The Fiddle & The Roll

The Fiddle & The Roll

I am very much a novice to music playing and have been learning fiddle since January. Anyway, I have encountered the ‘roll’ on a number of music sheets and I am determined to be able to add it to my fiddling arsenal. Having watched a few youtube videos, those crazy kids make it look hella easy — but for me it is not. I am beginning with a 1st finger roll (1-2-1-0-1/BCBAB) on the A-string (note on the sheet is an A). Is this correct? Also, when doing this, should the roll be performed in one stroke of the bow? If so, is it normal for a musical novices’ brain to struggle with commanding one hand to finger and the other to bow? Eg: not one note = one bow stroke. Any advice on this tool of Satan is greatly appreciated.

Ciarán

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

The roll you describe is for a B note on the A string. An open string roll is a bit different. Yes one bow stroke. Practice it slowly at first and speed up as you can. It becomes fast - almost percussive.

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Some people use their third finger instead of their second finger for that roll. Either finger is fine though. All the notes in one bow typically. Yes. Experiment with it a bit. You can space the notes out evenly or hold that first b a little bit and throw the other notes in fast at the end. Try and make the movements of your fingers quite crisp and snappy. Good luck and enjoy playing around with it.

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If it was easy everybody would do it. Come back and tell us how …. in about ten years. Maybe.

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A couple of points on the roll - it’s important that after the 2nd finger strikes the string, it is pulled off to your right (as you look at the fingerboard), rather than lifted up and off the string.

It’s also important that you don’t lift fingers when there’s no need to. So, for 1-2-1-0-1 , the 1st finger stays down until required to be pulled off to the right, to sound the open E (0).

Let’s assume that your 1st finger is already in place on the F#. Although there are 5 separate notes, there are only 3 finger movements - one movement for 1-2-1, another for the 0, and the last movement for the 1.

Same thing applies if you choose to play 1-3-1-0-1.

Depending on how you strike the sting, and how cleanly you pull-off, will determine whether the notes’ pitch is heard, or just the rhythmic sound of the whole roll. Both are acceptable.

All notes are played in a single bow, as mentioned above.

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The kids who make playing rolls crazy easy would’ve had an established fiddle tutor to guide them through the music.

Perhaps go down that alley to add it to your arsenal, it’s totally worth it. There is only a small amount of technical advice to be gained from words on an online discussion forum imho. I reckon you need constant attention from a tutor to make it happen.

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I took a few lessons with amazing fiddler Emma Sweeney, and she said that for some people 1-4-1-0-1 is easier because they might have quicker reflexes in their little finger. I use 0-3-2-1-0 for open string rolls.

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Yep, I think a lot depends on the individual.

In the BCBAB roll in the original post, the 2nd finger is usually closest to the string (and the strongest finger too), so in theory that would be the logical choice, but everyone is different.

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My personal obstacle right now is not so much the action itself, it’s getting the sound right. I can play rolls quite fast now, but I just can’t get that "bleat" - the classic phlegmy goat-bleat sound.

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So, fiddle since january and you want to add this advanced technique into your music? May i be so bold as to suggest you concentrate on the essentials and focus on tone, intonation and rhythm. Rolls will merely distract you from these fundamentals. Once you can play a couple of dozen tunes three times through with no mistakes , anywhere, then you will be ready for rolls. Cheers

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Keep in mind that there are a few different kinds of rolls, too. Do a search and you’ll find loads of much clearer explanations than what I offer here, but to summarize as best I can:

Long Roll: goes on dotted quarter notes (in sheet music terms) in reels, or half a measure in a jig. There are 2 main kinds of long rolls.
- notey, where each of the 5 notes is relatively clear and articulated (said to be an older style, listen to Michael Coleman)
- snappy, where the first note is held a micro moment longer than the others (listen to Kevin Burke)

Short roll: takes the time of a quarter note, most common in reels. I sometimes find these hard to do and interchange them with scratched triplets, depending on the alignment of planets.

Open string rolls :
- "Fake" roll: kind of a cheat that gets the idea across, you play 4 notes (the open string, first finger, second finger, open string) in the time of a dotted quarter note
- Cran: play five notes (open string, first finger, second finger, open string, cut the open string). If you count a cut as 2 notes, then I guess you’re really playing 6 notes in the time of a dotted quarter. But the cut is so fast I think of it as an interruption of the last open string. You can play the cran in one bow stroke or for a really percussive sound you can individually bow different notes. I don’t do this myself but I’ve had it demonstrated to me and I’m envious. Be aware that some people just call this an open string roll, and say that a cran is really something else again.

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Repeated use of the word "roll" is making me hungry. Reminding me I haven’t eaten Vietnamese in a while.

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I’d love to talk about Vietnamese food, but Jeremy might "banh mi" for going off-topic…

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Understanding how a roll should sound is more helpful to the prospective learner than a bunch of technical advice. Listen to the music a lot to internalize the sound.

I myself did not understand rolls until I learned them on whistle. They became much clearer after that. Whistle really helped me realize that rolls are 3 note rhythmic devices rather than 5 note monstrosities.

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I very much agree, awildman2384 — there is no substitute for listening and internalizing. Still, reading about it is fun and might help provide a thing or two to listen for.

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Jim Doran’s advice that you should be pulling your second finger off to the right, as you look at the fingerboard, rather that straight up, is some of the best advice I’ve had in a long time. What a difference! Thank you, Jim!

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Thank you all for the sound advice, but I can’t help but feel as though I have insulted some of you by even wanting to attempt rolls when I’m only five months in! I must admit, the advice left me in somewhat of a dilemma, but the fiddle teachers I am working with insist it is time to begin rolling… They never said it would be easy and warned it would take a long time to master, but seem to be of the idea that the sooner you start the better! I don’t know… Maybe it’s an Irish thing.

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Well, the roll can be built up with a cut, a pull-off and a hammer-on, so maybe practicing these first would help.

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Ciarán, I doubt anyone on this forum can know as well as your instructors; who are able to observe your
progress first hand, what you’re *ready to learn* and when. From what I can tell, in your original post,
you’re describing a long roll on the B. Which leads me to think you are beginning with the basics;
it’s just the one roll, w/a single (steady) bow stroke and the work is mostly on the left hand.

Thanks for posting the question. But listen to your local music instructors and don’t lose focus
trying to sort all the well intentioned advice directed toward you from here.

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I tend to agree with AB but in general i recomend beginners dont try to incorperate ornaments in the first couple of years. fair enough to practice them as technical tricks, but for me the essence of all human music is much the same, its the things we all have in common that are the primary focus IMO , sure its good to concentrate on the things that we do differently, but not to the detriment of the fundamentals.
Afte a few months, id expect you to be trying to play scales arpeggios etc . Maybe a polka and a jig, some song airs . That sort of thing .

Go with your teacher, or find a better one :-)

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@Ciaran : Following on from what AB and Will just said, some teachers might teach the full roll when they think you are ready.

Others might want to build it up over time - so once you are capable of playing a simple cut, pull-off, and hammer-on (which are the component parts of the roll), then the full roll can be taught.

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Pull-off and hammer-on? Not. All that is needed is to momentarily release the pressure of your finger on the string to interrupt the main note. Really, that is _all_. Don’t make it complicated.

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[*Pull-off and hammer-on? Not. All that is needed is to momentarily release the pressure of your finger on the string to interrupt the main note. Really, that is _all_. Don’t make it complicated.*]

Stiamh, I’m referring to a roll, eg as stated in the OP :

"1st finger roll (1-2-1-0-1/BCBAB) on the A-string (note on the sheet is an A). "

There are 5 notes there. Assuming 1st finger is already on the B, tell me how that does not consist of a cut [1-2-1], pull-off [1-0], hammer-on [0-1] :)

It’s not complicated to execute. It might sound complicated if you explain it step by step.

