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Author Topic: Playing with fiddle  (Read 7072 times)

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Banjo Ray

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Playing with fiddle
« on: May 12, 2010, 12:45:58 AM »

Greetings all,
Brand new newbie here.  Just putting me toe in the melodeon water so to speak.

I am a morris man from years back and a fairly competent banjo and guitar player.  I have recently had a hankering to play the melodeon after tinkering around with one many, many years ago.   I'm hoping that eventually I can play along with my daughter on fiddle.  My interests are English folk dances mostly.  My question is this - I know from banjo playing that the favoured keys for a fiddle are A and D, I think because of the ability to play double-stops.  So which tuning for a melodeon is best for a beginner, into English morris and wanting to play with a fiddle?   Should I get a typical D/G and should the fiddle player learn to play in different keys?

I hope that question isnt too complicated.

Ta

Ray 
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Lester

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2010, 06:33:37 AM »

The ubiquitous melodeon for morris/English sessions is in D/G with heavy bias towards the G row. So looks like a bit of work for your daughter  ;)

xgx

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2010, 07:55:34 AM »

With current prices the A/D/G Hohner Compadre offers lots of possibilities ... I just happen to have one surplus to requirements ;D
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Graham

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Chris Ryall

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2010, 08:04:21 AM »

The UK[edit]  I see xgx just beat me in!  An big advantage of getting a second hand box is that if it doesn't work  - you can generally sell on at minimal loss. But I think the advice to get to a dealer and 'experiment' still stands (and they may make you an offer you can't refuse)!
« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 09:23:44 AM by Chris Ryall »
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Bill Young

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2010, 08:26:01 AM »

The UK standard box is certainly the D/G . . .

I think you mean "English" (and possibly Welsh, but who's counting?). I know there are a few in Scotland, but relatively rare (I've yet to encounter one), and I'd be surprised if they're all that prevalent in Northern Ireland.

Anahata

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2010, 09:05:00 AM »

The D/G melodeon was introduced and popularised in the 1950's precisely because it was compatible with fiddles.

Fiddles are perfectly happy in G, which is a much a natural key for the fiddle as any. There's no 3rd finger stretches in that key, for example.
Playing in A suits certain fiddle styles, like American with lots of open string drones, and a lot of Scottish music in in A but that may be due to the influence of pipes.
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TomB-R

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2010, 09:30:19 AM »

No stats to hand, but common session and dance tunes in England? I'd reckon something like 80%+ are D & G.
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Lester

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2010, 12:55:17 PM »

The UK standard box is certainly the D/G . . .

I think you mean "English" (and possibly Welsh, but who's counting?). I know there are a few in Scotland, but relatively rare (I've yet to encounter one), and I'd be surprised if they're all that prevalent in Northern Ireland.

Opps! sorry!

LJC

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2010, 01:23:11 PM »

I think the reason so many are in D or G now days is because of the melodeon. Chicken or the egg syndrome!
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nfldbox

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2010, 04:53:49 PM »

In my experience of irish fiddle music the most common scales are D G A, in that order. There are many historical reasons but I don't think conforming to melodeons/accordions is one of them.
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george garside

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2010, 06:29:26 PM »

I ;think its more a case of Dg being popular in England rather than Dg being popular for Englich music( which it probably also is!)  I have lead sesssions of over 150 players without straying from D & G  and have never had a complaint about choice of keys.  Tunes 'normallyu' written in A work quite well in G although I readily admit that they sound a bit nicer in A.  - however D &g suites the DG boxes! & doesn't trouble the fiddlers, although the one rowists in C may be somewhat buggered.

george
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HallelujahAl

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2010, 06:45:13 PM »

Quote
Should I get a typical D/G and should the fiddle player learn to play in different keys?
My nine year-old daughter plays fiddle (currently just taking her grade two so not that far advanced yet) -and her favourite keys are D major, Gmajor, E minor, & A major in that order of preference. We've just had an 'after tea and before homework' practice session where she played 'Lord Lovat's Lament' (G), 'Oyster Girl' (G), and 'Finlay is his father's darling' (D) and 'Rakes of Mallow' (G). The reason most fiddlers prefer playing in D,A &G is that they are easy keys for fingering purposes - nothing really to do with double stops. So you'll have no probs with a D/G box. Hope this helps. AL
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Stiamh

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2010, 09:30:06 PM »

The reason most fiddlers prefer playing in D,A &G is that they are easy keys for fingering purposes - nothing really to do with double stops.

