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Playing in a group now: Need advice


crystal
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Well, after 7 months of practicing and playing to my cat, I finally did it! I stepped outside of my practice room. I had my first Scottish Fiddle Club meeting this evening. It went quite well for me, considering how new I am. I have copies of all the music to continue working on the tunes.

The fiddle club has about 15-20 fiddlers in it. Amazing to hear all those fiddlers fiddling together in unison. The volume was incredible, and my violin seemed to be hard for me to hear, even under my own ear.

And, my violin has great projection in a normal setting. I guess the question then is what is normal???!!!

Anyways, for those of you that have fiddled in a group situation, is there a string that you might recommend to me to try to give me more projection and definition??? Or, being that there's that many fiddles together, is it just going to be something that I have to put up with?

I have brand new Prim's on my violin right now, putting them on just for this occasion. I thought they projected better than the John Pearse that I was using, which I also really like, but I like the superfast response of the steels. Any suggestions?

Does anyone know anything about Chromcor or any other string out there that has enormous volume??? I need volume!!!!!

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Crystal, I don't know from fiddlin' ... If it ain't written down, I can't play it frown.gif

At any rate, before you launch a quest for the "perfect string" consider your bowing. A lot of the voice comes from 1) the weight of the bow on the string, 2) the length of the bow stroke 3) the speed of the bow stroke and 4) the location between the bridge and fingerboard where your bow is in contact with the string.

Put more pressure with your right index finger, play about 1 inch from the bridge with long, forceful strokes ... see how that adjustment in technique gets your voice out into the throng.

Oh. ... I suppose you could always play some wrong notes ... that'll get you noticed!! wink.gif

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Also: How do you know that your violin has great projection, as opposed to simply being loud under the ear when you're playing it, alone, in a medium-sized room?

Or the reverse: Some violins have terrific projection without being particularly loud under the ear.

Are you looking for projection (being clearly heard at a distance), volume in an ensemble (how loud you sound to other people that you're playing with), or loudness under the ear (how well you hear yourself)?

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I am looking for the ability to hear myself mostly. Although some of it may be strings, some of it may be my bowing techniques (or lack thereof), some of it may be this and that, it's most likely that when there's that many fiddles playing fast, loud scottish tunes in one small room, I guess I'm on my own there.

My husband who was there sitting in the next adjoining room, said it was LOUD.

At the beginning of the session, about 3 or 4 tunes are taught by ear, with the leader going through the tune slowly by herself, then everybody joins in and plays together, usually about 4 measures at a time. It's during this time that it's difficult to hear if I"m playing the right thing or not. Most everybody there I'm sure is more experienced than I am and I'm sure they're more confident. I am just a bit surprised how difficult it was to hear my ownself play sometimes.

Lydia: I know my violin projects very well when my teacher plays it and she said it's a fine ensemble instrument. Since I have so little experience, I don't know that I can answer for sure each of the questions that you've asked. When I have taken this violin to an old-time music jam where there's only a few other fiddles, it holds its own. But tonite was something else. It will be interesting to see what happens when they add the bodhrans and the pipers.

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Hi Crystal, your Scottish group sounds like lots of fun. Wow! They even teach you tunes and you don't have to just pick them out of the air on your own. I wish I could find a group like that! And give you music?? Where are you? In Heaven?

Anyway, I just wanted to say, when they add those pipers and bodhrans, try to sit as far away from them as possible.

I don't know how your group does it, but where I jam we just all sit willy-nilly, and I have found that I sure don't want to be surrounded by bodhrans or pipers. And if an accordian shows up, run to the other side of the room, they are really loud, even when they try to play softly.

Boy, I wish we had a group like yours here, interested in educating everyone! Have fun, Crystal!

Yankee Fiddler

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HKV: Thanks for the advice. I think that's probably the bottom line. Learn to block them out as much as possible. I can't afford to buy another instrument right now, even if that were the case, which I don't believe it is. I am just interested to know if maybe I could fix or at least help the problem with a different type of string.

Yankee Fiddler: This group is in the DC/Baltimore area. It's not just for fiddlers either. There were a couple of hammered dulcimers set up, a couple of different flutes, a couple of guitars, a piano, at least one mandolin. It was so hard to see everyone because the room was so crowded. The group consists of about 25 and it was at someone's house, in their family room. And, they had a BIG house. By the time you fit 25 musicians with music stands and instruments in their, it was crowded.

