Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I know people say that cuts are supposed to be easiest and triplets harder but i find it the otehr way round.

Maybe its cos i practiced triplets more from the start however badly and am just a bit ahead of cuts.

I think its more that both require quick reflexes but i find it easier to be fast with the bow than with my left hand catching antoher note above. I think that requires more coordination or maybe its the same but either way im finding them harder then triplets :P

Any advice welcome.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Also when to do thwm, ie what bars to start out as a general rule. I guess same as where id put triplets. Listneing to some tunes now to get an idea.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

It’s not merely a case of practising cuts until you get the hang of it, rather like, say, throwing a dart until you get the hang of hitting the board. It’s also a matter of developing the necessary muscle fibres to get your finger to move quickly enough.
Normally, by the time your brain has generated a signal and sent it to your finger to get it to move, and the muscle has got around to contracting, the tune has moved on to the next note. Over time, repeatedly sending the signal and moving the finger develops both the neural pathway(s), the quality of the nerve, and the type of muscle fibre.
As with moving your ears, the muscles are there, but lack of use makes it very difficult to do. Extreme concentration, repeated practise and a bit of time work wonders.
As to when to use cuts, I use them in two distinctly different ways. One is to separate two notes of the same pitch, rather than using the bow. The other is to add emphasis to a single note, either by, for example :
A{d}B or A {Bd}B
where the notes in brackets are cuts.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Gam, I can’t help but point out that you said that it’s not just a matter of practice, then pointed out the things that practice develops 😉

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

@ hotsauce
"not merely…"

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I actually did better than i thought today. been oracticing alot today since im at my parents house so not much else to do so i got in a good groove today.

so i guess some good fibre work was done :P

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

So you’re saying you made the cut?

🙂

David E.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I posted this earlier but it didn’t make it . Anyway, it’s quite obvious from watching the first video what I meant :

"Arthur, if you find cuts difficult, how are to trying to execute them? The motion is with finger just above the string, to coming down to make contact with the note, then the finger continuing moving off the string, toward your right as you are looking at your left hand. It’s a single movement - not a down-up motion as in a trill.

It’s important to remember it’s not a down-up movement like playing normal note patterns (eg B-C-B using 1-2-1)."

…but maybe you’re doing it like this anyway.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

>Normally, by the time your brain has generated a signal and sent it to your finger to get it to move, and the muscle has got around to contracting, the tune has moved on to the next note. Over time, repeatedly sending the signal and moving the finger develops both the neural pathway(s), the quality of the nerve, and the type of muscle fibre.
Tonterías.
This is all based on little bits of half-truths picked up here and there. You should do some homework before spouting off like that. You really don’t know what you’re talking about, and you shouldn’t be offering advice as if you are in some position of authority, which you clearly are not. Rather sad really.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

">Normally, by the time your brain has generated a signal and sent it to your finger to get it to move, and the muscle has got around to contracting, the tune has moved on to the next note. Over time, repeatedly sending the signal and moving the finger develops both the neural pathway(s), the quality of the nerve, and the type of muscle fibre."

Something like that. I think he’s trying to describe "muscle memory." That is, you don’t think it, you just do it. But you don’t get to that point right away, when your learning. You make a technical exercise out of it, thinking about it, how it’s supposed to sound (not how you WANT it to sound, but how it’s supposed to sound). After a bit, it becomes muscle memory and, like breathing and cussing (or criticizing) , you do it without thinking. Then at that point the only thing you have to think about is where to put the cuts. The youtube vids are nice because you hear how they are supposed to sound. Also check out Irish flute and whistle cuts on Youtube. Sometimes hearing and seeing how they do it on other instruments can help. One more thing, (and please forgive me for being presumptuous here as I don’t know what your skill level is…) is there a professional teacher or other experienced player in your area? When you get right down to it there really is no better alternative than flesh and blood.

I am learning ITM on hammered dulcimer. There is no real way to duplicate the cuts and crans on an HD (although with the dampers down I can approximate an Irish banjo sound). I can come close but the effect is different, it’s still a skill I must learn with practice and more practice.

David E.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I can see how cuts might be more difficult than triplets if you haven’t played them much. Triplets use the same finger movements as normal notes do, whereas cuts require much quicker finger action.

