Irish Songs That Shift Into Second and/or Third Position

Irish Songs That Shift Into Second and/or Third Position

I know that Irish music traditionally does not shift into the second and third positions on a fiddle, but I am wondering if there is any songs that do shift into another position. I need a complex song with shifting for an audition for the high level orchestra at my high school. I am an Irish dancer so I really like Irish music and would love to audition with an Irish fiddle piece. Thanks so much for your help.

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While I play a few non-Irish tunes that go way beyond first position, I just don’t like doing it within the tradition. I guess the only exception I’ve made to that is "The Cuckoo’, aka "The Cuckoo’s nest’ and other things (hornpipe)”.
that’s just because I really like the tune. I am just wondering why you are looking for this! ??… I mean there are so many really complex fiddle tunes even in first position which better represent the Irish Tradition.

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The OP said that (s)he needed it for an audition for the high-level orchestra. I don’t know for sure of course, but perhaps it is a specific requirement that the audition piece contains shifting.

I know that even for the four, count ‘em, four, orchestras at my daughter’s middle school, each has different requirements/guidelines, and for the top orchestra, you need to demonstrate that you are able to play out of 1st position.

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Fair enough Trish, but then why choose Irish?

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Op said : "I am an Irish dancer so I really like Irish music and would love to audition with an Irish fiddle piece."

That’s reason enough to choose Irish music in my book.

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Not to discourage anyone, but if you are auditioning for an orchestra, wouldn’t they want you to show your skills as a classical musician? No offense, but I don’t think they are looking for Irish fiddlers to play in an orchestra. Aren’t an Irish fiddler and a classical violinist two completely different things using the same instrument? Like I could try to audition for the orchestra at my school with my whistle, but I doubt they’d accept me. Maybe you should look into asking if it’s ok to audition using an Irish composition.

Sorry if this seems rude, but it’s a thought I had.

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Yeah, thanks Aaron. I don’t know when I’ll ever learn to read the question properly! But anyhow OP, why not just choose a good Irish tune and go up a key or two? I often do that by accident, but it’s a good exercise.

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Just thinking though Irish@Heart18 , combining Kellie’s question with my own propensity to not read the question properly in exams;- are you sure that they would appreciate you doing an Irish tune? It just may not be what they are looking for. ust because you like it doesn’t mean that they will. And that’s what counts. I obviously don’t know, but just wondering.

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@Kellie: There’s a stigma floating around that Irish fiddlers are technically inferior to classical violinists. It’s rubbish.

@Irish@Heart18: Being the stubborn Irish freak I am, I would say, PLAY an Irish fiddle piece for your audition - show them the music is not as simple as is commonly believed! However, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by playing something that doesn’t fit with their requirements. Maybe you should learn a classical piece with shifting for back-up; just for in case.
All the very best for your audition!

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Some settings of Druid’s Spell (https://thesession.org/tunes/8419) and Trim the Velvet (https://thesession.org/tunes/1142) venture into 3rd position - but only briefly, so I don’t know if it’s complex enough.

My apologies, Kellie, for sounding irritated - it’s not right to pile my annoyance of a stereotype onto an innocent person’s head!

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Absolutely right @Robyn. Very best of luck to the OP in your audition, we’re rooting for you!

And @Kellie, the whistle is not an orchestral instrument in the same way as a fiddle, and I would suggest thinking about how supportive and understanding some have been to you on here and perhaps reflecting that with your comments to others!

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"There’s a stigma floating around that Irish fiddlers are technically inferior to classical violinists. It’s rubbish."
ON AVERAGE Robyn, I suspect you are wrong! But who really knows? One is so different to the other.
@ Irish@Heart18, the important thing is to not try and prove anything other than what they want you to prove. What have all your successful predecessors played? Do that! Play safe!

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"One is so different to the other."
Very true, Gobby. I suppose that’s what I was really trying to say: it’s not so much that one is inferior to the other as that they are just completely different.

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Sorry, best of luck on your audition!

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Second and third positions can prove very useful for Irish tunes when a string goes down while playing … Very! Has nobody else ever needed to do this?

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"And @Kellie, the whistle is not an orchestral instrument in the same way as a fiddle, and I would suggest thinking about how supportive and understanding some have been to you on here and perhaps reflecting that with your comments to others!"

