Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

287
Fiddle Lovers Online


Discussion Forum

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Playing the Fiddle
 Music Theory
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Is there any interest in improvising and theory???


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/51191

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/25/2019:  12:59:22


Is there any interest in improvising and theory???
or do folk just want to learn tunes???

ShawnCraver - Posted - 05/25/2019:  13:50:36


Improvisation is a hallmark of my regional style. Potomac/Allegheny regions. I think this goes down into central WV and Kentucky, too with older players. Not only improvising in bowing, but in melodic variation. Starting bows on up strokes or down strokes, bowing more than one note at a time, syncopating melodies, improvising complete phrases. It's a tough style, but I love it. And I have to say, it is much different than the patterned revival OT style going around (nothing against that, it's just different). Best example I can think of quickly that shows how improvisational this style is, is Elmer Rich's Billy in the Lowground... I see similarities with these mountainy improvisational traits in good Irish players, too. youtube.com/watch?v=-T6IbL50-g4

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 05/25/2019:  16:00:56


quote:

Originally posted by ShawnCraver

Improvisation is a hallmark of my regional style. Potomac/Allegheny regions.  And I have to say, it is much different than the patterned revival OT style going around (nothing against that, it's just different).






I have to say that I was eventually smothered by the patterned OT style.  My fingers just want to roam.

_outofservice_ - Posted - 05/25/2019:  17:16:29


Improvisation is pretty much all I care about. I'm absolutely obsessed with it. After tone, intonation, and timing, that's what matters to me.

farmerjones - Posted - 05/25/2019:  18:59:23


Theory is one of my main tools that enables me to improvise/play. Memory being the other. If i can't draw upon my repertiore memory, i can draw upon my theoretical memory. But sometimes i'm just a human parrot, if it's required.

Where i play, Jean Luc Ponte chops are not required.

Fun to play with folks with "deep" chops.


Edited by - farmerjones on 05/25/2019 19:00:45

buckhenry - Posted - 05/25/2019:  19:18:29


My main interest is to accompany a singer with the appropriate style of backing that does not drown the vocal part, and inserts end of line fills and solos when required. The solos maybe based on the melody or just a rhythmic figure following the chord progression, this always depends on the emotion the song is conveying. Every time the song is played there will be an endeavor to improve on the last time how ever slight, so the accompaniment can never be exactly the same. This is all done with a complete understanding of constructing and developing melodic lines, and of the harmony and its functions. Comprehensive violinist techniques are employed to expand the possibilities available.





I also enjoy improvising in the "Eastern" style where the music can stay in one tonal centre and does not use any chord changes, but the tonal centre may change. I don't play any "Raga" or ''Tune'' to form the framework for the improvisation, nothing is planned, so it is completely on the fly and made up.





I have a repertoire of fiddle tunes and Hungarian Gypsy tunes and some light classical pieces for the appropriate occasions. Some of them are used for improvising but most of them I rely on playing them exactly the same every time. There is always a tune or two in process of be committed to memory.





Improvising began as a method of learning to play the violin. Broken down it becomes scales of various types, arpeggios, double stops, riffs and licks, chord changes and anticipating them, playing on the fly, etc, etc. And so improvisation can always improve and thus one never stops learning.



 


Edited by - buckhenry on 05/25/2019 19:32:40

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/26/2019:  01:58:16


Thanks for responses.

As for my part i pretty much start improvising as soon as i pick the fiddle up,and always have done.The only difference between my playing now, and when i first started is that i now have a bit more technique, and a sort of handle on theory, and can explain to my self what i am doing, (in my own way).

i suppose i was improvising proper more at first when i hadn't a clue what i was doing. Now i would call what i do, analysis, arranging and varying to suit my playing, or to get nearer to how i want it to sound. And i can do that quite quickly now, over simple chord progressions with vocal melodies. If it's more complicated i have to analyse, arrange and practice for as long as it takes.

