Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

I love this stuff


Recommended Posts

Not the only one. I'm a traditional fiddler, and although I specialize in Missouri style fiddling, I really like McMaster a lot, along with Alasdair Fraser. McMaster's version of Gow's lament is classic, IMO.

If you like that sort of thing, PM me and I'll give you some links to the dark side, where the dots don't matter, you never play it twice the same, and the bowing is never synchronized.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have seen Buddy's daughter, (I think she is his daughter) Natalie McMaster, twice. She has been to my hometown several times, even though it is so small. When I has six, our violin group was opening for her (haha) at a music festival. I went backstage to meet her, and ran away, embarrassed, when she said hello to me. She actually chased me down, caught me, and started having a conversation! It was horrifying at the time, but now I realize I was very fortunate!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I assume from the comments here that this man is one of the greats.

 I have no doubt you guys know what you're saying, but I just

don't hear it in this clip.  He sounds stiff, out of tune, and

kind of bored. His bowing is scratchy, his tone is

one-dimensional.  If it were purely an audio recording I'd

think it was a five year old.

I'm serious, and so quite baffled. Is this a rare bad

performance by a great player, or am I missing something?  Is

he simply getting old, and you guys are remembering how good he

used to be and projecting it onto this performance?  

I'm serious, I mean no disrespect to the man, nor to your opinions,

but I don't get it.

FWIW, you know I'm as far from a classical player as you can get.

 I love Celtic, Cajun, Bluegrass, Appalachian styles,


Please no fights!  I want to learn something here.  I

would very much appreciate it if you could  explain in some

detail want makes this man great, and / or what you feel

constitutes greatness in this style. (I do not know anything about

the "Cape Bretton" style, so there you go, but it sounds Celtic to


Also, what would you consider to be Buddy's greatest recorded

works?  (and where can I buy them?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

" Our music is part of a different system. The rules of classical music don't apply. " R.D. Lunceford

It's an 18th Century Scottish lament, played in the Cape Breton style. I work around accomplished classical players all day, and get to hear some great ones, but I'd still give my eye teeth to be able to play like him, and I admire him a lot.

I think there's not too much that can be explained. You either get the music or you don't. Listening to a lot of it helps, but if you don't get it, you just don't. I listen to a lot of jazz, and love most of it, but so far, Miles Davis just leaves me flat. I just don't get him yet, maybe never will, but I keep listening in hopes that I'll learn something. It may be like that with you. Your expectations and biases may be such that they just don't let you hear the music.

There's a link to some old Cajun players that I'll try to find and post if Java will let me. They just blow me away, but I'd like to see whether you have a similar reaction to them as to McMasters.

It would be fun to discuss fiddling on this forum, if there were any interest. A lot of my fiddling colleagues, including my teacher, were classically trained, even professionals, before they came over to the "dark side" as described above. It really is a different system entirely, with different expectations and standards. I've never know a classical player who could fiddle decently until they immersed themselves in the music for quite some time and learned to play from the heart instead of from the dots. A matter of playing the notes, but missing the music.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the link I mentioned. This site won't let me post on the regular reply screen, and it re-formats my posts, so I just have to use quick reply and paste the address:


There's nothing showy or impressive about the music, but it touches me in a way that not much music does. I'm not regarded as sentimental or soft, indeed quite the opposite, but certain music reaches deep inside, and people like Gerard Dole and Buddy McMaster have the key to get in there like few others.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Originally posted by:

I have seen Buddy's daughter, (I think she is his daughter) Natalie McMaster, twice. She has been to my hometown several times, even though it is so small. When I has six, our violin group was opening for her (haha) at a music festival. I went backstage to meet her, and ran away, embarrassed, when she said hello to me. She actually chased me down, caught me, and started having a conversation! It was horrifying at the time, but now I realize I was very fortunate!

What a wonderful story...you are indeed fortunate.

She's actually his niece, by the by.

I've seen her perform once...I only wish I could have spoken with her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not flashy, not virtuosic(?), but solid country dance music, played from memory and perhaps modified in a traditional manner, is pretty much what I hear.

