unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

life eh? . After a few happy years fiddling I can no longer play due to neck problems. I ve done a few months on the tin whistle which is good but limited range. So what instrument do people think I should transfer to for most versatility fun general acceptance in sessions and of course other genres (ragtime/20s) (and best use of ‘transferable skills’ for the many corporates reading this). Thinking the Yamaha flute (Irish flute limited range thing) - clarinet seems out- can the uillean pipes be picked up at home in front of you tube or is that asking a bit too much? any other instrument recommendations/ suggestions/ reasonably polite thoughts welcomed

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Banjo? Although it was more used by early jazz players, not in ragtime era…

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Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

If you actually want the full range of a fiddle, you’re pretty much limited to string instruments and button boxes. And I don’t think there are any "transferable skills" from fiddle to button box (other than general understanding of the music, the things that would translate to absolutely any instrument).

If you throw in ragtime/20s angle, I’m inclined to agree that tenor banjo is the way to go. Apparently ragtime banjo WAS actually a thing, though perhaps more 5-string than tenor: https://folkways.si.edu/those-ragtime-banjos/jazz/music/album/smithsonian

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Why not try the much maligned(on this site these days) mandolin?

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Try the octave mandolin, if you can find one. It’s a mandolin, but twice the size and plays an octave lower. It sounds a lot like a banjo, but the notes decay a lot slower, so it sounds really really cool!

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

I wasn’t aware that mandolins were maligned. On the face of it, a mandolin seems the obvious alternative to a fiddle. In fact, I’d describe it as a fiddle with frets, played with a plectrum instead of a bow.

Who’s been saying unpleasant things about mandolins? I for one much prefer them to tenor banjos which have always struck me as raucous and monotonous.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Some people here have done so but, I agree, it’s a lovely instrument. Not quite a "fiddle with frets" and there’s a little more to just picking instead of bowing but a little practice will get you there. You sometimes need to actually work harder with the pick than the bow to get a good sound for some tunes but others are easier.

An octave mandolin is good too but, surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to have quite the same volume for melody work alone when you are playing with other instruments. The mandolin itself seems to carry better, in this respect.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

@lionel13 - you didn’t say what neck problems you have, or how serious they are (only you know that).

There are quite a few players who have had to adapt owing to injury, accidents, etc.

Just a suggestion - have you considered a violin strap, or harness, where the violin doesn’t actually touch your neck? There are various types, using cord, felt or elastic with snap-on/off velcro.

One example here, with text, explanation and pictures all on one page :

http://www.danielbrauchli.com/Violin_Harness.htm

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

jim dorans and all other kind repliers

Ta for your interest. Lymphatic gland that swells up every time I try to lean the fiddle against the neck. NHS says nothing they can do. Last attempt I hadnt played for 2 months as last resort. Neck fully healed. Less than 10 minutes resting against neck trying to avoid any clench it got irritated and swelled up! I tried string but just didnt get on with any thing pulling it in -so reluctantly given up. but trying to salvage something from all the good times to transfer to another instrument

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Another recommendation for mandolin here. You’ll need to develop right-hand picking chops, but the left hand fretting should transfer easily from fiddle. A mandolin won’t have as wide a range of ornamentation for Irish tunes, and it won’t be as loud as a fiddle, but still manageable in sessions. It’s also a great crossover instrument for other styles like ragtime, blues, jazz, classical — basically any style of music you want to play besides ITM.

WRT octave mandolin…. it’s a fun instrument, but with considerably more finger stretch between notes than mandolin. You may have to alter the fingering you know on fiddle to a more guitar-centric (one fret per finger) approach. Octave mandolins can be played in sessions, but they’re sometimes buried by the ever-present guitar because the range and timbre is similar.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Piano/keyboard.

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Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Test

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

I don’t know if you’ve tried to play fiddle in a different position, i.e. on your chest like the old time fiddlers?
It won’t be the same or as good as what you’re used to doing, of course, but you may still continue to get some enjoyment from the instrument. As well as trying another one, of course!

You could also try cello and your bowing techniques would be useful. there’s mixed views about cellos in Irish sessions but I don’t see any issue with them.

There’s also the Nyckelharpa which is "a bit Swedish" but never mind. I believe the "D" tuning on the main strings is the same as the viola i.e. CGDA. Anyway, again, your bowing experience would surely not go to waste.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Also, http://violinvalet.com.

I have one. The weighted danglies do tend to pull the fiddle in an awkward direction, but may be worth a shot. You dont specify location, but if you ever come through Portland, Oregon, you’re welcome to try mine.

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Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

You say you suffer because of the fiddle being in contact with your neck. Do you not use a shoulder rest?
Just wondering.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Never say never. I stopped playing fiddle for ten years, and now I’m back into it better than ever. But on the subject of another instrument, the ubiquitous guitar is hard to beat for picked melody lines, and there are several different techniques. Unfortunately, we don’t hear a lot of it in Irish music. And as an accompanying instrument, there are plenty of opportunities to counter point - instead of that dreadful strum that tries to keep up with the every note of the melody.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

This is a little off-the-wall, but we had a hurdy-gurdy at one of our sessions a while back and we all found it VERY cool! Kinda expensive to get into, but you can get a fiddle-ish (some would say very "ish") with none of the physical difficulties of playing the fiddle. There IS cranking involved, but I don’t think that would affect your neck.

Pat

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

I have neck problems, so I triple on fiddle, squeeze box and gobiron. I’d LOVE a gurdy, but I think at my age I have enough instruments!

