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Fiddlers: capturing the lilt


crystal

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This is what I'm working hard on right now. NO matter how well you can play the songs, know all the notes, etc, if you can't capture the lilt, it's not danceable. It's gotta make you want to tap your feet.

What have you found to help? I'm trying to get my feet involved by tapping, or "marching" slightly, when I'm standing, using both feet.

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If you're playing a march tune, then march! If I'm learning a new march, I march up and down my kitchen playing it, much to the disgust of the cat. You could try to find a decent Highland piper, get them to play a suitable tune and march to it(many do this on stage anyway when performing solo), and soak up the feel of what they do. Behind it all there are all kinds of funky rhythms on off beats, try to hit them in your tunes rather than the obvious 'beat' notes and see if you like the effect. Many good fiddle players and pipers play non metronomically, i.e. they lengthen and shorten notes from what it says on the page to put expression in the tune.

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Learning to dance, or move appropriately is certainly helpful. Having said that, I have two left feet as far as actual dancing goes, and I think listening to lots of solo fiddle music was the first step for me, and I mean listening to the point where friends and family start to worry about your obsession. Mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, in the car, in the bath, every chance you get. If like me you didn't grow up in the tradition, then you've a lot of catching up to do, and in my experience that means force feeding your ears and soaking it up.

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Hi Crystal, getting that lively lilt is certainly the golden egg for fiddlers. There is such a difference between playing the notes and playing the tune.

I agree with the posters that recommend learning the dance. Jay Unger stresses this on his "Hauting Airs" video

I like to think of my bow arm as a carefree dancer. let it go. and let it "swing"

Of course to do this I must pick a tune that not only do I know cold, but also one in which I can hear the lilt in my head.

right now I start with Reel de Baie St Paul, a french canadian tune I learned at dance camp this summer.

Susan Conger, Of "tunes along the River" taught it, and I think of her energy and sound as I play it.

Other tunes don't come so naturally for me to liven up, I can think Of Julia Delaney. However after I get the feel of a tune I relate to better, I can translate it to other tunes.

Good Luck

Bud

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I definitely agree with Simon's advice to listen to a lot of music, I think that as he said, it helps to really steep yourself in the style you want to learn, especially for those of us who didn't grow up with the music. When I find recordings of fiddlers with the style I'm after I try to analyze their music in detail and figure out what they're doing to get it; I go over and over the tune or particular bars if needed until it makes sense (or until I get frustrated and give up). I've found it helps to be able to see performances because then I can get a better idea of how they're making that sound, at least as far as bowing.

I also find that for me, playing a tune from printed music can be detrimental in getting the proper style. I have classical training and when I'm reading music I want to play it as written, even though I know better (the printed music totally misses the lilting rhythm, and ornaments are frequently played much differently than they are notated). I don't seem to have this problem when I've learned the tune by ear, even if I've learned it from an abc reader's midi output rather than a "real" fiddler.

One last thing that really helps me a lot is to tape myself playing; I hate doing it because I'm very critical of my own faults but nothing beats listening to myself on tape for quickly identifying the flaws in my playing. -Steve

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For me, Simon's advice to listen to tunes constantly, works the best and is also the most fun way to learn. I do the same for the classical pieces that I study, but not to as great an extent.

I believe that we must feel the music we play. It must sway our souls or stir our blood - depending on the piece. I need only to listen to a tune once or twice to know if the magic will happen. If I can feel it in my heart I can learn to play it. There might be technical flaws but I will be making music and it will sound pleasant in spite of the flaws.

If I can't feel it, I only play notes. I can practice the notes, shifting, and bowing of a particular song to perfection, but if I'm not emotionally involved with the piece, my results will not be music and even a child will quickly hear the fraud.

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Ernst:

Good advice to listen to tunes constantly. But in listening "need only to listen to a tune once or twice to know if the magic will happen," you might be overlooking some good tunes.

How many times I have listened years later to an overlooked tune and found one that I can adapt into a style of playing that makes that tune shine. You can take an unremarkable tune and place it into your style of lilt.

-dogma

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In reply to:

But in listening "need only to listen to a tune once or twice to know if the magic will happen," you might be overlooking some good tunes.


How true. I must learn not to be so hasty, especially when appraising music. The quick judgement probably comes from my rock & roll history.

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Good one! As a former classical player and current Irish fiddler (actually I've been a fiddler since the age of 13 - what is it about fiddle music? So much fun to play!!), I think about this all the time. To me, the lilt that you speak of is what comes from my right hand - what I'm doing with the fingers of my right hand (my grip), my wrist, fore arm, and shoulder. I'm dancing with my bow. But it's so much more than that. I breath differently when I play fiddle music, I tend to close my eyes and let my body move to the music as well. Dancing to the music in my mind!

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