This strikes me as what music was to most people prior to, say, 1900. I come from a time when people of a particular ethnicity lived in neighborhoods with others of their origins; all far from "home", but certainly carrying home with them, and living as closely to the old ways as they were able, transplanted into more viable soil. It's not my personal tradition, but I know these people because I know my people, and there's more than a bit of universality to the experience.

I'm incapable of judging the subtleties, but I enjoy the music, and the intangibles that lie close behind the music. So much is in danger of being lost in the Great Homogeniser.

Anybody remember UNhomogenised milk? It came in bottles; the cream on top, and in the winter it would freeze, pop the paper top off the bottle and stick up an inch or two above the rim. Yup, we've lost a lot. Have the gains been worth the loss?

My dad remembers a horse stabled in the backyard, and hearing the bells pealing to signal the Armistice, Nov 11 1918.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


PhillipG, thanks for posting that link. 
I also enjoyed it immensely.


Allan, since I think you are honest in your
request for help in understanding the music, here is my attempt to
explain some of its attraction. I am not a Cape Breton type fiddler
and some might  think I am way off base (and they may be
right) but here is what I see:


I can understand most of your criticisms
(given in an honest way) except the part about it being
"one-dimensional".  I don't see this.  Yes, much of it is
subdued (part of its beauty) but that only helps to make the strong
accented notes (especially in the slow song) stand out the
more.  Of course the quality of the recording does not really
do this justice. It certainly doesn't help that the
piano seems closer to the mic than the fiddle.  (Not to
mention that the pianist seems to have difficulty adjusting to the
tempo changes). I think a lot of the dynamics of the fiddle are
lost. Perhaps those who understand the music and are more familiar
with it are psychologically adjusting for the inadequacies of the
recorded sound.  So it sounds better to those who already love
the style.


In order to appreciate this style of music,
try not to judge it for technical perfection (although the bow-work
is more difficult than it seems) but just let the fiddle talk to
you.  It is as though the fiddle is holding a conversation
with you.  And just as a folk story teller is usually much
more entertaining than a trained speaker, even though his grammar
is not the best, so it is with the fiddle.  Technical
perfection is not what the player is trying to communicate. 
As a matter of fact, I think some of the "scratchy" bowing is
intentional, just as a singer may intentionally put a little rasp
in their voice for accent (Kenny Rogers style).


Allan, listen again to the music and, as I
stated before, let the fiddle talk to you and see what emotions it
stirs in you. (Notice the nostalgia in Bob A’s post above). I
think it will grow on you.  I hope this helps a little. 
Perhaps I'm completely wrong in my thinking; if so I have no desire
to argue with anyone about it.  It’s just my

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wish I knew some 5-year-olds that could play like that -- I'd take lessons. And I can only hope to play like that when I'm 80.

Buddy MacMaster is pretty easy to find -- check Amazon.

Cape Breton is in Nova Scotia (New Scotland), settled by Scottish way back. It was an isolated area, much as Appalachia in the US, and as Scotland moved on and lost much of its traditional music due to influences from the outside, Cape Breton kept it in its isolation.

One great way to get into the music is thru dancing. Look for a Scottish Country Dance class in your area and dance for a few months. This type of dance is done typically to 32-bar tunes, and the physical phrasing matches the music.

Here's a place to start


The second tune is a strathspey, I believe, and I recognize the tune, but can't place it.

The bowing is the music, and it's great to have the video to see how he does it. Thanks for posting it PhilipG.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the link. Buddy's playing moves me. The rough qualities of the clip seem to add to this. I've listened to the posted clip three times, and am still finding new things to like. Of course it's out of tune. That's less important than his awesome musicality. It makes me want to dance. Buddy's comments on the companion clip are also worth hearing, especially for those who like the way music often imitates speech.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is fiddling , not Bach or Mozart.......Buddy McMaster is great, and a true treasure for Canada.....the Cape Breton style that he plays is a more aggressive style of fiddling. A lot of the phrasing and sound production come from emulating the sound of Scottish pipes. Another wonderful fiddler who was heavily influenced by Cape Breton style is Tania Elizabeth. She playes fiddle in a group called The Duhks. I have heard

classical players who were not "schooled" in the nuances of fiddling styles and playing this music with the intent of Paganini just doesn't get it....if you know what I mean. There are players who can cross over from classical to various fiddle style and sound authentic.....Mark O'Connor, Andy Carlson, and Matt Combs come to mind as good example.. Alternative styles are being recognized more and more in traditional string programs..I have done many workshops and seminars to introduce other styles to traditional string players.

