Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

I’ve studied classical violin for a while now, and I’ve recently become very interested in folk music and Irish music in particular. I never had much exposure to it growing up and I don’t know anyone who’s into it, but even though I’ve heard very little I’m quickly falling in love. After browsing this site for a while, everyone seems very kind, so I thought I might ask for advice. I’m very new to this community and I really don’t know where to start.
What do I need to know to get started? Do I need to take proper lessons? What tunes do I need to learn? Are there any musicians I should listen to? What terminology do I need to know? Are there any other online resources I can use? I know I’m extremely ignorant about all of this, but please try to be patient with me. I just want to get involved in this wonderful community and broaden my musical horizons. Thanks for your time!

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Talk to people here! It’s the best resource ever!

Your attitude seems great so I’m sure you’ll get by, but the best thing after thesession.org is finding real live people who love the music. Talk to them. Play with them. Listen to them. That’s all you need.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

My most important advice is to listen. Listen until you can whistle the tune and then try it by ear. Coming from classical training, I had to force myself to learn by ear. I could not get the sound right by reading music. Your skills to date will add a lot after you have unlearned some things about bowing and ornamentation. It was quite frustrating to me, but well worth it.

What area are you in? See if you are close to any sessions or close enough to some of the great summer music camps.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Being classically trained, you obviously read music. That will be a huge benefit in playing fiddle music, but to be a complete musician you need to develop your ability to play by ear as well. Where to begin? Just a suggestion: find a performance you like on Youtube and see if you can work it out. There’s a slow down function in the settings cog at the bottom right of the video.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Just adding a few things. Lessons may help, particularly as the sheet music seldom includes the bowings, ornamentation, and variation that really make the music sing. If you can’t find local teachers, there are Skype lessons, the Online Academy of Irish Music, and innumerable folks on Youtube. There are summer camps and weekend workshops all around the world as Tracywag suggested. If you do well with tutor books, I like Matt Cranitch’s Irish Fiddle Book and have heard good things about Pete Cooper’s Complete Irish Fiddle Player.

And listening to recordings of masters of their craft is essential! A lot of the folks I’ve met who crossed over from classical got into it through Martin Hayes, Liz Carroll, Kevin Burke, or Brian Conway, but these only scratch the surface. There are so many amazing players it’s hard to pick just a few to start with. You can sample brief snippets of albums in Irishtune.info to get a sense of which styles strike your fancy. Here’s a search results list for albums where a fiddler plays a primary role: https://www.irishtune.info/album-search.php?value=fiddle&form=instrument Then search out the musicians you enjoy on youtube and you’ll undoubtedly find some videos where you may be able to slow down their bowings and fingerings!

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Listen, listen and then listen a bit more. As noted above, you need to be able to hear the tune in your head, or lilt it if you want to move across.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Lots of fiddle playing videos here - https://comhaltas.ie/music/tag/Fiddle

Here’s a few of many fiddle players can be found on You tube (in no particular order) - Tara Breen, Zoe Conway, MacDarra Ó Raghallaigh, Liz Carroll, Bríd Harper, Yvonne Casey, Martin Hayes

Videos can be down loaded and played back using software which will slow them down.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Here’s a cautionary note that was written by me for people like me - that is, people who started with classical music and who approach trad music with less of an open mind and less humility than you seem to have (good for you).

http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/meditation.html#classical

As for terminology and what you need to know, lessons might be useful, but you definitely need to be around people (in meatspace, not cyberspace) who know their stuff. I would suggest a summer school - your timing is perfect.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

> be around people (in meatspace, not cyberspace) who know their stuff

I’d agree with this, and moreover, I’d suggest looking for people who have a particular insight into the differences between the styles. A big problem for classical players is that traditional musicians place significance on sounds that classical players do not hear, or rather do not place significance on. So no matter how much you listen, you’ll never hear some of the details. Someone who can get into those gaps and show you them is invaluable.

Posted by .

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

I ‘m personally crap on fiddle but to listen to I love the Donegal style - Ciaran Tourish and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh from Altan, her [nephew?] Ciaran O’ Mhaonaigh, [and check out the family band, the Na Mooneys] the late Tommy Peoples and his daughter Siobhan, or going further back the great Johnny Doherty - magical stuff, loads on Youtube.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

You don’t mention where you are located (which is fine), but if you put your location into your profile on this site, it can help hook you up with other people in your area that are interested in Irish traditional music, and help you find sessions, etc.

