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A question for traditional fiddlers (Irish, Scot etc.)


High Strung

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quote:

Originally posted by lzaikoski:

Another thing to consider is that by its nature as primarily dance music, a clear discernable rhythm is more important than soaring notes. Dancers could care less if your playing at the top of the fingerboard or down at the scroll so long as the beat of the jig or reel is clear.

God Bless America,

Len

Ummm in the USA this is true, probably the result of the Climate and how sounds behave in the thinner air. In Western Eu it does not - happily for us- work that way.

It is not just rhythm, there has to be some kind goo to bind a 16 Bar round together, to wit a tune.

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quote:

Originally posted by toasty:

Ummm in the USA this is true, probably the result of the Climate and how sounds behave in the thinner air. In Western Eu it does not - happily for us- work that way.

It is not just rhythm, there has to be some kind goo to bind a 16 Bar round together, to wit a tune.

What do you mean? Are there folk traditions in W. Europe that require all sorts of high-fingerboard work? I've rarely heard *any* sort of folk music that goes much beyond 4th finger B on the E-string.

I wasn't saying that you don't need to play in tune, or that the notes aren't important, but merely that high-position work isn't really necessary for most folk music because rhythm is more important than 'tone color' -- what people usually seem to mean when discussing the differences in sound between an open string A and an 8th-position A played on the G-string. Personally, I prefer the sound of an open string.

Also, I don't think there's that big of a difference between US and Europe climate to account for anything.

God Bless America,

Len

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quote:

Originally posted by lwl:

Alasdair Fraser seems to make extensive use of positions beyond the first, in order to color his sound in particular ways, though I don't think he ever plays above fifth position. He has beautifully well-controlled position changes -- like a Kreisler-era violinist's sort of aesthetic about sliding. (His technique seems very much fundamentally a classical player's technique, to my ear, in general, though...)

Alistart Fraser is in a class by himself.

It is important to distinguish the several limbs of this thread.

so many times we have hashed out the differences between classical and traditional music.

I would liken Fraser to Grapelli. A master of Improvisation with no technical obstacles,combined with impeccable taste.

Frazier does not write out his scores. If he did, the question as asked by HS would be moot.

returning to the theme, however, most mortals fiddle for fun . simple tunes , strong rythyms. that's what people dance to.

Bud

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quote:

Originally posted by Hank Taylor:

Simon-fiddles have been playing folk music for over 400 years. Fiddlers used the new instrument at the end of the 16th century before it caught on as an instrument for serious music. I know traditions change slowly, but that slowly? Did fiddlers accomodate to the winds and it was fortuitous that the keys were easy to play? Or did the two evolve together?

Hank,

My understanding is that the fiddle did not really gain popularity in Ireland until the 18th century, when there was a plentiful supply of European instruments. I hasten to add I'm no expert on the history of the fiddle.

Looking at my last post, it probably wasn't too well thought out. I wasn't responding directly to High Strung's question about key signatures, but rather I was making the point that the pipes, more than any other instrument, are the sound of Irish music. I included key signatures as part of their influence, which was a mistake. As Park pointed out, the pipes weren't always in D.

Anyway, just in case anyone doubts I have a bee in my bonnet with regard to the influence of the pipes on Irish music, I've posted lwl a clip of myself fiddling in the Donegal bagpipe style for the Maestronet gallery.

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OK, I agree with The votes on fiddle being easier in first position, and with Fiddlefaddle about the mortal folks playing for fun. That perty much sums her up.

BUT...

No one remembered the number one reason that nearly all trad players play in first position almost exclusively.

It is strictly because that by holding the fiddle at the farthest point on the neck, it leaves the majority of the remaining weight to be held on the chin or up against the chest. This in turn leaves a valuable amount of leverage should you need to flip it out and whop someone up side the head if they get out of hand. Never thought of that one did you?

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quote:

Originally posted by lzaikoski:

What do you mean? Are there folk traditions in W. Europe that require all sorts of high-fingerboard work? I've rarely heard *any* sort of folk music that goes much beyond 4th finger B on the E-string.

I wasn't saying that you don't need to play in tune, or that the notes aren't important, but merely that high-position work isn't really necessary for most folk music because rhythm is more important than 'tone color' -- what people usually seem to mean when discussing the differences in sound between an open string A and an 8th-position A played on the G-string. Personally, I prefer the sound of an open string.

Also, I don't think there's that big of a difference between US and Europe climate to account for anything.

