Dear lord the squeaking…

Dear lord the squeaking…

When playing loud, and fast, and switching strings…

any tips on cutting down on the squeaking that results from switching strings? I have less trouble when playing quieter, and not full bow, or slower, but that’s not how the song goes.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Try using more pressure on the bow. Quite often squeaking is because you don’t "get hold of the string". Experiment with bow pressure, and of course, practice, practice, practice. 🙂

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

That somehow hadn’t occurred to me. I have been kind of backing off pressure-wise when changing strings though. Interesting…

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

LOL — "Ben" hits Irish traditional music! 😀

My best advice: play as slowly as you need to play in order not to squeak. Don’t try to go any faster than that for three or four times through the tune. Then get out your metronome or gauge what basically one tick’s worth would be faster than your base speed, and try playing it only that fast until you don’t squeak when changing strings or playing loud.

Do not speed up until you don’t squeak. Every time you can play through the tunes fully three or more times without squeaking (if you squeak on the second time through, start counting over again), THEN speed up, but only one tick.

If you keep doing that, you’ll soon be able to play as fast as you like and as loud as you like at any speed without squeaking, overall. It’ll seem like forever, but in real life, it takes much less time than you’d think.

Just remember that playing for 5 years or so isn’t really considered that long to be playing. Heh.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

No, it really isn’t. I recently joined a string ensemble through the university (violin instead of fiddle, unfortunately, but playing is playing) and though we just started playing together the 10th of January we’re playing for a crowd on Sunday, so I’ve had to kick the practice into high gear.

The fiddle to violin conversion isn’t going too badly. I may not be able to do vibrato, but they’re all quite jealous of my double stop skills.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

A lot of the time, squeaking and weak tone (I’m talking about my experiences here, other people might have different opinions, of course) is because you "lose" the bows "grip" on the string. Getting control over bow pressure isn’t easy, but I think it’s essential if you want to get a good tone. I practice it a lot (or, I should be practicing it a lot).

(I haven’t been playing for very long, so don’t take me as an authority on this…)

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

I welcome all the help I can get

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Going off on tangent… what about bad intonation?

It sounds nice to me when I play, fact it sounds pretty darn good, but I recently recorded myself on the computer and I have rather bad intonation… O_O Tis rather disturbing…

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

good intonation (if you have a good ear) will come over time, the fiddling sounds a lot different under your chin, when you first start playing it, to what all those other folk sound like. too much pressure often is the cause of the squeaking, try speeding the bow up, it’ll improve the squeaking and the tone. ie, use more bow for each note

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

oh another thing is the angle of the bow, if its not perpendicular to the strings you will squeak. (try standing in front of a mirror, and looking to see that it is perpendicular (bow from point to heel) and get to know what it feels like (arm and hand position))

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

oh and cheap E strings will just squeak anyway, you may have to invest in a slightly better one.

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Or you may just need to squirt a little WD40 on it. Stops squeaks right fast.

"I may not be able to do vibrato, but they’re all quite jealous of my double stop skills."

The very first tune I ever learned to play on fiddle was Golden Slippers, old timey style with lots of double stops. I’d been playing only a couple of weeks when a violinist friend asked to hear how I was coming along.

Her chin nearly hit the ground. She thought I was some sort of fiddle God or something, because you don’t learn to play double stops for years.

Then someone had to go and spoil it all by explaining to her that was just the way that sort of music was played.

KFG

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

An occasional cause of squeaking (usually with the E-string) is, if a finger is holding a note on the A-string when you move the bow onto the E-string, AND that finger is very slightly touching the E-string at the time, then the E-string will squeak or even shriek with a high harmonic. It can happen with inaccurate placing of the finger on the A-string, or if you have thick fingers, in which case you have to be that little bit more careful. But practice makes perfect, as they say. The upside of having thick fingers is that they are ideal for double-stopping fifths across two strings.
In my experience, Irish trad fiddlers seem to be better at getting a good tone on the open E than many classical violinists. The classicals often get shouted at for using open E’s so they understandably get nervous about it - but also acquire a pretty good technique with the pinky 🙂. The fiddler of course gets the practice in using the open strings all the time, in true baroque fashion.
Trevor

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Make your change to the new string trace a curve (arc) so the approach to the new string as gradual as you can. Slow down your practice a bit to get used to the curved path, get a bit faster and remember to think about it at the moment before the change of string. Make sure the bow is parallel to the bridge, use a mirror to check it.

