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Help with a Fiddle Tune


Jimthesecond
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I recently started taking lessons from an Irish fiddle teacher via skype (skype lessons work fairly well, by the way) and she taught me a tune called "Bundle and Go." I've been playing Irish music since I started learning the violin about two years ago but I can't help but shake the feeling that I still sound too "classical,"  especially when the other traditional players in my area call me a "violinist" rather than a "fiddler."

 

I uploaded a recording of myself playing the tune to the fiddle hangout but I thought I'd ask here for some more opinions as I know there are a lot of fiddle players here as well. In the recording I tried to play the tune slowly and without any ornamentation so I could focus on the rhythm. I think I may need to work on my intonation on the high G a bit as well... I would really appreciate any constructive criticism to help me improve!

 

http://www.fiddlehangout.com/myhangout/media-player/audio_player2.asp?musicid=11744&archived=

(it's a bit loud so you might want to turn down your volume a bit).

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I'll give it a shot.

 

So, slowing down and removing the ornamentation can be great for getting a solid beat going, which I think you have here (and I wouldn't worry about the intonation at this point other than to say that you will always worry about intonation).  You don't seem to fall into the danger zone of playing this stuff with vibrato, so you have successfully avoided that problematic classical violinistic tendency.  But the rhythm is a different issue than just the beat, and while I don't think you sound "classical," I think you might want to work on getting the distinctive jig swing going, so that you sound more Irish.  My advice is to listen to a bunch of heavily-swinging Irish fiddlers, Kevin Burke and Martin Hayes come to mind, but there are many, and notice how they make their jigs infectiously danceable.  Listen to the pulse of those eighth notes.  The fact is that the two groups of eighth notes in a 6/8 bar of a jig are not all equal.  A similar issue exists in a properly-played Viennese waltz with the three quarter notes, and it's a similar alteration of the mechanical rhythm.  There are some variations, but generally the first note in a group of three is just a touch long, the middle one is light and a little short, and the last note is pretty much a regular eighth note.  Sometimes the last note of a group of three glides into the first of the next set of three.  Often it is hard to tell whether this is done in linear time, exactly, or with dynamics and bow speed.  Or all of the above.  Your fiddle teacher can probably demonstrate it, too.

 

I have often taught Irish (and other) dance rhythms without the violin--you learn to chant them by going "dum-da deedle-um"--that kind of thing.  If you can sing it, you can find a way to play it.

 

Good luck,

 

Paul

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Thanks Paul! I practiced the tune a bit with a metronome just before recording because some musical friends told me I was a bit uneven and it was hard for them to tell when one measure ended and another began. I guess I evened everything out a bit too much! And thank you for the recommendation to listen to some players with more swing in their playing. I tend to listen to a lot of John Doherty and his music wasn't known for its swing from what I understand... (in fact, the only recording I have of this tune is John Doherty playing it as a march!) I think I may ask my teacher to record herself playing it at a pace I can play along with. 

 

Violadamore: I'm not 100% sure I understand what you're asking but I'm using a new mid-grade violin from Guy Cole (less than 1 year old) with a standard classical violin setup (no flattened bridge or nut). I'm not sure what the G, D, or A strings are but I recently put a d'addario "non-whistling" E string on it. I quite like the d'addario so far.

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Hi Jim,

 

Very interesting listening to John Docherty's version of the tune just now, his rhythm seems quite wobbly to me! I believe Docherty himself was impressed by the somewhat "classically" influenced playing of the Scottish fiddler Scott Skinner.

 

My own preference is for the more meditative, less hurried and yet still rhythmical music of county Clare and county Galway. You might like to have a listen for example to Joe Ryan, his CD "An Buchaill Dreoite" is a gem.

Or if you can't tear yourself away from the Donegal style, maybe listen to Paddy Glackin. He always cites John Docherty as his main influence, but the steadyness of his playing is exemplary. And he's on Spotify. Paddy Glackin – The Hare In The Corn/Patrick O'Keefe's Jig

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Hey, I listened to it. It's a nice tune. You play it quite well. 

