Sign in to follow this  
Bernie R

Tone of traditional Irish fiddlers/fiddles

Recommended Posts

On my monitor they look blue or green, and going on the relative diameters and the sound. I would say steel.

Ah, I realise now there is a shot of him playing with an accordion player, a different fiddle and different strings, possibly with an orange wrapping.

The fiddle he plays with Nicola B is not Swedish as the commentator says, it's made by the German Adolph Sprenger, and he bought it from somebody in Sweden.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On my monitor they look blue or green, and going on the relative diameters and the sound. I would say steel.

Medium Prims are green. He has a long career so he must have been using lots of different brands, and I think he must have owned more fiddles than he say in the video.

I have seen 6 of them, including his first instrument, which my sister has now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brilliant! Thanks for finding this.

(for the pedants, yes Aly Bain's violin is German not Swedish)

Interesting how much louder his violin sounds in the room, but maybe Bennedetti was backing off out of politeness (or maybe her Strad's a bit poor, and only a player as good as she is can make it sound as good as it does).

I wonder whether the Sprenger really would have fallen apart in a concert hall - I doubt it. Classical soloists tend to place great trust in the carrying power of their 6 figure instruments, but how often do they play them against a lower value good instrument and simultaneously listen from the 20th row? I'm not saying projection is a myth, but a lot of very expensive violins are sold on the strength of attributes that are hard to identify! Smoke & mirrors .....

I wish there was more footage like this around.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes Mr. Bain is being pretty disingenuous about the number of fiddles he's owned - I know of several that went his way. Not all of them returned!

I guess it's as it may be for some of us, that fiddles can be stored away under sofas, in cupboards etc and become forgotten if they are not in use. Out of sight, - out of mind. :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It behooves us all to eschew pedantry, internet chatroom notwithstanding ....

By the way Bernie, sounds like you need to buy yourself a worse fiddle - you know where to find me!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
By the way Bernie, sounds like you need to buy yourself a worse fiddle - you know where to find me!

At the moment I am concentrating on trying to make the lovely fiddle I got from you sound worse. I'm finding it remarkably easy actually, I expect I am just naturally talented in that area.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of people mentioned that besides steel strings, fiddlers they knew used perlon strings with a fast response.

Could you please say which brand of perlon strings and what style of fiddling the player does.

I'm interested in knowing more.

Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of people mentioned that besides steel strings, fiddlers they knew used perlon strings with a fast response.

Could you please say which brand of perlon strings and what style of fiddling the player does.

I'm interested in knowing more.

Thank you.

Well, for one, Byron Berline uses Zyex (not Perlon) or Helicore, depending on the fiddle. My partner, Jamey Logan, a pro fiddler who has played all over the world, prefers Zyex. He's pretty eclectic. I'll play Helicore or Zyex interchangeably, and play anything fro Old Time to Swing, but not all that well. I think last I heard from him Henrik Jansberg of Denmark was playing Zyex, but he's done Evahs and Helicore as well.

Might be interesting to ask that question on Fiddle Hangout.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks once again Nonado.

Zyex seem to be the most popular non-steel. Mark O'Connor could be on that list for Zyex too.

I use Evahs and was wondering if they are "legal" : ) Evahs have a richer sound than Zyex but also more mass and are maybe a little slower....although I'm not sure. I can play swing well with them but I don't know if it's just me, but bluegrass can be more work with them (unless you have real classical chops).

I wonder what else others are using?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I play mainly Eastern European music, but also a fair dose of Irish and Scottish repertoire. I only use Warchal Karneol now - every single violin I put these strings on immediately sounds better. I really dislike Evah Parazzi, which I find muddy, sluggish and lacking in high harmonic content (though they're marginally better than Obligato, which are only good for staying out of the spotlight if you're in an orchestra).

I don't like any metal strings because there seems to be little variation in tone and the string tension seems to brutalize most violins. But I haven't tried Zyex.

Helicore, sort of steel, I find the strings are too thin under my fingers, but they're popular with serious Irish players.

Bernie mentioned Larsen Tzigane, meant to be good for the kind of "tzigane" music I play. I bought one set and was completely perplexed - tense and dull!

All the professionals I have dealings with are now using Warchal Karneol - I should be getting a cut.

