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Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?

Pelrad 19 Mar 00 - 11:33 AM
Kara 19 Mar 00 - 12:11 PM
wysiwyg 19 Mar 00 - 12:27 PM
Hardiman the Fiddler 19 Mar 00 - 11:44 PM
Fountainfox 20 Mar 00 - 12:53 AM
Fountainfox 20 Mar 00 - 01:10 AM
Fountainfox 20 Mar 00 - 01:16 AM
wysiwyg 20 Mar 00 - 02:41 AM
Sorcha 20 Mar 00 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,Clarence 20 Mar 00 - 11:43 AM
GUEST,Captain Swing 20 Mar 00 - 04:33 PM
Pelrad 20 Mar 00 - 07:35 PM
Sorcha 20 Mar 00 - 07:50 PM
Muzzer (inactive) 20 Mar 00 - 08:33 PM
GUEST,Petr 20 Mar 00 - 08:50 PM
Jim Krause 21 Mar 00 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 22 Mar 00 - 04:13 PM
Grab 24 Mar 00 - 08:21 AM
Jim Krause 24 Mar 00 - 03:01 PM
GUEST,Dave T 26 Mar 00 - 11:02 AM
Grab 27 Mar 00 - 09:22 AM
Kara 21 Apr 00 - 05:37 PM
GUEST,vbunsen@sprynet.com 22 Apr 00 - 10:18 AM
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Subject: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Pelrad
Date: 19 Mar 00 - 11:33 AM

I have seen the Homespun tapes recommended several times here on the 'Cat, and am wondering if anyone has suggestions for which tapes in particular might be most helpful to an absolute beginner. Someone who can manage to tune the instrument and pick out melodies, but has no bowing technique, etc. I will be engaging an instructor as soon as possible, but want to get a head start.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Kara
Date: 19 Mar 00 - 12:11 PM

two bit of advice, only do it if you are sure you want to. Learning to play the fiddle is a slow and painful process. Once you have decide that you realy have to do this, rememer that the more you do it the better you will get and the wordt bit only lasts for a few hundred hours so the sooner you get throw them the better. The irish fiddle book by Matt Cranick, is very good as discribing bowing techniques for Irish Fiddle. If you are a blue grass fancyer. Try Hotlicks for Bluegrass fiddle, by Stacy Phillips Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 19 Mar 00 - 12:27 PM

I'll let Hardiman know you're asking, Pelrad-- he's entirely self taught on it and just a year or two ahead of you. I'll ask him to get online this evening EST.

See also a recent thread about a beginning viola player-- find it by searching, Hardiman entries'll work.

Sorry no time to build blue clickies today.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Hardiman the Fiddler
Date: 19 Mar 00 - 11:44 PM

Dear Pelrad,

Congratualations and welcome to the brotherhood and sisterhood of fiddlers. We all started out brand new at one time or another---I always feel like I'm learning every time I pick up my fiddle which is one reason that I never get bored playing it.

A couple weeks ago, a fellow posted, saying that he'd just purchased a viola, and asking for some tips on getting started. That thread was around March 5, this year. I wrote a lengthy response on suggestions that I found helpful about learning to play the fiddle, since the instruments are similar...I think the thread was just "advice needed..." All of what I wrote and what others wrote would be helpful to you. I'm going to see if I can find it, and add a posting to make it come up in the current threads.

One suggestion I left out was that it pays to have fine tuners for all four strings, especially if you are playing with a group of people---since it is a lot easier to tune that way than dealing with the pegs that can be difficult to adjust so minutely for small variations in the pitch.

Congratualtions...Stick with it...don't get discouraged, and if you want, feel free to contact me on my personal page if there are any other questions I can answer.

Personally, I started out playing hymns and easy songs that I already knew, so I would have an idea if I was approximating anything close to what the fiddle was supposed to sound like.

Good luck, Hardiman


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Fountainfox
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 12:53 AM

Yes, the advicve in that thread was all very good and very helpful. I was surprised to see it back on the board, (I posted it) because there a lot of activity here and it sank pretty quick after a day or two. I copied the entire thread into my word processor so it is more readily available. My progress has been hindered by a sudden and temproary shortage of time. Glad to see another beginner admit it.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Fountainfox
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 01:10 AM

Yes, the advicve in that thread was all very good and very helpful. I was surprised to see it back on the board, (I posted it) because there a lot of activity here and it sank pretty quick after a day or two. I copied the entire thread into my word processor so it is more readily available. My progress has been hindered by a sudden and temproary shortage of time. Glad to see another beginner admit it.

