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Feb 12, 2020 - 12:53:13 PM
6 posts since 2/12/2020

Last weekend I took my old fiddle out of the case and am making a real attempt to play it.

I'm almost 50 years old. I have played guitar since my 20's. For the past 5 years I have been concentrating on Old Time Clawhammer Banjo. I consider the banjo my main instrument, but I am by no means a pro. I have played quite a bit lately on a fret-less banjo and have a little experience with upright bass (just 1,2 rhythm in a jam, no bowing). I have noodled with the fiddle before, but never actually tried to learn to play.

I play mostly by ear. I have some experience with sheet music and tabs, but have never been able to look at it and play, only use it to find the melody.

The fiddle I have was my great uncle's backup. It is a Chinese fiddle, but I know he had it by the early 1980's. The case say's "made in the People's Republic of China" I'm not sure how bad it is. My bow looks like it had a first day of beauty school haircut, so I have ordered a $20 "real horsehair" bow.

So far I have watched a few YouTube lessons, Tried to understand the D scale, and played Twinkle Twinkle till I'm sick of it. For the past couple of days, I've spent 30 minutes or so after work trying to play Angelina Baker along with the slow guitar backup on oldtimejam.com. It's a song I'm pretty familiar with. I'm getting better hitting the basic notes of the melody, but my bowing is atrocious.


I'm planning on taking the fiddle to a Jam I attend in the next couple of weeks and ask a actual fiddle player if he will check the set-up. I'll be taking my banjo, I won't try to fiddle.

I don't really have the time or the budget for lessons or a better instrument. I build cigar box guitars and banjos as a hobby, and my main goal is to understand the fiddle well enough to build cigar box fiddles and be able to demo them. If I could get good enough to play a few old time songs passably it would make me happy.

I know of a local teacher, I may try to splurge for a few lessons. I'm getting better now. I'd like to get to the first plateau then maybe take a few lessons, but I may be learning bad habits.

Anyone have any "wish I had of known then what I know now" advice?

Feb 12, 2020 - 2:31:32 PM
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2105 posts since 8/23/2008

Always be aware of 'excessive tension'; watch out for those stiff muscles; they'll be the cause of all your mistakes. Aim to be as relaxed as possible when playing, use 'minimal tension'; just enough tension to create a balancing act. As soon as you notice the slightest bit of tension anywhere stop playing and do a few minutes simple relaxation exercise. When you are not playing spend a few minutes imagining your self playing with very soft muscles.

Edit: And, always hear and visualize the music you play while you're playing and some times when you dont have the instrument in your hands. 

Edited by - buckhenry on 02/12/2020 14:39:48

Feb 12, 2020 - 2:44:01 PM
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2473 posts since 10/6/2008

Having a decent bow is pretty important and I'm not sure a $20 one is going to meet your needs. Might be a good idea to search the message threads for some suggestions on good options for inexpensive carbon fiber models.

My banjo friend has just picked up the fiddle and I've been impressed with the progress he's been making through online tutorials. canisminimus -- Do you want to wants to weigh in and share the secrets to your success?! :)

Feb 12, 2020 - 2:54:55 PM
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16 posts since 8/25/2019

Bowing is what'll make the fiddle sing. Focusing a good deal on that won't hurt.

Also wonderful to see the interest in the CB fiddles. I built my first CB fiddle before I knew how to play one. It was absolutely atrocious, but it made music to my ears!

Feb 12, 2020 - 3:05:45 PM
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WyoBob

USA

50 posts since 5/16/2019

I agree with the thoughts on the $20.00 bow.  But, I've only been playing 6 months but have played 6 or 7 bows.

After spending a lot of time reading about bows, I bought one of these:  https://fiddlershop.com/collections/bows/products/fiddlerman-carbon-fiber-violin-bow

You get $10.00 off your first order.  

The Antonio Giuliani wood bow that came with my first outfit was/is pretty OK. It's heavy at 72 grams.   The Fiddlerman carbon fiber bow weighs 10 grams less.   I like the F.M. bow quite a bit.  In fact, I have another one on the way if "FedEx" can find my houseangry  The house has been here for 35 years with the same address and the bozo's can't find it.  I can throw a rock from the US highway and hit my house.  A blizzard was forecast for this afternoon so they had the driver's head back to Sheridan, 40 miles away.  It's been "out for delivery" for two days.  Maybe the 3rd time will be the charm.

Feb 12, 2020 - 5:03:07 PM

2105 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Cyndy

Having a decent bow is pretty important and I'm not sure a $20 one is going to meet your needs. 