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Ciarán,

Ignore all suggestions to practise scales and arpeggios. It’s a complete waste of time. Play tunes instead. They’ll teach you all you need to know about intervals between notes and you’ll also find the experience more enjoyable.

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I believe it’s actually harder to train any finger to just lift a little to interrupt a sound versus learning to pull off completely. Whether or not it’s called a hammer motion at the end there, I’ll let you guys um, hammer that out. :) I have a concept of "hammer" action as being more percussive, and needing some height to accomplish it, and height is not what the first finger will have at the end of a roll. But maybe I don’t have the jargon understood with this term.

However, I don’t know that I’d try and teach a beginner to just "release the pressure" when they are still learning the control needed to put that finger down and take it off completely in a correctly timed manner - for most all other playing. Since they need to first learn what the pressure is to maintain a clean clear note, plus leaving the finger down while using others above it in most cases, trying to do something like that 1/2 way in between the 2 is even more fine motor work. Odd as it may seem, only lifting a little to interrupt the sound takes more control to do it smoothly and easily, not less.

But every student is different, and some will get it incorporated faster that others.

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Hard to learn rolls from descriptions of finger movements…

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Ciaran,

Ignore all suggestions NOT to practice scales and arpeggios. It’s an excellent, functional use of time. Otherwise known as skill building no matter what your goal is to play.

AND play tunes.

Scales will give you a solid finger relationship foundation, and a good way to strengthen fingers and establish good hand/finger placement w/o having to focus on a melody, which takes additional attention skills at that moment.

Simple one octave scales and arpeggios are the easiest and best way to teach you all you need to know about the correct intervals between notes. When they are good, 2 octaves for the few that stay in first position at least, like G and A. Then you will better understand finger placements - and playing those tunes with or w/o dots.

I would assume (hope!) your teacher has been giving you other foundational skill building stuff to do other than just playing tunes. If not, change teachers. Seriously. You don’t need to be in all sorts of methods books for hours a day but…

arpeggios - or arpeggiated phrases are a part of hundreds of tunes. There’s a laundry list why they are fabulous to learn. Learn them well… even just in 3 or 4 keys, major and minor. You will enjoy using them in some tunes to substitute for a measure here and there down the line. Don’t limit yourself. It sounds like you want to be a competent fiddler, because you were asking good questions! And don’t worry that you insulted anyone. lol That’s their problem if they even were. ;)

The experience is more enjoyable - when we are also willing to do the wood shedding. It’s a balance, and just needs some patience. :)

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"Hard to learn rolls from descriptions of finger movements…"

I agree. Ya gotta hear them! My own post about rolls and teaching them was more for the experienced players who could visualize the words. But I think all of it helps … anyone who is already a player - even a fairly new one, can perhaps get more insight re: the mechanics.

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[*Ignore all suggestions to practise scales and arpeggios. It’s a complete waste of time. Play tunes instead. They’ll teach you all you need to know about intervals between notes and you’ll also find the experience more enjoyable.*]

I know this has already been answered by Diane, above.

Cancrán, why are you saying this? Is it what you have found from your own personal experience in learning to play fiddle?

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It makes no difference what instrument your talking about, scales are the very fundamentals on them all. universally, apart from percussion i suppose.
Tunes are what we play, but scales and arpeggios are a short cut if there ever was one…..

like Diana said, G major D major, and then at some point A major and C major, then on to F . this will cover just about every tune you might wish to play in the tradition , all first position of course.
dont worry about modes at all IMO the major scales cover them all.

Ive no patience for this ‘ignorance is best ’ argument, if youve practiced your scales well, then you know how usefull they are, and if you havent, then how do you know they are useless?you dont… its a catch 22 situation.
I spent years scratching away playing tunes, that must have set me back a decade. It was paying attention to all sources of information and being open minded enough to learn from anyone that actually enabled me to actually play the thing! after over 40 yrs as a dedicated, nay obsessed , musician Ive learnt a lot, but the biggest lessons were in the simplest things…..
scales are the key …..
I speak as a piper as much as a fiddler, as much as a guitar player and as much as a bass player, and whistle for that matter!!
cheers

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[*Hard to learn rolls from descriptions of finger movements…*]

True … but even when they are physically demonstrated, sometimes an actual description is required to back up the demo.

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"Ive no patience for this ‘ignorance is best ’ argument, "

lol Will. And thank you for sharing your side to having been on both sides. I think that’s especially helpful to newbies when someone can say hey… I tried the short cuts… do the work!!

I can try with all my heart to share something as an experienced teacher but sometimes those who have been on the journey in a less structured way, and who have come to realize there just ain’t no shortcuts, can impact the listener more. Hey, whatever it takes. Why wouldn’t we want to be our own best at the stuff we love so much? :)

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For the record, it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m a fiddler, I’d rather see teachers of any instrument encourage their pupils to learn tunes as quickly as possible rather than waste time on arpeggios and scales. But, also for the record, I played the fiddle for twenty-five years. I played mainly for my own enjoyment and very occasionally for others. I had no teacher, only the tunes I’d learned at sessions, a whistle, several LPs and a copy of ‘Allan’s Irish Fiddler’.

I think Diane and Jim should take a good look at the following link (though Jig won’t like being reminded of it) - https://thesession.org/discussions/16301#comment339305 - and pay attention, in particular, to this comment by Kilfarboy:

‘I’m trying to picture Scully Casey (Bobby’s father) sitting around the oul’ peat fire, late into the wee hours, sipping a little poteen…… churning out scales and arpeggios. And little Bobby, listening from his cot, memorizing all those scales and arpeggios. And Scully teaching the lot of them to Bobby and to Junior Crehan. Just the thought of it makes me giggle. :o)

What’s the difference between a tune and scales/arpeggios? People enjoy dancing to tunes. If anyone really is all that desperate to "practice their scales and arpeggios," I’d suggest the following tunes (in no particular order):

My Darling Asleep
Belfast Hornpipe
Harvest Home
Rolling in the Ryegrass
The Green Hills of Tyrol
The Noisy Curlew
Tam Linn
The Silver Spire
Staten Island Hornpipe
The Shetland Fiddler
Drowsy Maggie
Off She Goes
The Golden Keyboard
Pigtown Fling
Pretty Maggie Morrisey
Wind that Shakes the Barley
Ships are Sailing
Tripping Upstairs
Maude Millar
Sligo Maids
Bucks or Oranmore

The beauty of "practicing your scale patterns and arpeggios" in these and other tunes is that *****you’re learning to hear them in context, as they make sense in this particular musical tradition.***** That’s the most important thing you can do when first learning this music—get your ear accustomed to the idioms and cliches of the language of Irish trad music. So you’ll learn something like |GBdB eBdB| not as an isolated arpeggio, but as a piece of dance music, with it’s own sense of lift and pulse and place within a tune (even a specific type of tune—a reel, or perhaps a hornpipe). In short, you’ll learn that such an arpeggio isn’t an arpeggio at all but a phrase of beautiful melody, with a built-in timing that causes people to tap their toes and dancers to float above the floor.

And when you’ve got the "scales and arpeggios" down from that list of tunes above, there are thousands more tunes with loads more scales and arpeggios to practice…..’

That posting says it all for me. The first two tunes I learned on the fiddle were ‘Saddle the Pony’ and ‘The Lark in the Morning’, both of which are stacked with chordal ups and downs.

