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How To Keep Contest Style Out Of Country Fiddling Contests

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Apr 18, 2017 - 3:00:54 PM
344 posts
Joined Jul 26, 2015

This may be a bizarre question, but, what are some things that can be done in starting a country fiddling contest welcoming both Old-Time and traditional Bluegrass, but not contest style, to ensure that contest style stays out of the finals? 

Apr 18, 2017 - 3:38:54 PM
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838 posts
Joined Jan 26, 2008

Tasers.



Also, clearly defined rules and knowledgeable, sympathetic judges could help. 


Apr 18, 2017 - 4:00:50 PM
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DougD

USA

8313 posts
Joined Dec 2, 2007

That doesn't seem to be a problem around here. There are contests probably every weekend throughout the season where old time and Bluegrass coexist peacefully, with no sign of "contest style," although you might hear some good "swingy" stuff in the parking lot. Our convention here in Laurel Bloomery is just old time - no Bluegrass competition.



Here's one coming up soon:. http://www.otfiddlersconvention.com/#home  I'm scheduled to be a judge and I plan on setting up a ducking stool so if somebody plays a version of a tune we don't like we can soon discover what jam session they "learned" it at. Should be fun!


Apr 18, 2017 - 5:04:26 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

130 posts
Joined Jun 22, 2016

This may be a bizarre question: but why not make it a fiddle festival, rather than a contest? Right away, you would discourage those who believe that contests are the be-all and end-all.

Apr 18, 2017 - 5:42:32 PM
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Joined Jul 26, 2015

It probably wouldn't be a standalone fiddle contest, but a Bluegrass and Old-Time festival with contests for all instruments.  

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch
 

This may be a bizarre question: but why not make it a fiddle festival, rather than a contest? Right away, you would discourage those who believe that contests are the be-all and end-all.


Apr 18, 2017 - 5:44:28 PM

344 posts
Joined Jul 26, 2015

What would be an example of those rules? 

quote:
Originally posted by MikeyBoy
 

Tasers.

 

Also, clearly defined rules and knowledgeable, sympathetic judges could help. 

 
Apr 18, 2017 - 7:00:59 PM
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3180 posts
Joined Sep 26, 2008

Cross tuning - allowed, as well as retuning if multiple tunes in contest round
OBS, Back Up and Push and other hokum bowing tunes not allowed
Tunes imitating animals not allowed (Mockingbird, Mules, Chickens..)
Judges should be knowledgeable in what that contest style is and isn't
Apr 18, 2017 - 7:24:51 PM
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170 posts
Joined Sep 6, 2011

Rule 1.   Allow only 1 guitar backup. No bar chords.  No more than 3 chord changes per song.

Rule 2. No cowboy hats or boots.

Rule 3. No fiddle worth more than $100.

Rule 4. Song must have at least 1 double stop and not more than 700 notes in the A part.

Rule 5. Song must be a variation of Soldier's Joy.

big-(This is tongue-in-cheek)  I do love all styles.         FIDDLE ON!

Apr 18, 2017 - 7:28:34 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

130 posts
Joined Jun 22, 2016

"Tunes imitating animals not allowed"

I don't know - every tune I play, I'm told, sounds like a cat dying a horrible death. How would they know I wasn't purposely imitating said unfortunate feline?

Apr 18, 2017 - 9:27:20 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
 

What would be an example of those rules? 

Along the lines of what Billy was saying above.  "Preference given to those fiddlers best representing the traditional fiddle style of Appalachia/Missouri/Alabama/Texas/Illinois/New England/Georgia/Arkansas/Oklahoma/PEI/Cape Breton/Metis/etc. (sorry for omitting any traditions, but you get the idea). Dancibility wins over variation. Fiddlers displaying competence in Texas Contest Style will be applauded, admired, appreciated, and given directions to Weiser. If you are unsure of these rules, please ask for clarification before paying the entry fee. Likewise, the pie contest will allow cakes to compete, and while both are delicious, apple pie will win over angel food cake."

