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I've decided to make an attempt at Irish Trad fiddle.

Posted by fiddlepogo on Sunday, February 6, 2011

The day before yesterday I got a call for a St. Paddy's Day gig.  The band that did it last year got a  better paying gig at a casino, and there aren't THAT many local fiddlers capable of doing Irish tunes.  So a friend referred me, knowing that I do know some Irish tunes,  and I've decided to do it.

I sing some Irish ballads and songs, so it won't be ALL my fiddling, and I'll probably NOT do reels... or at least not more than one.  I'll probably do several hornpipes, several jigs, and quite a few slow airs.

I had neglected Irish Trad in favor of Scottish and Swedish fiddling, but the local Swedish and Scottish societies don't really want to support musicians, they just want to socialize.

This may sound kind of calculating, but behind it is the fact that I DO love Irish fiddling, but have been a bit too perfectionistic to pursue it.  I think this is just the nudge I needed.  Also, the fiddle I bought last year, an Eastman VL100 has a voice that seems to suit Irish tunes, and my invalid wife seems to tolerate the gentler bowing style well, so I think I'll be able to put in the practice time without bugging her too badly.

When I play (or attempt to play) Irish tunes, my bowing changes RADICALLY- instead of hyping the shuffles and the bowing rhythms, I try for a wind instrument sound, and focus on the left hand.

Right now, it's too half baked to post anything, but maybe when it gets up to 3/4 baked I will. ;^D

(Up to here was copied from my first post in the ITM group)

Yesterday I dug out some sheet music (just printed out abc's) of Irish Trad tunes and put them in a new binder.

Today I grabbed that binder and practiced

Cat in the Kitchen (jig)
Blarney Pilgrim (jig)
College Grove (reel)
The Scholar (reel)
The Wicklow Hornpipe
The Plains of Boyle Hornpipe
Ernie Healy’s

I attempted a couple others, but if I can't HEAR something resembling a melody within a couple bars, I give up.  All of the ones listed have potential though, and I surprised myself by doing pretty well on the reels and actually getting one of them reasonably fast.

I also LOVE the Wicklow Hornpipe and the Plains of Boyle.

As a practical measure, it occurred to me that I need to reorganize the tune book to reflect the successes of each practice session...  the successes go to the front of the book.  I think one of the thing that has frustrated me in the past with Irish tunes is because I mostly have to learn them from notation, if I don't have them organized and have my best efforts all in one place, I may have a good practice session with a tune, but then I don't build on it if it's buried somewhere.  For Old Time, because most everything was learned by ear, a tune list filled the function, but for Irish tunes, a tunebook is going to be the central organizing tool.  Since there are so MANY Irish Trad tunes, I'm going to try and be REALLY picky... I'm going to focus on tunes that I REALLY LOVE that give a fairly quick payoff-  better a good intermediate tune at this point than a good but difficult tune.

Another factor occurred to me as to why I should make this attempt at Irish Trad fiddling:  There is a pretty active Irish/Celtic jamming community here.  No one to jam with on Scottish chunes, and the nyckelharpa player really lives too far away to make frequent jamming practical... about 40 minutes away.

Somehow, to me, music is inextricably linked with PEOPLE.  I either need to play FOR people or WITH people... either will do, and both is better.  But playing tunes alone in my room all the time is NOT my idea of a good time.

At this point I don't think I'm going to STOP jamming on Old Time or Bluegrass.  After stopping fiddling for 15 years and seeing how rusty it got, I really don't want to LOSE the fruit of all that practic again... I want to at least maintain what I've got as far as Old Time.

Also, in a way, Irish Trad and Old Time complement each other... very different approaches to the fiddle, yet with some common ground.

4 comments on “I've decided to make an attempt at Irish Trad fiddle.”

mudbug Says:
Monday, February 7, 2011 @1:51:06 AM

Stay away from the green beer, boyo!

bj Says:
Monday, February 7, 2011 @6:46:23 AM

Oh dear. From shuffle discussions to ornament discussions . . .

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, February 7, 2011 @6:11:23 PM

No problem avoiding green beer!

Ornament discussions??? Maybe. Maybe not.
Somehow the thought of trying to describe something as fleeting as an Irish ornament in words just
leaves me cold. Definitely better seen and heard, preferably in person than talked about.

TimK Says:
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 @11:16:55 AM

Good luck on your gig Michael and your venture into Irish fiddle. I've taken an interest in it myself. Lots of fun tunes! It's always good to grow as a musician by learning new things.

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