I think of a cut as really a kind of a combined hammer-on / pull-off executed laterally in one action. I agree that it’s hard to convey the message in text alone - eg Matt Cranitch’s "Irish Fiddle Book" describes the cut as a ‘quick flick of the finger’, which I don’t think is particularly helpful if you’re new to ornamentation.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

David E - fair point. I try not to do reflex criticism, but I do wish people would stick to posting actual facts rather than subjective half-baked ideas. That said, we all do it, I’ve certainly done it, but not sure if I’d want to come over as so authoritative, if I wasn’t 100% sure about something.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

It came over a bit sharp Danny, especially as it was to a member who IMO is usually a reliable source of information. Is the bit about developing muscle fibres correct ?

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

As for cuts vs triplets, I agree with Arthur that the bowed triplet is easier to learn at first. But, once you’ve mastered both, the cut can often be easier to pull off at a fast pace. Eg, depending on my bowing I sometimes find myself going the wrong way for a crisp triplet. Granted, to that my teacher might say that I ought to get my bowing worked out to set up the triplet.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I’ve done neuroscience and cognitive psychology modules with the Open University, and thought that Gam’s initial post was rational. Danny, maybe you could offer a detailed critique so that we can understand what you think was wrong with it?

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I’d have thought the appropriate muscle development a crucial part of playing and progressing on any instrument. Practice obviously develops the muscles used to play an instrument not just the ear and the reflexes. Makes sense to me perfectly that.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Is doing a cut a matter of co-ordination - getting one set of muscles to relax while others contract and then doing the opposite ? Quickly, at the right time. What is being developed to improve the speed and timing accruracy ?

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

[*Is doing a cut a matter of co-ordination - getting one set of muscles to relax while others contract and then doing the opposite ? Quickly, at the right time. What is being developed to improve the speed and timing accruracy ?*]

Yes, it’s co-ordination, just in the same way as everything else the left hand is doing. There’s no need to think in terms of muscles relaxing /contracting. There’s really nothing odd or difficult about a cut once the mechanics are understood. It can be practiced as an isolation exercise, just using a single bow stroke.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Folks I think we all understand the concept of "muscle memory" whether we know how it works or what to call it or not, by virtue of the fact it is a necessary ingredient of playing ANY musical instrument. It is something that is built up with time, and like talent, some people can do it better than others. Building up strength and endurance really is a separate task. I think Arthur’s experience is by no means unique. I studied Baroque music on the piano for decades and mastered all the Baroque ornaments; my college instructor told me I had the fastest fingers in her class. (Quit snickering out there!) Trills and mordants I could do at breakneck speed, and yet I found the simple grace note to be the hardest to get to sound the way I wanted it to. Generally speaking I could get away with avoiding grace notes much of the time by replacing them with short trills and mordants, they sounded more impressive anyway. Making the cut (no pun intended) is like scales and arpeggios or anything else, you practice it slowly and gain speed as it gets in your muscle memory. But it’s not just the technique, it’s getting the right sound and for that you have to carefully listen to yourself. Arthur, it’s not a bad idea to record yourself, play it back and really listen to yourself. If your like me, you concentrate so hard on getting the notes while you’re playing you don’t fully listen to yourself play. I’m still like that after four decades of playing musical instruments.

David E
(Okay I really intended the pun, it was just too easy.)

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I don’t think we do all understand the concept of "muscle memory" in the same way. In this discussion we have had "developing the necessary muscle fibres" , we have had "appropriate muscle development" and we have had "Yes, it’s co-ordination".

Is this memory in the muscles or is it in the nerves in our noggins ?

There is nothing odd or difficult in holding down a guitar chord or tying our shoe laces - unless you are trying to do it for the very first time or want to do it faster than you can do now.

In other discussions people have talked about having whole tunes in "muscle memory".

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

"In other discussions people have talked about having whole tunes in "muscle memory"."

How ‘bout an entire Beethoven sonata in muscle memory. That’s the only way I could have played it. Except for perhaps the first measure and the last chord, I would have really struggled back then to tell you what notes went where, without the score. But my hands, my fingers knew. (A sobering thought, to think I have more brains in my fingers than I do in my head…) I find the much simpler two-part sixteen measure tunes not much different. I tend to be accident prone while playing anything, but the more I get out of my head and into my hands and fingers the better I can play.

David E

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I find it hard to think of playing a cut, or a roll, or a D without having to remember what to do in the same way as playing a tune without having to remember which notes comes next. How do the muscles chose whether to put a roll in this time round or not ?

And I still need an expert to tell me it involves muscle development rather than co-ordination/neural ‘programming’.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

"How do the muscles chose whether to put a roll in this time round or not ?"