I am actually in Winchester, VA, which is about a bit over an hour from DC. The session takes place at different peoples houses and I am hoping that some will be more over towards Winchester. I am the only one that came from that far. But, there is no other group around like this. Letting people of all abilities come in, taking time to go through songs slowly, letting people tape record the session, then passing out the music on top of it. You get ensemble experience along with playing in public. This group plays for scottish dances, and many different festivals, including the biggest one the Alexandria Scottish Games which was in July. I was in heaven when I first heard them. Now I am part of the group. So, it's worth the drive for me.

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Crystal, your jam just sounds so very terrific!! Everything about it sounds perfect.

The Celtic jam I attend contains around 20 people, give or take each week. We meet in the back of a smoky barroom...no sheet music, no music stands....it's just listen and learn mostly, and at high speed.

And, not only do I have to contend with the bodhrans, accordians, banjos, and other noisy instruments, we also have the usual noise of a barroom. Some nights the noise itself is deafening. As you know, some people get a lot louder as they drink more. Some nights I sit directly next to another fiddle and have to bend over and put my ear closer, just to make sure I know what is being played, and that I'm still where I should be with the tune.

We certainly do not have the optiminal conditions that you have with your jam. Enjoy, I think you just found the gold at the end of the rainbow!!!

Crystal, what tunes did they hand out for you to learn?

Oh, I got my Infeld Red's and Blues and will be changing out of my Dominates soon, since I have had so much trouble with them. I think the Dominate A I just put on a few weeks ago is already false, it sure does sound funny. Then, depending on how it goes with the Infelds, I may try the Helicores and see if they give me a big and clean sound.

How are you doing with your "Famous Fiddlin' Tunes" book? I'm still working on "Ookpik - Canadian Waltz". I have some of it memorized, but not all, and I sure love that tune. I just got a book called "Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland" and just learned "Princess Royal". That is a very beautiful tune. Also from the same book I'm working on (you'll love this) "Rosc Catha na Mumhan". Whatever that means, it is pretty.

Keep on fiddlin' Crystal!

Yankee Fiddler

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Crystal,

Congratulations on taking this big step - and being ready for it. I wish you the beginning of many happy decades of making music with other people.

Individual violins have different levels of sound both under the ear and at a distance. In addition, the selection of strings will make a difference under the ear - perhaps even more than at a distance (I'm not sure at what "ratio").

My string recommendations in the past have been for under the ear levels - based on hearing myself in orchestra, etc. I like Olives (for gut) I like Obligato and Thomastik-Infeld Red or Blue (for synthetics) (depending on the particular instrument.

Helicore steel strings have strength, but may be a little more mellow (read as "weaker") in the overtones that you will hear when there is other noise all around you.

The ones you have selected in the past have been the ones I considered to be weaker under the ear (Pearse, Alliance, Larsen) because of the balance of overtones.

Andy

[This message has been edited by Andrew Victor (edited 10-16-2000).]

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One way to make sure you can hear yourself:

Tune your fiddle a quarter step up, that way you'll stick out like a sore thumb wink.gif

Just kidding. No, it's a problem we all have to face. I get around it by not playing in a large setting like that, but obviously that solution isn't for everyone.

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Yankee:

You asked about what tunes they handed out. Here is what they gave me for the first session. The leader is a championship scottish fiddler, with her own CD's out. She is awesome. She was terrific about going over these slowly, then picking it up.

1. Miss Wedderburn - aka (The Kilt is My Delight)

2. Cape Breton Fiddlers Welcome to Shetland

aka (Cape Breton Visit to Shetland)

3. Hector the Hero

4. The Gay Gordons ("gay" meant burly and strong)

5. The Sprig of Ivy

6. Paddy's Leather Breeches

7. Atholl Brose

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Hi Crystal,

I don't know any of those tunes. Who is your championship Scottish fiddler? Anyone known nationally that I may have heard of?

I'm really glad for you that you are having such a wonderful opportunity to learn. Someday I hope to find a group like that.

I hope that you are feeling better, I just read on another post that you were not feeling well.

Best wishes with all those tunes! You will be busy for a while.