A cheap bow doesn't mean one can not achieve a decent sound. I still use the same bow that came with my beginner violin kit. For years I thought that this bow was the cause of my inept bowing skill, until I discovered that this bow I had was a top quality bow, I just was not operating it properly. Once I acquired the necessary bow skills, I could produce a good sound from any bow, that is until I'm required to execute a 'flying staccato'....   

Feb 12, 2020 - 5:16:01 PM

2473 posts since 10/6/2008

I've actually played my fiddle with a fractional-size bow that cost about $9.99 + shipping. It was about as low quality as they get but, yup! I was able to make it work. And if that's all I had, it sure wouldn't stop me from playing! I'm pretty easy to please. :)

But, that said, with the little bit of experience that I have, it seems to me that there's a difference between the feel of a bow that has something to give and the feel of a bow that doesn't have much of anything going for it.

So, if a beginner has a chance to find a "decent" bow for a good price, I think it makes sense to invest. There's a chance it might make something that's ridiculously hard a little bit easier but, more than that, it seems like it would provide better feedback while learning.

Feb 12, 2020 - 5:29:50 PM

2105 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Cyndy

 There's a chance it might make something that's ridiculously hard a little bit easier but, more than that, it seems like it would provide better feedback while learning.


As I tried to say; a good bow will not make any difference in 'learning or feedback' until one learns the necessary skill that control the bow, and that can be learnt on a cheap bow....

Feb 13, 2020 - 2:07:47 AM
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1286 posts since 4/6/2014

i play Guitar, And banjo mando etc to "Much" lesser degrees. My advice would be to forget about frets, Fiddle is more akin to singing imo. It's even debatable as to whether a bowed instrument needs a fingerboard! I just use the fretted instruments to be able to hear harmonies, and feel rhythms, but i think piano would be better, but regrettably i don't get on with keyboards for some reason. I read on another fiddle site that.. "Violin is a crutch for people who can't sing"..Certainly true in my case.

Good luck with the cigar box fiddles btw. i got a friend to make me one based on the plans for the trapezoidal violin in the "Ed Herron Allen" book,  "Violin Making As It Was And Is". It turned out great.. He put mando tuners on it, but he couldn't resist rounding the corners. It plays fine, i use a viola bridge on it to lift the strings higher from the top.

Feb 13, 2020 - 4:32:42 AM
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92 posts since 11/28/2018

Steve, much has been said about bowing and it's all true.

But when I first read your post it made me remember my first few weeks of learning to fiddle many years ago. I would happily squawk away on one or two strings and play (well, sorta) whatever tune came to mind. After several weeks I realized that the fiddle was no longer even close to being in tune. And it dawned on me that practicing with an out of tune fiddle would only reinforce the wrong things.

My bottom line recommendation is that you invest in a D'Addario tuner that stays on the fiddle all the time (less than $20). Tune the instrument EVERY time you practice. And as part of the practice routine I suggest leaving the tuner ON and bowing scale notes (do, re, mi, etc,) s..l..o..w..l..y. Give the tuner enough time to register and move your finger if necessary to make the note 'dead on'. Ultimately this will do good things for your bowing and your intonation.

Enjoy!

Feb 13, 2020 - 6:15:31 AM

6 posts since 2/12/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Woodcutter

Steve, much has been said about bowing and it's all true.

But when I first read your post it made me remember my first few weeks of learning to fiddle many years ago. I would happily squawk away on one or two strings and play (well, sorta) whatever tune came to mind. After several weeks I realized that the fiddle was no longer even close to being in tune. And it dawned on me that practicing with an out of tune fiddle would only reinforce the wrong things.

My bottom line recommendation is that you invest in a D'Addario tuner that stays on the fiddle all the time (less than $20). Tune the instrument EVERY time you practice. And as part of the practice routine I suggest leaving the tuner ON and bowing scale notes (do, re, mi, etc,) s..l..o..w..l..y. Give the tuner enough time to register and move your finger if necessary to make the note 'dead on'. Ultimately this will do good things for your bowing and your intonation.

Enjoy!


Thanks for the tip about the tuner.  I have a couple of clip ons, I don't know why I hadn't thought of that.   I have been tuning it.  I usually trust my ears on the banjo when practicing, but I keep a tuner on in a jam.  I think I'm doing ok with intonation between all the screeching but it will be interesting to check it.

Feb 13, 2020 - 6:44:59 AM

6 posts since 2/12/2020

Thanks for the tips guys. I am going to try to make it to a Thursday night old time jam after work. I hope I can some first hand advice there too.

The bow I am using is one I bought maybe 4-5 years ago when my oldest son was showing a little interest. He never followed through, but the tension got left on it and when I opened the case probably a third of the hairs has let go. "hairs".... I think it is synthetic. I had looked into having one of the 2 in the case re-haired and it was so expensive I just ordered the cheapest one on Amazon with 2 day shipping. I'm not sure about the rosin, but It seems like I have to really go overboard to get any tone. Looks like a snow storm.