Interesting but putting in the ornaments is more of a conscience effort on my part, that is, I mentally decide what to do and where as I am playing a tune. Still, I have to know the notes and commit them to muscle memory before I get myself to that point, and indeed I often put into muscle memory when and where I put the ornaments. If I’m having a bad karma day I leave most or all the ornaments out and just play the notes. It sort of depends on the tune. With "Lark In The Strand" I stick hammer rolls in at will, mixing it up as I feel like it. Others like "A Fig For A Kiss" I play with more structure in the tune and put the hammer rolls in the same spots each time, rarely deviating from my pattern. Some others, like "The Tulla" or "Humours Of Westport" I leave out ornaments altogether, just playing the notes is fun enough.

David E

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

If you were singing a song or reciting a poem from memory, rather than playing a tune, would that still be in "muscle memory".

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

@ David50
No, because you don’t need specially developed muscles to speak. Maybe you do for singing, but the muscles cover the whole range, and are not devoted to a single action, as with ‘muscle memory’.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

@ Danny Mackay — "I do wish people would stick to posting actual facts rather than subjective half-baked ideas."
Perhaps you would care to offer the whole-baked idea, since you are obviously more knowledgeable on the subject than me. There is not much point in saying, "That is rubbish," without providing an explanation.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I am unconvinced. I can waggle my ears but until your post above I had probably not done it for several years so I think any muscle development would have been lost. When learning to do it the main problem was stopping my whole scalp moving*.

That’s co-ordination not muscle development. The same as getting fingers to move independantly in the correct directions for those first few guitar chords. The muscles are there, they just don’t usually have to move like that. Or go there either so the proprioceptors are generating a novel set of signals which I guess is why we may need to watch to guide the movements.

And David Elosser’s "muscle memory" is not just a single action.

*being dragged around by the muscles above the eyes

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

[[**"I don’t think we do all understand the concept of "muscle memory" in the same way. In this discussion we have had "developing the necessary muscle fibres" , we have had "appropriate muscle development" and we have had "Yes, it’s co-ordination".

Is this memory in the muscles or is it in the nerves in our noggins ?"**]]

@David50 :

Muscle memory, from the Wiki definition :

"Muscle memory has been used synonymously with motor learning, which is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems. Examples of muscle memory are found in many everyday activities that become automatic and improve with practice, such as riding a bicycle, typing on a keyboard, typing in a PIN, playing a melody or phrase on a musical instrument, or martial arts."

I think that kind of explains it 🙂

As for the muscles themselves - no amount of ‘muscle memory’ is any use for a successful and quality ‘cut’ if the muscles themselves are under-developed in terms of strength and flexibility. A deficiency there will also undermine co-ordination, for obvious reasons. Does that help? 🙂

Hence my recommendation for an isolation exercise, as posted above.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

"There are two basic categories of skeletal muscle – fast twitch (also referred to as fast glycolic or Type IIB) and slow twitch (slow oxidative or Type I). Within the fast twitch there is a second category sometimes referred to as intermediate, Type IIA, or fast oxidative fibers. Each has their own set of characteristics and purpose. The percentage of fast, slow and intermediate twitch muscle fibers varies from person to person. The proportion is determined by genetics but can change with physical conditioning."
http://www.integrativehealthcare.org/mt/archives/2012/01/anatomy_review.html
This is what I meant when I said it is not like throwing a dart at the board. For that you would use the muscle fibres that you already have, and it is hand-eye co-ordination that you need to develop in order to get a reasonable score. To play a musical instrument, you have to develop more ‘fast twitch’ fibres.

@ David50
"That’s co-ordination not muscle development. The same as getting fingers to move independantly (sic) in the correct directions for those first few guitar chords."
This is not co-ordination. If anything, it is the opposite — it is getting a single muscle to contract on its own. As with moving the ears (I can move one at a time or both, because I have nothing better to do) the problem is not that the muscles don’t work, but that the brain has difficulty in getting the right message to the right muscle(s). This is what I meant by "develop the neural pathway(s)" — If you’ve ever seen anyone drawing with a pencil held in his foot, you will realise that it entails more than simply using the existing muscles that we all have.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

And my two pennies: I remember well the pains, strain and cramps when I first started learning and stretching my fingers a seemingly impossible distance. They came again when I progressed from the practice instrument to the real thing and compounded with the added extra strain of a demanding and expanded breath control. The development of the facial muscles that allowed me to maintain a strong breath regime and the development of the expanded breathing was a physical one not just a mental one. It wasn’t learnt it was acquired through repetition and bloody hard work .