Happy practising!

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

back to squeaking,
one tip is to watch where you bow. some fiddles like to squeak alot on certain fingerings if your bow is on the wrong place. try moving it closer to or farther away from the bridge and see if that cuts down on it.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Oy KFG!

(OT) (slightly)

You play a bit of Old-Time?

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

I still have this problem. During my last lesson that was my instructor’s main complaint (besides my timing being off, inconsistent intonation, skipping notes, etc.). As others have suggested, one possible correction is to apply slightly more pressure to the bow.

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

The thing with bow pressure is that whether you lean on the bow or not should depend on where on the bow you’re in contact with the string. Down by the frog, for instance, you actually need to take some weight *off* the bow to keep it running smoothly and to produce good tone. Up by the tip, you will want to lean on the bow a bit to get the same results. In the middle of the bow (around it’s balance point), you can let the weight of the stick do the work for you.

So how do you get consistent, round tone near the mid point? Not by "adding pressure" but by learning to feel the string’s vibration through the stick. This is a fairly fine, nuanced thing to feel, and some bows transmit those vibrations better than others. But if you slow way down, put the full face of the hair on the string, and (letting the weight of the bow do all the work), and slowly go from a stand still to just enough movement to make the string start to vibrate, you can learn to feel the "hum" in the stick. (Or if you already know how to get a nice full tone, just do that, but now pay attention to how the stick hums against your fingers). I notice that the E string vibes feel weaker than the other strings, presumably because there’s "less string" rubbing against the hair, but maybe also because the higher frequency pitch resonates less in the stick (or the stick and our fingers are less receptive to those fequencies).

Anyway, when you can feel the vibrations, and can produce them when you want to, you’re well on your way to a rounder, more consisten tone, free of squeaks.

But always bear in mind that even the best players get a squeak now and then—nobody’s perfect, and there are just too many variables. Besides, our aim as musicians, I think, should be expression, not perfection.

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Actually, pressure shouldn’t change much at all between strings or louder or softer — it should stay pretty consistent overall. You get louder by playing closer to the bridge, and softer by playing closer to the fingerboard.

You play faster by either shortening the bow stroke length or by moving the bow faster, depending on the effect you want. (The former is probably better technique than the latter, which can sound hurried, the antithesis of ideal Irish style, if such a thing exists.)

Again, I know it’s more work and takes longer, but shortcuts that compromise technique will come back to bite you later - find the way you play without squeaking (since you can do that while playing slowly) and work at speeding that up without any effort.

And try a couple of searches in the discussions archives. We’ve a lot of good advice on this subject in there (a lot of it from Will).

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

LOL — cross posted.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Well, if only my words were better reflected in my own playing….

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

"You play a bit of Old-Time?"

Bit around the edges, on guitar, mountain dulcimer and fretless banjo too, when I have them (at the moment my older dulcimer and banjo, both of my own construction, have been passed on to be wall hangings. I haven’t had a chance lately to construct their replacements and there would just be something wrong in it for me to buy one)

You cain’t hardly help it around here, what with it’s being the native music of the area and people like Peter Davis, George Wilson, Bill Spence, George Ward and Jay Unger being staples of the local scene. There are those who say that this is the epicenter of the modern rivival of Contra Dancing as well, and where it all began in the first place, being the disputed border zone between the colonial French and English (The French burned my Dutch/English city to the ground once upon a time. That’s why the oldest house in my neighbohood dates back to "only" 1690ish).

