WHO ELSE IS A FIDDLER?


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Hello,

As I'm new here and conscious of the need to slowly integrate with the group, I hope that I will be forgiven if I ask questions or later on, start threads on subjects that have already been discussed. I am slowly working through the vast archives and bookmarking a lot of fascinating conversations on topics, the majority of which are beyond my scope as a simple English fiddler.

Are there any other members that describe themselves as simple fiddlers and who only play one genre of music?

Kind regards, Ian.

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Grew up in East Tennessee and learned to play the fiddle in SE Kentucky where I went to College. I learned some English Country Dance tunes while in school, but even when I play British Isles music, I still sound like a Southern Appalachian fiddler, for better or worse.

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On 9/13/2020 at 7:18 PM, duane88 said:

Grew up in East Tennessee and learned to play the fiddle in SE Kentucky where I went to College. I learned some English Country Dance tunes while in school, but even when I play British Isles music, I still sound like a Southern Appalachian fiddler, for better or worse.

Southern Appalachian fiddle music really caught my attention and immagination when I was a kid I England. It was something truly wonderful to hear. 
 
 
 
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Hi sospiri,

I should have just asked if anyone thinks of themselves as a fiddler. It has always interested me how people view themselves and if it is reflected in their music making. 

Ian.

 

 

Edited by ALCO
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Rue, 

Thank you for the welcome. I know a lot of people that enjoy playing only fiddle music but, are really not fiddlers. I have found that it can be a delicate subject to some people and totally irrelevant to others. 

My particular interest is the music and how it was performed for social dancing, in rural southern England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sadly, there are very few people that share this interest. 

Ian.

 

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7 hours ago, ALCO said:

What music do you play, incredibly badly?:P

All of it.  ;)  What's both encouraging (for my playing), and depressing (for the state of the world), is that I've never had difficulty getting gigs, or getting tipped when busking.  Apparently us violinists are sufficiently rare these days that we are considered entertaining by our very existence, like a two-headed calf at the carnival.  :ph34r:

I play a diverse repertoire. including classical, opera, show and movie tunes, hymns/church music, C/W, folk/trad of several flavors, pop classics, and holiday stuff.  I also repair and deal in violins.  Maybe I've got Deconet in my bloodline somewhere.  :lol:

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That diversity will always ensure that you have an appreciative audience, wherever you are. My repertory would not because of the way I play it, which is very different to the way fiddling is expected to sound nowadays. The best times I have is playing for dancers rather than a listening audience.

I've bought a few tatty old fiddles to repair and set up, some of which I gave away to friends that wanted to try something different to their professionally prepared violins. I would never make any money doing it!

 

 

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On 9/14/2020 at 10:13 AM, ALCO said:

Hi sospiri,

I should have just asked if anyone thinks of themselves as a fiddler. It has always interested me how people view themselves and if it is reflected in their music making. 

Ian.

Hi Ian. I don't know, what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin? What is the difference between a fiddle and a violinist?

Anyway, all the music we hear is folk music. Even the avant gardists were folkies desperate to prove otherwise. They were just too lazy to do the 10,000 hours to develop the technical skills.

 

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Hi sospiri,

I had bookmarked a number of the discussions about this subject in the archives, but before I read them, my tablet stopped working and everything was lost. I have to start at the beginning again on the replacement.

Speaking only for myself, I admit to feeling that "a fiddler is what I am" as opposed to "I play the fiddle", although I do share this sentiment with a couple of friends. We have all been accused of being pompous and criticised for not being open to the current folk performance criteria, when what really interests us is Historically Informed Performance. HIP, which is widely accepted as valid for baroque and classical music, appears to be with a very few exceptions, considered utterly pointless amongst the 'folk session' community in England. Whilst I do understand the often stated concept of 'the living tradition', it is the dominance of free reed instruments (note: I also play mouth organ and melodeon), combined with the influence of award winning folk musicians and the 'Celtic' factor that has me exploring the same repertory from a different perspective.

Regarding the difference between a violin and fiddle, I am only talking about my instruments which I set up myself with a much flatter bridge and heavy gauge gut d, a and e strings and a silver wound silk g string. I normally tune down from A=440 and set it where the fiddle sounds the best to my old ears, although I do have a Stainer with lighter gauge gut strings, that is tuned a whole tone up. 

As I said, these are just my thoughts on the subject. It would be really good to hear from anyone else here who thinks the same way. Any cello players who want to play West Gallery music??

 

 

 

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I like fiddle music but don’t think I play it very well, an aspiring fiddler. I have a book of gypsy fiddle tunes that I have yet to master. Mostly I’m all about baroque music.

How do you address historically informed performance for folk music? I imagine this is more difficult than for classical due to the eclectic nature of folkies and their instruments.