 

Playing slow is great practice for many things, but is (in my opinion) not a great way to develop the pulse that defines great traditional Irish playing, at least not for a beginner. Its much easier to keep the pulse at a slow level when you have developed some control of the wrist at a faster pace first.

 

I'd suggest you should also make an effort (in private) to play much much faster (without ornamentation at the beginning), with less emphasis on getting good clear notes, but doing your best to maintain a steady rhythm. When you do this try to allow the bow hand to move freely and find its own way to make the transitions between the notes. The pulse rhythm largely depends on a controlled loose free wrist on your bowing hand, and I found that the only way to start working those muscles without tensing them is to give the wrist and bow hand the freedom to find its way under pressure at fast pace while keeping time.

 

A very good tune and straight forward reel to develop the bowing is "The Mountain Road" which has nice string crossings and can be bowed multiple ways within the each play through. So you can find that you can alternate between slurring across strings and long and short individual bow strokes all playing the same notes but giving the tune a variety of pulse and lift as you play through.

 

Another useful technique to develop control of the wrist muscles is to practice bowed triplets, and a great tune to try those in is the hornpipe "The Harvest Home" aka "The Cork Hornpipe".

 

Best of Luck.

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Thanks everyone for all the help! I'll do the best I can to process the information and make the tune sound more jig-like before my next lesson. For those interested, this is my teacher playing the same tune (though MUCH quicker and with lots and lots of ornamentation!) http://source.pipers.ie/Search/SearchResult.aspx?searchTerm=tara+connaghan&startRowIndex=0&pageSize=12&mediaId=25287

 

Thank you very much for the link, Bernie. I'll have to buy one of Paddy Glackin's records once I get my next paycheck. I have a few recordings of his brother, Seamus, and quite like his style. Seamus Glackin's recording of Glen Road to Carrick on the Fiddlesticks album is one of my favorite reels. Sadly, whenever I try to play the Glen Road to Carrick it sounds even more flat and boring than when I try to play Bundle and Go. http://grooveshark.com/#!/profile/Seamus+Glackin/23098404

 

Mikie: I've been practicing the tune much quicker now but I still haven't added (much) ornamentation as I'm not quire sure which ornaments to use and where. I'm pretty sure there can be a cut on the first and/or second D on the double stops bit. Funny you should mention bowed triplets; they're part of what is tripping me up on rhythm in this tune. It's a battle each time I play the two E's NOT to do a bowed triplet instead. I tried letting it happen to see what it sounded like but I wasn't overly fond of the result but that's probably because my triplets are still a bit sloppy yet. 

 

C. M. Sunday: It took a few read throughs to understand what it was that you were saying but I think I get it now. In addition to working on the correct jig rhythm I'll try to work on playing with more feeling. 

 

Addie: regarding your post on the fiddle hangout, would you say Bundle and Go is a "round jig" or a "pointed jig?" I see that you said the Jig of Slurs was a great example of a round jig but what would you say is a good example of a pointed jig?

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For what it's worth, I have been playing traditional Irish music for about four decades, and the terms "pointed jig" or "round jig" have never come up.  Sort-of like "single jig" vs. "double jig," which has come up but doesn't seem to be all that important to someone playing, seems to me.  It may be more of a Scottish music thing (which would explain the Jig of Slurs example).  I wouldn't get too bogged down in terminology, in any case.  Anyway, the example you posted of your teacher was great.  She has a fabulous style (and she does alter the rhythm of a set of eighth notes precisely as I described in my post above), and as far as phrasing and ornamentation goes, why not copy her?  And I mean exactly.  She puts in a cut--you put in a cut.  She's on an up bow--you do the same.  That's how I learned those things, trying to copy great players who inspired me.  Over the years, you may have some versions that are copies of things you learned from this or that fiddler (think of all the people with their Michael Coleman versions of tunes), but in time your own choices will inevitably emerge.  And if you're listening to Glackins, don't forget Kevin (well, and father Tomas)...