This is where the Appalachian style meets up with Quebecois and fuses into the eclectic, and rather overlooked, Adirondack style (It’s kinda like the Donegal of colonial America). Been getting a bit of Cajun influence lately too, as the some of the Good Ol’ Boys head north to visit their Quebecois roots.

And I suppose growing up listening to recordings of people like Frank Proffitt and Roscoe Holcomb didn’t help. And the Carter Family of course, who took old timey and crafted the beginnings of "country" (formerly known as "hillbilly") out of it.

If I ever get around to recording that first solo album it’s likely to be about half American Folk with an old timey influence and half American folk with a Mississipi John Hurt influence…and half Irish/Scottish a cappella songs. As I posted the other day at a recent gig a fellow came up to me afterwards and said, " I didn’t know there was anyone who even played like that anymore."

Guess he doesn’t listen to much Michael Cooney or Bruce Phillips.

All recorded in that "old fashioned" just playing into a mic on the kitchen table style, even though I’ll most probably do it in a real studio. I don’t expect it to be a big, commercial success. You either can’t stand that stuff (the vast majority), or you go all rapturous over it (the wingnut fringe, like me. If your local library has copies of the Folkways Bergerfolk albums give them a listen. If you like that you’re like me. If you don’t, you’re with the majority). If figure that over the years I’ll be able to sell a couple hundred of them, and that half of them will come back with a note attached reading, "What the hell is this sh*t?"

I actually dug some of my recording gear out of storage the other day with the intent of laying down some sample tracks to rough out ideas for an album. The end result is now having a tape jammed in both my multi-track deck *and* my mixdown deck.

I think God is trying to tell me I’m really just a back porch/street corner musician at heart and that I should just get out and play instead of messing around with all this new fangled recorded music nonsense… either that or he’s trying to tell me it’s finally time to make the jump to being completely computer based.

Ok, the squeaky thing:

"I have less trouble when playing quieter, and not full bow, or slower…I have been kind of backing off pressure-wise when changing strings though."

So what’s the difference between the ways you have trouble with squeak and those you don’t? The attack, and as mentioned above the way you vary bow pressure during the stroke.

So, set your metronome to 60. This is to *avoid* rhythm work (the metronome is the most valuable, and most misunderstood and abused tool at the musicians disposal). What we’re doing is forcing a tempo that’s at the border of still being able to play at tempo, but allows you enough time to cast your attention on technique instead of just pounding the notes out. Now play *just a phrase you’re having trouble with* (and start playing the phrase a few notes before it actually begins, and continue a few notes after. This will keep you able to play the phrase in the flow of the piece when you integrate it back in) in the manner that you *don’t* have a problem with squeaking and pay very close attention to what you’re doing and how it *feels* when you do it. The violin, perhaps more than any other instrument, is all about feel (it’s a very moody and high maintanence mistress). You’re fingers are telling you things if you learn how to "listen" to them. They feel the bow pressure, they feel the actuall vibration of the strings, they feel all sorts of things that you should pay attention to. Gradually increase your volume and stroke length in very small increments while trying to keep that same feel until you’re playing at the volume you want with the stroke length you want, without squeaking. Now do the same with tempo, bringing it up just just one click at a time (three or four bpm) and only moving on to the next click when you’re satisfied with your sound.

A rather monotonous process, but that’s what practice is. Endless, repetitive monotony of the stuff you don’t know how to play.

And I’ll bet it works.

If you’re having trouble with 3 seconds of a 30 second tune and you "practice" by playing the tune over and over again you’re just wasting a lot of time and getting very little practice out of the deal. Play just that few seconds over and over until you have it right, then integrate it into the tune. You can increase the speed at which you improve by a factor of 10 that way.

And have much more time left to just enjoy playing the tune, and playing it right.

KFG

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Will, you really should finish writing that book of yours. I love your advices! 🙂

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

"Well, if only my words were better reflected in my own playing…."