I WAS trying to bow parallel to the bridge and have been finding that of harder to control than it seemed it ought to be. I applied a lot of basic guitar sense in this -- with it you don't want to play too close to the bridge or too far up the neck, as a rule either. The same went for letting the new strings 'pull in' before expecting it to do anything like hold a tune. I have found the viola tuning is actually easier than when I had it tuned like a tenor guitar (there it's all scrunched together) and I am very curious to try what you've suggested. But ' going to have to wait for everyone to be up first, as our house is small.

Your tips are excellent and encouraging.

Thanks,

Dave Cary


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Fountainfox
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 01:16 AM

The above post will be a bit puzzling. After I replied previously, I noticed I had a couple PM's. They were from Hardiman. The above post was actually a PM to him concerning advice he had given me on bowing and a couple other things. I don't quite know how this happened, but I don't really mind. Fiddling on a viola isn;t the only thing I can use practice at,


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 02:41 AM

All--

Hardiman and I discussed later that maybe the advice would be welcome in the thread. I'll ask him if he wants to paste it in.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 09:42 AM

Been thinking about this since I first saw it, and have decided that BOTH hand, arm and elbow positions are probably the most important thing for a beginner. If you fall into the habit of getting any part of the posture wrong, it will severly limit you, and be a mega pain to correct and re-learn later. Buy a good beginner book with photos and follow them closely. Correct arm/hand position is just too complicated to try to describe here, and there are a lot of variations depending on what you want to do.
To begin: try to keep the strings parallel to the floor, and the bow at 90 degrees to the strings. Keep the bow flat on the strings, and practice long bow strokes on open strings, using the whole bow.
Keep the bow about half way between the bridge and fingerboard. Do this til you consistently have a pleasing tone on open strins. Use all 4 strings for this, and practice smooth string crossings. When you can do this, come back, and I'll try to think of what next.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: GUEST,Clarence
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 11:43 AM

Your must have a good fiddle, the string must be low to the fingerboard,for easily noting. start learning the d scale first easy to play in, get lessons if possible,if not but a viedo tape at the music store. buy a bood.buy some fiddle tapes. have a fiddler put some tunes on a cassette tape.use head phones to learn the tunes put only one head phone on and listen with the other ear to the fiddle. learn easy tunes first.learn the scale of d,a,g,c. plus the others tips hopes this helps the fiddler clarence


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 04:33 PM

A neck support is essential if you want to avoid back pain. It also improves posture and, consequently, bowing and tone.

Also, play lightly on the strings and be sure your bowing hand is relaxed.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Pelrad
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 07:35 PM

Thank you all very much for the advice. My fiddle is coming home on Thursday this week, and I will have to reconfigure it (it is currently set up for a lefty and I am a righty). Don't worry, I plan to have a friend who plays violin do this with me. Then I will practice practice practice all the wonderful advice you've given me so far. :-)

Sorcha, how does one keep the bow 90 degrees to the middle strings? On my rental violin (which went back to the company in January), I managed quite well to get clear tones out of the high and low strings, but the two middle ones were not so easy...

Captain Swing, by neck support do you mean chin support? My new one has a brandy-new Widdner (sp?) on it. Or is there something else you mean?

Hardiman and Praise, many thanks. I will look at the viola thread.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 07:50 PM

It may be that the bridge was not correct. If the strings sit too deep in the grooves in the bridge, the A and D are almost impossible to find. Played one yesterday that this was the case. I could not find my double stops at all. Have your violinist friend check the bridge, and if the strings are not all even about 1/16th of an inch in front of the bridge, the bridge will need to be re cut. Take to a shop to have this done, bridge cutting and setting is an art unto itsself.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Muzzer (inactive)
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 08:33 PM

Hi I'm a beginner myself 2years or so I found a video by Kenny Kosek very helpful "Learning Bluegrass Fiddle" The absolute best thing is to play with others Stick close to your violinist friend.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: GUEST,Petr
Date: 20 Mar 00 - 08:50 PM

I think people are recommending a good shoulder rest, which straps on to the underside of the fiddle. Ive been using one for years and it really helps to support the fiddle without using your left hand. The major problem with a lot of beginners is that they have a tendency to hold the fiddle up with their left hand (palm) thereby limiting the reach of the fingers on the fingerboard. Although a lot of fiddle players do this and you can play like this, it makes higher positions practically impossible. I played for about 9yrs growing up and when I went back to it 4yrs ago I already had the basics. I got a few music books which came with either cds or tapes so that I could hear what that style of playing sounded like. I also got together with a number of friends (beginners as well) and jammed with them. The first book I got was one of Robin Williamsons (Fiddle Music of Scotland Ireland and Wales which came with a little floppy mini record (the book was from the 70's). I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from it although I later found out that Robins versions were (often) in different keys and sometimes completely different b-parts that anyone else played. Another useful one was a Mel Bay book (the Complete Irish Fiddle player) by Pete Cooper. Which came with a double cd and had about 75 tunes on it and played the tunes slow and fast. It was a bit pricey about 65$ (Canadian) Just play and enjoy, it really does get better. Petr.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 21 Mar 00 - 05:19 PM

