Putting swing into your fiddle

Putting swing into your fiddle

I’ve been playing for 4 years and would consider myself fairly decent. I haven’t had a teacher in ages but while watching the following video it dawned on me that my fiddle playing doesn’t have nearly as much swing as I enjoy hearing. Take a look

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-q_LvnI0yE


I know about slurring onto the downbeat which I try to do where appropriate and stuff, but my fiddle playing feels more "choppy", a la Scottish/Donegal style (despite being from Clare), with lots of triples and drones and double stops, maybe that’s been because I find it easier to play that, especially at pace, than huge continuous slurs and loads of rolls and cuts. But honestly, I prefer and love listening to fiddle music with tons of swing like Sliabh Luchra style and certain Clare/Galway styles.

What is the secret to it? I know trad is all about leaving your imprint on the playing style, but honestly, I wish my version of the Foxhunters sounded like this.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Here’s my take, though not everybody would agree with me. Play your reels as if they were hornpipes. When you speed them up they will have the lift you’re talking about. Don’t push too hard to speed them up but let them speed up naturally. If you have a slow-downer you can hear the lift in the playing of the musicians you admire, from Sliabh Luchra and the wesht.
I lived in Clare for about twenty years all told and loved the local sessions and playing with the old guys.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

//What is the secret to it? //

Lots of them!

If you just home in on that one video for the moment, you can see what’s helping to give the "swing."

You can grasp it better if you slow the speed to 75%. The accents are mainly on the down-bow (but not always).
Look at the long down-bows, usually the main accented note being played (1st note of the bar). The shorter up-bows are handling the rest of the notes in the bar, and it’s this long-short that’s putting the "swing" into it.

It’s quite subtle too - the long-bow accent is moving from being the 1st note of the bar, to the 3rd note of the bar. The pattern changes from part to part as well.

The triplets are all usually done in a single bow - contrast that with someone like Frankie Gavin, whose triplets are usually all bowed D-U-D (separate bow directions, and a totally different sound).

If you read music, I’d suggest you get a copy of the Foxhunters, and pencil-mark all the notes where there’s a long down-bow, and also the notes where there’s a long up-bow. Play it through with these markings, and hopefully you’ll get a feel of how different the bowing is to what you usually do.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

The swing isn’t in her bow arm, it’s in her foot. Two beats in a bar. Really lean on those beat notes, and only go for the fancy long slurs and ornaments if/when you can do it without interfering with that pulse.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Mark, is she bowing with her left foot, or her right foot?

Sorry, but you asked for that :)

I do get what you’re saying.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Yeah Mark… you totally asked for that. lol

Although Jim…I am seeing a lot more swing coming from that right leg/foot that the left one. :D

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

I’m in a similar boat. I can pick up the tunes very quickly and play in time but what sets me apart from being good is the lack of swing, however I’ve learned heaps reading and asking this very questions and happy to share.

Slurring
I think this really helps create some of the swing. There are many ways to add slurs into playing and I’ve had lessons/workshops with some great players (the best) and some of them have completely unique styles but I have settled on what Gerry O’Connor told me in a workshop which is basically:

- Reels/Hornpipes, slur into 1st and 3rd beats in bad
- Jigs, slur into 1st beat in bar

The way I put this into playing is not to dissect the tune (I don’t read music) but to practice exercises which then automatically come into your playing. I did a quick video for a friend where I’ve tried to explain it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxvHSmyWh7o


Not all Notes are Equal
The best way I can explain this is jigs where the first note is the longest, the second the shortest and the third somewhere in-between. I’m still trying to work out how this creates rhythm, but I think it’s got something to do with dancing.

Foot Tapping
As mentioned above by someone else this is great for helping you emphasise beats. For reels this is this the first and third beat. When I slur (first point above) I slur into my foot tap. This is a nice easy way to remember when to slur. I originally found it difficult to not tap on every single beat so I listened to tunes over and over and tapped on 1st and 3rd until it became natural.

Listening
Listen to players with great swing and it will naturally come into your playing, especially when at a slowish speed. I used amazing slow downer and play along with great players too. Right now I like the Queally sisters who have great swing.

Relax
The obvious one….

Play with Others
Slow sessions…I can’t get enough of them, let’s you think about all these things.