For myself, i approach backing up and filling in and Jazz/swing improvisation, in different ways. But all based on the 7 modes, or variations of them,and "accepted" devises such as "Guide Tones" , using the circle/cycle of 5ths, chord/mode substitutions ...etc

The rhythmic and melodic variations of trad tunes seems to me to be the most slippery to define in musical terms, and seems to be more based on history, geography, oral traditions and regional accents than western music theory. but i enjoy getting lost down the rabbit holes researching, arranging, and making my own versions of them... not being part of any musical tradition myself.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 05/26/2019:  05:34:37


Well ... yeah... In playing there's material I know and play around with, there's material I don't know but am familiar with so I know where the changes are and there is material I am completely unfamiliar with. Improvisation may and does take place under all the above conditions. At times it is an invitation to crash and burn. Keepind things simple helps me avoid that ... sometimes. Any furtherance of tools and understanding on how to approach improvising is definately worthwhile to me.... R/

ChickenMan - Posted - 05/26/2019:  06:38:42


quote:

Originally posted by ShawnCraver

Improvisation is a hallmark of my regional style. Potomac/Allegheny regions. I think this goes down into central WV and Kentucky, too with older players. Not only improvising in bowing, but in melodic variation. Starting bows on up strokes or down strokes, bowing more than one note at a time, syncopating melodies, improvising complete phrases. It's a tough style, but I love it. And I have to say, it is much different than the patterned revival OT style going around (nothing against that, it's just different). Best example I can think of quickly that shows how improvisational this style is, is Elmer Rich's Billy in the Lowground... I see similarities with these mountainy improvisational traits in good Irish players, too. youtube.com/watch?v=-T6IbL50-g4






Is this what folks are talking about though when mentioning improvisation? To me this is variation, possibly improvised. If this is what is meant by the OP, then yes, I improvise, but theory is unnecessary for this type of improvisation. 

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/26/2019:  07:20:05


Yep i'm talking about getting around the changes. like i said in my former post:(and i'm quoting myself here)

"The rhythmic and melodic variations of trad tunes seems to me to be the most slippery to define in musical terms, and seems to be more based on history, geography, oral traditions and regional accents than western music theory. but i enjoy getting lost down the rabbit holes researching, arranging, and making my own versions of them... not being part of any musical tradition myself."

....But if someone could describe them in "Western Musical Terms" that would be great!!

Other than that, i can understand, or research, and attempt to understand anything described in WMT. And could learn from other folks approaches to getting around the changes...

farmerjones - Posted - 05/26/2019:  08:58:23


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

"The rhythmic and melodic variations of trad tunes seems to me to be the most slippery to define in musical terms, and seems to be more based on history, geography, oral traditions and regional accents than western music theory. but i enjoy getting lost down the rabbit holes researching, arranging, and making my own versions of them... not being part of any musical tradition myself."



....But if someone could describe them in "Western Musical Terms" that would be great!!



Other than that, i can understand, or research, and attempt to understand anything described in WMT. And could learn from other folks approaches to getting around the changes...






Let me assume trad means, tunes like Soldier's Joy, FlopEared Mule, Bill Cheatem, etc. Even if this isn't what was meant, somebody would have to know the hundreds of variations for each tune. Consider this but also understand half or more of the variations stem from not knowing what is deemed the correct tune. Sort of like trying to catch smoke. I play pretty much completely linguistically. That  doesn't solve anything as far your question. What just occurred to me though. One could get a musical dictation softwhere. Where it notates whatever is played. Not nessessarily for playing back from, but for comparison to other versions. Talk about a rabbit hole, getting familiar with those extra marks in notation. Also, remember the Babblefish effect: you can dictate into Babblefish, then cut & paste the results back into Babblefish (to check back)and get unexpected output.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/26/2019:  09:20:43


farmerjones

I don't really understand what is meant by playing Linguistically... i've sort of got an idea..do you mean like Scat singing but on the fiddle??



When i want to analyze a recording of a tune,  i put it into Reaper and quantize it, ( put it into standard tuning and remap the tempo to fit into bars), then transcribe it, learn it from the resulting midi file and transcription. Then throw all that away, and play along with the original recording to check my version with the original.


