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oldgeezer

Sliding the notes

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Sliding up, sliding down, little slides, big slides, I like 'em all and tend to use them too much. They're out of style. The days when fiddlers pulled out the bucket of schmaltz and applied liberal amounts of portamento or glissando to almost everything are long gone. I don't want to hear it in Baroque or Classic period music but for Romantic period music I think it adds something. Slides are still used a lot in popular and folk fiddle.

Opinions?

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I guess I am a "Fiddler" however I teach and have 30 students. I do not teach grades.

I publicly perform and frequently use slides and grace notes and anything else which embelishes my music. To bend a note at an appropriate time can be beautiful indeed.

However to over embelish can be a trap. The melody can be lost and what is intended to beautify becomes a distraction.

I believe one has to have a "feel" for the song and only make addition which enhance. Do it, but do it wisely and with caution.

I cannot define what is too much! But not to embelish is too little!

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I disagree that they are out of style. What I believe is that the practice has evolved so gratuitous sliding has been taken off the menu..!

OK, basic point of principle....try to play baroque and classical as clean as possible. Any student sliding in this music is likely to be shown the door!!!

Slides in romantic music are acceptable and should be encouraged as experimentation in expression. The type of slides need to be considered however. For the most part, arriving underneath a note and making the pitch should be avoided unless the music asks for this implicitly, either in direction or through tradition. Leaving a lower note and having a small portamento away from this note is as prevalent today as ever was, not least because of the practice of using helping notes and moving the hand into position is universally taught.

Perhaps, what is more interesting is the micro-slides that many of the great players employ. For example, whereas a good (but not really advanced) player may stick fairly rigidly to a set fingering, a high calibre player may swap fingers around all the time to then enable small (mostly imperceptible) slides. I do this a great deal, the fingerings which I choose, but do not ask my pupils to try (at first) often contain swaps and tricks to then allow a different effect for the expression moments later. Also, sometimes I avoid the printed fingerings to free up the strong fingers (2nd and 3rd) for Vibrato as well.

I you listen closely, the small adjustments (that help create a micro-slide) are deliberately designed, not some wayward lack of technique.

To put the information into context, a pupil of mine played against another pupil in a competition and won. Some of the audience were surprised at the decision, claiming my student was all technique and no emotion....the reality was the other pupil was randomly scrabbling for many of the notes, whereas mine had all the subtle slides worked out and practiced (under my supervision) in the lessons. Both players were actually rather good, but the results would always be scrutinised correctly by a real player.

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Shame isn't it that we have a fretless instrument with all the benefits of that at our fingertips and yet the violin is approached more like a piano! It may be out of fashion in classical music but it is alive and kicking in other styles. Slides don't have to be schmaltzy - the general rule seems to be to make them fast to avoid them sounding too indulgent. Maybe it's also good to avoid too much vibrato when sliding. I've also found it helpful to listen to what the voice does in the style you wish to play and try to copy those nuances. I think a lot of classical players are afraid that if they slide that the audience will think that they can't hit the note dead on! Well, I guess you could say the same about vibrato then.

It's quite something to listen to Indian classical violin which uses lots of slides and no vibrato.

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I have a friend in the Chicago Symphony whose philosophy is "if you don't want to slide, play piano."

I like more slides than what is currently in vogue... but I think like all fashions, slides will come back into style sooner or later.

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"OK, basic point of principle....try to play baroque and classical as clean as possible. Any student sliding in this music is likely to be shown the door!!!"

Slides seem so inherent and natural to violin playing that I wonder whether violinists in the 18th century played as cleanly as contemporary violinists are expected to play music from that period. And did 18th century singers also avoid slides, too?

I suspect that the modern attitude towards slides (and vibrato, too) in 18th century music is based on books on violin playing from that period that deprecate slides (and vibrato) precisely because they were widely used and perhaps sometimes abused.

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