Anyway, The one I ordered should be in any day. I'll see if I can do any better and go from there. 

Edited by - steveh_2o on 02/13/2020 06:45:10

Feb 13, 2020 - 7:33:15 AM
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4418 posts since 9/26/2008

Henry is right in saying whatever bow you have will give you the type feedback needed to understand bowing, I had a bow that was so poorly balanced that it hindered my learning. The bow should feel balanced just holding it in your hand - not tip heavy or sluggish feeling when you move it in a string crossing manner. Don’t look for the cheapest because you already know where that will lead you (think cheapest in the guitar or banjo realm). That said, use what you have and as about it at the jam. In person experience trumps online advice all day. wink

Feb 13, 2020 - 7:50:16 AM
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canisminimus

Canada

6 posts since 12/24/2016

quote:
Originally posted by Cyndy


My banjo friend has just picked up the fiddle and I've been impressed with the progress he's been making through online tutorials. canisminimus -- Do you want to wants to weigh in and share the secrets to your success?! :)


Well, I was given my fiddle (usable Czech made student grade) by a fiddler friend with a case, a chunk of rosin, and a somewhat bow-shaped object. He strongly recommend getting a carbon fiber bow. I did try the barely-bent wooden bow for a bit, but after another old fiddler loaned me a Glasser fiberglass bow to try the decision was made. I picked up a P&H carbon fibre (with a very cool hair replacement system) and it has been fine. I play outdoors a lot down by the beach, and I imagine that the carbon fibre is more bullet-proof than wood. 
As to success (I blush), I'm following Josh Turknett's "Fiddle for All" course (Adam Hurt is the instructor). Practice a lot. Take it slow. Play where people can hear you. You are aleady better at the fiddle than 98% of the world's population. 

Feb 13, 2020 - 7:54:33 AM
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2195 posts since 10/1/2008

Well .... I started fiddling at 50 years of age ... seventeen years later I am a mostly happy fiddler. Here is i list of things that I have found to be important to my learning.
1. Learn both open and closed position scales and arpeggios
2. Take some lessons. Bad habits are tough to unlearn.
3. Every time you pick up your fiddle to play , tune it.
4. Play every day … a lot of this is muscle memory.
5. Practice your scales with your tuner. It helps with intonation.
6. Play with a loose grip on the bow and don’t over grip when noting a fiddle. Tension causes short and long term problems.
7. Listen to many fiddlers. Both passively when you are doing other things and actively with your fiddle in hand.
8. Learn fiddle tunes in standard as well as non standard keys. This helps to learn the fingerboard.
9. Play out in public as soon as you feel like you are able. Watch other fiddlers whenever you can. You can learn a great deal that way.
10. Change your strings two or three times a year. Your fiddle will appreciate it. Opinions differ on this.
11. Practice bowing with your shoulder and elbow trapped against a wall or door frame. This makes you use your wrist in bowing.
12. When you think you are ready for a new fiddle buy a better bow first.
13. Buy a mute or use a clothes pin on the bridge. Your house mates will thank you.
Play on! R/

Feb 13, 2020 - 8:06:16 AM
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4194 posts since 6/23/2007

The instructional that helped me most with bowing was Gordon Stobbe's instructional DVD "12 Things Your Right Hand Should Know". It taught me more about bowing fundamentals than all my instructors.

Feb 13, 2020 - 9:36:18 AM
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doryman

USA

1 posts since 2/10/2020

Don't wait to start learning double stop chording (it's not that hard). Once you have that under your belt, along with a few simple shuffle bow rhythms, you can participate in jams and provide simple back-up as you slowly build up your lead/melody chops. I've watched beginner adults spend YEARS slowly learning and memorizing melodies. It's painful to watch and to listen to. You can get up to speed (relatively speaking) with double-stop chording in a couple of months and start having fun in jams. Once you're jamming, as you know, your progess accelerates. Your background with the banjo will help you with this. You already know the songs and likely have a innate knowledge regarding chord changes.

Feb 13, 2020 - 9:42:40 AM
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97 posts since 3/19/2012

If your bow hairs are detaching, it usually means you have bow hair bugs. The little BLEEPers can't eat artificial bow hair. Vacuum the inside of the violin case. I use a nasty spray intended for mothproofing, but you can try other less perilous things. Also, the bugs don't like light, they prefer to eat in darkness, so the more you open the case and practice, the better. Shop around and get a cheap carbon-fiber bow, they're usually fairly serviceable, and far as I know, they all come with real horsehair.

