Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

I have been wondering for a while how you get proffesional sounding triplets on fiddle. I have tried out lots of different things to make my triplets sound better but the only ones that sound anything close to proffesion were when I press down harder with your bow and used as much bow as possible. Does anyone have any advice for me to get proffesional sounding triplets on fiddle

Thanks

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

I recently asked my teacher about playing triplets, and she suggested taking the left hand out of the equation and working on them on open strings for a while … starting very slow and then gradually speeding it up, then adding the left hand back in and play scales or arpeggios slowly with triplets then gradually speeding it up. Something about separating the hands’ roles for a bit makes it easier when you go back and start playing tunes.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

+1…. the elusive, perfect triplet.

Kevin Burke seems to tell us the exact opposite here: https://youtu.be/sWLzgjv522g


But do I manage? no. Maybe 1 out of 10 times.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

There are different kinds of triplets used in Irish fiddling, the most common being the runs of triplets that are common in hornpipes, and the one-note bowed triplets. The latter are commonly called "trebles" or "trebling" and the distinction is useful.

It’s worth bearing in mind that trebles, at least, are not really triplets at all - the three notes are not of the same length. They are better thought of as two sixteenth notes/semiquavers followed by an eighth note/quaver. That’s when they are sounded clearly. Many players compress the whole thing into a sort of indistinct crunch.

Assuming you are talking about trebling, when you talk of "professional" sounding triplets, do you want to sound like (for the sake of examples) Kevin Burke (crunch) or Frankie Gavin (distinct notes)?

I agree that practising them on open strings is a good idea. I used to teach students to approach them from the point of view of clearer articulation. You can always crunch them up later. To get the timing right I would have them play a phrase like eA (3AAA A2, slowly, carefully counting 1-2-3 in their heads to make sure that they started the treble at the right time and came out of it onto the final note at the right time: ONE (pickup notes) TWO (treble) THREE (final note)

A phrase like that can be bowed in different ways, of course. No harm in starting with an up-bow for the two pickup notes (slurred), DUD for the treble, and up for the final note. When you can do that reliably, in good time, slowly, you can speed it up gradually. And you can try other bowing permutations, including DU for the first two notes and slurring out of the treble into the final note.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

It’s good to focus on technique, and if you have the opportunity to try different bows and instruments that may also reveal that your technique is better than you thought. Such things as simple and cheap as cleaning strings/bow hair can make a difference. Using a bow, particularly one that doesn’t collapse or bounce during triplets is very important, and then you need a fiddle that responds to all of this…those things can get expensive, but rest assured most of the top players have top quality gear…you will always need technique though so don’t stop practicing…those top players never have 😉

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

I recently scored a reasonably priced carbon fiber bow with more hair than my cheapo original (this is my second, heirloom fiddle, I had no idea when I fixed it up if it was any good so I got a cheap bow) it and it seems to help.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

I agree with practicing on an open string, or up and down a scale. But don’t slow things down too much. When you play them slowly you can do it perfectly well bowing from the elbow and shoulder. But practicing that won’t help you play them fast, when the movement has to come from the wrist and fingers. The most important thing is to keep a very relaxed wrist and grip. Your elbow and shoulder drive the bow one way, as though it is a single continuous note, but in the middle of the stroke your wrist and fingers throw the bow the opposite way to split the note up into three. Most people can do it one direction much more easily than the other. I don’t think equipment is all that important (though it certainly does help) if you have a bow that you are comfortable with normally you should also be able to play trebles with it.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

"I don’t think equipment is all that important (though it certainly does help)"

Make your mind up Mark 😀

If it can help - which it does, it can hinder - which it does.
Trying someone else’s bow and fiddle will give you an idea if you are being helped or hindered by your own.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

Brian Conway recommended getting the treble movement ‘as close to the bow’ as possible. Meaning, don’t make the movement in your shoulder, nor in your elbow. Do it with your wrist, or even better, by flexing just your fingers. I have never seen trebles done by using a lot of bow. I’m not saying it *can’t* be done with lots of bow, just that I’ve never seen it done that way. With players like Tommy Peoples, Brian Conway or Martin Hayes the movement is almost invisible.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

It’s definitely a matter of technique and I have had the best rate of success playing from the wrist- i.e. what Kevin Burke says in the vid above. But leaning on the bow also seems to help.

However the next point I want to make is it also depends on the tune and the spot in the tune. Suggestions welcome.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

>>Make your mind up Mark.

I thought what I said was perfectly clear. Yes, good equipment is beneficial, but it is not essential, therefore not all that important. I’ve had hundreds of bows and fiddles through my workshop over the years. I’ve never come across either a fiddle or a bow that prevented me from playing a treble (and that includes the bow shaped sticks that come with £60 from Argos fiddles).

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

So, MarkM - care to show us how you do it, and where (in a tune?)

