Showing posts with label Fiddle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiddle. Show all posts

Monday, July 17, 2017

VIOLIN or FIDDLE? The Differences Explained by a Player

“That’s a fine lookin’ fiddle ya got there, kid.”
I gritted my teeth into a forced smile and quietly thanked the old man at the bus stop. “Fiddle!?” I thought, gritting my teeth into a polite smile. “It’s a V-I-O-L-I-N, you old goat!”
Teenagers are sensitive and easily embarrassed, but this chickie had a bit too much pride in self-labeled “superiority as a classical musician,” which meant I was annoyingly arrogant and a general pain in the butt.

Humbled by merciless teasing in jazz college opened my eyes to the music outside my sanctioned little bubble.

I learned to fiddle.
For the most part “fiddle” is a style of music, such as Celtic, Bluegrass or Old Time. Nevertheless, there are a few differences and stereotypes between fiddle and violin.

Robert Blackwelder playing the fiddle: Dundee, Florida
Robert Blackwelder playing the fiddle - Photo  by      State Library and Archives of Florida

We’ve all threatened Fluffy that she’ll be taking a trip to the string factory if she doesn’t stop scratching the couch. There’s the violin’s dark secret of winding silver around a stretched piece of animal tissue (run Fluffy, run!). This used to be the principal method of making violin strings.
Gut strings possessed a rich and full quality ideal for orchestral playing. They weren’t perfect for the bank account, however, and fiddlers resorted to the cheaper alternative: steel. Steel strings have a “bright” timbre (tone) and carry well in a solo situation.

Steel strings are very difficult to tune with the violin’s clumsy wooden pegs. Many steel strings were broken until the glorious invention of fine-tuners, the tiny little metal mechanisms on the tailpiece that makes tuning a piece of cake. Violinists adopted this technology for use on their steel “E” strings which is nearly impossible to tune with the peg.

When I was youth symphony many players removed their lower string fine tuners haughtily, like a child insisting training wheels are for babies. The use of fine tuners on all four strings unfortunately had become associated with less skilled musicians since fiddlers used them. There is also evidence that fine tuners alter the quality of harmonics (higher frequencies). This a ridiculous stereotype was invented: violinists use the pegs, fiddlers use fine tuners.

It is thought that fiddles are simply cheap violins. At one time this could have been true, as poorer or rural folks usually played home-made fiddles, not Strads. They were less likely to afford private lessons or attend the symphony, but learned traditional tunes at jams and ceilidhs (kay-lees). Since many fiddlers never had formal lessons, most couldn’t read music and played everything by ear, whereas violinists could read music usually could not improvise. Another stereotype was invented.
Holding a violin with one’s jaw makes it nearly impossible to talk and play simultaneously (similar to walking around with your pants around your ankles). Square dancing fiddlers dealt with this difficulty by holding the violin down on their arm rather than under the chin, freeing up their jaws to “call” the dance moves. This technique is a big no-no in classical playing and it created yet another rift between violin and fiddle.

Luckily it seems the violin/fiddle gap has narrowed considerably in the past few years. Most players use new hybrid strings that posses a full and rich, yet clear, tone and respond well to both classical and fiddle playing. Classical violinists aren’t so sticky about fine tuners anymore as they are seen as an advantage over using stubborn old pegs.

The resurgence of fiddle music in pop culture has created an opportunity for fiddlers to aspire to a higher level of playing ability and for violin students to branch out and try other genres of music. Hence fiddlers and violinists alike have finer instruments and a formal music education.
Fiddle technique is being abandoned by many fiddlers who have discovered the benefits, such as greater speed and fewer backaches, of the classical technique.

New programs in music education in new programs has produced fiddlers who can read music and violinists who can improvise.
As more musicians branch out musically and develop new ways of playing there will be little difference between "violin” and “fiddle.” Musicians will feel much more comfortable playing with each other and the stereotypes will fade away, both violin and fiddle will be valid.

