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Pogo Pondering the Jam, the Gig, the New Fiddle, and Older Fiddle Tweaks.

Posted by fiddlepogo on Monday, February 22, 2010

Monthly Old Time jam was Saturday.  It went well- the two regular banjo players, Eileen and Harold, Harold's wife Polly on ukelele (when she felt like it), regular guitarists Gary and Mike,  sometime attender Kansas( member of the high officialdom of the Butte Folk Music Society), a new guitarist, and several loyal listeners including my guitar student and banjo student.  I just took the Knilling Bucharest (aka Booker) and it did well... with one slight tweak- I decided to try oldtimer's rolled dollar bill mute in a jam, and it did well.  It really cuts the highs nicely.  And the fiddle sounding good and the new bow and plenty of rosin allowed me to play fairly close to about the best I've done in a jam.  So I felt good about that.  We also did a fair amount of songs in addition to fiddle tunes... I usually don't get too picky about the origins, just specify 1930 or before, and that at least keeps them fairly playable for the clawhammer banjo players.

Today I had one of my volunteer gigs at a hospital where the folks are fiddle fans and the acoustics are so good that it lets me hear the fiddle quite well, it's like having a really good monitor.  So I took the new fiddle... actually should prolly call it a violin, since it sounds like a violin, and it has synthetics on it.  I took it out first, and contrary to what I normally do, I started with waltzes.  And the folks REALLY liked the sound- it really does waltzes well with the current D'Addario Pro Arte strings.  I did a little Arkansas Traveler too to show how it did on a hoedown.  Then I switched to Booker the Rumanian Knilling.  Booker also sounded good, but in a much different, much clearer way- definitely highlighting all the shuffles I put into the hoedowns... and the folks thought it sounded good too.  Then I did my version of the Arkansas Traveler skit, since someone asked for it last time.

So I have two nicely contrasting fiddle sounds.  I'm thinking the new fiddle would be good for things like wedding gigs and O'Carolan harp tunes... I've played some O'Carolan stuff on my own, and there are several harpists in town.  The new fiddle showed that it could give me a little extra edge in playing smooth stuff like waltzes.  One of the things I've found with me and instruments is that an instrument needs to be gig-worthy, or even jam worthy for me to want to keep it, especially if it's worth very much.  Two fairly recent fiddles got sold because they really weren't gig-worthy- one was too harsh, and one was too soft.  Booker is gigworthy for fast snappy stuff, okay on slow stuff. The new fiddle is gigworthy for slow stuff and/or sweet stuff, okay on fast stuff.  Stinky WAS gigworthy two years ago, and that makes me want to try just a few more things to get her back in shape... and she's not worth much in trade or sale, so it's not like there's much pressure to get rid of her.

I experimented with the dollar bill mute on Booker a few days ago, and I discovered a few things:

1. It's quite adjustable- you can not only slide it back and forth for the amount of muting overall, you can adjust the angle quite precisely to mute the treble or bass more or less.

2. If you leave it on the fiddle in the case, the dollar bill starts to conform to the strings, and no longer mutes very well- but all you have to do is slide it one way or the other, and it again puts sufficient pressure on the afterlength of the strings to mute effectively.

I also played Stinky a few days ago and something occurred to me.

Stinky has had kind of a shrieky E string for a while... I thought it was all due to possible soundpost issues, but it occurred to me that the E string was just plain loud, and part of the reason was that it had had all the socking stripped off it as I often do, probably to help it match volume on the other fiddle, but then I switched the string to Stinky andt the relatively new Prims still had all their socking, so their volume didn't match.  Since the Prims sounded pleasant, and the E string not so much, I cast about for a way of effectively putting the socking back on, and I turned to my old standby, masking tape.  I cut a very narrow strip, laid it lengthwise on top of the afterlength, then folded the sides over.  If I color it with a magic marker, I think it will even look a lot like real socking.  And it works like real socking, with a surprising plus- IT'S ADJUSTABLE!!!  It doesn't cover the whole distance of the afterlength, so I can slide it back and forth, and because it's slightly tacky, it stays where I put it, so I can slide it up against the bridge for a slight extra muting effect.

Anyway, the masking tape "socking" brought the E string into line with the volume of the Prims, and made playing Stinky more tolerable.  I REALLY like the way Stinky feels responsiveness-wise, and I almost feel bad about naming her Stinky, cause she really doesn't smell that strong, not compared to the new Chinese fiddle and case.  The E string is still a bit nasal, and I'm thinking I will have a new soundpost put in before I decide what to do with her.  But at least it's not shrieking anymore!!!

One nice thing about Stinky is that in some ways her sound is just about halfway between Booker and the new fiddle... she's actually more versatile- if she's sounding good.

And she does cross tuning well, and who knows, I may get into that again.

Another thought occurred to me because of trying the Scott Cao again- it has Dominants on it, and as much as I hate the wound Dominants, I really like the Dominant E- I think I'm going to buy some to try out on my fiddles.... all their E strings could be just a bit better, I think.  And I've heard that other fiddlers like the Dominant E along with Prims, so it sounds like an idea whose time has come!


5 comments on “Pogo Pondering the Jam, the Gig, the New Fiddle, and Older Fiddle Tweaks.”

BC Says:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 @4:17:52 AM

Very interesting read. Thanks for your insights! I'll have to try the dollar bill mute... As soon as I get my allowance from my wife!

fiddlepogo Says:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 @10:56:52 AM

I haven't tried it yet, but I bet Monopoly Money works just as good!!!
Maybe even a large cash register receipt!

The dollar bill just looks kind of cool though!!!

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 @12:40:05 PM

Hmmm... I tried a cash register receipt- something about the size, paper thickness and weight of a rolled up dollar bill that just works!!!

lg Says:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 @5:45:30 PM

Sounds like you might have 3 gig-worthy fiddles: one for cross tuning, one for regular tuning, and one for the sweet stuff. You sure wouldn't be the only fiddler to arrive at a gig with 3 fiddles.

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 @6:49:08 PM

That's true... but circumstances would have to change.

I doubt I'll be taking 3 fiddles to a gig anytime soon, UNLESS I find myself in a band. I also gig with banjo and guitar, since I sing with them too. The logistics of getting 1 fiddle, 1 banjo, and 1 guitar plus sound reinforcement into a venue (oh yeah, sometimes music stand and songbook) is already just about all I can handle. In a band, the banjo player and the guitarist could take in their own instruments, and maybe help with the sound system.
Hmmm... MAYBE a second fiddle could come along if I had a double case.

It also depends a bit on the kind of gig. For the senior gigs, the hoedown GDAE fiddle (Booker) and the violin (Odie Eastman) are probably more useful. I tend to load the set with Stephen Foster tunes (standard) and waltzes (violinny sounding is good)
For a Mike Seegeresque or a NLC Ramblerish quasi educational gig for a school or general audience, the contrast between the 3 different fiddles could be, well, educational.

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