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Sep 11, 2018 - 1:08:27 PM
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6645 posts since 3/19/2009
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A couple of my fiddling friends like to go to the 'source' when learning a new tune.. I couldn't care less how the original musician (source) played a tune.. I play what I like and play versions that I like.. I've heard people play a tune BETTER than the source played it.. Yes, it is Interesting to hear the source of a tune but sometimes the accepted variations of a tune, to me, sound more fun to play. So.. I guess that the question, " Do I need to play like the 'source' "?

Sep 11, 2018 - 1:16:25 PM
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2328 posts since 10/6/2008
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Do we need to play like the source?

Of course not! We need to play the way our hearts desire. :)

But, theoretically, I'm a go-to-the-source kind of person. I played the telegraph game as a kid so I know how things get changed when they're passed from one person to another and I kind of like the idea of hearing an original and deciding what I want to do with it rather than having other people interpret it for me.

But, that said, really, I'm not learning tunes from early recordings on a regular basis at the moment. But, I do listen to them regularly, hoping that I might absorb some of the stylistic points from fiddlers that I admire.

Sep 11, 2018 - 1:28:49 PM

6645 posts since 3/19/2009
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Cyndy, what brought this to mind was then I heard an old recording of "cauliflower''.. Frankly, I didn't like it...I thought the tune sounds better played a little slower..so.. other tunes, my friends hook me up with a source, and I'm usually not impressed with the way it is played.. .Of course the tunes are still INTERESTING, or I'd not be playing them.. On the other hand, some people have THEIR versions of tunes that I also find UNinteresting..Guess it is a case of "fiddler's choice''..!?

Sep 11, 2018 - 2:32:09 PM
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853 posts since 6/26/2007

First problem is the definition of "source." Only tunes that have been written in recent history, including Steven Foster tunes, can be reliably sourced. Early recordings are not really "sources," only a particular players version/interpretation. Nothing wrong with listening to them, but no guarantee that they are "right."

Sep 11, 2018 - 3:47:11 PM
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3794 posts since 9/26/2008

I have few to directly catch a tune from, so I've spent much of my time learning from source recordings, because there are such things. "Over the Waterfall" "Kitchen Girl" both come from Henry Reed. No one else. If it weren't for the recordings those tunes wouldn't exist, simple as that. Same with "Miss Julianne Johnson" and Emmett Lundy. Many a feild recording contains a never before encountered tune. I find rare occasion where someone has "improved" a tune, and usually I find that a tune had been watered down from the source. Sure, some source recordings aren't great for listening for whatever reason, maybe it captures someone way beyond their prime, but it may also vshow you that every version of a particular tune that you've heard was, as Cyndy suggests, telephone gamed far enough from the tune as to be almost a different tune. In the end, we all play it like we play it because we are individuals and, mostly, we're not note-for-note regurgitators. I'll play it however it fits with a group and however I want as a solo.

Sep 11, 2018 - 3:57:53 PM
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1384 posts since 5/13/2008

Not long ago your fiddling uncle or cousin or the guy down the road was the source. Ironic if that’s not ok now, yet we revere that methodology from another time.

Sep 11, 2018 - 4:37:16 PM
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3794 posts since 9/26/2008

Here's an example of two modern tunes that I've never heard others play as I've heard the composer play it:

Nail that Catfish to the Tree
Dull Chisel

Booth of those have been altered depending on where one learned it. Here in the Midwest, "Catfish" been flattened out by a forced Nashville shuffle in some circles I've crossed. And if you look up Chirps Smith (tune author Steve Rosen's band mate) playing "Catfish" at a contest in MO, you will hear him really giving it a nice set of... variations (because that's what the various versions of a tune can be called ex. "a variation of the Scots tune 'Miss McLeod's Reel' called 'Uncle Joe' played by.."). "Dull Chisel" is fun no matter how you slice it!  wink

I might preface by saying I play "... ..." that I learned from the playing of "... ..." because I like to keep that information out there, to keep their names alive in a players' mind and maybe heart. Also maybe someone might seek out more info and pass it on down the line. 