The beauty in a lot of fiddling styles is in the cracks of the notes (nuances of intonation). I get Mozart and Bach........I also get old time, bluegrass, celtic, rock, jazz, gypsy jazz........I think you get my point !!

David Blackmon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cape Breton fiddle style is all about the dance. The things they do that don't seem like good technique make a lot of sense in context. They use short, heavy strokes of the bow in order to get a percussive sound which helps the dancers. They tend to use a lot of bow pressure and play loudly, since they need to be heard over the dancers, and they don't use much in the way of dynamics even in the slow airs. Many of them use a flattened left hand which they say aids in achieving the 4th finger ornaments they do, but limits their ability to move up and down the neck somewhat. They do a lot of droning, both to imitate pipes and to increase the volume. They also often use a "non-western" scale that uses a C that's midway between natural and sharp (often called "C super-natural") which comes from the highland pipe scale, (that sounds out of tune to a classical player) and they tend to throw in "wild notes" that don't belong to the key the tune's in that also comes from the old highland stuff. It's often not "pretty" music but it's a kick to dance to.

Buddy was popular in his day because his style was so great for dancing; he was a powerful fiddler who could play for hours at a time and play hundreds of tunes from memory in an evening. Even though he's lost a step or two, he can still put out the tunes, and he's still popular for what he represents, and because he's a grand gentleman!

Natalie MacMaster, on the other hand, has transcended the genre somewhat; she's had lessons in proper classical technique and does a lot of LH and RH stuff that most of the CB fiddlers can't do. Some of the locals grumble that she's moved on from CB style but she's still quite popular there. Her stuff's a lot more accessible to a non-CB enthusiast and might be somewhere for you to start if you're trying to learn more about the style, Allan. At any rate, her "In My Hands" was the recording that first got me interested in the style, and "My Roots are Showing" is another good one, more traditional. If you're interested in Buddy's recordings, I'd say go with Judique on the Floor (an older recording done in the 80s), or The Judique Flyer (from 2000). You should be able to find these fairly easily online. -Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great feedback here and certainly I'm grateful for it, thank

you.  I can't remember just when I got "tuned in"

to this type of music.  I suppose I was always appreciative of

it;  there were certainly times when during the course of a

movie, some scene would have a short passage or perhaps the theme

of the movie itself would have the violins in the background, or

pipes, playing in this style.

Anyway, without an ability to speak technically, it's not quite

Celtic and not quite Cajun, but somehow, it's related.  And

though I love those two styles, it's still beautiful on it's own.

 And though I do listen to a lot of classical, when this music

comes on, or when I find it, I just stop and listen and not only

with just my ears.  

I am sure that the style of Cape Breton fiddling is a lot harder

than people give it credit for but I have to say, even when

someone is "not" so great a fiddler, as long as they are able

to get the tune out, it still sounds really fine.  It's the

music here and not necessarily how fine on the instrument it is


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, many fiddlers who play this music are unschooled in violin techniques (or classical technique, anyway) yet still manage to put together a powerful interpretation. It's definitely "music for the people!" BTW, many people think that this style represents an older style of Scottish fiddling, since the first migration of Scots to Cape Breton was from the Highlands and Islands prior to the 1790s which was the heyday of Scottish fiddling (the Gows, William Marshall, Mackintosh and all those guys...). It has other influences (Irish, French Canadian) but Scottish is the main one, so I'd definitely call it "Celtic!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had heard of Tommy Peoples before and always enjoyed his playing.

 His playing style is really pretty neat.  Nice sounding

fiddle as well. I forget who he used to play with but I

will do a search on him as soon as I get home. Youtube

is great for this stuff.  I haven't done any searcing on

youtube for John Cunningham though.  I think that he passed

away recently.  That would be very sad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't know what fiddle he is playing here I don't believe it's anything special he's also probably tuned up to e flat something a lot of Irish fiddlers do when playing solo it gives a brighter sound.He is most famous for being the fiddler on those wonderful early "Bothy Band" recordings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...