You’ll see the old man at the bus stop whistling to “Celtic Swing Baroque Techno” on his MP3 player. 

    By Rhiannon Schmitt
    Rhiannon Schmitt (nee Nachbaur) is a professional violinist and music teacher who has enjoyed creative writing for years. She writes for two Canadian publications and Australia's "Music Teacher Magazine."
    Her business, Fiddleheads Violin School & Shop, has won several distinguished young entrepreneur business awards and offers beginner to professional level instruments, accessories and supplies for very reasonable prices: Visit http://www.fiddleheads.ca
    Article Source: EzineArticles 


Monday, July 11, 2016

What Is COUNTRY MUSIC Anyway?

When many people think of country music, they think of sad songs about lost loves, broken down trucks and runaway dogs. In their minds, they are hearing all of these woes sung in the traditional twangy country accents of the south. However, these perceptions of country music are far from where this style of music has evolved. Today, country music is one of the most popular genres of music, normally outsold only by rock and pop genres.

Fiddle player
Photo  by rfduck 
Created in the late 19th century, country music has under gone many changes over the years. There are now many sub-genres to this type of music, with some of the sub-genres being commonly played on top 40 radio stations.

To understand country music, it is helpful to know about the instruments commonly associated with it. In country music, one of the most common instruments used is the fiddle (or violin). Some of these instruments can be expensive, but most are relatively inexpensive and are very easily transports since they tare light in weight and not overly large. When country music first ‘hit the scene’, the fiddle was practically the only instrument used as accompaniment. 

However, as the country music style became more popular, the addition of other accompanying instruments became normal. The banjo became popular in some country music pieces in the mid 1800s, while the guitar did not break into the country music scene until the early 1900s. Electric guitars did not become a regular instrument in country music until much later in the 50s. Other various instruments used in country music are the piano (introduced in the 1930s) and the drums (used since the 1960s). Rarely used, but distinctive sounding instruments are used in certain country songs: the accordion, the harmonica, and the washboards.

Country music has roots in several different styles of music. Its beginnings started with the settlers that came from Europe. During that time, many couldn’t read or write, so songs were created to pass history down from one generation to the next. Although country ballads have changed a great deal, going from the original songs about objective, though gruesome, events to more personal, subjective ballads without all the gore.

Today, the sound of country music can sometimes be very similar to other genres of pop and rock. Some country musicians, like Shania Twain, have many songs playing on stations that aren’t considered “country”. There are also musicians, like Sheryl Crow, who are considered pop/rock, but have songs popular on country stations.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

FIDDLE or VIOLIN - What's the Difference

The Mount Airy, North Carolina fiddler Benton ...
The Mount Airy, North Carolina fiddler Benton Flippen
playing his fiddle in a jam session at his van,
Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Some say the difference is that you never cry when you spill beer on a fiddle. Others say it's a fiddle when you buy it, but a violin when you sell it. Others say that if you can dance to it, then it's a fiddle.

The bottom line is there functionally is no difference between a fiddle and a violin -- they're the same physical instrument. Typically, the difference is one of attitude, not of physical difference. There's a sense that a fiddle is a low-cost instrument meant for folk enjoyment whereas a violin is more costly and meant for more cultured usage.

The word fiddle didn't always have this folksy connotation. Early classical masters commonly referred to violinists as fiddlers. The origin of the word is obscure -- although the early Latin vitula is probably a common root of both fiddle and viola.

No, fiddle refers more to the usage than the instrument. If you're considering folk music -- whether it's bluegrass, country and western, irish, gypsy, etc -- then you're probably thinking fiddle playing. If you think of cultured classical music -- chamber music, symphonic orchestra, the great masters -- then you're thinking violin.

There are some differences in the playing styles -- a fiddler normally stays in first position, where a classical violinist will play up and down the fingerboard. Fiddlers may hold their instrument against the crook of their elbow rather than under their chin like a violinist. Fiddlers don't normally incorporate the entire scale of bowing techniques that a classical violinist might use.