As far as tunes to get you started, there are a lot of tunes that are considered “standards” in this music, and pretty much everyone knows them. You should be forewarned, though, that the “standard” tunes don’t actually get played much in most sessions. Partially because they’re beat to death, and partially because they’re often played by beginners, and so many of the times they get played, they’re not played particularly well. Having said that, when you’re playing in a session and finding very few tunes in common with the other players, you start to drift toward the standards…

One place to start for these tunes is looking through the list of the most popular tunes added to people’s tunebooks on this site: https://thesession.org/tunes/popular

Another great place to start is with Dow’s List. Dow is a longtime member of this site, although not too active anymore, and he’s a great English concertina player. You can find his list here: http://www.cheakamus.com/Ceilidh/Downloads/Dows_List.pdf which includes standard notation for the tunes as well.

One other thing that I should point out -- Irish trad is quite a bit more loose with the melodies than you will find in classical. Being primarily an aural tradition (passed on by ear) means that it is hard to pin down any particular “definitive” setting of a tune. People play the same tunes in completely different ways. That is something that I found frustrating when I was first starting, but it’s really something to be explored and enjoyed. So I recommend that you find a setting of a tune that you can consider your base setting - the bones of the tune. But don’t get too locked into that being *the* way to play the tune.

There is much discussion (and argument) on these forums about sheet music vs. ear learning, and has already been mentioned, both are very useful tools to possess. But the one thing that pretty much everyone is in agreement about, even in the midst of the most heated discussions, is that you can’t learn to play this music well only from the sheet music. The dots don’t include any of the nuances that actually make the tune sound Irish. So as you’re looking at the sheet music for the tunes in the lists above, I highly recommend that you find some real sources of the tunes being played well, and listen as you’re reading the notes, instead of trying to pick up the tune entirely from sheet music -- at least until you’re well versed in the Irish style, and can fill in the nuances yourself… YouTube can be a great resource these days, but maybe a bit difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff when you don’t really know what’s good and what’s not. There’s also a lot of garbage on YouTube. So as you’re exploring tunes, you can always look them up on this website, and see if anyone has posted links to good versions. And when in doubt, you can always ask in the forums!

And finally, while reading sheet music may seem like an easier path into the music, I tend to think that you get more of a jumpstart in the process if you work on learning by ear first. If you’re not comfortable with that idea, just search the forums for “learning by ear” and you’ll find lots of advice on how to get into it. The reason that learning by ear can jumpstart your playing is that you’re learning all those nuances as part of the process. Learning this way may be slower at the start, but can take you further and faster in the years to come, compared to being completely tied to sheet music.

Welcome to the addiction that all of us are afflicted by! Playing Irish music is generally the most rewarding thing in my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

I have followed the path from classical to Irish on the violin-fiddle as well. It’s a lot of fun. The only thing I would add to what’s been said above is a recommendation to, even if you are learning tunes by sheet music, wean yourself from it as soon as possible, for each individual tune. And find yourself a session as soon as you’ve learned ten or twenty tunes (by heart. The word “learn” in this community invariably implies that you don’t need the music in front of you.)

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Some good names to listen to have already been mentioned but there are some excellent young fiddle players about as well who are moving the tradition on. The Scottish fiddler Ryan Young being well worth seeking out.

www.ryanyoung.scot

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

To Reverend’s point, after looking at the top 100 tunes list: member tune lists as a proxy for popularity

It’s a pretty good summary of popular tunes in my area. Some tunes like Tam Lin or Found Harmonium are specifically rather than generally popular, or maybe just popular to certain instruments like fiddles.

I’d say 80 of those tunes are played frequently or regularly at one or another of the sessions I’ve been to in Colorado.

At some sessions (for example at Reverend’s two sessions) maybe only a dozen of the top 100 are played with any regularity, although I am positive that most of the musicians would know 80 or more of those tunes .