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I’ve never practiced scales or arpeggios - on flute and whistle - and I get by fine, in both Irish and Scottish music.
And actually, in all of the classes I’ve been to, in Irish flute and whistle music, from 1980 to as recently as 2 years ago, not one single tutor has ever suggested you should practice "scales and arpeggios" .
Just my own experience, but it’s not something I’ve ever suggested to any of my own students over the years , and I was delighted to see 2 of them sitting in playing tunes with Cathal McConnell a week ago.

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Scales and arpeggios are really just extremely lame tunes. I wouldn’t advise wasting too much time with them if you want to play Irish traditional music. Play the actual thing. Like Tobin’s Favourite 100 times.

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Fair enough kenny, but thats the flute and whistle. Were talking about fiddle. on the whistle i too did not need much work to get a D major scale :-) but tell me this , you started playing tunes as soon as you picked it up? No do ray me at all? On the flute, nothing?!
If someone handed you a fiddle, could you play tunes straight away?
I always use this Kevin Burke quote because it makes a mockery of cancrans comment above.
Kevin Burke: "Well at this point I don’t practice much. … to anybody who wants to learn is scales, scales, scales, scales. "


This is advice i agree with completely, that I found out the over the last , what , 25 yrs of playing

Im no classical player, im basically self taught . I was fortunate that i was not indoctrinated in the anti violin - anti scale thing! Or had some phoney image of a " irish fiddler" i wanted to immitate . So It actually never occured to me that id meet such bigotry and unpleasantness here when promoting the things that I learnt personally , the hard way.
I learn from any source and if Christy Barry calls me a "great fiddler" or some such words , i cant have got it all wrong! ( mind you , i think he just wanted me to not play the banjo :-) )
Sure on guitar I played for decades with out scales and to be honest theres not much too it in first position.
But when i learnt my basic scale positions it opened up the entire instrument, i still play my tunes in first position ,but arpeggios and the like are fun and rewarding on many many levels far far beyond the comprehension of people who have not done them.

My simple challange to any naysayer is to try it………. Spend a week doing all sorst of bascic scales, then come and give us your views , The opinions of people who have never done something hold little value to me personally, get a bit of experience , then we might listen…..


On fiddle , try it, then come back to us with your results, it’s pretty tricky……

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This has turned into a very interesting read. Thank you to all who have contributed. I’m learning more by the hour! I broke my pinky finger about three weeks into having first picked up a fiddle and was eager to remain involved, so I asked to be taught how to read music and the technical ins and outs of Irish traditional. However, I was told that at an early stage it would trivialise playing and make me hate music… I believe that would have been the case. All lessons I have had thus far have been ‘These are your strings, these are the notes on the strings, this is the tune (slow speed) and this is what you’re aiming to eventually achieve (regular speed of the tune)’. It has all been by ear, really and I think that is what I love so much about Irish traditional music. It does not exclude or alienate and is about *feeling* the music. I can’t imagine many in rural De Valera Ireland knowing much about scales or arpeggios (I don’t even know what these are) when most couldn’t even write their own name! I notice with some of the kids I learn with and their parents that Irish trad is becoming increasingly elitist and trivial - in essence a reflection of the blossoming Catholic middle class in Northern Ireland. The way in which I am learning is taught by accomplished fiddlers and I also subsidise my lessons by receiving lessons from a classically trained violinist, who claims that she is astounded by the progress I am making and playing/doing things she wouldn’t be teaching until at least after a year. At any rate, I now know what a roll is and have received practical advice on building up to being able to a) learn them and b) utilise them. Don’t knock the ear, guys!

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Here’s an on-point essay from a violinist and fiddler who can play circles around all of us:

http://www.ehrsamproductions.com/archive/lara/essays/scales.html

I’m with Jim and Diane - there’s no point in Know-Nothingism, and no virtue in neglecting the basic, mechanical aspects of violin playing. Focused practice of scales, arpeggios, tone production, timing and the other fundamentals are going to do you nothing but good.

I’m in that boat, too… as an almost entirely self-taught player, I can do Ok in most sessions at this point, but if I try to stretch outside of Irish trad and maybe some related Scottish, Canadian and American forms, I run into technical limitations very quickly. I’m in the midst of the long process of going back and building a great deal of the foundational stuff from scratch - and that is just to be able to play some of your basic violin repertoire most conservatory students are expected to be able to execute as a matter of course.

And going back to the trad context, we all know too many players with big repertoires of tunes they can’t quite play - because they neglected the foundation.

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For what it’s worth, I was at a workshop with James Kelly a couple weeks ago, and he asserted that there are too many "fiddlers" out there who aren’t really able to play the instrument, and that before jumping into tunes they need to learn how to play the instrument. And if you can’t play a basic scale, you have no business playing tunes. He advocated scales for folks at all levels. Himself included.

I have heard many people in sessions who know tunes, or at least they know the sequence of notes they purport to be playing, but can’t play the instrument.

Both ITM and classical are a series of patterns of notes. ITM is much more formulaic, but at the end of the day, it’s just a series of notes, just as classical is. Both benefit from practicing fundamentals.

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So I guess it goes back to where your heart is and if you want to play circles around other people in a bunch of different genres, or if you want to play traditional Irish dance music with your friends.

But I get it. There are plenty of hacker fiddlers with tin ears and awful intonation (on a bad night and a few too many beers this can include me) who might benefit from focusing on the fundamentals.

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Sooo…. we’re equating playing in tune with "playing circles" around people. Got it.

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No , but its a matter of judgement and value, if a player can demonstrate an incredible ability, then surely its worth learning from on some level? I value the opinion Of James Kelly , in relation to fiddling, far more than some anonymous wifi warrior who talks a good tune…..Im glad that other serious musicians agree with me, but thats hardly a surprise….
As ive always said here, dont take my word on it, research, experiment practice, stretch out of the box of your mind and learn, go to other instruments to learn from…we can pick up stuff from every instrument, every genre, even the humble Bodhran has a lot to teach fiddlers…… if your mind is open ….

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"Ciarán,

Ignore all suggestions to practise scales and arpeggios. It’s a complete waste of time. Play tunes instead. They’ll teach you all you need to know about intervals between notes and you’ll also find the experience more enjoyable."

I completely agree with this. Tunes ARE scales and arpeggios. The original poster should understand that this topic has produced a good deal of unpleasant polarisation in the past on this forum. I have no desire to resurrect that; suffice to say that you should not take advice to "leave ornamentation alone until you’ve learned some tunes" as authoritative. Such advice amounts to no more than individuals’ opinions. Many very experienced players of this music would vehemently disagree with that advice. I’d also say that the people who seem to be giving the most eloquent, last-word advice may well be quite knowledgeable but they may not be the ideal guide to best practice for you. Nuff said, ducking.

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Let’s see. Try and learn to play without discipline, without solid technique, without a clear idea of tone and rhythm, without a fundamental understanding of music. What do you think would happen if anybody tried to get into the NBA without a solid foundation in any of the ball handling skills? "Gosh coach I play in my driveway all the time". To be any good at anything there are skills that have to be mastered, separately developed, and continually re-inforced. Scales and arpeggios are right at the top of that list. That’s what discipline is and that’s what separates the great musicians from the pedestrian players. I have no problem with breaking out difficult passages or hard to master figures, and making exercises out of them. That technique works on a couple of levels. But to master anything you have to have bullet-proof skills and trying to get them through playing tunes just isn’t enough.

Said it before, here it is again, if all you do is learn tunes you will eventually know a lot of tunes. You just won’t play them in a way that approaches good music. I’ve never in my 60 plus years of learning one instrument or another, or one sport, or one vocation, had an instructor who didn’t stress scales and arpeggios ( or the equivalent) and if I did I would be out the door before the next sentence. The world is as full bad teachers too.

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<<To be any good at anything there are skills that have to be mastered….>>

Maybe there could be a couple of "press here" options for new folks who are looking for skill building help!