Still -- in all cases -- the physical instrument is the same basic instrument. There's no stigma in playing fiddle music -- or in playing classical violin music!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mandolin, Fiddle, BLUEGRASS Banjo, Clawhammer Banjo - Which One is Easier to Learn to Play

If you're interested in learning to play bluegrass or old time music, you have probably considered the mandolin, the bluegrass 5-string banjo, the open-back clawhammer banjo and the fiddle.

English: The Sparrow Quartet in performance. P...
The Sparrow Quartet in performance. Photo taken May 24, 2008 at The Asheville Music Jamboree in Asheville, North Carolina, United States. Left to right: Béla Fleck (bluegrass banjo), Abigail Washburn (clawhammer banjo), Ben Sollee (cello), and Casey Driessen (5-string fiddle).
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)

I would love to be able to plat the fiddle, but the fiddle is a harder instrument to learn. To be able to join in and play in jam sessions in no time (well, maybe not in no time, but in a reasonable time) you will find the banjo, mandolin much faster to learn. The base fiddle or upright base is another choice to consider and it's easy to learn, but not nearly as much fun as playing the banjo or mandolin.

Between the mandolin, the clawhammer banjo and bluegrass banjo, they are easiest to learn to play in the order given. That is, the mandolin is the easiest to learn, the clawhammer banjo is next and the bluegrass banjo (with the three-finger picking style) is the hardest of the three. But all three are much easier to learn to play than the fiddle.

The best way to start learning to play one of these instruments is to get your own instrument. You could rent one, but if you rent an instrument, you may find that you are not really committed to learning to play.

You need to start with a good instrument and some of the new low-priced instruments are not your best choice. The good news is that is fairly easy to find good quality used banjos and mandolins on eBay and other online sources. If you live in an area where bluegrass and old time music is popular, you may be able to get a good deal by checking your local classified ads.

The best way to get a good deal is to be informed. Do your research -- read reviews and check prices and know what banjos and mandolins like what you're looking for are bringing. Check eBay's completed auctions to see what instruments are really selling for -- not just what people are asking for them.

If you have a friend who plays the kind of instrument you're interested in, he or she can be a great asset in helping you find just the right instrument for you. Ask them to look at any instrument you are considering.

By looking at the instrument, realize that looking at the pictures and descriptions on eBay can be as good as (and maybe even better) than actually holding an instrument because on eBay, the seller will point out all of the scratches and defects, whereas when someone hands you an instrument to look at, they are inclined to just hand it to you and comment about how pretty it is and how much they have enjoyed playing it.

The most important part is to do your research, check prices on used instruments and then get your first banjo or mandolin and start learning to play. The banjo or mandolin you choose will probably not be the one you will want to play after you have played for a while, so look to spend a little more than you may have originally thought you would pay. Stay within your budget, but get as good of an instrument as you can afford.

Later you can sell your instrument on eBay or elsewhere and probably get most (if not all) of your money back. In fact, every time I have sold a used instrument I have been able to sell it for more than I paid for it.



How long will it take you to be able to jam with your friends will depend on how much you practice. Practice 15 minutes a day and you will make a lot more progress that trying to play for several hours once a week.

It will take a lifetime to master the mandolin or the banjo, but that is the best part. In my opinion the banjo and mandolin are two instruments you can learn to play in a reasonable amount of time and then continue learning for years to come.

    By Jerry Minchey
    Jerry Minchey is an engineer, author, researcher and a bit of a musician. He cuts through the hype and gets down to the bare facts to reveal secrets that are easy to understand using non-technical terms. He has written several books and produced DVDs as a results of his research.

    Article Source: EzineArticles


Monday, March 14, 2016

FIDDLE - Music-Instruments of the World

Fiddle - Music-Instruments of the World