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

Honestly different people seem to do them in different ways. I used to throw them from way up the arm somewhere while keeping everything very loose, up at the tip of the bow. I think Charlie Lennon recommends something similar in one of his instructional videos.
Then I started getting shoulder pain so I changed things up and started throwing them more from the forearm making sure my fingers were kind of supple but firm, down near the heel of the bow.
After a lot of practise I think the actually sound better now than they used to, but I’ve ended up reversing direction. It used to be I could do them better if the first note of the cluster was an upbow, but now it works better when it’s a down bow. If I have to do them using an upbow these days I find they come out better if I take some fingers off the bow and hold it with my thumb and index and maybe my middle finger.
Honestly the best way is to practise the hell out of them. Play them in isolation. On open strings. Do them on each note of the scale. Incorporate them into a phrase with pedal bowing and play that over and over. Find a tune like the moving cloud and fill it with them and play it over and over. Put them into a tune and play it. Then put them in different places in the tune and play it again.
I will second something that was said further up. You can practise them more slowly if you really like, but the mechanics change at speed, so it might not take you all that far if you’ve slowed them right down and thats the only way you practise them.
Watch out for tension. You can play with different levels of pressure, and in fact that could be a very useful thing to do. But in my experience if you tense up and end up with a habit of playing tense you actually play more slowly and sooner or later it’ll start to hurt and you’ll be stuck trying to break the habit which is seriously annoying.
Sorry, I wish I had some really specific advice, but the best I can come up with is play around with them. Try different directions, different amounts of bow speed and pressure, different parts of the bow. See if you can throw them from your fingers, your forearm, your bicep. When you come up with something that more or less works, practise the bejeesus out of it.
And like I said, my favourite way of doing it is with a little yank of the forearm which throws my wrist and hand down and then I kind of bounce back with my fingers and wrist and then engage the forearm again on the downbow, but it’s hard to describe these thing and your best way of doing them might be quite different.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

Oh, and when I say down at the heel of the bow, I don’t really mean all the way down there, but maybe two thirds of the way down.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

Very soft wrist, and - one thing I got from a Liz Carroll lesson - remember that no matter how crunchy you want to get, you still need to hear three notes in there. I find that helps me a lot. By "soft," I don’t mean spongy, but agile.

Posted by .

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

Mark M, I apologise, it did not seem clear to me.

I can play a triplet - in my own way - to a "good" standard. Before posting my comment about equipment I played along with Kevin Burke and matched the sound reasonably well using my favourite bow and fiddle, did the same with a weak bow and old fiddle that’s not set up well and I was not happy with the sound - yes I can still play the triplet but it doesn’t have the snap or control and that makes a big difference with a triplet. That lack of control will inevitably limit the speed at which it can be played. I’m not qualified to comment on the technique but I can contribute on "gear".

The OP asks how to play "professional" triplets, like any job to do it well you need the right tools.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

I think the descriptions given here are good, and I couldn’t really add much more on the different "ways" to do it, although I could add a few more things from my years of playing, and listening to other players.

Some players like to sound the notes clearly, others give a more scratchy sound. Stating the obvious, the more bow pressure you use and the shortness of the stoke will determine how crunchy the triplets sound. If you go the full hog, you can get the real "scrud" sound that you sometimes hear in Tommy Peoples’s playing - strangling the string so that there’s no time for it to vibrate cleanly before the next bow.

Not intending to reflect badly on one of the kings of Irish fiddling, but on a purely technical level, in some of his triplets/trebles, that is exactly what he does, and to good effect.

I personally prefer to play the cleaner trebles where all the notes are clearly sounded. I think it’s a Scottish thing … 🙂

My favourite triplet is Frankie Gavin playing the 2nd part of hand Me Down The Tackle .. he plays a fingered/bowed triplet of D-A-D on the A-string. Very quick, and quite tricky to do too.

It’s on a few of his CDs - it’s the "Humours of Galway" set, containing Golden Eagle/Maudabawn Chapel/Hand Me Down The Tackle. It’s on Youtube too, of course, but I doubt you’d be able to catch it with that sound quality.

About having the right gear, of course that is important, but the 80% (or whatever figure) is down to the player.

At the moment I have really cheap fiddle and bow (to demo), but I also have my own good quality fiddle and Arcus M4 bow too. I can easily get snappy triplets from either setup, but they sound much better when using my own setup.

So, Mark and Titch are both right 🙂

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

I found that practising tremolo made trebles almost straightforward. After all, a treble can be seen a very short tremolo. And I found it solved the problem of starting on an up or down bow; either direction works as well as the other.

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

Thank god I also play viola then:

How do you get a violist to play tremolo?

…write ‘solo’ on top of the line.


Cheers!

Re: Professional sounding triplets on fiddle

"It’s not the truck, it’s the driver…." Ashley MacIsaac on his $CAD14.95 bows. And he certainly runs them ragged!