For a helpful variety of skill building suggestions….press here.

For a boat load of protesting a variety of skill building suggestions … press here! ;)

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Really steve? Who, name us a few? You certainly dont play fiddle at all so have zero experience , nothing. So someone who has never played the fiddle says they know someone who would " vehemently disagree" that scales are of value.

Better go learn to play the fiddle before telling us how to do so . i think thats a fair comment is it not?

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This music contains hundreds of tunes that are replete with scales and arpeggios. You get good at playing the scales and arpeggios by getting good at playing these tunes. Try the Belfast Hornpipe for size. Learn that, get it up to speed then tell me you haven’t been practising scales and arpeggios. What’s more, you’ll have learned one more great tune and you’ll have been having fun learning it. I can’t think of anything less like fun when it comes to playing Irish music than shutting myself away to practise a load of scales and arpeggios. And the instrument is immaterial. I hasten to add that my remarks are strictly confined to a discussion of Irish music.

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Is playing tunes really as helpful as playing scales? It seems to me that when you play a tune you are thinking about the tune. When you play a scale you are free to concentrate 100% on whatever aspect of technique you are trying to improve.

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[* It seems to me that when you play a tune you are thinking about the tune. When you play a scale you are free to concentrate 100% on whatever aspect of technique you are trying to improve.*]

I totally agree with that, Mark.

For those people who are of the "just play the tunes" opinion, I can understand the thinking and logic behind that, but it usually works on the assumption that the learner has the actual ability to play the instrument (and remember this thread is about playing fiddle, and no other instrument).

So, the thinking goes, just learn the notes and "Bob’s your uncle".

If the learner is playing with poor intonation without correction (or sometimes even without realising they are out-of-tune), then there’s a very good chance that the bad intonation will simply be spawned to everything he/she plays. I’ve heard enthusiastic learners pick up the notes of a tune very quickly, and they’re pleased with themselves, even though sometimes it sounds awful because the actual note production has not been properly learned.

Even those with a good ear sometimes play out-of-tune because they are concentrating solely on the tune, and not the overall sound they are making.

Isolation exercises perform a very useful function indeed.

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Well when you play a scale or an arpeggio you are not necessarily concentrating on anything other than getting the notes. Which is the same as what you’re doing when you’re playing a tune. You are not necessarily focussing on rhythm, tone or intonation. In fact, I’d say that playing with good rhythm can only really come from playing tunes and doing some good listening. Knowing where to put your hands and fingers and knowing how to use the bow, in order to achieve good intonation and tone, are certainly matters for tutoring and practice. But in music that is as tune-based as ours you do not need to spend time separately playing scales and arpeggios. Far better to be playing them in context, that is, in the tunes. It’s more fun, you’re finding out how to play tunes in a holistic way and you’re being sociable. As I said, I speak only for our genre. I think it was Michael Gill all those years ago who said that you don’t need to practise scales and arpeggios in this music because the tunes ARE scales and arpeggios. He’s quite a good player.

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Steve, i play as many tunes as anyone, in fact i could play tunes all night and you wouldnt recognise one. Your mistaking my argument, scales are as well as tunes , not a replacement!!
I play the tunes because i love them and the music.
I play scales because i love the tunes and the music , not because i love scales, they are a means to an end….
,i know from decades of real experience on fiddle that they do indeed help , considerably.
Who is micheal gill? Ive never heard of him bar this site….. He never had the nerve to actually put his playing up here, it was all mouth. Maybe he can play, maybe he is brilliant,? I dont know, but i do know he talked an awfull load of rubbish here and so i presume his playing is of a similar level….. Sure he could talk a good tune. And occasionally made some sense enough to fool many people here


anyhow ! Anyhow.
Tell you what, go away, get a fiddle and practice what you preach……actually try it! Then come back to us and give us an educated opinion, rather than merely repeating some myth from a wifi warrior.
Im quite serious , untill youve actually tried it , youve no idea,.
I cant play the harmonica to save my life, well the old grey whistle test ok….. So im not going to tell you how to play it…. I would appreciate the same courtesy.
There are many ways to skin a cat as they say…… This is the way i propound based on my experience, not theory, or second hand , but fiddle in hand , every day , for 25 yrs , i dont ever expect to be amazing fiddler but i do the music justice. And thats what matters to me.

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Now you got it. "When you play scale and arpeggios you are not necessarily concentrating on anything other than playing the notes". Yes, yes, yes that’s the point. You focus on all the important things like getting THAT note, that sequence of notes, that right/left hand movement, that chord, that tempo, that rhythm (the list goes on and on) as close to perfect as you can independently of any context. When you can do that imagine, if you can, how truly lovely the experience will be when you play the notes in the context of a tune without having to think at all about technique because it’s there. Only when you can play each note with purity can you play them in relationship with each other. Without that kind of precision the best you can do is get an (and admittedly, sometimes pretty good) approximation of music.

Yes it can be pretty boring if you do anything for very long periods and by that I mean more than about about 90 seconds. Try something like this: 90 seconds on (arbitrarily) the second inversion of a D chord. Then play a tune. Then play a Bm scale, then a tune. Then A rolls, and so on. Play exercises like that for 5 minutes out of every hour you play and soon you will be able to hear it when you come across a player who doesn’t. Do it for a 20 minutes a day, mixed in with tunes of course and you will be exponentially better. Yep, 20 minutes a day, and you’re still not even close to the rigorous discipline of the A list musicians. Only you get to decide what your goal is, more tunes, or better playing. I’d argue that improved fluency on any instrument leads to faster tune learning and you’ll be playing those tunes much better. The best of both worlds. There is no, and I mean no, downside to focused, disciplined, practice.

There, I’ve said my piece, now I’m out of here.

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"Chords?"

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I posted more than that but something glitched. Here it is in full, I hope!

"Chords?"

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Er, something ain’t working! Never mind.

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Did you use an emoji? They dont work here….

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Maybe he meant double stops?

(Although chords are indeed fun dramatic big sounding thingys to play!) Oh…yeah…sorry…not ITM ;)

Jim, Will, Ross, Mark… wow. If I missed someone else here not afraid of skill building basics - outside of tunes, then you too.

But guys… maybe it’s a psychologically traumatic thing to practice skill building exercises - outside of a tune. What damage have I (we) done to hundreds of impressionable minds over the years? Please give me a minute. I am overwhelmed with guilt.

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Yes, I used an emoji. I didn’t know. I’ll try again without it. Take three. Here goes:

"Chords?"

And heaven help me if my aim is ever to play notes with "purity." What I want to play is music. That means playing tunes in this music with a great sense of rhythm and lift. By all means get your basic techniques on your instrument of choice. But this is simple music with single melody lines almost all the time. I can see how practising scales might help a classical musician. But in this music, once you know how to hold your instrument and have got the rudiments of playing it under your skin, the only practice you ever need is done when you’re playing tunes.

Will Evans, I don’t appreciate that abrasive style of approach here these days, so, from me to you as they say, no comment.

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You can always practice diatonic scales. They are the basis of most Irish music — except hornpipes!!! You will never get better playing only tunes you can. You must stretch your ability by ‘playing’ tunes you can’t. Have you ever practiced/played a tune for three months before you could get it to flow? Once you accomplish that you have stretched your technique. Always try for what you can’t do, otherwise it gets to be boring.

How do you practice? Do you waste your time playing the entire tune? You should find the part of the tune you cannot play and start one measure/bar before it, and play till you are one measure/bar after it. That creates effective practicing. Good luck.