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

And I remember watching in horror as my pinkie flopped around like a fish out of water. Sometimes I would tell it "here comes the third finger roll!" and it would decide to sit it out without even consulting me. Even now as my cuts, rolls and intonation get more refunded it is still lagging behind the other fingers like the ‘special’ kid.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I don’t think the business of fast twitch muscle is a that important - but can someone point to a description of it developing on the time scale of Jim’s isolation excercise ? If it does it does. But does it ?

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I think "getting a single muscle to contract on its own" is misleading. Jim’s description of what the cutting finger does involves more than one muscle - the finger is ‘steered’ as well as flicked down. Cutting on an different string would be different steering. That’s co-ordination.

Maybe developing facial muscles is a highland piper’s thing. On flute I didn’t start getting tired lips until after I had learned to ask the muscles to do things they were unused to. With fingers it may have been the other way round - discomfort was during the process of stopping muscles working against one another when doing something unfamiliar. Solved by improved co-ordination not developing the muscles. Not having to hold down one finger while the other was being raised.

Watch a kid learning to wink and working to stop the other eye not closing.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

The business of ‘not having to hold one finger down while the other is being raised’, is precisely what I am talking about when I refer to ‘developing neural pathways’. It is very difficult to send a message (or however you want to describe it) from the brain to a *single* muscle, eg a finger or eyelid, to get it to move, *without* sending messages to the surrounding muscles to keep still. Learning to isolate individual muscles is half of the battle. Fingers ‘working against each other’ is what leads to gripping the whistle / chanter / fiddle, and why beginners are always having to be told to relax, not to grip so hard, etc.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

But with the cut there are "messages" to several muscles, some contracting for a time some allowing extension for a time, then maybe some doing the opposite. That is co-ordination. It is a whole action timed in relation to the intention and, at least during training, to aural feedback.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

The only message you can send to a muscle is to contract. If there is no message, the muscle is relaxed. But I will accept that more than one muscle may be involved, depending on how you execute the cut. Nevertheless, what I said still stands — you need time to develop the necessary types of muscle fibres, and to build up the link between brain and muscle(s).

"The study suggested that the estimated amount of practice an expert piano player did in childhood and adolescence, was correlated with the white matter density in regions of the brain related to finger motor skills, visual and auditory processing centers, and others — compared to regular people. And most significantly was that there was a directly correlation between how many hours they practiced and how dense their white/myelin matter was."

https://blog.bufferapp.com/why-practice-actually-makes-perfect-how-to-rewire-your-brain-for-better-performance

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I asked higher up, somewhat jestingly "Is this memory in the muscles or is it in the nerves in our noggins ?" That article is about learning and nerves in noggins. The "link between brain and muscle(s)" is only mentioned indirectly.

So you are saying that muscle tone during playing music involves no communication with the brain ?

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

I’m not saying that, David50, no; but it is sort of true in certain circumstances — procedural memory, or what is usually called muscle memory, works by building up pathways in the brain that can be called upon to deal with the job in hand, such as driving a car or riding a bike, or even walking — things that seem very difficult at first can eventually done without even thinking about it.
More to the point, as far as playing music is concerned, there is also something called ‘predictive memory’ in which, once the necessary ‘circuits’ are in place, you only need to think of the desired outcome for the actions to occur. It is by predictive memory that you control the outcome without having to think about how you are achieving it.
Muscle ‘tone’ is nothing to do with the brain, by the way, but concerns only the condition of the muscle.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

[*Jim’s description of what the cutting finger does involves more than one muscle - the finger is ‘steered’ as well as flicked down.*]

I think the cutting finger uses the same muscles as every other finger does when the finger comes down on the string to sound a note.

The cut is a single action, but you could split it into two actions if you wanted to describe how it works.

#1 - the cutting finger is brought down to land on the string, exactly the same way as any other finger would land on a string to make a note.

#1.5 Now stop to think about what #1 has just done.

#2 - the cutting finger now pulls off the string to the right (as you are looking at your left hand).

The action of the cut is a single non-stop movement - #1 followed by #2 , missing out #1.5 altogether.

The term ‘flick’ is a bit misleading - the finger needs to strike the string with enough force to sound the grace note, otherwise you just get a ‘fluff’.

That said, from player to player you hear ‘cuts’ ranging from a short pitched note to a nebulous pfhfpfh 🙂

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

David I can’t see what your problem is with the notion of muscle development. We accept it in just about every other form of enterprise from posing on a beach to wobbling back from Tescos with a weeks shopping in your panniers. Why wouldn’t the repeated use of finger muscles, wrist muscles, facial muscles and all the others regularly employed by any practicing musician worth their salt, bring about a development? Its obvious, directly proven empirically to me by my experience and in truth the basis of so much exercising and practice when commencing to learn an instrument that I can’t fathom the opposition to the notion. Perhaps you are self taught entirely and have always stayed in a comfort zone with your practice, developing in marginal advances rather than with the benefits of the step changes that many achieve when they have a guided regime which pushes them on?