Yankee Fiddler

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Yankee:

Thanks for your interest in the club. The instructor's name is Elke Baker. Here is a web site with more information about her. If you page down to the bottom of the site, you will see a link to her home page. Then, once there, if you page down to the bottom of that page, you will see a link to my fiddle club if you're interested.

www.kcaikido.com/kcscd/member/ElkeBaker.html

[This message has been edited by crystal (edited 10-17-2000).]

[This message has been edited by crystal (edited 10-17-2000).]

[This message has been edited by crystal (edited 10-17-2000).]

[This message has been edited by crystal (edited 10-17-2000).]

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Crystal, Sorry I didn't respond quicker!! First off let me say that my jamming is limited to playing with just a few fiddlers, a banjo, sometimes a mandolin, and if we're REALLY lucky a dog house bass. So I do not encounter this particular problem. It took me a long time however to concentrate on my own playing, and just enough of the other stuff to keep in time, but it's a skill that comes only with practice. A suggestion though, play along to a recording and gradually increase the volume, this way you will be in a setting more forgiving of mistakes, and there fore more relaxed, that relaxed playing will carry over to the group setting in no time!!!

Pole

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Crystal - I don't think the pipers and bodhrans will make it any harder; playing with a lot of other fiddlers just takes some getting used to. HKV made a good point about learning to filter out the sound you don't want (or rather tuning in to the sound you need, ie yourself).

Yankee Fiddler - "Rosc Catha na Mumhan" means "The Battle Cry of Munster". As the title suggests, it sounds good as a march as well as a slow air.

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Simon, thank you for the translation!! I love "Rosc Catha na Mumhan" and started playing it this week as a slow Air. Then, as I played it more and more it was turning into a march, and I could actually hear in my mind the bodhrans playing a very military-type beat to it. It is facinating that the tune turns out to actually be very military.

Hopefully some night I will get a chance to play it at session.

The tune that is now haunting me from this book is "General Monroe's Lament". It's beautiful. Does anyone have any idea about why General Monroe was lamenting?

Yankee Fiddler

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quote:

Originally posted by crystal:

Yankee:

Thanks for your interest in the club. The instructor's name is Elke Baker. Here is a web site with more information about her. If you page down to the bottom of the site, you will see a link to her home page. Then, once there, if you page down to the bottom of that page, you will see a link to my fiddle club if you're interested.

B]

Wow you got yourself a good teacher, I just saw a concert at the church next door to my house and guess who it was, Elke Baker she's a fine fiddler. She is supposed to be coming back here(des moines) in may and doing a workshop or something which I am going to attend. Best of luck to ya

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Hi Crystal,

Your club sounds like great fun! The only tune I recognized is "Hector the Hero", which is very beautiful.

I haven't experienced your particular problem, but I have never played with more than 6-8 other fiddlers at a time. It can get chaotic, but I can always hear myself. In fact, I usually sound too loud to me - I feel that I am perhaps not fitting in well because I am blasting away in my own ear.

I can imagine, though, that playing with a large group of competent fiddlers, all playing in unison, might be different. But perhaps great as well. The only experience I can compare it to is the rare old-time jam when I am surrounded by 3 - 5 really strong fiddle players. Sometimes it becomes a truly ecstatic experience; my own playing "disappears"; it seems as though I am blending perfectly, and the sound is what I call THE FIDDLE OF THE GODS. But at that point all individual nuance, embellishment, etc. is completely lost, and besides the point anyway. Hearing my own fiddle is unimportant (unless I were to mess things up.)

Maybe this is akin to playing in a section in an orchestra, which I have never done.

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Yankee Fiddler - Try searching Ceolas for "general monroe": http://www.ceolas.org/cgi-bin/htgrep/htgre...c.html&case=yes

Incidentally, you'll sometimes find translations for Irish tune titles at this site.

Catman - "Fiddle of the Gods", I like that. I played in orchestras for a few years before I switched to Irish fiddle full-time, and the experience is similar. But in fiddle music, even with a large group of fiddlers, there is a scope for spontaneity that the orchestra lacked in my experience. I do miss playing in the range of dynamics that orchestral music afforded (when did you last hear a roomful of Irish fiddlers playing pianissimo), but I suppose you can't have everything.

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