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We get this a lot here ,people telling us its simple music…… Its not at all….. On certain instruments that are limited , its pretty simple true enough, but try playing the uilleannpipes like Seamus Ennis……

On instruments that dont offer much in the way of ornaments, the melodys are often straightforwards enough, so a banjo player has a very different requirements to a fiddler who in turn has a different Requirements for a piper.
The skeleton is simple in ways, the bones of a tune, but to play them like they should be played , is not so simple, especially on instruments like the fiddle and pipes….
I cant count the number of ways each note can be modified as a piper( flat sets) as a mandolin/ banjo player in my teens and 20s s it was much simpler…..just play the tune, plenty of triplets , solid rhythm and drive.

Now im in my 50s piper and fiddler , its a different ball game …..
Trad is like a fractal, the closer you get the more exquisite the detail, as you go deeper you find whole worlds of detail in just one note.
Fair play to all of us just having a few tunes down the pub and hacking your way through the maids and the concertina reel for the thousandth time, but there is more to it than that if you want to search…..

Rolls…. i was playing With john Kelly , James brother, after the session we sat and chatted, i asked him why he didnt play rolls. I dont remember his answer , but its kind of Irrelevant , if you get my point.

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Steve, imagine a fiddle player joined you for a few tunes. A really nice bloke, friendly, mad keen on the music, and knew all the same tunes as you, played the same versions, same notes, fluently, with lift, etc, etc.

If his intonation was really bad, what would be your thoughts in what he might do, in order to improve?

See a teacher, or just keep on playing tunes until his intonation got better?

Or, would you be happy just to put up with him being out of tune, because you both loved the music so much?

If he went to a teacher, what do you think the first thing the teacher should do? Keep him playing the tune, and stop him on every single note to correct his pitch? Or should the teacher take another approach?

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Steve… you make excellent points about the organic nature of learning tunes. Style, lift, so on. Which won’t be learned by playing a straight line of notes up and down.

I think those of us talking about scales certainly know that. Really. It’s about building the mechanical skills to DO those lifts and bow changes with ease. AND doing them with fingers in tune and on time.

Have you ever actually practiced scales or arpeggios with any intent to improve your playing? I would dare to assume you have not, because you seem to not see how they help. Not saying that unkindly at all, just an observation. I’ve heard the same from a few fiddle playing adult students who have quickly seen massive results in a month of just committing to doing them.

They are tools, that’s all. They can most certainly be used to help with bow timing, changes, string changes… they can be used to do a 100 different SKILL building things that improve ITM or anything. And that’s the only point here. None of it diminishes the entire organic nature of listening and learning.

Some here know these things as players and teachers. We really do. And I write this as someone who has been doing the journey towards getting the organic end of ITM style herself.

Just think for a minute, if an experienced ITM teacher told me to do such and such with my bow (and several have) in order to accomplish more lift for example, it would be pretty silly of me to start arguing that such and such would NOT be at all helpful in creating that sound or expound on what *I* am used to (as a 50 years former classical player.)

"And heaven help me if my aim is ever to play notes with "purity." What I want to play is music."

What is your impression of the word "purity?" We should all agree that we aren’t remotely referring to "classical music" as having a corner on the purity market. It’s relative to any style.

Listening to a tune played by someone who is struggling because of a LACK of skills is painful. And I’ve taught adults who were felt like (their words) drowning in quicksand because they couldn’t time bow/fingers or find where to put those fingers - basic to any style.

None of the practice-your-scales argument needs to have anything to do with ANY particular style.

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Will said…
"Rolls…. i was playing With john Kelly , James brother, after the session we sat and chatted, i asked him why he didnt play rolls. I dont remember his answer , but its kind of Irrelevant , if you get my point."

See? See?! I bet he couldn’t play them cause he never practices his SCALES!!!!!!!!!!!! ;)

(Note to ‘tune only’ camp… just kidding!!)

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Sure, chords. I’d say most arpeggios are chords, three or four notes, root, third, fifth and sometimes seventh, played in some sequence, not always beginning on the root. I can’t think of any instrument or any tune that doesn’t play them. I was probably redundant by using that word.

As for notes with "purity" I mean just that. An F# for example should be an F# and not just F#-ish. No note should be just a "stab" at some spot on the fingerboard at any tempo. I continue to be amused at the way classical musicians are criticized for playing with precision…"purity". I stand in awe of the idea that a standard to be worked toward would be anything less. A few days ago I saw a video of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis (yeah know they’re not playing ITM) playing together, at breakneck speed, in perfect unison, sax and trumpet, each note clear and clean. I guess I didn’t know they were doing it wrong. I always thought that was the kind of musicianship everybody tries to achieve. I can’t understand why anyone would try for less when they can do better, especially when anyone can do better with a little discipline.

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Oh, I don’t agree at all that a person playing an F# in diddley music must always play an F# as per tuner. You’re on a different planet to me if you think that notes have got be played according to some predefined formula. Some of us prefer to employ expression. Yours must be a very boring, unmusical planet, actually. As for you, Jim, I’m waiting for you to tell me how practising scales is going to make bad intonation good. It’s a different issue altogether.

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I have come across a few players over the years, friendly, enthusiastic, that knew lots of tunes, but with the worst intonation and bowing that made playing with them excruciating. For these 1-in-a-hundred folks, I can believe that some remedial exercises on fundamentals would help.

But otherwise, I’d say if you’ve been playing since January, Ciarán then I’d get started on rolls pronto, like, yesterday. I only hope it’s not too late.

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[*As for you, Jim, I’m waiting for you to tell me how practising scales is going to make bad intonation good. It’s a different issue altogether.*]

Steve, you still haven’t answered my earlier questions - how would you tackle bad intonation in a fiddler?

Anyway, if a fiddler has bad intonation, it simply means he/she is playing notes out-of-tune - but which notes?

Playing notes slowly, in an ascending /descending order, will help to identify which ones they are having trouble with, and then they can be corrected. It’s a lot more difficult to do that when playing a tune, where the notes are played in a more random fashion. That’s putting it as simply as I can …

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Thing is, with the fiddle, the instrument opens up when everything is in tune, resonance, it all adds up. But when its out of tune it cancels its self out and sounds dead and lifeless , as well as just out of tune.
By opening up the instrument getting everything vibrating in harmony its all a lot more fun to play!
Scales are all about intonation and harmony! Why do you think fiddlers play scales!! Im sorry but its like trying to explain colour to a blind man …..
Have a great day everyone. Cheers

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If a player of any non-fixed pitch instrument suffers from poor intonation, the first thing that has to happen is that they are made to recognise the fault in themselves. For that, they need a mentor, a teacher or a good friend, or, failing those, a recording device and a critical ear. I can’t understand why anyone thinks that playing scales is going to help anyone to play tunes in tune better than playing tunes. Playing notes in ascending/descending order, or whatever, is not going to identify notes played out of tune any better than playing tunes is going to help you to do it. Still, don’t listen to me. Just keep on with pontificating the theory. Real music is so much more fun than the theory. I know. I’ve done it. And I’ve never practised a scale or arpeggio in my life, or even had a lesson. Anyone like to tell me that I can’t play?

I think the best advice anyone can give here is to beware of all advice!

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Steve….PM me if you like. I’m quite approachable. I can explain it to you, I just can’t understand it for you. I hear the "expression" argument almost a much as I hear the arguments to the effect that using a metronome actually inhibits expressive time. I don’t find fuzzy intonation and nebulous timing expressive at all. I find them grating and sophomoric. Still to each his own. I’d appreciate it if you avoided ad-hominum attacks in the future. I have been doing this for way to long.

May I add credit where it’s due? If that’s you playing the harmonica on youtube, well you’re spectacular.

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I think Michael Gill did pracitice exercises during the first year he was learning fiddle.
Probably even lots of scales & arpeggios. I do seem to recall him saying after the first year
he shifted from that form of practice to one of playing, listening and learning tunes in small sessions.
He was very disparaging of practicing scales after that. More likely Will Harmon would have said,
"Tunes ARE scales and arpeggios." Or something to that effect.