Apr 19, 2017 - 5:22:44 AM
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Tobus

USA

226 posts
Joined May 7, 2015

I'm still unclear just exactly what "contest style" really is, and how one could define it well enough to exclude it from all the usual fiddling traditions.  Can someone explain it?  Is there even a consensus on what it is?

I thought hokum bowing was frowned upon in contest fiddling, since it's seen as a cheap filler technique?  If so, why would it be excluded from non-contest-style entries?

Apr 19, 2017 - 7:20:56 AM
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My non-expert opinion: "Contest style" is more harmonically complex, the sock guitar accompaniment changes chords more frequently and utilizes a larger palette of chords. Creative and challenging variations are encouraged and valued, and "degree of difficulty " points are likely to be awarded. Contest style, while rooted in tradition, is a relatively modern creation. 



I would think a more "traditional" OT contest would value a faithful rendition of a tune over one with a lot of variation. "Groove" is more important than virtuosity. Chords change less often and are mostly constrained to in-key triads. 



 Can't do links atm, but google Kimber Ludiker contest fiddle and Rayna Gellert contest fiddle for an illustration of the differences. 


Apr 19, 2017 - 1:13:23 PM
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Joined Oct 22, 2007

Piece of cake:

No breakdowns.

Just, Reels and Hornpipes.

Jigs, Slip-jigs, Strathspeys,

Dirges, & Waltzes.

No tunes-of-choice.

Edited by - farmerjones on 04/19/2017 13:22:05

Apr 19, 2017 - 2:06:30 PM
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64 posts
Joined Nov 26, 2009

Just have a separate category for this type of fiddiling. And I agree with some of the above posts on the judges. If judges would not grade this kind of fiddling with the old style kinds then people would get the message.

Apr 19, 2017 - 3:07:50 PM

344 posts
Joined Jul 26, 2015

What is your definition of the difference between a reel and a breakdown?
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Piece of cake:



No breakdowns.



Just, Reels and Hornpipes.



Jigs, Slip-jigs, Strathspeys,



Dirges, & Waltzes.



No tunes-of-choice.



 




Apr 19, 2017 - 6:30:02 PM

1294 posts
Joined Oct 22, 2007

quote:

Originally posted by soppinthegravy



What is your definition of the difference between a reel and a breakdown?


quote:


Originally posted by farmerjones

 

Piece of cake:


 

No breakdowns.


 

Just, Reels and Hornpipes.


 

Jigs, Slip-jigs, Strathspeys,


 

Dirges, & Waltzes.


 

No tunes-of-choice.


 

 


 




 







Reels are dances. Breakdowns are show-off tunes. 


Apr 19, 2017 - 6:38:05 PM

1294 posts
Joined Oct 22, 2007

One could add quadrilles and other traditional dances. But this would be a solution, to keep a contest more traditional. After all a fiddle is made for playing dances. The rest came later.


Apr 20, 2017 - 3:55:10 AM
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boxbow Players Union Member

USA

2158 posts
Joined Feb 3, 2011

So make the judges all dancers.

Apr 20, 2017 - 5:20:29 AM
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Tobus

USA

226 posts
Joined May 7, 2015

quote:
Originally posted by MikeyBoy
 

My non-expert opinion: "Contest style" is more harmonically complex, the sock guitar accompaniment changes chords more frequently and utilizes a larger palette of chords. Creative and challenging variations are encouraged and valued, and "degree of difficulty " points are likely to be awarded. Contest style, while rooted in tradition, is a relatively modern creation. 

 

I would think a more "traditional" OT contest would value a faithful rendition of a tune over one with a lot of variation. "Groove" is more important than virtuosity. Chords change less often and are mostly constrained to in-key triads.

 

Hmm.  So aside from picking judges who recognize contest style playing and ensuring that they penalize it when they hear it, how exactly would you write the rules to discourage it?  I mean, you can't exactly write the rules by saying "no harmonic complexity" or "no frequent chord changes".  Similarly, even if you were going to try to encourage traditional Old-Time fiddling with faithful renditions of tunes, how exactly would you do that?  There are so many variations out there to choose from.