 

Paul

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Oh! Guilty as charged, but society is to blame. Every so often Scots change their minds as to how jigs should be played, and then get all constipated-looking if you are playing the wrong way. Best to follow your teacher. Mine would say "that's very nice, but it's not 120 bpm". :P

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I don't think your playing sounds too classical either, and I bet that it'll sound a lot more authentic when you speed up the music and get a good rhythm going.  In my humble, nonprofessional opinion, I think your intonation is great! You seem to be struggling a little when you have to reach with your pinky, but you hit the notes just fine, so I think that'll go away as you gain confidence with your playing.  Nice job!

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Hey Jim the second, I haven't listened back to the tune again to hear the two E's. I'm at work so I can't at the moment. 

 

I would suggest that bowed triplets are not generally used in Jigs. I'm sure if you look you will probably find someone using them occasionally, but my own experience is that they are not common practice. I think they would disrupt the flow of the tune too much. 

 

Where there are two identical notes in succession, you can typically use a cut to emphasis the rhythm, You just have to tailor the cut to the particular beat of the phrase, but that's not too difficult once you get the mechanics of the cut sorted out, then you just delay the flick until its right on cue, so again it may not be as fast a cut as you'd come across in a reel.

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I would suggest that bowed triplets are not generally used in Jigs.

I suggest that you are dead wrong. James Morrison's jigs are littered with them. Andy McGann used them a lot as well. Just two players whose styles I love. There are at least three way to use bowed triplets in jigs that I can think of offhand.

Andrew

 

 

I would suggest that bowed triplets are not generally used in Jigs. 
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I suggest that you are dead wrong. James Morrison's jigs are littered with them. Andy McGann used them a lot as well. Just two players whose styles I love. There are at least three way to use bowed triplets in jigs that I can think of offhand.

Andrew

 

 

I would suggest that bowed triplets are not generally used in Jigs. 

 

"I would suggest that bowed triplets are not generally used in Jigs. I'm sure if you look you will probably find someone using them occasionally, but my own experience is that they are not common practice."

 

Here's the entire paragraph again for what its worth. 

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"I would suggest that bowed triplets are not generally used in Jigs. I'm sure if you look you will probably find someone using them occasionally, but my own experience is that they are not common practice."

 

Here's the entire paragraph again for what its worth. 

I read it the first time; I didn't trim it simply to make my point. The part I omitted makes no difference to your assertion of 'not generally'. The two examples I gave were deliberately chosen as an old and an older player to show that it is not a new technique. There are plenty of examples in Michael Coleman's playing and - as an example of modern players - Kevin Burke and the wonderful Brian Conway.

 

If you have Spotify you can listen to this track as a good example. Absolutely crammed full of bowed triplets:

Brian Conway – Jigs: Up Sligo No. 2 / Contentment Is Wealth / The Scotsman Over the Border (medley)

 

First tune: the same phrase every time in the middle of the the B part and elsewhere

Second tune: Every time in the second beat in the penultimate bars of the A and B parts

Third tune: Too many to describe in words

 

Andrew

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Fair enough, I'm not suggesting they're not used at all - which is why I said that examples of them could be found. 

 

I don't think the triplets in the teachers example are comparable though as those aren't the one note bowed triplets that either I, or the OP, was referring to, runs of notes in triplet form are obviously common in all types of tunes, and can be bowed in slurs or single bows as required, but I still believe the typical ornament used to substitute two repeated notes in a jig is most typically using a cut as opposed to a bowed triplet and (in my view) that's most likely because the bowed triplet upsets the flow.

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Your tune sounds good, although slowed down it sounds more scottish. I wouldn't go as far as saying your playing was 'classical' by any means. One thing usually if you have a dotted rythm say dotted quaver, semi-quaver, quaver, the semi-quaver is going to be shortened so its more like a grace note to the one after it if that makes sense.

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