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Hi Jo,

I use the term HIP with a degree of reticence, as it falls short of the academic process applied to baroque music. That is largely due to there being scant contemporary documentary evidence of English vernacular music making in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, the repertory is known from extant printed collections of Country Dance tunes and hand written music books containing secular tunes for dancing, occasionally with dance steps added, military marches, song aires and also religious music in the form of psalms and carols. The instruments that were used is known and the context in which the music was performed is understood. There are some descriptions of how the music was played and then, with the advent of field recordings in the twentieth century, the music could be heard. Together with considering the evidence, my pragmatic view is that playing on period instruments is also essential in exploring this genre of music. 

With respect and without wishing to sound pompous, I have to say that this has very little to do with 'folk music' as it is practiced today.

I recommend seeking out the extensive works on the subject by Dr. Reg Hall and also that of The Village Music Project.

Kind regards, Ian.

ps. Have you listened to Lina Tur Bonet performing Biber and Vivaldi?

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As it happens I am working on learning the first of Bibers rosary sonatas - had a quick listen to Lina play her take on it, she’s so fast! I am still plodding through carefully but even when upto speed I might struggle to match this. Some passages seemed a bit different than other versions I have listened to,  overall quite lovely.

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I've got a book of the sonatas, but I've looked everywhere and they have vanished. Although, it's probably just as well, because if I found it, I'd only get frustrated (again) that I can't play it. However, I am slowly working through the Geminiani treatises, but only with my simple fiddler's perspective.

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I'm a fiddler.  I was trained as a composer, and so of course I read and know classical music, but I decided in high school that I wanted to play fiddle music and so I got a violin and started teaching myself.  Significantly, I also was extremely lucky and was shown some things by great fiddlers (growing up in the LA area, they were around), but I had the idea that I wanted to play as amateur fiddlers did, mainly by ear/oral tradition, learning with no scales/etudes, but purely by playing the music.  I started with American fiddling, mainly bluegrass, and the traditional styles that inspired it.  Then in college, I went to Ireland, which in the late 70s was exploding with spectacular folk music.  As one of the few bluegrass fiddlers in Ireland at the time, I could make a few pounds playing in a bluegrass band, but I was hungry to learn Irish fiddling.  I learned from many players there, and followed Kevin Burke around, trying to figure out how he played in the distinct way he still does. 

When I got back to the States, I had lots of music to work on.  I put in the hours, and even tried to play some Bach (since I could read), but the harder I worked at it, the more frustrated I got.  I just couldn't get the sound I wanted.  But I could play fiddle music OK, and always had work... but I sort-of gave up.  I play a bunch of instruments and I was working, so I did other things.  Fast forward to the mid-90s, and I'm teaching music at a university for my day job, and I give a workshop on Irish fiddling.  Afterwards, a friend of mine who's a luthier came up to me, and in the nicest way possible suggested that something was definitely awry with my violin sound, and asked if I had ever sat down and played through a bunch of bows.  No, I hadn't. 

I know a famous bowmaker, and for my 50th birthday, my lovely wife commissioned a bow from him.  The process began with him giving me six bows to try, and OK... it blew my mind.  I had been playing with a club.  It was an education playing all those bows for a month, and the bow I ended up with is exquisite.  But, can you see the problem coming?  My violin was awful.  I realize--I had played some great violins (a Stainer that was wonderful, even a Strad, etc.) but my own fiddle was... not great... at all.  It's about this time that I start looking for a decent violin, and my efforts are buried here in the MNet archives.  A well-known but sleazy dealer tried to shovel some dutzendarbeit at me, calling it "near Prague, c. 1790," and fortunately I was guided out of that disaster, and a very kind member here took pity on me, and directed me to the lovely 18th-c. Viennese violin I now play.

Over a period of months, it became obvious to me that all that work I had put in years ago had in fact given me some chops, but I had to admit that a crappy violin and bow were really the issue.  For the last five years, I have been putting in the hours, and at last have the satisfaction I craved all those years ago.  And I can play Bach.  With all my live gigs cancelled, and no one making records in my studio, I have been playing more than I ever did, and this summer I memorized the Chaconne.  I am forever grateful to Maestronet, and the experts and participants herein, for helping me realize what was a dream for me.  

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I'm retired, but I taught 20th-c. music theory, composition, music history, a world-music course that I designed, audio production and recording, World History since 1500 (a program WSU had where people from a variety of disciplines taught the course... it was fun, actually), and I was the go-to guy in the department for all the students who didn't fit the standard mold of a music major.  

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^there's a lot less luck of the draw involved today than when we were kids.  today if you get a useless teacher, progress by watching youtube.  and let him think he's amazing :)  not so much good composition stuff out there though at the present time.  most of that due to the never-ending input of guitar players

 

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Hi palousian,

Congratulations on achieving your goal.

Have you retained any trace of your fiddling style when you play the Bach pieces, aside from the use of similar techniques? 

I do have a few decent bows that seldom get used because this one, that I only started using around twenty years ago as an 'in-joke' at a regular session I attended, very quickly became my favourite. With it's lightness and reduced width of hair, it is not dissimilar to a baroque bow. I do wonder how long it would have taken to bend so much.

Maybe, showing it will get me banned from MN?!!

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