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Fiddle Lovers Online


Apr 10, 2020 - 7:15:47 PM
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4 posts since 4/4/2020

I have been playing fiddle for about a month after playing guitar for many years. I am having all of the beginner's normal problems; intonation, too much tension in both hands, phrasing, etc. All of these issues are (very) slowly improving, but I continue to have a big problem bowing the correct string without hitting the adjacent string(s). Ironically, when I try to play a double stop, I have a lot of trouble staying on both strings at once. I've noticed that my bridge is higher and flatter on the G string side. I thought about rounding it a little, but I didn't know if that would cause the G and D strings to intonate differently. I understand that bowing is the most difficult part of learning to play fiddle, but this severely hindering my progress. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Apr 10, 2020 - 8:59:43 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

702 posts since 6/22/2016

First thing I would suggest is to isolate a musical phrase that has you touching adjacent strings - play those three or four notes slowly and locate precisely at what point you're having the problem - then take those probably-two notes and play them very slowly, adjusting your fingers and bow angle until you get them clean - then repeat those notes, slowly - then add the other notes in the phrase, and play the whole thing slowly, over and over. When you speed up, you'll probably find you're hitting the adjacent string again: slow down again, and keep going over the phrase slowly. Ain't no shortcut that I know of .....

Apr 10, 2020 - 11:31:07 PM

367 posts since 3/1/2020

Your bridge should be higher on the bass side because the G string needs more clearance above the fingerboard than the treble side. As to the curve, that is dictated by a specific template that corresponds to the shape of the fingerboard. The curve should be smooth, without any flat spots. Many fiddlers ask for flatter bridges to facilitate playing double stops.

If you’re not sure about the bridge that’s on your fiddle, take it to a luthier. Getting a properly cut bridge will go a very long way toward making bowing easier and sound quality better.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 04/10/2020 23:33:32

Apr 11, 2020 - 3:45:24 AM
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183 posts since 11/28/2018

Practice the G-scale slowly using a single bowstroke for each note. Go from open G all the way to B on the E-string (4th finger) and back down to open G. This will help both intonation and bowing. Be sure to go very SLOW. And do it several times a day.

Also, think back --- how long did it take to learn the guitar and how many mistakes were you making after the first month?

Apr 11, 2020 - 6:51:58 AM
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2336 posts since 10/1/2008

Yeah .... The seven bow levels to achieve good tone on single and paired strings takes practice and time. Work your scales and include playing an open string, a drone with the tones. This is a tad easier to listen to when you are first starting out. Get your bridge checked out and your violin setup looked at. A well setup instrument is better to learn on than one that is not. Patience .... R /

Edited by - UsuallyPickin on 04/11/2020 06:56:36

Apr 11, 2020 - 10:33:40 AM
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4 posts since 4/4/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Woodcutter

Practice the G-scale slowly using a single bowstroke for each note. Go from open G all the way to B on the E-string (4th finger) and back down to open G. This will help both intonation and bowing. Be sure to go very SLOW. And do it several times a day.

Also, think back --- how long did it take to learn the guitar and how many mistakes were you making after the first month?


That sounds like a great exercise to add to my practice sessions. Excellent point about learning guitar - I couldn't play much of anything after only a month. I guess I'm getting impatient in my advancing years! Thanks for the advice; there's no one in my area that plays fiddle, so I'm grateful to be able ask for help from people who know what they're doing.

Apr 11, 2020 - 11:42:48 AM
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11840 posts since 9/23/2009

There's a lot of complicated stuff people can tell you...might help...but might be overwhelming. It's like if you asked people how to walk, breathe, chew up food, etc. It's complicated and involved...yet, in my mind, if you just keep "fiddling" around with it, you will just get it, sooner or later. It's the toughest part about fiddling, imho, and complicated as all get-out, but, then, we all perform many complicated tasks every day, and we just learned how to do them by doing them until we got it. Sounds like a bad answer...a copout...but...I think it's true. Keep fiddling...one day you'll be amazed at what you know how to do!

Apr 11, 2020 - 5:02:09 PM
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497 posts since 9/1/2010

Yeah, it is hard. Hours upon hours of practice and it will sort out. Play really slow and I mean really really slow. Embed that muscle memory. Even after 11 years and thousands of hours, I am never content with my bowing. Always searching for a better sound and practicing something new with the bow. I guess a lot of it depends on the level you wish to reach and the standards you hold yourself to, but it is an instrument that demands a lot of time and focus. Just keep at it.