Mr. Gill’s line (repeated more than once) was one version or another of, "…scales and tunes are technically
the same thing. Scales are just crap tunes" While I cannot say for sure if his intonation is suffering from this response/approach I would not be so bold as to presume it is an "awfull load of rubbish". Like him or not;
I haven’t heard too many express that opinion of llig’s musical ability.

Will Harmon never dismissed scales, arpeggios, and exercises as off-handedly as llig. He seemed to discourage extensive scale practice (fiddle) over learning them by way of tunes, tune-derived drills and constantly came up with exercises. Even as he railed against regular scale practice he did not abandon concepts of practice using scales. He invented ways for his students to learn of them, if not directly w/tradition scale and arpeggio patterns, then through tunes and endless exercises. Will was always thinking about, posting and sharing these *ideas*. ~

"instead of playing a straight scale, try playing each note of the scale alternating with the home note. For D major, it would look like this:

D2 E D F D G D A D B D c D d D

Do this very slowly. No…slower. S-l-o-w-e-r. Even s
l
o
w
e
r

Keep the home note in your ear as the point of reference and really, deeply, at the molecular level *listen* to how each note of the scale sounds in relation to that home note. You’ll find the richest tonal qualities when your pitch is spot on relative to the home note (blame it on harmonic overtones).

Do this with each relative mode as well. So after getting intimate with D major, …"

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I had bad times here with Michael for years, but he and I eventually got to see eye to eye on almost every aspect of this music. Unfortunately for this website, Michael is no diplomat. He said it like it is, and I was at the butt end of that more times than I care to remember. However, I’ve got too many miles on the clock and too many good, bad and indifferent sessions and gigs under my belt to take fresh bullshit on board. Both Will Harmon (another bloke with whom I had a fair number of run-ins, but whom I came to admire greatly, though he doesn’t know it) and Michael are great musicians, and I’m not inclined to accept any challenges on that. That does not mean to say that I take on board every last word of theirs (they’re both useless harmonica players for a start. :-) ), but they are both very much worth listening to. Not on here, of course. As a harmonica player, that is, a player of a fixed-pitch instrument which has limited scope for expressive playing in Irish music without making it sound like the harmonica is the point of the thing instead of the tunes, I don’t need lectures or explanations, Ross, neither have I attacked anyone here. I gave that up years ago. All you get these days is my opinions!

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Steve, you wrote…

<<…Playing notes in ascending/descending order, or whatever, is not going to identify notes played out of tune any better than playing tunes is going to help you to do it.>>

And you are right! There was a built in assumption here that you have something to match those tones with in slow note by note fashion. I just looked at bit on YT trying to find something simple to follow along with and well… let’s just say that some of it was quite the adventure. Embarrassing, more to the point.

I found one video where, if you start at 59 sec’s the teacher is simply playing a D Major scale, 2 bows per note. Then one per. His second rendition is even better re: being right in the perfect enter of intonation on both D and A strings and no talk. That’s at 1:36 I think. No vibrato to confuse it, and just one octave.

If you can use something like this to listen to and play with until you match those notes, it will help you play every tune you do in D major well - as far as intonation goes. This is a weak substitute for live coaching, but I was curious about what was offered that was JUST a scale. So, whatever.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_iR2WTto7U&ab_channel=professorgmviolin

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Well, Diane, with the utmost respect, you are a person with fifty years’ *classical* training. Nowt wrong with that, of course. Unlike you, however, I am a hairy-arse, untutored type who has played Irish music with relish for decades without any need for formal training or rigorous back-room practice. Now here’s the thing, Diane. I am the norm! I’ll never be Kevin Burke or Noel Hill or even Noel Battle, but bejaysus I can do it well (my mates would tell you) and I have fun. And I have no vested interest in making money out of either playing it - or teaching it. As the yanks say, go figure…

To reiterate…I have FUN!

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"If you can use something like this to listen to and play with until you match those notes, it will help you play every tune you do in D major well - as far as intonation goes."

But not something like … a tune in D major?

;)

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I would not recommend scales as a way to learn rolls. Play tunes with rolls in them and play them slow. Do the rolls nice and even. As they speed up, they’ll sound more percussive, but don’t think too hard about over-emphasizing the percussive sound, or you might end up doing them sloppy. Put some Kevin Burke recordings in the Amazing Slow Downer and try imitating at different speeds.

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I think the original rolls thing got diverted jjw. Scales were just mentioned by someone for bettering technique overall and all hell broke loose. lol No, they aren’t something to do to learn rolls. :)

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<<But not something like … a tune in D major? >>

hehe. Sure you can AB! In fact, you’ll play anything better in tune. But what do I know…. I haven’t "played Irish music with relish for decades without any need for formal training or rigorous back-room practice."

And for the record Steve…there’s a whole lot in the world that takes all that the formal training that is tons of fun.

;) backatcha both!

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"In fact, you’ll play anything better in tune."
I think you missed the joke, Diane.

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It’s telling that none of our ‘teachers’ offer up any clips of themselves playing tunes in an Irish style. I guess they are too busy running scales and arpeggios?

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Cheeky, no, we’re too busy *ruining* scales and arpeggios :)

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Nah, I don’t doubt for a minute that you’ve got them up to spec.

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Funny that jjw, kevin Burke teaches rolls through scales, ( thats how he learnt them he says) …….. As regards clips of players who recomend scales… Just get any Kevin Burke or James Kelly album…….
Cheers

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Will - ha, I guess so! Your fingers do have to know where to go, and doing scales with rolls in them is a good way to build up muscle memory for what to do starting from each finger, and a good way to get your fingers to do lots of rolls! Okay maybe this all fits together!

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Thing is, i found all this out myself, Over decades of dat to day practice . I figured out how to solve the problems and issues i was facing, learnt to deal with each note on its own, beginging middle and end, then the next note…. This is far simpler to do with out the presure of a "form" of a tune to conform to.
I counter the " scales are just bad tunes." Argument with this.


Tunes are just complex scale patterns…. :-)

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Id recomend buying both his DVD,s for some cracking tunes and all the rest. Support your favourite artists.

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Steve, first, my musical planet is as rich, and exiting as any, anywhere. I play multiple instruments in multiple genres. Calling my world boring sure seems like an attack to me. Maybe you didn’t mean to overstep your bounds, or maybe you didn’t think you did. Either way it’s water under the bridge. By the way, in my experience, the phrase "tells it like it is" translates into shouting an opinion, right or wrong, more loudly than the next guy and it helps if it’s an opinion that I share. Our (U.S.) presidential hopeful is a clear demonstration of that. But I digress.

Moving on, if Will doesn’t know how you feel, I’ll tell him. I’ve only met him once but I really think he’d feel good about that. We’ve had our differences too but he’s always been open and respectful of person.

And…you still haven’t told me if you’re the Steve Shaw on youtube. I assume you are. If nothing else those videos prove that if you do something, anything, long enough you can become masterful at it and you certainly have. Even if we don’t agree on the best path to get there, you have certainly arrived! I know something about harmonica playing, I put myself through a couple of years of college (in the 60’s) playing one and I stand in awe of your playing. I think you’re being kind when you say that the harp is a fixed pitch instrument. It may start out that way but that fixed pitch sure has a lot of nuance to it when you blow it as your playing surely demonstrates. If I can find it, I’d buy the CD! Anyone on the Session would do well to look up you videos. Unlike many posters you have the courage to put yourself, quite successfully, out there. Good on you.