I'm never going to say "that's not how it goes" because that's just rude and arrogant, but I might offer up another version depending on the company. angel

Sep 11, 2018 - 4:48:26 PM
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3794 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by fiddlerjoebob

Not long ago your fiddling uncle or cousin or the guy down the road was the source. Ironic if that’s not ok now, yet we revere that methodology from another time.


If only we all had that option in these times. I do credit living and contemporary folks when that's my source. It is rare. I actually first learned "Dull Chisel" from a med student friend who's from Lee's neck of the woods. Then I heard YouTube variations and just wanted to know what the author had in mind. I liked it, so that's where I play it. In a large group setting, all subtly is lost. 

Sep 11, 2018 - 5:27:20 PM
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6645 posts since 3/19/2009
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That med student's name was PHIL ??? great young fiddler..

Sep 11, 2018 - 5:55:56 PM
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5651 posts since 8/7/2009

Something caught my attention Lee. You asked 2 different questions. 

Do I need to hear the "source"???  For me - yes, I need (want) to hear what is considered the "source". And as many other versions as I can find.

Do I need to play like the "source"?  If I like it. I will almost always learn a tune from a "source" I want to learn from - that may or may not be the earliest recording. Usually, it will be a more contemporary fiddler. But it is always the version I like the best. And I will aim towards learning it the way they played it on the recording - and that is sometimes different than the way they perform it live or even how they would record it today.

I learn a lot by chasing their personal stylistic expressions and phrasing. But I will still end up sounding more like me than them. 

Edited by - tonyelder on 09/11/2018 18:02:11

Sep 12, 2018 - 4:01:33 AM
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10107 posts since 9/23/2009

This is an interesting topic...I think the source might be something to hear the tune in a different way than modern people are playing it. The source might also be good because you can hear the style of the person playing. Of course, none of it is necessary unless you are holding down tradition and preserving the historic aspect of American fiddling. If you're doing that...yes learn it like the earliest known source. But if you consider yourself a folk musician, not really a musicologist sort of musician...then you don't care as much about the source as you do about what you will do with that tune on any given day of your life. just my opinion.

Sep 12, 2018 - 5:24:38 AM
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carlb

USA

2068 posts since 2/2/2008

I have found that while we may not play exactly the same notes as a source recording, if you can play along with it, there's a sense of the tune that develops. It makes it easier when you're playing with others. While you may not all be playing the same notes, the sense of the tune gives a cohesion to group playing than if everybody learned the tune from different sources.

Sep 12, 2018 - 6:47:24 AM
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1487 posts since 10/22/2007

Source? Huh? I'm working over here!


Seriously, in my region, Old Time is Dwight "Red" Lamb's version of a Bob Walters tune.
I can maybe keep up with three or four tunes, out of hundreds. It's fiddling on a different planet. That's why I goof around playing fills and breaks in country & bluegrass bands.

Sep 12, 2018 - 8:16:34 AM
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1003 posts since 4/6/2014

i'm sometimes amazed when i learn a new obscure(ish) tune from the dots, midi, vague memories, youtubes etc, how similar it ends up sounding like "the source" ...if and when i eventually hear it, as long as i give care and respect to the tune, it usually sounds like my version of "the source" imo.....and sometimes spookily similarsurprise.....must be something to do with being a human?? and being obsessed with the Devils box ...the same as the composer was probablydevil

sometimes "the source" is impossible to hear, all i can do is research, study, play, and do my best with the tools that i have

Sep 12, 2018 - 8:54:47 AM
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1290 posts since 7/18/2011

I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to play a tune like the (often arbitrarily-determined) ‘source’ for the reasons many have outlined.

That said, I sometimes find myself frustrated by players who have no desire to immerse themselves in the fiddle genre in which they play. Why cheat yourself out of some great tunes/settings (as well as getting to know the genre in some depth) by not listening ardently to both contemporary and older players? I recently encountered a fine fiddle player whose chosen genre was Irish trad. This person had loads of tunes, had very good (if perhaps generic) technique, etc. But when I asked the person to play some Donegal tunes with me, the response was literally ‘I have no idea what that means.’ (For those of you outside Irish trad, this is one of the most recognisable regional styles within the genre). While it turned out the person knew Donegal tunes, the person did not know they were Donegal tunes (and by extension what it meant to play those tunes in Donegal style).