Apr 20, 2017 - 6:02:29 AM

1294 posts
Joined Oct 22, 2007

i know what yer saying Tobus.  Even if you start by "dumbing down" the music, if things progress in typical fashion, in a few years it will be back to the status quo. A high level Mo. (style) hornpipe fiddler ornaments a tune with "noteyness" while a Texas (style) contest fiddler may ornament a tune with bowing.  

Here's another take: If that is their intent, the founders and organizers of the contest need to hire judges and run the contest to encourage the regional style.  If a hotshot comes in, this individual it's not scored highly, discouraging hotshots. Word gets out. They know it's a waste of fuel to attend. I've been in these contests. They exist. (trust me, i wasn't the hotshot) I also like to see "open divisions" where hotshots play and are judged separate from the rest.  Also would like to see a "same tune" division. Where all contestants have to play the same tune.  As you can imagine, the planners can have multiple divisions.  This gets everyone's entry money, and gets everyone involved.  Little kids to senior seniors.

Apr 20, 2017 - 6:07:53 AM

5914 posts
Joined Mar 19, 2009

quote:
Originally posted by MikeyBoy
 

Tasers.

 

Also, clearly defined rules and knowledgeable, sympathetic judges could help. 

 

Good point.. If the judges can tell the difference and will judge accordingly, it wouldn't be a problem..One might say that getting a good bluegrass or Old time SOUND is more important than wiz/bang technique will be the thing that contestants are judge by.

Apr 20, 2017 - 6:09:11 AM
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Joined Mar 19, 2009

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

Cross tuning - allowed, as well as retuning if multiple tunes in contest round
OBS, Back Up and Push and other hokum bowing tunes not allowed
Tunes imitating animals not allowed (Mockingbird, Mules, Chickens..)
Judges should be knowledgeable in what that contest style is and isn't

How about a contest in which all performers ARE cross tuned..

Apr 20, 2017 - 9:58:12 AM
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838 posts
Joined Jan 26, 2008

Tobus - "faithful rendition" was a bit of a loaded term, I would hope judges would recognize there is more than one way to skin a cat, even while keeping within a particular regional style. 



 



 



I don't see an issue with stating in the rules something like "preference will be given to fiddlers who best represent Regional Style X. This is not a Texas contest style contest." I wouldn't want to define too narrowly what Regional Style X means, the judges can determine what is and isn't authentic. What's a fiddle contest without a little debatable subjectivity?



 



 i would love to see a contest where all different styles could compete, have it open to anything fiddling: irish trad, BG, OT, mariachi, what have you. Nothing classical, just fiddling in all its forms. Would probably be an unworkable mess and impossible to judge, but fun to watch.


Apr 20, 2017 - 10:16:53 AM

Tobus

USA

226 posts
Joined May 7, 2015

quote:
Originally posted by MikeyBoy

I don't see an issue with stating in the rules something like "preference will be given to fiddlers who best represent Regional Style X. This is not a Texas contest style contest." I wouldn't want to define too narrowly what Regional Style X means, the judges can determine what is and isn't authentic. What's a fiddle contest without a little debatable subjectivity?
 

I like that idea.  Rather than trying to overtly discourage "contest style" fiddling, simply state which regional style(s) are given the advantage.  As long as it's clear that authenticity is key

Apr 20, 2017 - 10:53:32 AM
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DougD

USA

8313 posts
Joined Dec 2, 2007

If you follow the link I posted earlier in the thread you can see the rules for the upcoming contest in Flag Pond. They're a bit quirky, but definitely emphasize the importance of regional style and repertoire and they've tried to get judges who will recognize them. I'd say you could also find the rules for contests at Galax, Mt. Airy, probably Clifftop, and maybe more if you're really curious.



I wonder if there are contests where Southeastern old time and (Western) "contest" style peacefully coexist? Around here I don't think there's a problem - people play in a local, or at least "old time festival" style. But the Quebe Sisters play around here fairly often and people love them. We like that music, just not too many people play it around here.


Apr 20, 2017 - 1:05:10 PM

838 posts
Joined Jan 26, 2008

Doug the Flag Pond rules are least ambiguous of any of those other festivals, and you have the best prizes! Too bad it's about 2000 miles away, sounds like fun.


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