Edited by - pete_fiddle on 05/26/2019 09:38:17

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/26/2019:  09:42:45


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

farmerjones

I don't really understand what is meant by playing Linguistically... i've sort of got an idea..do you mean like Scat singing but on the fiddle??



When i want to analyze a recording of a tune,  i put it into Reaper and quantize it, ( put it into standard tuning and remap the tempo to fit into bars), then transcribe it, learn it from the resulting midi file and transcription. Then throw all that away, and play along with the original recording to check my version with the original.






not really improvising but some of this hangs over into my own playing

farmerjones - Posted - 05/26/2019:  15:57:53


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

farmerjones

I don't really understand what is meant by playing Linguistically... i've sort of got an idea..do you mean like Scat singing but on the fiddle??






It could be Scat singing, but to take it to the next level; Arguably, for most every element of Music, there is an equivalent in Language. Everything from phrasing to meter, to parts of speech. 



Between dyslexia and poor eyesite, i was never a fast notation reader. Consequently, I went deep into all other areas of Music theory. But where the rubber meets the road, i was still essentially playing by ear. Eventually, as the saying goes, "Study and practice and work real hard, then forget all that stuff and just Play." 



It wasn't long ago, i found out these Suzuki folks talk about "Mother tongue" as part of their methodology.  Well, hey! Here i was, out in a cornfield reinventing the wheel! Yes, i can play the fiddle. But i never claimed to be very smart. Just well traveled. 

_outofservice_ - Posted - 05/26/2019:  16:38:55


Hey Pete,what do you mean by putting the recording into standard tuning and remapping the bars?

I often transcribe stuff and have to tweak the recording up or down by a few cents (or more, sometimes) to get it close to A-440. Is that what you do?

Reaper is my daw of choice too. :)

buckhenry - Posted - 05/26/2019:  17:36:48


quote:

Originally posted by farmerjones


 






One could get a musical dictation softwhere. Where it notates whatever is played. 






Does this exist....? 

DougD - Posted - 05/26/2019:  17:57:33


Sort of, or at least it used to. I have Finale Allegro (no longer available) and it could attempt to notate something played on a single line instrument. Trouble was that when I tried to play in a fiddle tune the result looked like a flock of birds flying across the page. I might have been able to clean it up by adjusting the quantization, but I lost interest. Don't know if the current versions of Finale or Sibelius can do this or not.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/27/2019:  01:03:44


quote:

Originally posted by quartertonelow

Hey Pete,what do you mean by putting the recording into standard tuning and remapping the bars?



I often transcribe stuff and have to tweak the recording up or down by a few cents (or more, sometimes) to get it close to A-440. Is that what you do?



Reaper is my daw of choice too. :)






Fiddle recordings are hardly ever played along to a click track... and are mostly out of tune so i adjust the tuning of the audio.Usually by finding an open string being played in the audio and matching it to a midi note using "Reatune" plugin then "Map" the tempo



In Reaper you can tap along to the music on the keyboard "S" this splits the music into bars then make all the bars fit the tempo ....Well its a bit more involved than that........



Tempo Mapping In Reaper



i then create a midi item  under each bar slowing down and looping each bar (midi and audio together) i punch in the notes manually, and put in the chord changes, checking that the midi matches the audio, (there is a plugin for audio to midi but i spend more time cleaning the resulting midi file than if i just put the notes in myself)



Then i open the midi file in the reaper midi editor  ...or in Musescore or any notation other notation editor and learn it...But after doing all this listening and processing i already know the tune back to front and inside out! With most of the fingering and bowing, and the chord changes.



Then play along with the original recording (on the fiddle) and tweak the fingering bowing and feel etc...takes a couple of days or so, but i get a pretty accurate version of the original recording. And have absorbed some of the techniques of the fiddler,and maybe worked out any nice tricks in the tune or nice harmonies....or things i get wrong by ear... etc. i find it more productive than if i looked at someone else's transcription for a couple of days.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/27/2019:  03:31:57


Getting a bit side tracked here...