Again, not saying that anyone should be forced to slavishly mimic a ‘more traditional than thou’ style, but rather that players are missing out by not fully exploring their chosen musical genre. When you actively educate yourself about the genre, it opens up all sorts of options for your playing, even if you ultimately don’t choose a ‘pure drop’ approach.

Sep 12, 2018 - 10:48:39 AM
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Fiddler

USA

3833 posts since 6/22/2007

One of my pet peeves!!!

"Source" recordings typically mean a field recording or early commercial recording which may have done at that time using state-of-the-art recording techniques. However, by current standards, the recordings are marginally listenable!! Hence, some folks INSIST that these fiddlers sounded a certain way. This can't be farther from the truth!

Also, the "source" may be someone who represents a style of playing for a particular region or isolated area. Their playing is in no way definitive - just an example of one person's interpretation of a melody or a tune or a song. Musicologists, amateur or professional, can't reasonable record everyone who plays music!

So, what to do? what to do?

I enjoy listening to "source" recordings. They inform my playing, but they do not define it! I know many fiddlers who are very good at reproducing exactly was was played on a field recording. They dismiss all other approaches to the tune or even other versions! 

I know of one specific example where the source recording (made at home with an aluminum disc recorder in the late 40s) captured an error in intonation in one part of the tune. The "source" did not like the mistake, but because of the expense of the disc, did not discard it. So,fast forward to present times - a very good fiddler has learned the tune  and has duplicated the intonation error. So, which is correct?? The recording with the error? The modern interpretation with the error? or comments from the "source" saying that the intonation error was a mistake?

Additionally, many of the early recordings had a time limit. So, the musician played to fill the time - they made up lyrics on the spot. So, the tune may not always be the regular structure AABB, AABC etc. Sometimes, variations were added and a new name created in order to create a copyright and to sell recordings.

Therefore, I place little confidence in accuracy of source recordings - other than to help inform my interpretation of the tune. This is the value of those recordings! I listen specifically for the ornamentations, the phrasing, the feel and not so much for the "notes."  I like to hear how others interpret the tune. It informs my playing.

I find the same issue with tune transcriptions! They are but snapshots of how a particular musician played a certain tune/song on a particular day. I don't play tunes today the same way that I played them 10 years ago, much less last week!! 

So when I hear someone say "I play this tune exactly as the source.", I usually don't give them much credibility. They are only mimicking the "source" and not giving a interpretation based on their musical experiences.

Don't get me wrong .. this is not to say that they are not good! Many are very good! ... and I appreciate them for their skill. However, I am not compelled to buy their sound files, attend concerts, and otherwise financially support them because I can get the real deal through a source recording. 

I sometime jokingly comment that I like to listen to the sources and make my own interpretation because I  don't like "pre-chewed food." I want to hear it in its rawness and then make the music mine.

I'm crawling off my soapbox........

Sep 12, 2018 - 11:24:20 AM
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6645 posts since 3/19/2009
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Good comments, Kirk.. especially about transcriptions..I've posted before about reading the introductions to tune books... Most of them state that nothing is 'written in stone'... I try HARD to learn a tune from transcriptions, just to get the essence of the tune.. As soon as I have that.. I do my own stuff to it..!!!

Sep 12, 2018 - 1:17:45 PM
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6645 posts since 3/19/2009
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I must admit thought that there are people who don't read music but simply try to learn from the "source", and they in the end SOUND pretty much like the source.. There is something to be said for just learning by ear...

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 09/12/2018 13:21:23

Sep 12, 2018 - 2:13:17 PM
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218 posts since 8/10/2017

The reason to go to the source is so that when an argument arises about the way the tune is supposed to go you can sound like you know what you are talking about and can boss everybody else around. You can either say, yes, that's the way so-and-so (the source) plays it but I prefer it this other way, or you can say yes, that's the way so-and-so (the source) plays it so I play it his way.