I'll ad my 2 cents' worth. I'd recommend the Kenny Kosek Homespun tapes. I used 'em and they got me started pretty well. Nice thing about this series is, you can later branch out into a specialized style of fiddling after you've completed the lessons. Kosek touches on Old-time, Cajun, C&W, and a little Western Swing. Also Alan Kaufman's book "Beginning Old Time Fiddle" on Oak is good. Got a little pull out record in it too. Modern editions might have a CD. Check it out. Glad to hear another is goin' down the road of fiddlin' around.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 22 Mar 00 - 04:13 PM

Yes, sorry to confuse you. I meant 'shoulder rest' not 'neck support'.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Grab
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 08:21 AM

Yeah, shoulder rest is essential. Made sure you keep your left-hand wrist straight or slightly curved out, as you should with guitar. If you raise your wrist to support the neck of the fiddle, then you'll not be able to move around properly. Practice holding the fiddle just with your head/neck, without holding it at all with your hands - that'll get you used to supporting it properly. I know the trad fiddlers will have kittens at this, but there's things they just can't do cos their technique hamstrings them, so ignore them! :-)

Bowing, you need to keep the bow at right angles to the strings. As you get to the tip of the bow, bend your right wrist away from you, then that compensates for the tendency of your arm to pull the bow back. Conversely, when you get to the nut (I think that's what it's called - the end you hold anyway! :-) then bend your wrist towards you - that compensates for your arm tending to push the bow round the other way. Best way to get this sorted is to enlist someone else to stand next to you and correct you when you pull the bow round. It's perfectly possible to keep the bow in the same place on the string but to be pulling it round at either end, so it's difficult to tell yourself.

It's quite difficult to describe this, so it's very handy to find someone to demonstrate the movements. Once you've sussed what you're supposed to be doing, you can practice it on your own.

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 03:01 PM

Grab, if I understand what you're saying about bow technique, the same can be achieved by watching yourself in a full lenght mirror, I think. I had a repairman who rehaired by bow tell me I must be doing it right 'cause the hair was all gone from the center of the bow.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: GUEST,Dave T
Date: 26 Mar 00 - 11:02 AM

I started learning fiddle in the fall. I've played guitar for many years but always wanted to learn bluegrass fiddle. The first thing I did was sign up for lessons. All of the advice above is good. Correct position of the bowing arm/wrist/hand is important as it is for the left hand. A mirror is a good way of checking this. One thing I constantly have to remind myself of when playing is to RELAX.
On the advice of my instructor, I recently (finally?) purchased a bow to replace the "el cheapo" I had been using: what a difference! I highly recommend spending some bucks on a decent bow once you've played enough to be able to figure out if you're going to stick with it. In addition to normal practice routine, I'll often just put on a CD and try to play along: anything from folk to country to bluegrass, etc.

Dave T


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Grab
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 09:22 AM

Not thought about using a mirror. Bloody good idea though - have to try that! :-)

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: Kara
Date: 21 Apr 00 - 05:37 PM

if you rosin your tuning pegs when you change your strings they become much more efficient as they grip rather than slide. You do this by just rubbing them with all that extra rosin you get at the end of your bow.


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Subject: RE: Advice for absolute beginner on fiddle?
From: GUEST,vbunsen@sprynet.com
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 10:18 AM

I started playing fiddle 4 yrs ago (age 42) w/o benefit of lessons or any prior musical experience. I play in a band for contra dances now. It certainly can be done and you should go for it! I recommend Brad Leftwich's Homespun Tape "How to Play Oldtime Fiddle." I also recommend playing at least a little every day. Don't leave it in the case for days or weeks at a time. Many times I only had 10 mins./day to play and it made a big difference to pick it up every day. It is important to play with others. You'll learn a ton from other people and you'll develop better rhythm (unless you enjoy playing with a metronome more than people). I played with other beginners at first and then started playing with musicians who were better than me but not light-years ahead. This is a good way to push yourself to get better. Also, you should subscribe to the Fiddle-L listserv at http://www-openmap.bbn.com/users/gkeith/fiddles/fiddle-l.html You'll get a huge amount of info from those listers. I don't check mudcat too often, so if you want moral support and to chat, email me at vbunsen@sprynet.com.


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