Feb 13, 2020 - 10:31:57 AM
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Tyler94

USA

55 posts since 7/21/2019

Things I wish I had known when I started:
1. Never put off learning anything because it's "too hard" - I did this often and it will be true that there will always be things far too hard for you to play well or even close to well (there is for all of us). But you'll make the most progressing by pushing yourself. Starting the "too hard" things early not only gives you a headstart on them, but also makes you progress faster on other things since you're willing to push yourself.

2. Pratice scales with a tuner to hear how it should sound, but don't become dependent on it. - I made this mistake until I finally turned the tuner off while I was playing and really concentrated on listening. You might be amazed like I was at how fast your ear will develope.

3. Make practice efficient - Think of something you want to practice and go into each practice session with a goal. Unfocused noodling can be good but not everytime you play.

4. This is related to #3. Listen to fiddle music all you can. Bluegrass, Old-Time, Country, Blues, doesn't matter. Active listening helps in any case, even if it's not what you want to play. Also listen to specific music you want to learn before you practice. It gives you a goal and inspiration. The mental aspect of practicing is huge.

5. Relax - As much as I wanted to tell myself that being tense while playing just meant I was trying harder than everyone else, it's very hard to play with the finesse required unless you're relaxed. So don't be afraid to take a break during practice.

6. Have fun! - Nothing motivates quite as well as having fun. Don't stress about how you play as long as you're working on getting better. The journey is never-ending so learn to enjoy it.

Feb 13, 2020 - 10:54:29 AM

6 posts since 2/12/2020

quote:
Originally posted by mackeagan

If your bow hairs are detaching, it usually means you have bow hair bugs. The little BLEEPers can't eat artificial bow hair. Vacuum the inside of the violin case. I use a nasty spray intended for mothproofing, but you can try other less perilous things. Also, the bugs don't like light, they prefer to eat in darkness, so the more you open the case and practice, the better. Shop around and get a cheap carbon-fiber bow, they're usually fairly serviceable, and far as I know, they all come with real horsehair.


I'll clean the case.   I found the bow tensioned with hair hanging everywhere probably a year ago.   I loosened it and gave it a haircut then.   No more have broken other that a couple of strands I broke trying to rosin it.

 

Cheap carbon fiber?   This Cheap?

Feb 13, 2020 - 1:18:40 PM
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Players Union Member

boxbow

USA

2444 posts since 2/3/2011

quote:
Originally posted by mackeagan

If your bow hairs are detaching, it usually means you have bow hair bugs. The little BLEEPers can't eat artificial bow hair. Vacuum the inside of the violin case. I use a nasty spray intended for mothproofing, but you can try other less perilous things. Also, the bugs don't like light, they prefer to eat in darkness, so the more you open the case and practice, the better. Shop around and get a cheap carbon-fiber bow, they're usually fairly serviceable, and far as I know, they all come with real horsehair.


In particular, they don't like UV so come warmer weather, you just prop the open case up out in some sunshine.

Feb 14, 2020 - 7:28:22 PM
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2473 posts since 10/6/2008

> Cheap carbon fiber? This Cheap?

I need a 4/4 bow to use at an instrument petting zoo that I run each year, so I just bought one of these and I'll let you know what I think of it. Hopefully, it will serve my needs -- and (if that's the one you bought) yours, too! :)

Feb 15, 2020 - 4:02:52 AM
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37 posts since 1/19/2018

I have a fiddlerman carbon fiber bow. I think they are a very decent bow and can’t go wrong for the money. As for the bow bugs as said earlier they don’t like light. Vacuum out your case and let it set by some sunlight. I have some cedar blocks that I let in my case and it seems to repel them. Can’t hurt anyway. Most people that play regularly don’t have a problem with this. Good luck

Feb 15, 2020 - 2:17:30 PM
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LukeF

USA

36 posts since 10/15/2019

I solved my detaching bow hair problem by leaving my bow out of its case. Since then I have not had a single hair detach.

Feb 17, 2020 - 7:05:17 AM
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6 posts since 2/12/2020

I took my fiddle to the Thursday night jam and was able to get a player / luthier / teacher to look it over. He said it was good enough to learn on.  There was a second bridge in the case with a little lower action that had already been fitted at some point on it now.   He suggested I change the strings.  Gave me a few tips on getting started.

He was able to get a tune out of it cleanly so apparently all the screeching is my fault.indecision    

Feb 19, 2020 - 3:30:41 PM
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2473 posts since 10/6/2008

I wanted to see how the inexpensive bow mentioned earlier in this thread plays, so I bought one, thinking I could use it in an instrument petting zoo later in the year.

Here's my take on it: 

https://www.fiddlehangout.com/blog/10244

In short, it's not bad, but I can't help but think that there might be something better for not much more.

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