Edited by - sbhikes2 on 09/12/2018 14:13:52

Sep 12, 2018 - 3:47:58 PM
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1385 posts since 8/27/2008

There are cases where players are so revered that many people know and refer to their recordings as, in some sense, sources for tunes, even though they were but a captured moment from a new tecnology. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. There are also players whose recordings are truly original sources for tunes. I'm thinking particularly of Ed Haley whose original recordings were nearly lost, then rediscovered in bad shape. I am not clear on how many of the songs on those recordings were his own compositions, but some were. Now many of those tunes have entered the old time repertoire because of his salvaged recordings. I think it's worth visiting his originals because he had a unique way of playing them. Whether or not you try to play them like he did it's worth hearing the "source".

What's annoying to me are players who insist they know right or wrong in how a tune should go. Being familiar with early recordings shouldn't give you the right to be an a****** about it.

Sep 12, 2018 - 4:09:14 PM

6645 posts since 3/19/2009
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Brian, I've seen cases where multiple sheet music transcriptions of a fiddler's particular tune all are Different.... Maybe recordings are more accurate, but transcriptions seem to be more like 'suggestions'.!!!

Sep 12, 2018 - 4:24:05 PM
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1385 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Brian, I've seen cases where multiple sheet music transcriptions of a fiddler's particular tune all are Different.... Maybe recordings are more accurate, but transcriptions seem to be more like 'suggestions'.!!!


Yes, I agree there. I make transcriptions myself. Knowing that they are only suggestions my goal is to write a fairly accurate version of the first go around of the recorded tune (occasionally I'll use a later go around if it seems more representative of the basic melody). By accurate I mean I try to pay attention to little note choice and phrasing details without cluttering up the page too much. I tend to learn a tune best by first listening to it then transcribing it. I end up reading my transcription for a while, letting variations creep in, maybe. And I'll find other versions to hear. And then, if it's meant to be, I eventually put the music aside and call it my own, right or wrong.

Edited by - abinigia on 09/12/2018 16:24:59

Sep 12, 2018 - 4:29:49 PM

6645 posts since 3/19/2009
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quote:
Originally posted by abinigia
quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Brian, I've seen cases where multiple sheet music transcriptions of a fiddler's particular tune all are Different.... Maybe recordings are more accurate, but transcriptions seem to be more like 'suggestions'.!!!


Yes, I agree there. I make transcriptions myself. Knowing that they are only suggestions my goal is to write a fairly accurate version of the first go around of the recorded tune (occasionally I'll use a later go around if it seems more representative of the basic melody). By accurate I mean I try to pay attention to little note choice and phrasing details without cluttering up the page too much. I tend to learn a tune best by first listening to it then transcribing it. I end up reading my transcription for a while, letting variations creep in, maybe. And I'll find other versions to hear. And then, if it's meant to be, I eventually put the music aside and call it my own, right or wrong.


Yep.. Profound paragraph..

Sep 12, 2018 - 7:26:43 PM
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3794 posts since 9/26/2008

If it’s an Ed Haley transcript, it needs to pages long to catch all the ridiculously subtle and seeming continuous variations he played.

Sep 12, 2018 - 8:11:50 PM

1385 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

If it’s an Ed Haley transcript, it needs to pages long to catch all the ridiculously subtle and seeming continuous variations he played.


That’s for sure. I’ve done a few of his tunes in the simpler way I descibed though: briankwood.net

Sep 13, 2018 - 12:55:06 AM
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201 posts since 6/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Source? Huh? I'm working over here!


Seriously, in my region, Old Time is Dwight "Red" Lamb's version of a Bob Walters tune.
I can maybe keep up with three or four tunes, out of hundreds. It's fiddling on a different planet. That's why I goof around playing fills and breaks in country & bluegrass bands.


Well, heck, either Dwight's versions of Bob Walters' tunes or Bob's own versions are definitely "sources" to me!

Edited by - Brendan Doyle on 09/13/2018 00:58:29

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