Oh, yeah, well, don’t feel too bad. There’s a lot of that going around. I found myself introducing a fiddle tune at an open mic the other day by saying, "Well, I’m really doing this because I decided I ought to *take* the advice I give my own students, I was beginning feel a bit of a hypocrite at times…"

On the album "Pete Seeger: Live at the Bitter End" you’ll find him saying, "I never really learned to play it right, so I took the advice I put in my own banjo book and I …practiced."

KFG

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

One thing I’ve found that can cause those annoying squeaks is rosin build up on the strings.

Ken

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Will and Kevin, also guilty as charged as far as following my own advice is concerned. ( Actually, I usually just take *your* advice and pass it on, knowing intuitively that it is inspired, but not having had the time to try it myself!)

I especially appreciated the point you both made about feeling the vibrations of the bow. After about 6 years with that damn fiddle I’m only now beginning to have anything approaching a nice tone, and it’s still really fickle. I’ve really been paying attention to everything that’s happening when I’m getting nice tone that I don’t *usually* do, especially what I’m feeling, (physically and emotionally), at the time, and it seems like those vibrations are the key to everything.

If other people are there, they need to be good friends, otherwise my fear of screwing up makes me too tense to feel them.

All my muscles need to be loose, from my forehead to my toes, especially in my wrists, elbows and fingers.

My grip on the fingerboard needs to be light.

If I’m on my own, my room-mates have to be out of the house and I have to be in love. (with the music in general, the fiddle, and the journey itself, that is.) In any other mood, I get impatient and frustrated with myself, and I know I need to do something to get into a more Jedi frame of mind before I practice. Like yoga or something, or a nice quiet walk in the park.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

That’s part of what keeps me from being much much better at this stuff, Ker. I let my mood get in the way of playing far too often. (Oh yeah, and that practising thing, the lack of that doesn’t help.) I’ve watched some really great players fairly closely over the years, and all of them are capable of completely separating their emotional state from their playing, even if their emotional state may dictate the style of the day or the tunes they play or the tempo they set.

*sigh* The further you get on, the further there is to go. Ain’t fair, I tell you.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

I want to echo something that Will says above. Nothing that I have done has helped my bowing more than playing an open note on each string as slowly as I possibly can. You might ask what this is going to do for your squeaking at speed, but it is all about control. It focuses the energies and ingrains the movement. And you should spend the time with this, and strive for beauty in the slow note that you are playing. Make it the cleanest possible GDAE that you can get out of your fiddle. Stand in front of the mirror and make sure your bow is steady and does not stray too close to the bridge or too close to the fingerboard. Make it all beautiful. The movement and the music.

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

OK, jode. (And Zina.) I’ll get on it right this very instant. Is it OK if it’s just a *teeeeennnsy* bit of a melody though? A really simple one? Or does it have to be just "wonk, wonk, wonk" open string after open string?

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Darn. I thought I was a packet of mushroom flavoured oriental noodles.

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Good Lord, it seems I’m an auto racing simulation.

KFG

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Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

Well, *I* don’t think so, Ker, so long as you’re not playing any faster than you don’t squeak. As soon as you squeak, slow down, basically. Although I think thtere’s a lot to trying to play the most lovely open A or D or whatever, because I really think it all helps. All things in moderation, including moderation.

Cripes, what a really sh*tty day it’s been — I think I’m going to go put the tape of Oisin playing tunes for me to learn and play.

P.S. I once opened a packet of noodles and discovered that there was no foil packet of MSG and aritifical flavoring. As a bit of a joke (okay, so I was bored), I wrote the company asking why there was no packet, as essentially what I then ended up with was a brick of fried styrofoam.

They wrote me back an equally tongue in cheek reply and included a coupon for 10 free bricks of fried styrofoam.

I laughed, but I suppose it could have been worse — they could have just sent me a foil packet of MSG and fake flavors…

Re: Dear lord the squeaking…

"…a brick of fried styrofoam."

I thought that’s what rice cakes were.

"They wrote me back an equally tongue in cheek reply and included a coupon for 10 free bricks of fried styrofoam."

If I could eat their noodles and MSG that’s a company I’d be happy doing business with.

KFG

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