Jim Dorans, Fiddleologist
I’m a Scot living in Southampton, England. I play fiddle (mainly) - a lovely KC Strings 5-string 5*STAR Pro. I play Irish trad, Scots, bluegrass, snazz and some classical pieces too.
I’m finding that many of the fiddle questions asked on this site do, at first glance, appear to be specifically related to Traditional Irish fiddle playing - some of them are, but the vast majority are to do with playing technique at a very basic / root level, often because these basics have been skipped in the early learning stages. These are the things that are pretty much a prerequisite for any style of playing.
Feel free to message me if you have any fiddle fingering or bowing questions / issues on any tunes - in any genre, up to advanced playing level.
I am a fiddle instructor, and have held workshops at the Fiddle Hell events in Groton, MA from 2007-2014.
I have done the same at the UK Fiddle Hells In Buxton and Birmingham too, from 2006 - present.
I also write my own tunes - see here for a sample :
http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/the-carnaptious-curmudgeon.jpg (Gill The Gob)
Some techniques I can help with :
Arpeggios - playing the notes within chords separately
Basic scales and simple finger mobility exercises
Bowing near the bridge for different tone
Bowing pattern of one note per bow
Bowing pattern of several notes in one bow
Chop bowing - percussive effect with the heel of the bow
Chord pizzicato - plucking two or more strings with the right hand first finger
Chords - punching out a full 3-note chord (using the bow, not your fist!)
Chords - two or more notes played together
Clustering (making best use of a "made" finger pattern, related to "economy of movement")
Comfortable and most efficient left hand postion and thumb placement
Correct and relaxed placement of the fingers on strings
Correct posture and a comfortable hold, with or without a shoulder rest (expect a punch-up around this one)!!
Double stops (fingering two stings together) and playing them evenly
Economy of movement : avoiding fatigue
Exercises in shifting / changing position
Exploring the half position
Full mechanics of vibrato shown both on and off the instrument
Harmonics - natural and stopped - getting that soft, glassy tone
Holding the bow for best balance and tone
The Imaginary String - aiming to get an even fingering and bowing on two strings, one finger
Ornamentation - "rolls" around a single note
Ornamentation - "triplets" - playing 3 notes in the space of 2
Ornamentation - decorating notes and phrases with "cuts" (replacing bow direction change)
Pattern-busting - getting out of a musical rut
Playing in 2nd, 3rd, 4th position to accommodate the higher notes
Producing a good clear, clean and crisp tone by correct finger pressure
Rhythm produced by different groupings of notes
Rhythmic chordal accompaniment - ‘vamping’ along with a melody
Rhythmic intro - combination of left-hand pizzicato and bouncing bow
Ricochet bowing - bow leaving the string after each note, single bow direction
Showing accents on specific notes to give rhythm to the tunes
Showing clean string crossing with the bow
Shuffle bowing - rhythmic bowing on two or three strings
Signal-to-Noise Ratio - don’t tickle it, play it!
Simulating vibrato on an open string (on the nut)
Single note pizzicato - plucking a string with the right hand first finger
Smooth bow-to-string contact
Smooth shifting up and down from one position to another
Splash Harmonics - What’s them?
Staccato and ‘shunt’ bowing - detached notes, bow stays on the string
Trills (repeated hammer-ons) - four distinct types
Triple stops (fingering three stings together) and playing them evenly
Tuning the fiddle using a tuning fork
Two simple tunes with full breakdown and analysis
Various effects - a light-hearted selection of sound effects inc. train, birds, horn etc.
Vibrato (subtle repeated change of pitch) explained