What tunes are folk working on at the moment improvisation wise?

farmerjones - Posted - 05/27/2019:  06:07:15


Pete,
i appreciate the 21st century way you're disecting a tune to learn it. I went to school with a guy that knew he had to copy, long hand, anything he wanted to learn/remember. He knew how he learned. That's a big deal. Investigating new and different ways, are good too.

BTW Awhile back i also used Finale, same as Doug. With similar results.

_outofservice_ - Posted - 05/27/2019:  06:23:28


Thank you for the detailed reply, Pete. I learned something today.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/27/2019:  07:22:08


quote:

Originally posted by quartertonelow

Thank you for the detailed reply, Pete. I learned something today.






Your'e welcome,



Reaper really is an awesome DAW, i've tried em all and find it to be the most useful and reasonably priced, i used "Transcribe!" for a while but once learned  Reaper seems to have almost limitless uses musically... i find it's a long learning curve, but you don't need to learn everything at once.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/27/2019:  07:36:55


quote:

Originally posted by farmerjones

Pete,

i appreciate the 21st century way you're disecting a tune to learn it. I went to school with a guy that knew he had to copy, long hand, anything he wanted to learn/remember. He knew how he learned. That's a big deal. Investigating new and different ways, are good too.



BTW Awhile back i also used Finale, same as Doug. With similar results.






Of course this method can be used to learn Twinkle little star, right through to analysis of Grappelli solo's... But it would be a bit involved for the former..And what a player does with the results would still rely on their knowledge of music theory, and their understanding of the mechanics of playing the fiddle.

martynspeck - Posted - 05/28/2019:  06:56:28


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

Is there any interest in improvising and theory???

or do folk just want to learn tunes???






Absolutely. Making up variations on the fly is the end goal of learning the tunes. It's something I haven't been able to do yet.

FiddleBas - Posted - 05/28/2019:  09:14:09


quote:

Originally posted by martynspeck

quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

Is there any interest in improvising and theory???

or do folk just want to learn tunes???






Absolutely. Making up variations on the fly is the end goal of learning the tunes. It's something I haven't been able to do yet.






Same here: I'm finding fiddle tune variations much harder than I thought. Easier to muddle together an improvised "break" over a song (probably because slower speeds and probably fewer notes used). 

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/28/2019:  11:13:05


Which tunes are you wanting to write variations for ?

buckhenry - Posted - 05/28/2019:  17:50:59


quote:

Originally posted by FiddleBas


 






Same here: I'm finding fiddle tune variations much harder than I thought. Easier to muddle together an improvised "break" over a song (probably because slower speeds and probably fewer notes used). 






I agree, especially when you are playing a set of jigs at 112bpm and you don't want those dances to miss a step. But, I see you have plenty examples of 'muddled improvised breaks' in your music files..........

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/28/2019:  23:41:18


i separate "Tune and variations" from "Improvising"



To me, the two are different disciplines.i learn a tune and then someone else's version takes my fancy so i learn their variations...and so on .....Then maybe i find something else of my own and the tune evolves into a sort of mix of all of them. But i can still rely on my first learned version of the tune if i find the variations aren't working in a given situation.



i personally think of Improvising over chord changes melodically or harmonically, as taking a different path to the same destination as the accompaniment, using a knowledge of music theory and an understanding or interpretation of a composers original ideas. And relying on the chords and melody from a lead sheet for a safe landing, if/when things go pear shaped.



i think there is probably a grey area between the two, rather than clear blue water...depending on the situation. For instance, if i was playing a bluegrass version of the "Temperance Reel" i could maybe get away with some improvising ....But in a trad session i would stick to tune and variations...maybe...:0)



Edit: ...or just "Tune" depending on how well i know it!


Edited by - pete_fiddle on 05/28/2019 23:52:25

martynspeck - Posted - 05/29/2019:  05:31:53


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

Which tunes are you wanting to write variations for ?






Well, all of them. But writing a variation wouldn't be that hard, I more or less do that as I'm learning a tune and combining different versions with what I hear and feel while I'm learning it.



