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Which is harder, classical violin or fiddle music?


sinebar
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Neither one is really any easier than the other. Classical has fancy bowings and positions while fiddle music has nuances that go with whatever style you are playing. The fact that fiddle rarely leaves first position belies the intricasies of the music and the embellishments as well as the flexibility needed to improvise on a melody or a chord structure. They both have their joys and tortures, but I enjoy playing both.

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I am not quite sure who said this, but I swear I read it somewhere, maybe even on this forum, Classical music is mostly played using the left hand whereas fiddle music is played mostly with the right. That is to say, classical is all about fingering, and fiddling is all about the bowing. Of course this is WAY oversimplifying the differences between the two styles, but you get the idea. I have only played fiddle tunes, so I cannot say which is harder.

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I am a fiddler who believes that much fiddle music requires a great deal of skill and technical prowess. However, having taken classical lessons for the last three years, I can say that classical violin makes many more demands on me than fiddling. I do find it a curiosity that many classically trained violinists cannot play fiddle music (whatever the genre), blues, or jazz violin convincingly. This is due not to a lack of technique but perhaps to a lack of time to immerse themselves in another tradition.

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For me fiddle music is much harder, I can not play it, its style. I will never forget the first time I played the solo in Copland's How Down from Rodeo. I was in Texas then and every body looked at me with a look ... who is this guy! It sounded like a cross between Bach and Paganini I have tried it but to no avail. I feel like a fish out of the water.

Pag

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Wynton Marsalis has always contended that Classical was harder than Jazz (but Jazz being more fun). The reasons being that Classical is more structured and refined in the finished product. Jazz (or fiddle, or blues or any type of folk or popular music) is more improvisational. This is certainly a skill in-of-itself, but is less open to objective critical opinion. Doing what you feel at the time is always easier that doing everything in a more precise pre-planned way (I realize that we are talking matter of degree here). For instance - you ever notice how you can hit that octave shift when your just messing around and feel like doing it than when Mendelsohn or Bartok call for it to occur. Also the musical qualities of folk music or jazz tend to be more easily grasped, and don't need as much analysis or practice to understand.

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You're not alone on this one Pag. I've been to Mark O'Connor's Fiddle Camp twice. Both times there were a larger percentage of classically trained violinists (myself included). Buddy Spicher** commented that classically trained violinists really have a rough time letting go of the sheet music (which you rarely see at Mark's camps), not playing every other note with vibrato and basically, just letting go and having fun with it. The comment that understanding genre and knowing how to make fiddle music sound like fiddle music is a definite reason as well. If you spend any time around fiddlers of any particular genre (old time, bluegrass, Celtic, Irish, Texas, swing, etc.), you'll find out in a hurry they have their own language and it's not one that a purely classically trained violinist will understand without a lot of work! Seems as though you found that out already!

**Check him out:

Buddy Spicher

The fabulous session fiddler and King of Western Swing with a resume that makes your head spin!

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In reply to:

I am not quite sure who said this, but I swear I read it somewhere, maybe even on this forum, Classical music is mostly played using the left hand whereas fiddle music is played mostly with the right. That is to say, classical is all about fingering, and fiddling is all about the bowing.


Whoever said that must have been smoking crack at the time. Classical music is all about bowing.

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I don't think "classical" or "fiddling" is harder or easier than the other. I have seen and heard "classical", as well as "fiddlers", who could probably "knock the socks off" each other.

All in all I don't think it's a matter of the music as much as it is the union of technical(fingering, bowing, tone, etc) and artistic skills required to play the violin (or fiddle) that make it challenging.

Heck, even what to call it gets dicey. Perlman, in media interviews, often refers to it as a fiddle. Mark O'Connor's web site starts with "Violinist/composer/fiddler Mark O'Connor..." Go Figure.

In essence -- Some play TOEmato, some play toMAAto.