Links
Here’s some stuff that springs to mind which may help:
- Search for Katie Henderson’s video on YouTube about slurring
- Irish bowing technique by Kevin Burke on YouTube (he has a unique slurring pattern)
- http://www.fiddle.com/_mndata/fiddle/uploaded_files/Spr.%2006%20-%20CaoimhinOR.pdf
- There are four books specifically about bowing, can’t find the link but I’ll update when I do

Good Luck…swing is really everything for me personally in this style of music…

Cheers

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Jigs can be looked at in. 2 ways :the first three are the question, the second are the answer . And secondly as if the first note of three is the question and second 2 the answer .
I dont see it as a technical issue , get the basic rhythm right to start off , its more about phrasing.
A phrase is irrespective of bar lines , though it can also respect these artificial lines on the map, find the musical sense in a tune . So some jigs sre clearly 12/8 not 6/8 because the phrasing says so.
Swing is just the way we speak/ play , so if you relate it to accents , the difference between a scouse accent and a scots accent etc . Then also language , so the difference between languages can be picked up in the way the speaker puts sounds together some are staccato some flow , some have many gaps , some few .
Just a few thoughts

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Good video there, Fidele Barnia! It explains the concept of swing very well.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

I do not play fiddle, but watched that vid. What a ripper!! So clear and easy to understand.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

I believe that 1 and 3 slur is what some Americans call the Georgia Bow. However, it is not an American invention.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Fidele Barnia - did you perhaps mean the "Georgia Shuffle" ?

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

You said:
"with lots of triples and drones and double stops,"

I say:

Relax. And simplify. Before you get into the ornaments, try playing very simply. Pay the tune slowly, and strive for a lilt in your rhythm. That comes from the bow, whether it’s upbows, downbows, slurs or not. Relax, and listen for the heart of the tune, in its simplest form. Then, and only then, think about ornaments.

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Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Another thing the lady in the foxhunters video is doing is that on the downbeats she’s hitting the E string along with whatever other note in the melody. You can hear what I mean starting around 0:43.

I wish I could bow as well as all these people. It’s very inspiring.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

"Relax, and listen for the heart of the tune, in its simplest form. Then, and only then, think about ornaments."

Interesting thread this, despite the obvious, I’m not a fiddle player. While I recognise there are technical considerations here regarding ornaments and bowing techniques etc. I do believe that Ergo has nailed it with the above comment, quoted. If you try and play any tune with a mechanistic approach to ornamentation, swing or whatever you want to call it, you’ll end up with something that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s not about formulas, it’s about rhythm and melody. Get to the essence of the tune by learning it well and by mastering the technique to play it to the best of your ability. Once you have done that and you are occupying the space of that tune as a musician rather than as some kind of repeating and scratched recording, then you will find the nuances and moments in the music that will suggest the ornamentation. Musical performance is about expression and all the best players will find slightly different takes, naturally, on a piece according to how they feel it and want to express it. Sure copy and learn from recordings and those who inspire, develop technique and look for patterns. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these exist as rules though.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

> If you try and play any tune with a mechanistic approach to ornamentation, swing or whatever you want to call it, you’ll end up with something that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s not about formulas, it’s about rhythm and melody. Get to the essence of the tune by learning it well and by mastering the technique to play it to the best of your ability. Once you have done that and you are occupying the space of that tune as a musician rather than as some kind of repeating and scratched recording, then you will find the nuances and moments in the music that will suggest the ornamentation.

Steve, while you are correct, I think a lot of topics like this are people trying to learn the skills needed to express the music with justice. Mastering the techniques.

I’m a poor fiddler. I didn’t learn as a child. I don’t really know how to do it properly. I try to play what I play in the manner you describe, that is to say, simply and plainly with more emphasis on the essence of the tune and not so much on the ornaments. But darn it, I would like to know what the heck people do technically.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

I’ve followed this thread as I do all others, but I see a pattern here that is a little different.
sbhikes has made an inquiry that has been technically covered by many in responses to the o.p.

I might be on the wrong track here, but from my point of view, the main issue that has not been adequately covered, is the point that; one has to be able to *feel* the swing/rhythm before it can be played.

>Steve T - is all over it pretty well, I reckon.

Pick up all the technical stuff you like, but the *feel* is something that comes from deep within - I believe.
I’ve known a lot of musos in my time, and many just play without feeling - and it shows.
Technicality means nothing without the feeling.
How do you get it? I don’t know. Listening and playing with others?
Just keep working at it I guess, but you sure can’t get it without intimate knowledge of the music/tune.

Is this all reasonable?

As a young bloke I was constantly disappointed with what I couldn’t figure out about rhythm and improvisation and such, but over the years (40 odd) I became quite pleased with what I picked up and developed.
Being solo and no teacher/s or mentors didn’t help much, but I’m happy now. It take time!!

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

sbhikes I wasn’t having a dig mate just trying to point out something that has become obvious to me over the years. I was lucky to have had the background and training which allowed me to develop the insight and I am ever grateful. The most important thing I was ever taught though was just how important timing is. Nail that and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing ( well it does but the margins are suddenly much wider ). It takes time and I can’t help when it comes to fiddle technique. Perhaps though you are really looking for tips and instruction on fiddle ornamentation and techniques rather than some metric for approaching a jig?

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

A very interesting post. I’m particularly taken with Colum Hickey ‘s response and would like to thank him for that, for the short video also, and for the useful links.

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

Thanks for this!

Re: Putting swing into your fiddle

I certainly hope that getting the timing and the feeling is more important than the other stuff, because that’s pretty much where I try to start, and it’s likely that’ll be where I will be for a decade.