God Bless America,

Len

Ok, now I see the confusion, I wuz rabbiting on about the Melodic nature as opposed to the absense of any clear Rhythmic rule.

If you can play Colemans version of 'Lord Mc Donald' and not use the 3rd position, I will eat my hat!

Be well

smile.gif

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Edited

quote:

Originally posted by fiddlefaddle:

Alistart Fraser is in a class by himself.

Frazier does not write out his scores.

First point - agreed, but there are a few other players in their own classes also.

Second point - on what evidence? I have copies of tunes he composed which he's written out personally. He doesn't write out the improvisation, but then, who does?

Neil

[This message has been edited by Neil Gow (edited 12-05-2001).]

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quote:

Originally posted by toasty:

Ok, now I see the confusion, I wuz rabbiting on about the Melodic nature as opposed to the absense of any clear Rhythmic rule.

If you can play Colemans version of 'Lord Mc Donald' and not use the 3rd position, I will eat my hat!

Be well

smile.gif

Well toasty better start eating your hat, I can play Lord Mcdonalds without going into third position. It's not that hard of a tune. Wouldn't going into third make it more difficult???

Also another thought on why tunes stay in first position on the fiddle is that first as Simon was trying to say that certain keys are easier to play on the pipes than other keys, so in order to play along with the pipes it would require you to stay within the boundries of the pipes. Same thing can be said for the tin whistle, flute and the accordian(or melodeon). All these instruments have limitations unlike the fiddle and is a very good reason why only first position is played on the fiddle. Accordian players tend to get pretty pissed off when the fiddle player jumps into 3rd position.

It seems that the classical player thinks it is an advantage to play in different keys and that playing in 1st position is easy. Well maybe if you played the tune straight on, yes it would be easy. But the rythym,ornaments and bow techniques are enough to keep me going for a lifetime in the first position.

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quote:

Originally posted by Neil Gow:

Second point - on what evidence? I have copies of tunes he composed which he's written out personally. He doesn't write out the improvisation, but then, who does?

Neil

My point was that he doesn't write out all the stuff in higher positions.

Which was the question.

Which is the distinguishing difference between a virtuoso fiddler and a classical violinist.

Lydia's point about someone else scoring his breaks and improvisation and handing it out in teaching clubs doesn't really change that, because Fraser may never play it that way again.

Park excellent point. functionalliy

Bud

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quote:

Originally posted by newfie:

Well toasty better start eating your hat, I can play Lord Mcdonalds without going into third position. It's not that hard of a tune. Wouldn't going into third make it more difficult???

Also another thought on why tunes stay in first position on the fiddle is that first as Simon was trying to say that certain keys are easier to play on the pipes than other keys, so in order to play along with the pipes it would require you to stay within the boundries of the pipes. Same thing can be said for the tin whistle, flute and the accordian(or melodeon). All these instruments have limitations unlike the fiddle and is a very good reason why only first position is played on the fiddle. Accordian players tend to get pretty pissed off when the fiddle player jumps into 3rd position.

It seems that the classical player thinks it is an advantage to play in different keys and that playing in 1st position is easy. Well maybe if you played the tune straight on, yes it would be easy. But the rythym,ornaments and bow techniques are enough to keep me going for a lifetime in the first position.

You must do the slide off the correct note! No cheating. Also I made a serious Classical error here, not knowing the correct names, the position used by the great Fiddler is the 2nd and not the 3rd. Besides this track one can also hear the same trick on Morrison in two tunes. Can't recall the names, but there is only one Morrison CD so you'd have no problem finding them.

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quote:

Originally posted by newfie:

Also another thought on why tunes stay in first position on the fiddle is that first as Simon was trying to say that certain keys are easier to play on the pipes than other keys, so in order to play along with the pipes it would require you to stay within the boundries of the pipes.

This isn't actually what I was trying to say, but I've retracted what I said anyway, since it was wrong. wink.gif The pipes didn't dictate the actual pitches (A=440 or whatever) to the fiddle. In fact the modern form of bagpipe in Ireland, the uillean pipes, hasn't been around as long as the fiddle; a concert pitch chanter is in D, which if anything was probably chosen to conform to the fiddle's easiest key.

However, as I think possibly I mentioned already wink.gif , the pipes in one form or another are what created the sound of Irish music, and you can hear their influence in any good Irish fiddle playing. I know less about the history of the pipes than I do about that of the fiddle, but I doubt there can have been pipes with a range greater than two octaves. That's why most Irish tunes fall well within a two octave range, and hence why they can be played in first position on the fiddle.