Sorry, it was not my intention to be rude and/or unwelcoming.

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"And @Kellie, the whistle is not an orchestral instrument in the same way as a fiddle,"

I do realize that, but put it this way " Irish Flute playing and Classical Flute playing are two completely different and brilliant traditions that can be played on the same instrument (the concert/metal/boehm flute). (I know it’s not fiddle but please bear with me) Each with their own repertoire of ornaments and techniques. For example, on the concert flute classical players use circular breathing (as far as I know anyway) A technique which is foreign to me as an Irish trad player who uses breathing as a rhythmic device. (I’m not saying that no player uses circular breathing BTW) Then there are techniques like rolls, cuts, taps etc.. that could be considered foreign to classical players. I’ve also been told that classical players use a different embouchure and tongue in different places as well. (don’t quote me on that) So, if a teacher is so used to looking at and judging the technique of a classical flute player, and have not played or have barely ever been exposed to Irish trad, could they fairly judge the skill of an Irish flute player based on classical repertoire?" (key word being FAIRLY)

I’m not saying that they’d reject the OP I’m sure he/she is an amazing fiddle player (and violin player), but fiddle playing and classical violin playing are worlds apart connected only by the instrument on which they are played, are they not? I’m just saying you wouldn’t do very well in a session if you walked in playing classical music, would you?

Just another one of my rambles I guess. I say if you want to audition using an Irish tune go for it! I’m rootin’ for ye and I’m sure everyone else on this site is as well. Best of luck! :)

Also not my intention to be rude or unwelcoming.

P.S- Welcome to the mustard boards! :)

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Adding to the above: Asking if it’s OK to audition using an Irish tune is always advisable. If you’ve already done that, please ignore this, also good on ye.

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"but fiddle playing and classical violin playing are worlds apart connected only by the instrument on which they are played, are they not?"

Not really. I’m taking violin lessons every Monday night for the next few months and fiddle lessons on Tuesdays. As soon as I finish this semester of violin lessons at college I’ll be switching to all fiddle lessons but at least in the first few years of learning to play, just about anything (but not everything) learned in a violin lesson applies to fiddle playing. I know that changes as you progress more.

It is kind of interesting (and funny) to watch classical players and fiddlers playing the same tune in different youtube videos.

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Sorry, excuse my ignorance then.

This is NOT meant to be sarcastic I promise you.

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""but fiddle playing and classical violin playing are worlds apart connected only by the instrument on which they are played, are they not?"

Not really. "

I disagree with your disagree. Violin teaches or focus on many things that fiddle does not. All the scales, proper intonation, using the full length of the bow, dynamics and tonal colours, theory, and many more that I cannot recall. Year 2 or 3 performance pieces just might venture out of first position(depending on the student, of course), while a fiddler could spend a lifetime without playing out of first position.Violin music focuses on playing things beautifully, while fiddle music focuses on rhythm (dance music).

The left hand positioning I was taught in classical lessons was not conducive to fiddling, nor was the bow hold. They were designed to be a universal approach, and worked great for consistency of tone etc, but made repetitive quick movements, a la fiddle music, more difficult.

Kellie, you are completely right about auditioning for orchestral stuff with orchestral music. However, high school music programs vary a lot, and sometimes can be little more than music clubs. It all depends on the school and the instructors/judges. (I get the feeling that OP doesn’t know Irish music that well and will be doing it in a classical style anyway). Hopefully OP has asked about the audition requirements.

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"but at least in the first few years of learning to play"

I just don’t see how learning "a universal approach, and working great for consistency of tone" don’t help with fiddle playing.

"They were designed to be a universal approach, and worked great for consistency of tone etc, "

Which is why I said what you learn in the first few years but that"I know that changes as you progress more".

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OK, those were reversed, sorry :)

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Tøm said:- "And @Kellie, the whistle is not an orchestral instrument in the same way as a fiddle, and I would suggest thinking about how supportive and understanding some have been to you on here and perhaps reflecting that with your comments to others!"