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Learning to play any instrument is a lengthy battle against numerous and differing personal demons and limits. There isn’t an off the shelf solution to playing Irish music in sessions. If you don’t have the genuine desire to learn something you won’t win the fight. You probably remember this from the fiddle. Whatever the myriad of options only you know which one of them inspires you enough to do it all again. As for mandolin, this is in my mind, for what that’s worth, probably the instrument that is going to offer you the most in terms of your "transferable skills" although I do believe learning an instrument properly has many of these, many rather intangible.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

To add to all the options suggested above, Consider ‘chin-off’ technique before completely giving up your joyful fiddle playing. Probably adopted most by Baroque Violinists but I see lots of accomplished Celtic fiddlers take this approach too. there isn’t one ‘legitimate’ way of holding a violin. In my opinion, Neck and shoulder rests are required mostly for FIXing your violin to do constant strong vibrato which is not really appreciated in celtic music playing.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

As people have alluded to, "classical" players grip the violin with their chin, freeing the hand of supporting the instrument. They have adjustable shoulder-rests for that reason, so they don’t have to have their head twisted down to grip the violin. (I don’t mean the little cup thing on the top of the violin, I mean the large padded adjustable thing on the bottom side of the violin.) Have you been gripping the violin with no shoulder rest?

As several people have mentioned, various fiddle traditions have other ways of holding the instrument which don’t involve gripping the instrument with the chin, leaving the head free and upright, which are obviously more ergonomic for the human neck.

About "full range" you mention the uilleann pipes which however have the same issue as whistle and (keyless) Irish flute: their lowest note is "bottom D".

You mention a "Yamaha flute" by which you probably mean Boehm flute. (Yamaha does make Boehm flutes but so do hundreds of other makers). A Boehm flute only gets you down to C, one full step lower than the uilleann pipes, Irish flute, and whistle, and rather short of the range of the fiddle, mandolin, banjo, or box.

If it were myself I’d probably

1) experiment with a different fiddle posture. If that failed

2) take up mandolin and octave mandolin

I had the same issue, after over 30 years of playing Irish flute my hand cramping go so bad I switched to the Low Whistle. The flute puts your hands, wrists, shoulders, and neck at un-ergonomic angles while vertical flutes such as whistles and Kenas keep everything in ergonomic alignment.

It’s why a number of makers make vertical Boehm flutes: many players just can’t do the transverse flute grip.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

all repliers.

a big thanks to all who replied and lifted the spirits - Ive read all ideas (and will if theres any more) - got plenty to think about from all of them - will post a thankyou follow-up in some months

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Yes, the old fashioned non-classical fiddling grip would not win prizes, but is a practical way of stopping neck-ache, for a while anyway. You have a choice between supporting your fiddle below your shoulder and against your body or against your upper arm. I use this always, but until today I have always told others not to do as I do!

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

My neck was giving me problems (as in extreme pain). My doctor prescribed 4 weeks of physical therapy on my neck. They told me that my neck muscles were extremely tight and after 4 weeks therapy everything was fine. No neck pain.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Look , the way to hold the fiddle is not to grip it with the chin, that is a mistake! Creating all sorts of muscular problems . The fiddle should fit well for start so either a chin rest that relates to neck length or a combination of shoulder and chin rest.
The idea is to fit the fiddle in the gap and pull the head/ chin back ! Not down , so that the ridge is held in place by the chin, no downward pressure involved ……no muscular tension, relaxed face shouler and neck muscles no need to hold it up with the hand though in practice a slight bit of support is often used .
Tension is totally counterproductive.
If you dont hold the fiddle like this try it, it could revolutionise your playing.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

I suggest you seek out an Orthopedic Surgeon who works with musicians. I was lucky that my hand surgeon (an orthopedic surgery sub-specialty) works with many musicians and so her rehab for my trigger finger surgeries was right on point and got me back to playing. So, I would look at that.

As for what other instruments to play, Irish tenor banjo, mandolin, and ocatave mandolin share the same tuning as the fiddle with the tenor banjo being the loudest followed by the resonator mandolin, mandolin, and octave mandolin, so any of those would be a good choice in that the basic fingering is the same (some alterations needed for tenor banjo and OM playing but otherwise very similar) and picking is easier than bowing.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

While it may not be a popular opinion amongst the weekend warriors, the bodhran is an excellent choice for tunes as it can be played with variable movements in various relaxed positions. Any skilled session player has experienced the magic that occurs when a skilled bodhran player joins a team of skilled melody players. It is limited in that, unlike the fiddle, too many bodhrans doesn’t work. You already know the music, so it could potentially be a form of therapy that allows you to play the fiddle more occasionally(I have no special medical knowledge or certification).

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

Many traditional Scottish fiddlers play with the fiddle against their chest. I tried but couldn’t reach - but one of my fiddles is slightly shorter than the other and I can nearly reach. (Thinness helps and is not one of my characteristics). It’s probably worth experimenting.

Mandolin is an obvious substitute except that it’s not an expressive instrument. Mechanically it’s going to be the easiest - at least initially - but the sound is a million miles from a fiddle. For a loud, expressive, resonant sound you would want another bowed instrument or just possibly pipes. This is a matter for your own feelings and other people can barely advise. I would say, though, that the hurdy gurdy is a very expensive and complex instrument and is easier to love than to play.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

I would echo what others have said, the mandolin is your best bet. Make sure you work on your plectrum technique, maybe even take a few classical mandolin lessons, and develop a good tremolo. And anyone who thinks it’s not an expressive instrument should listen to Ry Cooder and Simon Mayor for two different but equally brilliant stylists. If you are going to play in sessions, you’ll need an instrument that can cut through. Some mandolins are louder than others - I’ve got one made by Colin Kendall which has a thin body and a bright tone. Good luck.

Re: unable to fiddle- what instrument to take up?

cello?