Apr 11, 2020 - 7:50:42 PM
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63 posts since 11/19/2019

I'm a recent convert as well. Converted from pickin instruments like you.

Lots of time playing scales will help immensely. Don't change your instrument, practice more.

One other thing FWIW, when I learned guitar, I was making passable music in a couple months. Not so much on my fiddle. Now 7 months later, my wife is not annoyed when I play and I have a number of songs I know and can play cleanly.

Apr 11, 2020 - 10:00:45 PM

2665 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by ralph3edwin

I have been playing fiddle for about a month after playing guitar for many years. I am having all of the beginner's normal problems; intonation, too much tension in both hands, phrasing, etc. All of these issues are (very) slowly improving, but I continue to have a big problem bowing the correct string without hitting the adjacent string(s). Ironically, when I try to play a double stop, I have a lot of trouble staying on both strings at once. I've noticed that my bridge is higher and flatter on the G string side. I thought about rounding it a little, but I didn't know if that would cause the G and D strings to intonate differently. I understand that bowing is the most difficult part of learning to play fiddle, but this severely hindering my progress. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


I would highly caution a beginner about messing with their bridge, if not understanding the concepts, or what's normal.

Rounding won't affect the intonation, but can affect the tone and playability not necessarily for the better. If too low, string will vibrate against the fingerboard (like guitars fret buzz if too low).   If you remove wood, you can't put it back. Bridge radius can play a part, some fiddlers do like a very small radius bridge (flatter); and that can make single string a bit more needing a bit more control; harder for beginners.

But don't assume your bridge is that way... likely it's a reasonable radius*.

More likely it's just bow control, a common initial issue for beginners, even on well setup fiddle. BTW, check your bowing distance from bridge;  common for beginners to be bowing too far from bridge, more over the fingerboard; as one result, the radius/clearance gets smaller.

-----------

*Before thinking problem with bridge, you simply want to check your bridge is fairly normal. One way is simply view the strings from side, perpendicular; at the bridge, visually line up the G and A string on same plane; look to see how much the D string sits above. Same with visually lining up the D and E string, see how much the A string sits above. Something like 3/32 to 1/8 inch seems normal. If only 1/16, that might be pretty low. [if measure, might search the setup section on bridge radius, or ask luthier; and/or it should compare to radius; listed as something from 45 to 60]

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 04/11/2020 22:12:35

Apr 12, 2020 - 6:49:22 AM

367 posts since 3/1/2020

Practice will definitely help with string crossing, but I would still recommend taking the instrument to a luthier to be sure it’s set up properly. There’s nothing worse for a beginner than a poorly set up fiddle

Apr 13, 2020 - 5:58:59 PM
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4 posts since 4/4/2020

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by ralph3edwin

I have been playing fiddle for about a month after playing guitar for many years. I am having all of the beginner's normal problems; intonation, too much tension in both hands, phrasing, etc. All of these issues are (very) slowly improving, but I continue to have a big problem bowing the correct string without hitting the adjacent string(s). Ironically, when I try to play a double stop, I have a lot of trouble staying on both strings at once. I've noticed that my bridge is higher and flatter on the G string side. I thought about rounding it a little, but I didn't know if that would cause the G and D strings to intonate differently. I understand that bowing is the most difficult part of learning to play fiddle, but this severely hindering my progress. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


I would highly caution a beginner about messing with their bridge, if not understanding the concepts, or what's normal.

Rounding won't affect the intonation, but can affect the tone and playability not necessarily for the better. If too low, string will vibrate against the fingerboard (like guitars fret buzz if too low).   If you remove wood, you can't put it back. Bridge radius can play a part, some fiddlers do like a very small radius bridge (flatter); and that can make single string a bit more needing a bit more control; harder for beginners.

But don't assume your bridge is that way... likely it's a reasonable radius*.

More likely it's just bow control, a common initial issue for beginners, even on well setup fiddle. BTW, check your bowing distance from bridge;  common for beginners to be bowing too far from bridge, more over the fingerboard; as one result, the radius/clearance gets smaller.