This is completely out of line! Kellie offered nothing other than a perfectly reasonable opinion that was in no way negative. And are you suggesting that whistle players have no right to comment on violin playing (i.e., Not orchestral FIDDLE playing). This is an open discussion and people are allowed to offer whatever advice they feel is right. Just because Kellie’s well intentioned and perfectly reasonable advice doesn’t agree with yours doesn’t make it unsupportive or negative in any way. I agree with Aaron’s recent opinion on all this.

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@Irish@Heart18 :

Some of the tunes that are thought of as requiring 3rd postion can actually be played in 2nd position.

Using 2nd instead of 3rd offers better economy of movement, which can help if the tune is played quite quickly.

This goes way back to the ‘old’ system of automatically moving to 3rd position when there was a note higher than B on the E string - but if the highest note is C or C# , usually 2nd position will work fine.

Examples where you can use 2nd position instead of 3rd :

MacArthur Road : https://thesession.org/tunes/2221

The Cuckoo : https://thesession.org/tunes/573

Trim the Velvet : https://thesession.org/tunes/1142

Golden Eagle : https://thesession.org/tunes/974

..and I’m sure there will be many more.

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Jim, I was going to say something about playing in 2nd position. But as you & others here know I don’t play fiddle so I didn’t. In other words, Jim, thanks for your timely comment. Having said that (i.e. I am not a fiddler)… Irish@Heart18, do you know "Carolan’s Draught"? I was just thinking that my be a good tune to audition for the orchestra.

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No need to argue about fiddlers vs violinists.

Generally at an orchestra audition, the panel asks you to play some
excerpts from the literature that they set out on your music stand. You
may also have an opportunity to play a solo that you select.

It doesn’t matter how good your O’Carolan tune sounds, you’re going
to have to do a nice job on the excerpts including
following instructions from the panel on tempo, dynamics etc. So that will
filter out anybody who doesn’t have adequate preparation.

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Mark, I appreciated your not separating violinists & fiddlers. At least until you mentioned ‘your music stand’.

;)

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Hello, Mark Huppert.
Sorry if I overstepped. I was assuming the OP is auditioning for a panel of jurors at a {relativly} lower standard.
I suggested Carolan’s Draught based on my initial criteria. I still think it’s a fine tune.
But if it’s not suitable in order to pass the audition I understand completely.

Beg pardon.

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"I just don’t see how learning "a universal approach, and working great for consistency of tone" don’t help with fiddle playing."

First off, it would be helpful to iterate that fiddle is an incredibly nuanced and demanding instrument. This is not a fixed pitch instrument like guitar or accordion or piano where you can hit within a couple of millimeters and get a good result. This instrument needs precision down to the micron. OK, slight exaggeration, but it does require exactness unparalleled with most other instruments. Now, because of that exactness, great repetition to create muscle memory is required. That muscle memory takes days, weeks, months, or even years to achieve.

Now, when you start on x style and switch to y style, you will find the requirements a bit different. You will also find that the fingering and bowing techniques you are used to need to be adjusted to get a certain sound. When you factor in that demanding precision, such minute changes again take days, weeks, months, or even years to achieve. It’s even worse sometimes, because of the whole unlearning thing. It can take much longer to relearn/unlearn habits that have been ingrained over the years. (Trust me, I’m still learning how to insert my debit card in the reader instead of swiping.)

Do you think somebody like Kevin Burke, who just might have the best bowing hand in the business, gets his sound by using a classical bow hold? Have you ever heard a classical player of decades convert to Irish and instantly sound authentically Irish? The answer to both is a resounding ‘no’, and in the case of the second question, it takes years of ‘reprogramming’ to sound authentic, if they ever do.

Now, all that being said, there are certainly other factors involved, not the least of which is a player’s desired goals. If they just want to play cool tunes and don’t care about sounding authentic, then more power to them. However, Irish music isn’t just playing tunes and it certainly isn’t just a style of music. It’s a *tradition* and has an incredibly unique and specific flavor to it. Sounding anywhere close to authentic requires extensive listening and absorption. (Especially those of us who weren’t raised in the tradition). You can’t learn the tradition by learning another tradition (classical). There are certainly things that you can glean from classical technique, but at the end of the day, if you want to learn Irish music, immerse yourself in Irish music.