But, to me the real skill would be in being able to play the same tune over and over but not in exactly the same way, and not pre composed, so it remains interesting and not the same notes over and over.



I know there's levels of improvising from really basic to completely abstract. I'd like to keep it between the lines where you can tell what the tune is but it's a unique, on the fly, creation.

ShawnCraver - Posted - 05/29/2019:  09:54:17


Variations are sometimes rehearsed and planned, but can be  improvisational as well. All the mountain fiddlers I know/knew improvise.  I think the improvisational nature of traditional fiddling has been reduced in recent times with the introduction of the guitar to it. Even so, the fiddlers who influenced me in more recent times are great improvisers. The Elmer Rich video I shared... To say this is not improvisational is to misunderstand the complexity and virtuousity of such a player. It is not a "canned" or preplanned performance, but a master playing the music. Playing with it. Playing around it. Improvising. Having fun with it.    


Edited by - ShawnCraver on 05/29/2019 10:02:11

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/29/2019:  12:01:17


One persons " Improvisation" is another persons " tune and variations " EDIT: and vice versa



Sections of improvisation can be rehearsed and planned as well, but they call them "Quotes", "Motifs" ,"licks", or "Chops"... etc. They are not Tune specific and can be used in a variety of ways in different tunes, and through different keys, like playing sections of "Chicago"(a wonderful town), through "lady Be Good"...... or "Ornithology" through "An afternoon in Paris"... etc, then play scales arps modes etc to link them together



But i wouldn't play complete section(s) of one trad tune through another, then link them together with a diminished "lick"..surprise...Well not in a session might return to.



Just different ways of looking at it...... But i separate the two....for my own sanity.... and not to upset the listeners/players.


Edited by - pete_fiddle on 05/29/2019 12:01:52

buckhenry - Posted - 05/29/2019:  17:24:52


We all use the term ''improvisation'' very loosely. The Old Timer plays a tune differently every time by changing a few notes here and there, but the tune is still recognizable because it follows the chord changes by emphasizing the chordal tones, and it contnues to follow the rhythmic pattern already established by the first utterance of the theme/tune.


The same applies to jazz and most other genre; a melody is stated, and if it has a chord progression one must emphasis the chord changes to avoid sounding ambiguous.


So it is all pre-planned, even in 'free form music' ( music without melody or chord structure ) there is still some element of pre-planning of note choices, rhythms and techniques, but it is the truest defintion of 'improvisation'.....

ShawnCraver - Posted - 05/29/2019:  18:54:10


"But i wouldn't play complete section(s) of one trad tune through another, then link them together with a diminished "lick"..surprise...Well not in a session might return to."

I think all of the improvisation mentioned is traditional and used in traditional mountain fiddling. Definitely quoting different tunes, adding variations, straying from the expected tune. Not just in melodic improv or bowing improv, but improvising intonation to color a tune in a certain way. All of those tools jazz and blues players use to improvise exist in traditional mountain fiddling... they just arent playing jazz and blues.

There is an important thing to point out though, "not in a session might return to"... And in the modern sense of the old time scene... the communal jam, which is a relatively new phenomena in American mountain fiddling, this scene has removed much the beauty and artistry of traditional improvisation for the sake of the larger session.

ShawnCraver - Posted - 05/29/2019:  19:46:05


I know I'm being a little over the top in my arguments;) because I understand that most traditional fiddling isn't known as an improvisational music like jazz (even though complete free form improv is relatively rare in jazz performance). But it is important to a lot of fiddling. I think of how Ernie Carpenter came up with Elk River Blues... "I was sittin' here one day, an' I had the blues. I reckon as bad as anybody could, thinkin' about my old homeplace up on the Elk River. I started sawin' on the fiddle an' that's what I came up with."

Or how Burl Hammons played Big Sciota differently every single time someone recorded it.

I recently read an article about Scottish fiddlers in the 1700s doing free form improv.

Just some thoughts...

buckhenry - Posted - 05/29/2019:  21:32:28


quote:

Originally posted by ShawnCraver



I recently read an article about Scottish fiddlers in the 1700s doing free form improv.