If I were producing a “most popular” list relevant to the dozen or so sessions in my area, the top 100 would be a good starting point. It includes a couple dozen tunes that I hear multiple times per week. Out of TheSession top 100 but super popular right now would be Miss Monaghan and Rolling Wave. In the top 100 but rarely played are some tunes with that oldy-moldy reputation, e.g. Butterfly, Off to California.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

I took a slightly different path. I played classical violin for 8 years in childhood (and was absolute crap), then dropped it in high school to focus on playing trumpet and piano. But I started to listen to trad music after a while, which I hadn’t really heard before - first klezmer, then cajun, then Irish. My first serious exposure to Irish fiddle was through some of the earliest-recorded players like Michael Coleman, Paddy Killoran, and James Morrison. They played in a “Sligo style” and recorded in New York after having emigrated. Then I got into Johnny Doherty, who’s already been mentioned, and then Pádraig O’Keefe, Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford, all from the Sliabh Luachra (Cork-Kerry) style. Then I discovered the late Bobby Casey, who is still probably my favorite fiddler, and then Seán Ryan, etc. But my point is, I must have spent about a year or 2 mostly listening before I started to play seriously. Admittedly, part of that is because I hadn’t played violin in a while. But I really think that helped me to understand the ornamentation and bowing patterns I was listening to by trying to figure them out in my head first. So by the time I was starting to play, though not right away, I had more of an idea of the range of possibilities for playing Irish music and conforming in some way to what I’d been hearing.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Coming to traditional music from classical music is a lot like learning a new language as an adult. If you start learning French when you are 30 after speaking only English the you simply have to accept that you will always have an “English” accent. This will be true of playing fiddle also. So the question is how do you take advantage of that and create music that benefits from your experience, respects the traditional origin of the music and is fun and exciting to play and listen to. Lessons are fine (and probably important) but just like a language the best thing to do is move to France and learn the language from native speakers. Well OK you probably can’t move to Ireland (or possibly you can) but you can find sessions where great music is played. Bring a recording device, listen carefully and go home and learn the tunes by ear after playing them in you car as you drive around for a week or two. Get the melodies in your head so you can sing them to yourself whenever you want. As has been mentioned sheet music can be helpful but just remember that the heart and soul of the music is not on the sheet music. The ornaments, phrasing and lilt of the music you can only get from native “speakers”. Finally people like Kevin Burke give lessons via Skype. I did this for awhile and it was very helpful (he had classical trading as a kid by the way). Have fun!
George
Ps. Speaking of Kevin you might find this recording of Irish tunes with a sting quartet interesting: https://youtu.be/YW9NrVEKbq0

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

Not being a fiddler but a classically trained guitarist and a few other odd renaissance and early baroque instruments, I say you’re certainly expressing the right attitude. Realizing there’s an entirely different way to play traditional music, and setting aside any preconceived notions is a huge step. Relearning how to hear and feel the music comes with immersion into it for us latecomers. My journey started 40 years ago, and still I don’t feel totally adept at divorcing the training seperate from the feeling, but it’s better. Listen, ask questions and find a venue where there’s a session going on to listen and watch what’s going on. Online resources are available now that weren’t years back, so take advantage of those. Good luck and welcome aboard.

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

I met a traditional player to learn. I can play Praeludium and Allegro, but a complete beginner on the folk tunes. It’s ok! Don’t rush when you’re practicing, slow down, listen, and remember it is dancing music. Play this for the joy of others who know nothing about music. Make them want to dance. Unlearn everything we have learned and have fun. I am still working on it!

Re: Classical violinist looking to get into fiddle music

I’ve been attending an American old-time jam for over a decade and even after all this time I’m still hearing new things I never heard at first, even with the old “war horse” tunes that are beaten to death. I’m American and yet there’s so much to learn about my own music. When it comes to Irish music, I’m happy to just suck at it forever, but to always just keep trying to hear, trying to do. In any case, throw out most of what you know from classical music. It’s a lot different to play folk music. Folk music isn’t as much about the notes as it’s about the groove or the lift or the drive or whatever you want to call it. And then there are all the little “tricks”, the ornaments and the bent notes and the notes that are half-way in between, and the double-stops and the crunchy sounding things and all the other stuff that makes it alive.