again, yes again, we have the tunes disease. The totally ridiclulous advice to a complete novice to play simple tunes, when they have not even begun to grasp the very basics of the instrument (fiddle) at the most fundamental of levels. Yes, why not attempt to play simple tunes (shown on Youtube clip of someone playing a different instrument) before you have even learned to be able to draw out one single clean, clear and crisp note from your fiddle? Does it get any more ridiculous than that?

[*I suggest you dont whatever you do attempt to play dance music on the fiddle untill you can play the instrument itself. learn to draw a good tone , get good intonation in simple scales*]

Will’s advice here is totally sound - what more can I say?

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….
well then.
My experiences thus far:
I started out with scales working on getting a nice tone. This is tricky in itself, because my bow keeps drifting and going every which direction it pleases.
I’m getting a little better at being able to draw out tone, especially after Gam described a way I can try to keep my bowing straight by using the curve in the side of the fiddle as a reference. I’m going to keep working at this and hope I can get better to where it doesn’t sound like s**t to me.
A lot of the questions I’ve asked have been things about the violin itself, not making music with it. I know it’s a tricky instrument. Until I feel comfortible with my ability to get sound out of this thing, I’m not going to try and play irish music. I reserve that for the mandolin or a whistle (only if nobody is home for the later).
On tunes: I did mess around with a few "simple" tunes that I know. The Maids of Mourn Shore, the Kerry Polka, ect. Sure, some of them sounded nice, but when my bow slipped and I suddenly got a squeek where there should be a long note, it wasn’t pleasant to hear.
That made me stop. I love playing tunes and making them sound nice. I’m not going to sit here with 3 hours of practice under my belt and butcher tunes that I love so much :P
I appreciaite all the help that has been offered thus far. I understand completely that there is going to be conflicting advice. it’s the internet, after all. Thank you all for your help and suggestions.
I’m going to keep working at it:)

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I’m doing some shopping. I have a guitar center card that still has twelve dollars or so on it and I was looking at mutes and rosin:
http://www.guitarcenter.com/The-String-Centre-Ultra-Rubber-Practice-Mute-466210-i1403103.gc
The Rosins I’m looking at are:
http://www.guitarcenter.com/The-String-Centre-Pocket-Rosin-107447716-i1390917.gc
http://www.guitarcenter.com/The-String-Centre-Bernadel-Rosin-with-Pouch-466219-i1419069.gc
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Pirastro-Goldflex-Rosin-466183-i1428729.gc

I’m just getting extra rosin so I have more on hand in case anything happens to the rosin I have now. I kind of like the cake style (with the felt on the bottom, easy for me to put it on the bow)

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Do any of those look good? or should I not bother this early with rosin? I am going to get a mute for practicing, because right now it means the difference between getting to play and not getting to play.

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I guess my bridge is crooked and kind of banged up. Am going to take the fiddle into the shop and have them set it up and fix the bridge and I’ll probably get my bow re-haired while I’m at it.

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If you have rosin already, I wouldn’t bother looking for more. The links you posted say it is sold out or not available there anyway.
By all means have your fiddle set up, but ask whether you need a re-hair before opting to have one. If there’s enough hair on the bow, maybe a simple wash in hot soapy water would improve things — it is only hair, after all. As long as you keep the water away from the glue, it’s easy enough to do. Unscrew the nut at the frog and pull out the pin so that the frog comes free, and then wash the hair, keeping the two ends dry. Pat it dry with a towel or kitchen paper, and leave it to thoroughly dry off, then re-assemble it and apply some more rosin. But unless you are having trouble with the bow, I would leave well alone.
Spend a few weeks or months getting the feel of things, how it plays, what different sounds you can get out of it by making little adjustments of position, speed, pressure and direction, and so forth.