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I've noticed this phenomena of classically trained musicians being unable to get a folk or jazz style, but I never understood it. How can someone come across something as in-your-face as jazz, country fiddle, celtic -etc, and not get it. Are some of us really that suppressed emotionally. Thankfully, this is one thing I've never had that problem with. But I have been in orchestras where the strings get some swing lick in a pops concert or a Bernstein piece and it just sounds so stiff. One of teh points of confusion is that the written rhythm in more folksy pieces is more of an approximation. In fact, that is what I love about this kind of music - it motivates itself along and that's why I find is so much easier, even though I play it the least. Nigel Kennedy says the same thing. He used to roll his eyes at Grapelli when he wanted to rehearse for a concert they were doing together, saying that it is supposed to be improvisational and rehearsing makes you loose that edge. and sense of spontenaity.

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..or to muddle things up, classical, fiddle, or jazz violin? I think that the improvisatory nature and syncopated rhythms of jazz violin necessitate a loose bow arm. There are some recordings of Grapelli doing duets with Menuhin (Cole Porter and Gershwin tunes). You can hear differences in tone (obvious) between the two, but just as obvious is the relaxed manner in which Grapelli plays compared to Menuhin; he really cooks and gets into a groove. Menuhin, great as he was, sounds a little stiff in these sessions. Of course I don't think if Grapelli (or many others) could play classically like Menuhin, though. To each his own, I guess.

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I always love this topic... but this time around the thread seems to have transcended the stand off of pride and arrogance ( and I am not refering to those of either genre).

I started out wanting to play fiddle tunes, and I still do, considering myself a "dance' musician. but I am starting classical lessons, because I find it fascinating, and there are certainly many things about classical training that serve a fiddler well. scales for instance. I find learning scales to vastly aid my ear playing, and improvisation.

Concerning style, I have observed most classical playing to be with what "seems" to me a stiff wrist, as opposed to the whipping wrist I find neccessary to get down on it with a reel or a jig.

Bud

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Whoever said that must have been smoking crack at the time. Classical music is all about bowing.


I said it was VERY oversimplified! I am not discounting the importance of the bow in either style, but bowing is of THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE in most fiddling styles, not that fingering is not important in fiddle music, because it is. I have found in most Old-timey tunes that I do not move my left hand (fingering) near as much as my right hand (bowing) To paraphrase Tommy Jarrell, "The bow is what plays the fiddle."

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I said it was VERY oversimplified! I am not discounting the importance of the bow in either style, but bowing is of THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE in most fiddling styles, not that fingering is not important in fiddle music, because it is.


...and I'll bet the best of classically trained violinists would say that bowing is of upmost importance, too. Not even debatable, really.

However, I'd also wager that the best of the best in both fields would find much to admire in each others' artistic achievements.

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WHAT PART OF OVERSIMPLIFIED IS IT THAT ESCAPES EVERONE!!

My goodness, I am just telling you all what I have read, I am not a classical violinist, so I have no experience to base this on. In my experience playing the bowing is most important to the styles I like to play. If I have offended anyone, please, forgive me! I was simply trying to OVERSIMPLIFY.

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I started out wanting to play fiddle tunes, and I still do,.......


That's prety much how I got here. But here's what happened- through word of mouth I found an accomplished fiddler who agreed to take me on as a student. I didn't that know she was also a classically trained musician. She insisted that my lessons would be classical. Her words "if you learn to play classical violin first, you will then be able to learn to play any style you want. She didn't mean that one was easier than the other; she said that she could better teach me correct form through classical studies, and that form would aid me in fiddlin.

I don't agree with the "fiddling is bowing and classical is fingering theory." I've seen good fiddlers and their finger work is simply amazing. As for the bow, I find that the old time player's words are true for all styles.

He said "it's all in de bowin son." How true!

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.."Ther' ain't no notes on a fiddle, ya jist play it....


I am coming over to that side slowly but surely. I find myself listening to tunes in a whole different way now. Instead of trying to track down sheet music for some obscure tune, that might not even exist, I am trying to learn by ear moreso now than ever before. I find it a much more relaxed way to learn a tune.

I still like to have the sheet music to go from, because it takes longer (for me) to learn a tune by ear, than from sheet. But I am learning how to REALLY listen to a tune.

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