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Er, let’s drop it, Ross. I disagreed when you said that an F# has to be an F#, not just F#-ish. If I *want* my note to be F#-ish and I can make it that way, that’s me being expressive. Apart from that, instruments are tuned to different fine-tunings, or even not awfully well-tuned to anything, some cheaper whistles for example, though they still sound great to me, in the right hands. Not only that, my harps are tuned to A442 ( by me). My beautifully and carefully executed expression-free F# may be a number of cents away from your on-the-nail F#. Yet we still all play together at the same time. That’s what I meant. No prescriptions for me. I like to think that we play music, not notes, and as anyone who has endured midi files knows, real music is made by real human beings who leave their strict formulae at the pub door. So that we can have fun!

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"In fact, you’ll play anything better in tune."
I think you missed the joke, Diane. ~ AB

Ah, the joys of trying to chat from a lifeless keyboard. I thought perhaps so Ben; you have indeed supported playing scales. But sometimes it’s hard w/o hearing the tone (yes, I mean tone, not tune…) :D

The rest of my response was more directed towards Steve. And Steve, that was pretty funny. I bet your sessions are a blast. You do of course, warm up with 3 octave scales in 15 different keys… right…?

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Yes Steve you are right. My only point was, and I think you agree, that shading a note is not the same thing as just not being able to hit the note. We may never get to play with each other but I’d welcome the chance. It would be a rollicking good time! Best to you.

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Well, a quick scud up and doon the thread showed a few interesting stats.

Out of all the posters who replied on this thread, there were 10 responses to the original question (advice on the roll). All the others were on sidereal issues.

On the subject of whether scales were beneficial to fiddling development, as opposed to simply playing tunes,
11 folk agreed, and 4 disagreed.

Of those 11 who agreed, 8 were (known to be) fiddle players.

Of those 4 who disagreed, 2 were fiddle players, and 2 were not.

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<<It’s telling that none of our ‘teachers’ offer up any clips of themselves playing tunes in an Irish style. I guess they are too busy running scales and arpeggios?>>

Really Cheeky? ‘Teachers’ in quotes? Passive aggression instead of an experienced reason why never to play a scale? Interesting.

I never said I was an accomplished ITM/player teacher personally. I am an ongoing learner of that style while making plenty of comments the past 3 years about the style changes I have been embracing, as a professional in another music genre. And yes there are some videos scattered around the net and in social media. Mostly other people take them at various functions. Good grief, go look if it’s that important to ya. It’s not about ME.

There have been plenty of comments here from people who have either improved their own playing or had students - and teachers - who did, by improving all around skills. lol - it’s not even just about scales.

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Jim, we must be drinking the same Irish coffee! Cross posting here. :)

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<<…kevin Burke teaches rolls through scales, ( thats how he learnt them he says) …….. As regards clips of players who recomend scales… Just get any Kevin Burke or James Kelly album…>>

Thank you for adding this Will! (Since I had written they weren’t so much needed for rolls.) <g> Interesting that Kevin taught scales as (gosh) a skill building activity. Whoda thunk?

I’ve taken a few lessons from Kevin (lucky me - lives close by) and when I did, it was all about the bow since that’s my nemisis in learning this wonderful ITM style. We did chat a bit about other general basics as 2 teachers, but I was mostly there in full whining (student) mode about my resistant bow arm :) Lovely man.

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So what did Mr. Burke tell you about the bow, Diane?

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Hmm….what’s it worth to ya Jason… ;) ;)

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Well, apparently he gets his bows for 1/3 price, cos he only uses the top third of it. (old Kevin joke) :)

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Why yes, he told me just that Jim! No, not really. lol

Jason, (anyone) most of what we did in 3 lessons over a few months time was set down alternate bowing choices for 2 or 3 different tunes I asked him about. Musical Priest, Foxhunters, so on. He wanted me to start Musical Priest with a down bow on the 2 eighth note pickups to lead in with bowings that would put emphasis on the second beat of the first full measure. Just doing that was a paradigm shift of huge magnitude for me. heh. A pickup that wasn’t on an UPBOW?? That F# down beat also being LESS important than the 3rd beat b with the roll? How could this be?? It was a fun continual brain cramp for me at the lesson, and we were laughing a bit at my ineptness at it. I’m sure he’s often amused by any classical players he works with. Our bow arm muscle memory borders on the level of personal DNA.

He said those first few notes - and the down beat on that F# were not even important. It was all about leaning into the second beat. In that tune anyway. Leading in with a faster bow stroke but no deliberate change in dynamics, the bow push would create the emphasis. That sort of stuff. Nothing new to a lot of you, and he gave me a specific bowing for part A which challenged more of the ONE two THREE four emphasis I was used to, outside of syncopation. Quite the eye opener.

And of course some fun stories of life on the road. :)

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

"Passive aggression instead of an experienced reason why never to play a scale? Interesting."

You might be mixing me up with someone else. I never advocated for never playing a scale. Learn them even. ‘Practicing’ them (and arpeggios) is another matter. But honestly, I couldn’t care less who sits around practicing scales and arpeggios or who doesn’t. I want to know who can play this music and who can’t. Particularly the one’s who are making thousands of posts on this board.

And for what it’s worth, I own three Kevin Burke instructional DVDs and a can’t find the part where he advocates for practicing scales and arpeggios. Demonstrating rolls up and down a scale is hardly the same thing.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

"He demonstrates rolls up and down a scale"
Yes if you want to incorperate rolls in your playing… Learn to do your rolls first….. Pointless trying to run before you can walk . If you want to play tunes , in tune, with good tone ,intonation as well as drive and lift ,then any thing that will facilitate that is fair game.
Anything that hinders that , should be out the window IMO

@elf …Oh just ask him, its not a secret….. Hes given plenty of interviews, I chatted with him loads on line during all the previous anti scale threads and he was very supportive
I thinks its a frankly ridiculous position to bury the head in the sand and promote this anti learning philosophy of." Oh we are’ trad irish fiddlers’ we dont do that sort of thing! Just classical players do scales " thats just a small minded ignorant attitude that only comes from fiddlers .
You want to learn to be a piper? What does patsy touhey say… Play scales for 6 month and on no account try to play dance tunes ,or some such thing, I say the same for fiddle , and pipes.

Cheers

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

"I want to know who can play this music and who can’t. Particularly the one’s who are making thousands of posts on this board."

I resemble that remark. The jury is still out on whether I can play music or not. But I love what I do, whether practicing (please don’t ask for details*), ‘slowly’ learning a new tune, playing a session, or just chatting w/fellow musicians. Having said that it’s long over due we begin to bury our collective hatchets under the mustard tree.
Am I going a bridge too far?

*fine, just one bit. I’m practicing/working w/the tune "The Knotted Chord" on my rolls, timing, articulation, variations & such. Good tune!

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Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Well I’m classically trained, I can play pretty much any scale you like until the cows come home, but I can’t play a roll properly yet.

I once bought Nicholas Slonimsy’s ‘Thesaurus of Scales and Arpeggios" and for a few years playing some of the stuff in that was part of my daily practice. Sure, it improved by violin skills - especially double-stopping - and improved my intonation as well, but I can’t say it has magically made me able to play the ornaments of Irish traditional music!

I genuinely can’t see how you can "learn rolls" by scales - assuming that by scales you mean the conventional classical music scales that go up then down in major and minor keys.

If, on the other hand, as some have suggested above, what you actually mean is playing rolls on different fingers, ascending and descending, if you were playing a scale, well then, sure. But that’s practising rolls, not scales! And to do so, you would have to pretty much already know how to play a roll!

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

A scale can be many things, we are talking here about diatonic major scales in first position. Yes , basically thats it, play a roll on each or some notes of a scales. Like Kevin Demonstrates…. Get the DVDs….