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quote:

Originally posted by toasty:

You must do the slide off the correct note! No cheating. Also I made a serious Classical error here, not knowing the correct names, the position used by the great Fiddler is the 2nd and not the 3rd. Besides this track one can also hear the same trick on Morrison in two tunes. Can't recall the names, but there is only one Morrison CD so you'd have no problem finding them.

Huh, what? I'am not sure what you mean by that but the version I know is off the coleman double set, maybe I do do what you said or maybe cheat, I have no idea. The other coleman tune that is in 2nd position is the cuckoo's nest(completely different name on the coleman cd), it's a nice hornpipe. Morrison cd's, is that the proffeser from viva voce? If it is you can't buy it anymore at least not in the past year or two. It's been reallly frustrating trying trying to find it.

N

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quote:

Originally posted by newfie:

Huh, what? I'am not sure what you mean by that but the version I know is off the coleman double set, maybe I do do what you said or maybe cheat, I have no idea. The other coleman tune that is in 2nd position is the cuckoo's nest(completely different name on the coleman cd), it's a nice hornpipe. Morrison cd's, is that the proffeser from viva voce? If it is you can't buy it anymore at least not in the past year or two. It's been reallly frustrating trying trying to find it.

N

James Morrison, Shanachai Label

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I suggest checking out a new (2000 copyright) book called something like "The Complete Guide to Celtic Music." It does not have technical explanations of the music, but does have a lot of cultural and social history. Just the first chapter answered a bunch of my questions about why the tunes are the way they are. Or maybe it was the second...easy reading, so I am not sure.

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One more thing, and this is a personal pet peeve: many of the posts about what dancers want are pretty obnoxious and presumptuous. It is clear that the people who posted them do not have much (if any) experience in traditional dancing (e.g. Irish sets, Irish and Cape Breton step, etc.).

The oldest music from Ireland (save perhaps harp tunes, which are their own ball of wax) is intricately bound up with dance. Cape Breton style fiddling and dance are practically married to each other, as noted by cultural studies of music, and anyone who has seen Natalie!

I am a competitive Irish step dancer, and let me assure you that I want more than just a steady beat! My fellow dancers--both performance and competitive--want more than a steady beat as well. Particularly in a session where dancers are welcome, the dancers and musicians have to work as a team, or both suffer. I want music with some soul and life to it, and I want musicians to have a good time playing (it is soooo horrid to dance for a musician that sees playing for dancers as a chore!). Of course I do want LOUD, particularly in hard shoe steps, but in many soft shoe styles (e.g. slip jig), variations in volume are a good and happy thing.

Please don't talk about "what dancers want" as though you are an authority if you are not a dancer.

Thanks for listening.

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quote:

Originally posted by MacKay:

One more thing, and this is a personal pet peeve: many of the posts about what dancers want are pretty obnoxious and presumptuous. It is clear that the people who posted them do not have much (if any) experience in traditional dancing (e.g. Irish sets, Irish and Cape Breton step, etc.).

The oldest music from Ireland (save perhaps harp tunes, which are their own ball of wax) is intricately bound up with dance. Cape Breton style fiddling and dance are practically married to each other, as noted by cultural studies of music, and anyone who has seen Natalie!

I am a competitive Irish step dancer, and let me assure you that I want more than just a steady beat! My fellow dancers--both performance and competitive--want more than a steady beat as well. Particularly in a session where dancers are welcome, the dancers and musicians have to work as a team, or both suffer. I want music with some soul and life to it, and I want musicians to have a good time playing (it is soooo horrid to dance for a musician that sees playing for dancers as a chore!). Of course I do want LOUD, particularly in hard shoe steps, but in many soft shoe styles (e.g. slip jig), variations in volume are a good and happy thing.

Please don't talk about "what dancers want" as though you are an authority if you are not a dancer.

Thanks for listening.

Agreed! In 10 years of wandering about at various venues I heard many fine Fiddler play the Chieftans, Clare, etc according to the tried and proven Sweet/Choppy style so popular in the US and Canada, but not one NEVER have I heard a Long Dance, or Step played!

As I keep trying to illustrate here, Irish/Scots tunes use l-o-n-g notes not for Rhythmic intent but melodic, and your posting helps me understand better why these notes occur in the most unexpected places. Dance!

