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Fiddle techniques


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Hey!! I met you a few weeks ago at the session on Broadway, I came in and sat beside you at the back. You can get a Kevin Burke video at the library, I think there are two videos in the set. They have it at the main branch. They have other things by him and others as well. Watch out for Kevin Burke though, he bows everything backwards. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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Hey! How's it going? I haven't seen you at the session again, but I haven't been recently due to work. I'll look for those videos, but I don't get down to the main branch too often as I live in Richmond. Are you going to be at any of the sessions in the future? We have discovered the titles to a number of the songs they play and I have tracked down music to a lot of them. Makes it a little easier. I was watching the bowing of the three different fiddlers at the concert with Kevin Burke and I noticed that two of them were bowing the same way, but the one that was different was often the guy from Quebec. Let me know if you want the names of the tunes and I'll send you a list.

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Thanks Toc, I'll look for that name. I have recently found a trad session at a pub, but the trouble is that I work afternoons and the session only happens on Monday evenings. Sometimes I get to it, sometimes I don't, and I don't know most of the tunes they play, and it seems nobody has the music for them or, in many cases, even the titles.

If you CAN get the tune titles from the players, here are the best resources for getting sheet music for trad. tunes.

JC's Tune Finder: http://trillian.mit.edu/~jc/music/abc/findtune.html

And, TheSession.org


Posture is important in fiddling only to the extent that you aren't hurting yourself. I know plenty of fiddlers who play with a collapsed left wrist and they're still able to play cleanly and with great speed and feeling. Personally, I hold my fiddle in a fairly typical classical style (though I often 'choke up' on my bow and hold it higher up the stick than down by the frog).

There is, AFAIK, only one feature of classical training that can interfere with your progression as a fiddler; insistence on playing strictly "by the dots". Most classical players can pick up a piece of sheet music and play it exactly as it was intended to be played ... BUT, that isn't the case with fiddle music.

To REALLY learn a fiddle tune, you have to involve the ear. It's perfectly acceptible to learn tunes from sheet music, provided you eventually put the music away and play by heart and by ear. Nothing sucks the life out of trad music that slavishly following the written notes; you lose all of the lilt, swing, or *feel*.

Listening, listening, listening is the easiest and best way to begin recognizing the vast number of trad. tunes that are out there (it's more than 30,000 on the 'Net ... probably more in the tradition that never get transcribed and more are added all the time). There are numerous internet celtic radio programs and a number of programs on the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/folk_promo.shtml which can help.

Try learning a tune you like completely by ear ... try asking one of the fiddlers you admire at your session to slowly show you how it goes. Try offering to buy them a pint.

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Thanks for the links, good sites! You are right about playing by ear, it's something I used to do a lot more of,and it is holding me back learning the tunes. I can sight read fairly well, but I have not concentrated hard enough on learning the tunes to the point where I can play them without the music. It's something that's come from too much playing alone, I play a tune once or twice then just move on to the next one. There are sooo many tunes out there, but you can often only find the more popular ones on CD. I've recently tried inputting some tunes into my music software, then setting the playback speed to about half what I think it should be then trying to play along, but as you say, it still doesn't capture the essence of a tune. I'm going to have to find someone I can take an occasional lesson from to help me with the bowing as well. It's quite different from classical music, and I've found that even if I do find the music for a tune it doesn't indicate the bowing patterns.

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You are right about playing by ear, it's something I used to do a lot more of,and it is holding me back learning the tunes. I can sight read fairly well, but I have not concentrated hard enough on learning the tunes to the point where I can play them without the music.

Here's another site that good for playing along with: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/r2music/folk/sessions/ It includes good renditions of the tunes by real Trad. bands, sheet music, and fun animations, too.

Breaking away from the sheet music is the biggest hurdle for someone with a substantial classical background. Most classical scores are pretty huge to be committing them to memory ... however, most Celtic tunes are 16 only bars.

Once you have a fair number of session tunes that you can play without sheet music, you can start working on getting the feel right. Bowing patterns are a good way to start, but understanding the underlying rhythmic pattern of a jig or a reel is going to be better in the long term.

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