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Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Hi
I use the Pirastro Golflex rosin for my viola; it’s quite mellow and sticky but I don’t think it suits my fiddle. As a fiddler I’d say go for the Bernadel rosin, unless you especially like the plastic box of the other one. You do need some rosin, although I have found it’s several weeks before a newly haired bow needs any rosin at all except what the luthier applied. The natural roughness of the hairs is enough to keep the bow on the strings when new, until you wear them smooth with playing, and then you need just a little rosin, increasing as the bow hairs age. Too much is as bad as too little, I’m afraid.

Use a clean duster every time you finish playing to wipe off rosin from the body of the fiddle under the strings and the fingerboard to prevent white buildup of rosin - it goes sticky and hard with age & makes a mess of your varnish. You don’t need to wipe off the strings; that rosin can stay ‘cos you’ll need it next time! Occasionally you can give them a birthday with string cleaner solution (but no drips on the varnish please - it dissolves it).

The fiddle is supersensitive to muscle tension; try & keep your shoulder & wrists relaxed whilst playing; you’ll be amazed how your tone improves. Play nice and slow, just explore the instrument and enjoy doing it. Do not be discouraged if your tone is slow to improve. Keep playing; it may take time but it definitely will if you persevere.

Above all, make sounds and enjoy them. Enjoy the pureness of the right notes, the infinite chromatics, the being able to start at any point on the fingerboard and make a scale, the supreme versatility of the instrument. Some people call this mastering the instrument. I call it getting to know the instrument, as you would a new friend. More a dialogue than a conquering. Then eventually you will find the tunes start to want to be played on the fiddle and they will spring out from it dazzling and fun.

Enjoy. It’s a long road!

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Right now it’s a love-hate relationship. I’m trying not to be too hasty as far as playing goes. Sometimes I’ll get nice and acceptable sounds, other times I’ll slip an inch towards the bridge and it goes into the glassy tone-land. It’s very interesting because there’s so many ways to make wrong noises and even an inch in the wrong direction can mess the tone up.
I love it when I can get nice sounds out of it, but that love quickly fades, especially when I start squeeking and such.
I’m having fun with it, though. I can’t practice as much as I would like, but hey. Hopefully the mute will help things out a bit.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

[*I’ll slip an inch towards the bridge and it goes into the glassy tone-land. *]

That can be quite useful sometimes, just for repeating the odd phrase, for a bit of variation. I do it myself.

You could just experiment with ‘sound points’ - where you bow, the position of the point of contact in relation to the distance between the bridge and the fingerboard. Imagine 3 sound points, each one at equal divisions between the fingerboard and bridge.

Keeping your bow travel to 2"" either side of the bow’s mid-point, play some notes (the same ones each time) at the different sound points, and hear what position sounds best.

Try to avoid using the mute, if you can. It’s a real curse to a beginner’s perception of sound and tone. Pistol-whip your parents and other house occupants if necessary.

OK, joking about the pistol whip bit, but you get my drift … :)

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

My Mom sleeps and works in the night, I’m going to have to use a mute in order to practice regularly. I’m sure the mute isn’t going to alter my perception of tone that much. I’ve got a pretty good set of ears on me :P

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

I can use my muted time to work on fingering notes-string crossing and such and my unmuted time to try and figure out where I can scratch away for a nice tone.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Ah, in steps the "hate" part of the relationship between a fiddle and it’s owner.
I think this is the first time I’ve been really irritated when playing an instrument. I’m playing, my bow slips a tad and the tone goes from nice, to really scratchy, uneven and glassy.
This is going to be quite a challenge.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

<<I’m not going to sit here with 3 hours of practice under my belt and butcher tunes that I love so much :P>>
well said.
its a big challenge, thats why its good to isolate aspects such as tone or intonation . etc etc to simplify matters. It took me years and I wish Id had the advice Ive given you when I started!