Martin Swan Violins

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes I think they're priced to compete with Dominants, but they sound much better - Dominants are a bit fuzzy by comparison, and the E strings are only good for cutting cheese in my view.

I have to admit that Dominant silver-wound G and D strings are tremendous (if pricey) ....

I tried Warchal Ametyst briefly but found them uninspiring (more like Dominants in tone, with slightly grainy upper harmonics, and a bit powerless compared to Karneol). Warchal Brilliant Vintage are a mystery to me, low tension but very cheap-sounding, artificially zingy. Brilliants (not Vintage) are fantastic for reviving a dull-sounding fiddle, also great on new instruments if you don't mind being deafened, but they're quite high tension and not all violins can take them.

I've set up about 400 violins with Warchal Karneol, and I've never thought they were the wrong strings! They are also cheaper than anything else and they seem to last for ever.

I've noticed quite a few luthiers are very snobbish about them just because the silk is plain and they look a bit ordinary.

I think Karneol are a great example of a product designed to be affordable which just happens to be outstanding.

But they won't necessarily help you sound Irish!

The only defect is that the yellow thread on the E string tends to unravel a bit, but I'm trying to get them to do something about it and they seem very friendly ....

Martin Swan Violins

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But they won't necessarily help you sound Irish!

Dang! You had me sold on Warchals till you said that.

Whale Oil Beef Hooked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's a fascinating discussion of violin (especially Strad) tone. It's on You Tube:

It starts at around 3:40 but the whole program is worth watching.

Very interesting how she describes the wolf tones and abrasive, 'noisy' tone of the Strad.

Appreciate the link to this -- Aly Bain is one of my favorite fiddlers.

Good discussion of strings here, afterwards, also appreciated.

But to my ear, and eye, it was interesting to see the different bowing points. Nicola Benedetti was playing quite close to the bridge in her first piece demonstrating the harshness, and Aly Bain quite close to the fingerboard demonstrating the sweetness. And when she picked up his fiddle, she then played closer to the fingerboard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bernie - I had a very good Donegal player in the house today looking for a fiddle. I had marked out one I thought he would go for, and he did eventually find it but wasn't convinced. It was a super sounding JTL Amati "V", and one of the best sounding French violins I've had ..... he may return tomorrow.

He had a lot of difficulty finding anything which he preferred to his fiddle, which was a Maidstone (I kid you not) ... The neck angle was the lowest I've seen, must have been about 15mm to the top of the fingerboard. I think the top had been thinned out and revarnished.

He used Helicore strings, but most interestingly he had absolutely no tension on the bow and was mainly playing on the wood as far as I could see. The sound of the fiddle was bright, very resonant, great to play but with no "tone" as such - everything was in the percussive start of the note. When he played slow tunes the fiddle sounded dreadful, but for fast dance music it was extremely effective. I played it quite a bit - I can tell you categorically that I would never have bought it, not even for £100.

So I would say the major component of his (very authentic) sound was the almost complete absence of bow pressure, which in turn requires a very responsive fiddle with a lot of attack. It makes sense if you think of playing reels for 3 or 4 hours on the trot - you've got to make it easy for yourself. I use a lot of bow, and I'm worn out after 10 minutes!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finally watched all of the Aly/Nicola vids. Good stuff. He also talks about the strong attack with the bow in Strathspeys (à la Gow wink.gif ).

I saw Aly a couple of times in his early Boys of the Lough days... I was just a wee thing, and thought it was very nice music!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Appreciate the link to this -- Aly Bain is one of my favorite fiddlers.

Good discussion of strings here, afterwards, also appreciated.

But to my ear, and eye, it was interesting to see the different bowing points. Nicola Benedetti was playing quite close to the bridge in her first piece demonstrating the harshness, and Aly Bain quite close to the fingerboard demonstrating the sweetness. And when she picked up his fiddle, she then played closer to the fingerboard.

Yes, it would have been interesting to hear the instruments being played in the same way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't remember who was playing open strings on Aly's fiddle, but I thought it sounded raspy and metallic, but very free with great sustain. Playing a tune, it sounded FAB-U-LOUS!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, what rosin do you like for Irish/Scottish/(Norwegian)?

I've been using Hill's Dark for a long time. Probably better choices out there...

Share this post


Link to post
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.

Guest
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.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.