Same with any technical issue… Isolate , then intigrate , no point in isoloating things you can already do… Play tunes. Thats how you will get better at playing tunes.
Thats not the point, a fact that so many posters simply miss here, its about playing an istrument as well…
I can play tunes all night on fiddle or pipes , but give me a piano accordiaon…. I couldnt play a tune… So id have go away and practice learning where the notes are and becoming adept at finding them by mind… Then i can play hundreds of tunes… I wouldnt have to spend years at it, because i already know the tunes. Its just a matter of instrument specific techniques.
Thats why its so pointless debating a instrument specific approach with someone who has never played the instrument…….
If you can play the violin well, then a few years study of the different techniques and aproaches and tunes your good to go.
If you cant play the instrument…. First learn to do that…. Or at least become conscious that there are 2 facets….
The instrument
The music.
We are talking about the techniques of playing the instrument . The music takes care of its self if you play with your heart and soul.
Cheers

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Mr. Evans, there’s no rush here. Matt made some very good points about learning and playing rolls on fiddle, pertinent to the OP. I for one would appreciate hearing a well thought out response from you or any other fiddler experienced in the learning and instruction of basic skills, scale & arpeggio practice & developing fiddle rolls in light of the specifics in Mr. Milton’s response above. You may have done that in your response. I beg pardon if I missed that.

And please don’t simply say, "Get the DVDs."

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Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

"I resemble that remark"

Ben, you’ve nothing to prove.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

"If, on the other hand, as some have suggested above, what you actually mean is playing rolls on different fingers, ascending and descending, if you were playing a scale, well then, sure. But that’s practising rolls, not scales! And to do so, you would have to pretty much already know how to play a roll!"

Yes that’s the gist of it. Generally speaking, the first finger roll will come first and the second finger shortly behind. Third finger rolls might take a bit longer to sound crisp. Some players avoid emulating a roll on an open string, using a bowed triplet instead, others don’t. YYMV.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

But why Ben? Support your favourite artist! We got to eat too. You will never learn how to do a roll from words on paper, live demo and practice…… Dvd is the next best thing to one on one lessons!
Go buy the DVDs …..
Scales got introduced into the conversation because IMO they are the building blocks. Techniques and instrument specific issues are best dealt with here without trying to play tunes….. When you cant.
Its like a basketball player saying they dont need to practice getting the ball inthe net or any of the thousand and one things needed toplay a good game/ tune, they just play basket ball…. Or a boxer just fighting with no bag work ,foor work , shadow boxing skipping… Just want to fight…
Do you ever see a boxer actually skipping rope in a match…… Does that mean skipping is useless?

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Ha ha ha. Ciaran, how are your rolls actually coming along? Made any progress since this now epic thread first began its peregrinations?

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Scale enthusiasts, this is an Irish music board… not everyone has the desire for doing scales.

If it came down to a choice between accurately pulling off a 2 octave scale in Eb minor, or a crisp roll around the 3rd finger, I know which technique I’d encourage a learner to practise…

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Your setting up a straw man… its been made clear many times that in the context of trad we are basically discussing the major scales of DG A then C and F … why then bring in Eb? how many tunes you know in Eb? even if its good to practice it … once again its not a matter of instead of, but as well as…..
as regards uploads …. we have prime examples of the advantages of scales in the playing of James Kelly and Kevin Burke….. i suggest you practice what you preach, upload a clip of your fiddle playing without ever playing scales…..
or at least bring us examples of rated players who go on record saying they never tried and dont need scales. surely they must be out there…..someone?

Rolls are a optional stylistic regional variation. Listen to Johnny Doherty…. and rolls …. none.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Please get back on topic or don’t post a comment to this thread.

If you’d like to continue a back-and-forth with a single member of The Session, please write to them directly through their profile.

This discussion is about rolls.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

So, on the A string, five possible rolls are :

Key of G : 1st finger roll (1-2-1-0-1/BCBAB)
Key of D : 1st finger roll (1-2-1-0-1/BC#BAB)

(1st finger remains down throughout)
Key of G : 2nd finger roll (2-3-2-1-2/CDCBC)
Key of D : 2nd finger roll (2-3-2-1-2/C#DC#BC#)

(2nd finger remains down throughout)
Key of D : 3rd finger roll (3-4-3-2-3/DEDC#D)

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Rolls are not determined by the key you are in. I would also argue strongly that they are not even 5 note constructions.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Quite. You certainly don’t have to leave the first finger down when playing a roll on the second finger, nor indeed any other finger down when playing a one with the third. Since, as I said earlier, all you need to do for the final component is to momentarily release the pressure on the string (you won’t even "see daylight" between the finger and the fingerboard) it doesn’t matter what other fingers are down, or if no others are down, because the pitch of the interruption is not distinct and is immaterial.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

[*Rolls are not determined by the key you are in. I would also argue strongly that they are not even 5 note constructions.*]

I didn’t say they were - but those I posted above match the particular keys, eg there’s no C# in the key of G, but there is in the key of D.

I’m basing those on the model given in the OP - "1st finger roll (1-2-1-0-1/BCBAB) on the A-string ", and there seemed to be agreement on that at the time. As for being 5-note constructions, that’s what they are in this case. I’m not saying everyone plays rolls the same way - we all know we don’t.

I explained the different mechanics of the roll in my first post on this thread, which covers whether the notes are audibly pitched or not.

[*You certainly don’t have to leave the first finger down when playing a roll on the second finger, nor indeed any other finger down when playing a one with the third. *]

Agreed - however, keeping unused fingers down promotes economy of movement, which is important, esp. for learners. Same with scales (Jeremy, this is crucially relevant to my point): if you’re learning (and I’m just talking about learners or improvers) to play a scale, eg Dmaj - starting on open D the fingering is 0-1-2-3, then 0-1-2-3 again, starting on the open E. If you keep the fingers down and form a cluster, then you can lift and drop that cluster on to the E string, with out having to re-make all the finger positions and risk being out-of-tune. So, two advantages there - and all this helps even more as the speed is cranked up. You don’t have to do it this way, but if you don’t, then you’re moving fingers up and down unnecessarily.

A similar thing applies, going back to the rolls business.

It’s all about good form and ‘best practice’, specific to fiddle. Genre is irrelevant. One can accept it or reject it.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

The rolls you are trying to describe (and somehow pass onto fiddle learners via words an Internet discussion forum) belong in classical music. There are differences between the Irish fiddle and classical roll techniques just as there are differences in the genres themselves. Saying genre is irrelevant here is wrong.

Since this is an irish music discussion forum (and not a classical violin technique forum), it would be good to assume the poster was looking for Irish fiddle rolls

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

@Matt Milton - The discussion here actually made me afraid to even attempt rolls or have the audacity after five months to even attempt them. However, just back from a fiddle lesson and had a few things cleared up. How I was interpreting the roll was as follows: E.g. G-Roll - notated GFG, I thought this meant note = G (rolled) followed by note F and then G. I was like "What the hell? How does anyone do that?!". Fiddle teacher revealed that even though it is notated as GFG, the roll covers the entire group of notes, which has kind of put my mind at ease. I will begin practice on them tomorrow!

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

AB, yes it is, but with a tilde above the G.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Ciaran -
Curious - what book is that?

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Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

It’s not in a book, but handwritten by the individual who has either devised it by ear and adapted it to include their own ornamentation or it has been passed down to them. . Said person is part of a renowned trad band around these parts. The song is called ‘The Dandy Bash’ which I cannot find anywhere apart from the music that I have… I quite like the name and the tune. Reminds me of Wilde and the aesthete movement. The name beside the title is Paddy O’Brien.

Re: The Fiddle & The Roll

Compositions Of Paddy O’Brien - I have the book here - :)