 






I am certain that their improv would've sounded very Scottish employing all the inflections Scottish music is, Thus, pre-planned..?

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/30/2019:  01:05:05


quote:

Originally posted by buckhenry

We all use the term ''improvisation'' very loosely. The Old Timer plays a tune differently every time by changing a few notes here and there, but the tune is still recognizable because it follows the chord changes by emphasizing the chordal tones, and it contnues to follow the rhythmic pattern already established by the first utterance of the theme/tune.





The same applies to jazz and most other genre; a melody is stated, and if it has a chord progression one must emphasis the chord changes to avoid sounding ambiguous.





So it is all pre-planned, even in 'free form music' ( music without melody or chord structure ) there is still some element of pre-planning of note choices, rhythms and techniques, but it is the truest defintion of 'improvisation'.....






Agreed. But with respect... i would call it more "Respecting" or at least "Nodding" to the chords, rather than "Emphasizing" them. Substitutions of chords and modes are a tension creating device. Landing on a chord tone resolves that tension....to differing degrees, eg: landing on the 3rd 5th or 7th chord tone wont resolve as much as landing on the root.... Of course if you are accompanying a vocalist or backing another musician, creating to much tension might "jar"...... But i find when taking a break, too much emphasis of chord tones on the chord changes (especially the root), can sound a bit "Static".

buckhenry - Posted - 05/30/2019:  15:59:12


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

But i find when taking a break, too much emphasis of chord tones on the chord changes (especially the root), can sound a bit "Static".





 



Absolutely, totally agree, but the term ''chordal tone'' is used broadly. It does not exclude suspensions, substitutions or extensions, in fact all the tones of the scale. And there are accented and unaccented passing notes among many other devices that create tension and resolution. 

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/30/2019:  21:00:59


quote:

Originally posted by ShawnCraver

"But i wouldn't play complete section(s) of one trad tune through another, then link them together with a diminished "lick"..surprise...Well not in a session might return to."



I think all of the improvisation mentioned is traditional and used in traditional mountain fiddling. Definitely quoting different tunes, adding variations, straying from the expected tune. Not just in melodic improv or bowing improv, but improvising intonation to color a tune in a certain way. All of those tools jazz and blues players use to improvise exist in traditional mountain fiddling... they just arent playing jazz and blues.



There is an important thing to point out though, "not in a session might return to"... And in the modern sense of the old time scene... the communal jam, which is a relatively new phenomena in American mountain fiddling, this scene has removed much the beauty and artistry of traditional improvisation for the sake of the larger session.






Probably the 'communal' session playing in pubs & bars etc, is relatively new this side of the pond as well.



Interestingly, the music often gets better once the communal playing is over and one or two folk just play a couple of tunes at the end...

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/30/2019:  22:44:13


Ok.... here's my take on improvising with a Trad Irish reel in the key of D Major(Merry Blacksmith), i just tried it and it worked for me.



1: forget my idea of how the rhythm of a reel goes

2: lilt the tune while i "Pat Juba" on my knees (at a relaxed tempo)

3: pick up the fiddle and pluck the tune while i've still got the Juba rhythm( 3 beats over 4/4 time)going in my head

4:Keep the Juba rhythm in my head while i bow the tune,trying to get the 3 over 4 rhythm into the bowing

5:Start introducing notes (one at a time) from the D mixolydian and D dorian modes into phrases,(C natural and F natural) altering the Phrases to suite, and returning to the tune when i get lost.

6: put some double stops in, first in the key of D major to re-enforce where i think the chords change

7: try out a C major double stop in one of the Phrases, then go for the F Major Double stop

maybe?

8:Keep the original tune in my head going while i mess around with it...



Get the juba Rhythm from HERE FREE! laugh



It seems to turn an Irish reel into an "sort of" old timey version of the tune? (i dont know which sort???:o)... and maybe Kills at least 2 birds with 1 stone!

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/31/2019:  00:41:50


OK maybe not the F Natural (D Dorian) unless i want to get really dark and bluesy....Maybe try some D lydian ????? lighten it up a bit

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.046875