Ray referred to double-stops as being a reason why fiddlers like the key of A and D. I would say that, as far as fiddlers (American, Scots and Irish to a lesser extent) are concerned (rather than violinists), he's right, except that the effects he are talking about aren't double stops at all, but merely open strings used as drones or pedals.

There is a bit less opportunity for this kind of thing in the key of G. But Al is right too, G is a nice easy key on the fiddle, don't worry about that.

Double-stopping (which by definition cannot involve open strings) is another kettle of fish altogether. (Most fiddlers will play the odd double-stopped chord, or hold down fingers on two strings for "rocking pedal" figures,  but practically nobody in the traditions I mentioned makes any greater use of true double-stopping, except in the upper echelons of bluegrass fiddling.)

« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 09:32:09 PM by Steve Jones »
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Theo

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2010, 09:43:07 PM »

As a relative newcomer to fiddle playing I think Steve has hit the nail on the head.  And it goes further,  it's not just playing drones etc on the open strings it's the resonance effects that the open strings give that help to create the big ringing sound that is a feature of many trad styles of fiddle.  It is possible to get resonance with stopped strings,  but it's much harder to do and much less dramatic in sound. 
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Ebor_fiddler

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2010, 12:26:08 AM »

I've been fiddling for a few years now. The D/G choice is simple - you only need to use one fingering shape and just use different strings. C can also be played in the same shape, though this is possibly only helpful in East Anglia!  :|glug
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Kautilya

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2010, 01:08:22 AM »

I've been fiddling for a few years now. The D/G choice is simple - you only need to use one fingering shape and just use different strings. C can also be played in the same shape, though this is possibly only helpful in East Anglia!  :|glug
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Banjo Ray

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2010, 02:54:09 AM »

Thanks for all the replies - what a helpful and knowledgeable bunch you are.

Steve is right, its not "double-stops" but the open-string drones and the sympathetic ringing of the open strings that particularly flavours old-time US fiddle music (which is derived from Irish/Scots/English music of course - many of the tunes are the same), and although a fair number of tunes are in G or even C, I thinks its fair to say most are in A or D and for this reason many old-time banjo players like me, capo-up to A almost permanently or play a short-scale banjo.  

Anyways it looks like D/G is the way to go- thanks again for your help.

Ray
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jonm

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #17 on: May 13, 2010, 07:51:30 AM »

A number of old-time fiddlers retune the fiddle to give more open-string opportunities - the guy I play with has fiddles tuned GDGD and ADAD as well as GDAE. We play a fair mix of G, D and A as keys (I play backup guitar and PA).
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EeeJay

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2010, 12:13:19 PM »

I think the reason so many are in D or G now days is because of the melodeon. Chicken or the egg syndrome!

Indeed. Tunes in F or Bb do seem to crop up in old tunebooks... and there's a fair deal of lush stuff I've come across in G or D minor for that matter. 8)

Which is kind of why I sometimes regard the ol' D/G as a bit of a musical truss... and why I developed a penchant for mutant contraptions...

But a 'straight' D/G's good enough for most things. Good and light too.

Get one... work out what works... what doesn't... and go from there...

Ed J
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Playing with fiddle
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2010, 05:23:41 PM »

I think the reason so many are in D or G now days is because of the melodeon. Chicken or the egg syndrome!

 >:E Can't resist repeating here the joke someone told at a Sunday session in Upton. Seems he found a chicken "making passionate love" to an egg! Afterwards the bird stood up and said "well that settles that one"  ;D .. but I digress
« Last Edit: May 13, 2010, 05:25:28 PM by Chris Ryall »
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