My contribution is to say not to expect too much, be patient and chip away a little bit every day, i really mean EVERY day, if your just about to go to bed and realise you havent practiced , get up and do 10 mins of simple exercises. never miss a day.

for a mute maybe use blue tac on the bridge or silly putty or clothes pegs. Aim for intonation above tone, becuase the fiddle might never give a good tone however well you play it, but you can attain good intonation with basic practice
by scales Im not talking about Abm in the 16th position ;-) just G D A F and C major in first position

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

I loosened up my bow a bit and my notes aren’t squeeking nearly as much. I am also using the upper half of the bow and it seems to give me a lot more control so I don’t slip as frequently. Today was a good day of practicing. I didn’t feel frustrated and I am getting better at getting good tone out:)

Myth: The horse hair has scales that “pluck” the string.

There is no natural "roughness" on the bow hair. The above comes from http://russellhopperviolinmaking.blogspot.ie/2011/02/violin-bow-maintenance-and-myths.html Everybody should read this article. The information accords well with studies cited in the following scholarly articles.
There are microscopic "scales" that help retain rosin. Too much rosin in fact prevents the friction needed to activate the string. This is very technical but worth plowing through: [http://www.speech.kth.se/prod/publications/files/qpsr/1995/1995_36_2-3_023-042.pdf]
Two more excellent articles are:
http://knutsacoustics.com/files/pickering-violin-string-properties.pdf and
http://www.scavm.com/norman.htm and

Fiddlers disagree on whether or not to use a full bow when playing traditional music. Frankie Gavin has a lot to say about this. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVVx8g28JN8] He advocates using very little of the bow and points out that Sean McGuire gets great power with only a few inches of arm motion. Frankie further advocates learning to use the bow by holding a book clamped against your ribs, or standing in a doorway and using your wrist for full effect, rather than your whole arm, as you would in classical music. Tony Linnane once told me that you could tell how accomplished a fiddler was by watching his wrist. Kevin Burke advocates using the whole bow but even he uses only part of the bow - though his wrist is very active. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjyG3rW_yLA]

Watching these great players on Youtube can be like taking a series of masterclasses.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

When I move the bow, I move my arm to pull and push the bow-should I not do that?

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Don’t move the arm to move the hand to drag the bow. Start the movement closer to the bow itself, the arm follows only as much as it needs to. I’m sure someone else can explain it better…

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

"Frankie further advocates learning to use the bow by holding a book clamped against your ribs, or standing in a doorway and using your wrist for full effect, rather than your whole arm, as you would in classical music."

That could well work. Especially useful in crowded sessions. But get it slightly wrong and you could be setting yourself up for bad posture for life.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

On the other hand, one can’t always count on having the appropriate space so I think it’s good to prepare for the worst case scenario. If Frankie’s sound comes from bad posture (possibly from using the wrist more than the whole arm), where do I sign up?

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

I think what Cheeky Elf is getting at — though I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong — is that the movement of the arm is best kept to a minimum.
Compare it to writing or drawing, if you will — pretend you are writing, but keep your wrist and fingers locked and use only the arm to move the pen. You will find your whole body shakes, and there is little if any fine control over what is happening.
Now keep both your arm and your wrist locked, and move only the fingers. There is much more fine control, but the degree of movement is severely restricted.
Under normal circumstances, the fingers and wrist provide the fine control, while the forearm is used to increase the range of movement. The shoulder is kept still, and the elbow moved as little as possible, without enforced rigidity being necessary.
Having said all that, however, you will find a wide range of styles among the best players — it all depends on what is going on in your head, which is where the music come from.

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Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

"Use the wrist as much as you can. Just go to Youtube and watch how the accomplished fiddlers use the wrist. That’s much better than reading about it. "
Ah, maybe I should use a more obvious username.
Can I put color into my username at all? maybe I should highlight the "blind" bit in a nice bright red.
Just poking fun at you, David. I would watch the great fiddlers if I could. I ask these questions because I can’t watch the great fiddlers :D

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

I’ll do some more practicing tomorrow when I can and try to figure out what you guys are talking about when you say to use the wrist. Today was a good day for practicing, let’s hope I can go two-for-two :)

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

what is "intonation"
Thank you all for the advice, I appreciate it a lot.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Purchase "The inner game of music". Really good book that helps you set some goals in the first few years. You can pick it up for around a couple quid.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

Intonation just means making sure your notes are on pitch. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, not having frets means you can get all kinds of pitches that are sharper or flatter than what you intended.