BTW Do you do the Blackbird?

smile.gif

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It's nice to hear a dancer say that they want to work with the band. The dancers our band uses do a real nice job of this. They like it hard and loud as well. I tend to lean my accompaniment toward off beat rhythms, syncopation, and hemiola. They've begun to lean that way with me. It really makes a nice show.

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quote:

Originally posted by MacKay:

I am a competitive Irish step dancer, and let me assure you that I want more than just a steady beat! My fellow dancers--both performance and competitive--want more than a steady beat as well. Particularly in a session where dancers are welcome, the dancers and musicians have to work as a team, or both suffer. I want music with some soul and life to it, and I want musicians to have a good time playing (it is soooo horrid to dance for a musician that sees playing for dancers as a chore.

When you mention "soul and life" what do you mean? What qualities separate music with and without?

Also, I would think that there's a big difference between the needs of a professional/competitive step dancer and the typical folk who show up and stomp around to a barn dance or hoedown.

I think that as with most things as the level of ability increases the need for complexity increases as well.

God Bless America,

Len

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quote:

(it is soooo horrid to dance for a musician that sees playing for dancers as a chore.

I was wondering how you recognize such musicians. Most Dance musicians I know enjoy their work immensely, certainly doing it for love, rather than money. many regard, as I do, the dance as the thing which gives "life and soul" to their music . Do these musicians confess to this, or do you perceive it through your own intuitive process?

indeed , having the response of joyous dance to one's music is reward that ,in my opinion exceeds applause any day.

Where on this board , Mackay, do you see this negativism.???

Bud

[This message has been edited by fiddlefaddle (edited 12-11-2001).]

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No one on this board has said that playing for dancers is a chore. I do know some musicians who don't care for it though. Perhaps they had bad experiences, or would prefer to play airs or ballads? I am not sure. I did (and I think most dancers would) perceive the comments to the effect that "all dancers want/need is a steady beat" as a pretty big slam against dancers. One, because it is not true. Two, because it makes dancers look at least a bit self-centered and dense as to music. (If all I needed was a beat, I could dance to a metronome.) Three, it ignores the vital play between dancer and musician.

By "life" in the music...well, what I mean is hard to describe. Even in the most informal of ceilis (ceilidhs, if you prefer), the dancers dance for the musicians, and the musicians play for the dancers. Whichever you do, I hope you do it with joy and because you love what you are doing (as opposed to SIGH I guess everyone else wants to play dance tunes).

W/R/T the question about playing for a "long step" above (can't recall whose question it was)... Most of the recorded music I have for dancing has three (sometimes more) tunes per track. Typically, each tune is played through three times. Admittedly, the goal with recorded music is a bit different (and of course no spontanaeity, lol). I don't know a single dancer who does not greatly prefer live musicians to CDs. It's just wild, especially when you can have a dancer stepping around a fiddler, or an accordian player who follows a dancer around, or things like that. Spontaneous mixes, like the one at this year's "fiddle faddle" jam at the Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games--are my favorite. (The musicians were all playing, and people were clapping and stomping their feet, until someone started moving chairs, and suddenly there were Scottish country dances, and then some solo steps, and then some Irish figures...it was bliss! Everyone had a ball!)

At a competition, a musician might play for 50 dancers, each dancing 32 bars two dacners at a time. In that case, knowing lots of tunes and having stamina is important. (God bless the musicians--especially Mr. Tony Nother, my hero--and buy them a bevvie afterwards!) There are so few musicians who can play like this all day, and even fewer who want to, that the regional Irish dance competitions have to be held on different weekends (as otherwise there are not enough musicians to go around).

For other kinds of dancing, there are different requirements. In traditional step dancing sets, the dancers typically do a "lead up" step, then a "set piece" (which are steps that do not change). In a noncompetitive setting, the dancers will then dance a step, and then the set piece, and another step, and the set piece...this is pretty rare these days. In Irish country sets (which are danced in four couples, like square dancing, or in two couples, which is a half set), there is a set piece, then a figure, then the set piece, then a figure, sort of like a song with verses and a chorus. (These figures are also unchanged/mostly unchanged steps; many are in books such as Toss the Feathers, and many more are handed down by dance masters.) Country sets often use different kinds of music for the figures though. So the set piece might be a reel, but one or more of the figures might be a hornpipe or a polka. And a given country set might have seven figures, of varying lengths and styles...

This is probably too much information...can anyone tell I am procrastinating at work today?

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