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Actually, Jim, the finger doesn’t need to strike the string with enough force to sound the note. If the finger ‘flicks’ the string sufficiently quickly, the nebulous pfhpfhpfh (shouldn’t there be a ‘t’ in there somewhere?) becomes the characteristic ‘pop’ or ‘tap’ or however you want to describe it.

I’m surmising that the secret is in the timing of finger and string vibration — too long and the string is damped, hence the pfhpfh. Just right and the vibration of the string is altered sufficiently to make the sound, a brief interference pattern if you will; but immediately resumes its initial frequency as the finger leaves.

Imagine touching a vibrating cymbal with your finger, which would damp it, and with a pin, which would make a distinctive sound (I’m assuming — I haven’t tried it). If you immediately lift the pin off, the cymbal will continue to sound. I imagine the effect is similar to the brief touching of the string; but this is, of course; purely subjective. I don’t think anyone has been in there with a high-speed camera.

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Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Steve T. My problem with muscle development in this context is that no-one has pointed to an academic or popular science article about it developing over the short time scale in which things like cuts can improve with practice.

On the other hand there is a lot written (especially in relation to training in sports) about the way appropriate practice can produce changes in the brain that allow movements to be made without having to conciously control them.

When I was going through "the pains, strain and cramp" (your words). I did some reading and talked to someone with medical training in anatomy. A friend who is a teacher of movement in the performing arts reach down a big fat anatomy textbook and pointed out the muscles in the hand. The advice I got was that a lot of the discomfort was probably due to unnecessary muscle tension and that slow relaxed practice would help develop the required co-ordination. Smarter use of muscles, not stronger muscles.

@gam. I was meaning muscle tone in the sense of, for example, holding an instrument in a relaxed way but not actually moving the muscles required.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

[*Actually, Jim, the finger doesn’t need to strike the string with enough force to sound the note. If the finger ‘flicks’ the string sufficiently quickly, the nebulous pfhpfhpfh (shouldn’t there be a ‘t’ in there somewhere?) becomes the characteristic ‘pop’ or ‘tap’ or however you want to describe it.

Well, I won’t disagree with you there because for many, the execution and resulting sound of the cut is not important (as I said before, the sound varies a lot from player to player). If you were to be taught by a range of ‘famous’ players, you’d get a different explanation and result from each one.

I said the finger should strike the string with enough force to sound the note - it’s a grace note, and to me it’s meant to have a pitch and be heard. Frankie Gavin’s playing reflects this quite a lot - so I’m staying with that method. Cuts, grace notes - they’re all clearly audible, not surprising because he is quite an aggressive player.

The other reason is, if you are teaching someone how to do a cut, and teach them ‘your’ way, all well and good. However, if they then want to play it ‘my’ way, or the ‘Frankie Gavin’ way, it may not be so easy to get that extra power in and make the note sound. If, on the other hand you teach it ‘my’ way, then it’s easier to ease up on the pressure if you want a different sound (rather than try to apply more, esp if the finger is weak to begin with).

[*I’m surmising that the secret is in the timing of finger and string vibration — too long and the string is damped, hence the pfhpfh. Just right and the vibration of the string is altered sufficiently to make the sound, a brief interference pattern if you will; but immediately resumes its initial frequency as the finger leaves.*]
*]

It’s not about duration, it’s about pressure. Enough pressure on striking will sound the note cleanly, too little will sound an indeterminate pitch, or a pfhhht, or whatever.

This all get very academic, nerdy and pedantic, simply because these things are not particularly important in the minds of many 🙂

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Ok where this thread has gone i see i should have just watched some youtube tutorials on this instead :P.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Interesting that in the Cape Breton tradition, a cut is a triplet.

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

//Interesting that in the Cape Breton tradition, a cut is a triplet.//

Lolly Olivia, where did you get that information from?

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Jim,

"A "cut" is a common and very important bowing embellishment in Cape Breton style fiddling. It involves playing the same note three or four times quickly in succession."

from Cd insert for "Cuts" by Andrea Beaton, 2004. ("Cuts" was also Andrea’s nickname at the time.)

Re: Finding cuts harder than triplets. Advice?

Thank you, Calum!

I see she also mentioned "birl" as the other name for it. I am familiar with that term.