Try this: move your arm in a bowing motion starting from the shoulder, then make a bowing motion starting from the elbow, then make the same motion leading from the hand, and feel how the arm just goes along for the ride because it follows the hand, and not the other way around. Just take a minute to feel the difference in the otherwise similar motions.

Now if your leading with your hand and not flexing the wrist, you will most likely have the problem that the bow is making an arc and not staying in the sweet spot on the strings. This is where the wrist gets involved to keep the bow straight.

So try this: put your left hand index finger and and thumb together making a circle with your hand up by your shoulder about where the contact point would be for your bow and strings. Let your bow slide through the circle, and let it keep your bow in the sweet spot and moving in a straight line. Now bow leading with your hand, and notice how your wrist has to flex to accommodate the straight line. Get the feel for what your wrist is doing there.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

[*When I move the bow, I move my arm to pull and push the bow-should I not do that?*]

That’s totally correct (you should).

The whole action of full up-bow and full down-bow is a coordinated and synchronized action involving the shoulder, elbow, wrist and thumb+2nd+3rd fingers. If you want to see how much the shoulder and elbow are involved, try keeping them completely still, use only your wrist, and see how far you get :) Shoulder and elbow movement are essential for string crossing too.

If you just have a little bit of flexing in your fingers and wrist, that’s more than enough for any style of fiddling or violin playing. Don’t be mislead by the ‘snakey wrist’. It might look totally cool, but all it does is increase lost motion, and actually makes you work harder than you need to. Quite often people over-use the wrist because they have not learned to control the bow properly.

As Cheeky said, your wrist needs to move too as the bow travels up or down, plus the fingers T+2+3 need to move in relation to the angle of the bow. If all these things are not correct, you’ll have the bow taking a slight arc (affecting your tone) instead of moving in a straight line, with the same distance from the bridge for the whole bow-length.

Sometimes bow-guides are useful (and I think one would help in your case, as you have no visual check on what your doing). Hearing the sound is not enough to ensure you have good form.

It’s a totally different scenario from learning mandolin. With right hand, you only have a few inches of travel to work with. With fiddle, you have over 2 feet of bow length to control.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

I got a chance to talk with my friend who plays violin (as well as another friend who plays viola) today. They both told me that as far as the bow goes, if I can find the balance point on the bow, I can grip there and that should make it a bit easier to stay straight. They both also recommended I dig in a bit more with the bow and put pressure on it to get notes out. I am going to practice with these tips tomorrow :)

Myth: The horse hair has scales that “pluck” the string.

I read the links that David Levine posted above (and I’ve seen them before).

I’ve heard all manner of arguments about what makes the sound when you draw a rosined bow across the strings. It’s obvious that the hair is pulling on the string with the help of the sticky rosin.

Some say that the surface of the bow hair is naturally rough (scales or other irregular bumps), and aided by the sticky rosin, this is what makes the string vibrate.

Others claim that the surface of the hair is completely smooth. I think if the latter were the case, then so long as hair strands aren’t broken, why would one ever need to re-hair a bow?

I had also read the ‘vibrating string’ research, and started to wonder just what was the minimum required to make a string vibrate by drawing a bow across it. I found out - and I decided to make a little video of it here :

(@BB, play the video and listen to the sounds. First sound is very familiar - hitting an open A string with a bouncing bow. Second sound is drawing the bow across the string just enough to make the string vibrate, then stopping the vibration immediately).

Welcome to the world of the scrud :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eacy95xEchY


This concept plays a part in Tommy Peoples’s famous trebles - with a combination of three very short bow stroke and a lot of pressure on the string, he often ‘chokes’ the string so much that it’s not able to vibrate freely enough to produce an actual musical pitch. Hence the ‘scratchy’ trebles.

Re: Tips For A Beginner On the Fiddle

…. Scrud? parden