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GUEST,Marion dat fiddle, can 'Eb out Bb, mate? (53* d) RE: dat fiddle, can 'Eb out Bb, mate? 30 Aug 06

Hi Mick. Here's some more to consider from a humble fiddler who stays away from Eb and Bnat (though I will do Bb sometimes when feeling ambitious).

You said, when Russ had said your request was like asking a guitarist to play any key without capo:

"Fair enough, Russ. And I understand that, but it isn't really the same. A fiddle is a single note instrument, and a guitar is a chorded instrument. When I am playing melody lines, it isn't that big a thing to move around the neck on the guitar, bouzouki, etc. It seems to me, and I say this with great respect for the fiddle, but it is a matter of working with other scales, as opposed to chord construction."

I don't think it's fair to equate moving a melody line around a fiddle keyboard with moving it around a guitar neck, because the guitar is fretted. You can see where your finger is supposed to go, and you have a little range of string you can use to hit the note cleanly. On the fiddle, you don't have the visual clue or the margin of error.

For fiddlers - well, for me, anyway - contrary to popular belief, the correct stopping points are not found by ear, but by feel. When you are first learning a note, then yes, you do trial and error by ear to learn where to stop the string. But when you are playing, muscle memory kicks in - your fingers just know where to land, because they've done it so many times before. If I pick up my fiddle and hold it in position, I can put my finger down on a D note without plucking or bowing the string - I don't need to hear it, because I've learned how far to reach.

But if the song calls for a Eb, my hands don't know where it is automatically, because I need Eb so seldom. To play the Eb would require trial and error by ear - which I don't want to do when playing socially. So I'd sit that tune out.

I'm sure that I could learn it by muscle memory with enough practice practice practice, as Stewart points out. So why don't I? Well, for what I do (fiddle is for fiddle tunes, guitar is for accompanying singing), the costs would outweigh the benefits. If I were in Natalie's position - in a band, and using fiddle to accompany a singer - then it would make sense for me to learn to play in any key. But for me, considering my time limitations and playing goals, it doesn't make sense.


PS to Mick: are your PMs working? I've sent you a couple over the last few months, and haven't heard back.

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