*I played fiddle for almost 10 years before taking classical lessons. The bow hold I was using just didn’t work for long bows. The sound got incredibly ‘crunchy’ near the frog. So my teacher helped me readjust to a better hold. This involved moving fingers around and such, and keeping pinky on bow at ALL times. I was able to get the same tone without crunch the entire length of the bow. But this new hold was much slower at changes and accenting things. It just does not have the ‘pop’ needed for accenting notes in Irish tunes. No matter what I tried, the two different bow holds were not compatible. I tried to make it work for well over a year, but no result.

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"The sound got incredibly ‘crunchy’ near the frog." Hmmm… Interesting sentence. Maybe that should be a saying
like "Don’t you go doing that or you’ll end up sounding crunchy near the frog"

So, Carolan’s Draught is out?

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Kellie, i suppose it does sound funny to people who aren’t around fiddles a lot. ‘Frog’ is the actual name of that part of the bow, and I’m so used to it that I don’t even think about it.

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Thank you for your wonderfully thorough comment/explanation, Aaron. It made me think of when I began making myself play fiddle music with an Irish bow hold, instead of always using the classical one: my hand went into cramps….

The more I delve into traditional music, the more I see it is worlds apart from the Bach and Beethoven I was "raised on". The challenge now is to reconcile the two playing traditions: I can hardly sit and fiddle at an orchestra rehearsal, but I also want to play Irish music as authentically and as well as I can.

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Robyn, there is certainly room for multiple musics in one’s life. But in my case, I want to do justice to one style as much as possible. As a busy adult who has only average talent, I don’t have the time and energy for multiple styles. It’s hard enough trying to get one to a decent level(especially with health problems).

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I like crunchy frogs!
I’d rarely use that end of the bow when playing Irish music, but a good crunchy frog is nice for some of the Scottish stuff. As for my bow hold, well when I remember, I hold it about the same as Kevin Bourke (after watching his excruciating bowing lesson on you-tube), and his biggest tip is not to GRIP the bow at all, but let the fiddle hold it up, such that you’d likely drop it if the fiddle wasn’t there. That of course, doesn’t work for crunchy frog parts, but anyway….. I think we have seriously digressed fro the OP’s question!

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Yeah Postie, it’s a Will Harmon composition and a great tune. It’s amazing for me to think now that when I first saw that tune (before I took up the fiddle), just like Young Kellie, I didn’t know they had such things as frogs on bows. I only originally looked at it because of the apparent very strange title.

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Thanks for the tunes Jim, lots of tunes I’ve not played in a while!

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I’m classically trained on my violin an I’m in 2 orchestras. I also play the "fiddle" in Irish sessions. Same instrument….different styles. I love them both.

Btw…I have played my Penny Whistle in my orchestra, when we played Irish music. :-D

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If you can obtain a copy of Luke O’Malley, Irish Songs & Instrumentals at Amazon, the recording of the Mason’s Apron has seven parts (some original) with the sixth & seventh parts in fourth, fifth, sixth(?) positions. It actually goes higher than Sean Maguire’s version.

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I have been teaching the violin for many years. I was taught as a youth to avoid 2nd and 4th position wherever possible. This is a mistake, in my opinion. In this particular case, second position is the most comfortable and the easiest to use - no more shifting or stretching back and forth until you shift down. Second position is probably the hardest position to learn on the violin due to the fact that there is no point of reference (i.e., being close to the peg box where we all played for years before learning to shift or being close to the body of the violin as in third position) unless you create one for yourself, which I won’t go into here unless someone asks me to. However, it is well worth the time to learn to play in second position as comfortably as in first - it makes life a lot easier. I have seen lots of violin parts where there is constant jumping from first to third and back again several times when just playing in fixed second position would make things much easier. If you were trained by teachers who thought second position wasn’t worth the bother, rethink it. I did and I’m glad.

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Anne, I was lucky enough to be taught to use whatever position was appropriate, and my teacher disagreed with the ‘old’ way of teaching 3rd postion first (ie use it for anything above B on the E string).

The thing I like about 2nd position is that is works so well with all of these tunes above (that are always presumed to need 3rd pos) - only a semitone ‘shift’ gives you another finger to work with.

As you know, sometimes you can play the high C in 1st position with an extended 4th finger, but if the phrase is B-C-B, you’d probably whine, so I’d do 2nd position for that. Example : bar #21 of this : https://thesession.org/tunes/1142 , 1st setting.