-----------

*Before thinking problem with bridge, you simply want to check your bridge is fairly normal. One way is simply view the strings from side, perpendicular; at the bridge, visually line up the G and A string on same plane; look to see how much the D string sits above. Same with visually lining up the D and E string, see how much the A string sits above. Something like 3/32 to 1/8 inch seems normal. If only 1/16, that might be pretty low. [if measure, might search the setup section on bridge radius, or ask luthier; and/or it should compare to radius; listed as something from 45 to 60]

 

 


Thanks for the advice. I understand what you're saying about string clearance - I make my own bridges and nuts for my acoustic guitars and set the action, truss rod and intonation for my electrics. Based on your numbers for sighting the strings perpendicularly, I think my  bridge setup is reasonable. I have started incorporating some exercises bowing open strings, singly and in pairs during practice sessions and that seems to be helping. For some reason, closing my eyes helps me find and maintain the correct angle with the bow. I appreciate you taking time to respond. I will keep at it. 

Apr 13, 2020 - 11:35:33 PM
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223 posts since 6/21/2012

You could practice long bows on all the strings and string pairs. Start at the frog and bow to the tip as slow as you possibly can while keeping the tone steady. It will help with the different angles, feeling the balance all along the bow, and your overall tone. Deadly boring, but highly effective.

Apr 15, 2020 - 7:36:05 PM

BR5-49

USA

208 posts since 1/3/2019

Sometimes I like to bow before I play to address the audience, but bowing after a good tune is a good way to go about it as well... youtu.be/uhVIZuJPnt4?t=17 ;)

Apr 16, 2020 - 7:22:31 AM
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WyoBob

USA

221 posts since 5/16/2019

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Practice will definitely help with string crossing, but I would still recommend taking the instrument to a luthier to be sure it’s set up properly. There’s nothing worse for a beginner than a poorly set up fiddle


I couldn't agree more, Rich.  My first good fiddle, ordered 8 months ago when I started the fiddle for real, had high action (and poorly spaced strings) at the nut and along the fingerboard.  I didn't know what a good set up was until I played a fiddle that had one several months after I bought my first one.  I ordered a second fiddle from another outfit and the action was even higher.  (I intended to send the first one to a luthier to fix and play the second fiddle while the first was in the shop and then have a spare).  I immediately sent it back.  Both fiddles came from well known businesses.

After reading good things about the "Bluegrass Shack", I ordered a fiddle from Chris, the owner.   She set it up perfectly and it was unbelievable how easy it was to play compared to the other two.   Instead of sending my first fiddle out, I duplicated the setup of the Bluegrass Shack fiddle.  I thought, if I fouled it up, I could send it to Chris and she'd fix it.   I cut a new nut with a wider string spacing and lower action, flattened the fingerboard (it had a really deep scoop) and shortened and flattened the bridge.  It turned out great and plays as nicely as the one Chris sent me.

We live in "fly over" country.   I have no idea where you'd find a luthier anywhere close to where we live.   Probably in Denver which is 7 hours south.   I'm sure there are a couple of shops down there where one might test drive a fiddle, as well.  So, buying an instrument, bow, buying strings or having work done is a mail order thing for most in our area.   I think many players of stringed instruments around here must do their own setups.  I've never really heard them talk about setups but most of them could play just about any setup on any instrument and make it sound good.smiley  We beginners need all of the advantages we can get and a good setup is at the top of the list.

Apr 16, 2020 - 10:01:18 AM

4289 posts since 6/23/2007

If a beginner is having problems, they should have a qualified person watch them play, and then offer constructive criticism. Have that person play your fiddle and see if they have the same problem. So basically, find out if the problem is caused by the fiddler or the instrument.

Jul 25, 2020 - 1:28:31 PM

1 posts since 7/25/2020

I have been having the same problem with hitting the wrong strings, and I have not been playing violin too long. I found a solution which worked for me today but I still need to practice and that is with G and D string changes, I raise or lower my wrist, instead of my whole bow arm. The same also worked for the A and E strings and I still need to move my arm when reaching the A and E strings. This way, I did not hit the wrong strings as much as I usually do, and for me that is progress!!

Jul 25, 2020 - 6:41:37 PM

3561 posts since 12/8/2007

Double stops after only a month playing? Don't you need to be able to intonate the single notes first? I'm often wrong about these things, but my teacher told me to hold off on double stops until I had some degree of good intonation with the single notes first. Heck, at a month into my fiddle journey, I still recall the dogs covering their ears and all humans running for cover! Cats would squeal and cry and the neighbors wondered if someone was being tortured over at my homestead. But maybe, Eddie, you're far further along than I was a month into my fiddle endeavor....

Aug 8, 2020 - 8:07:50 PM

644 posts since 8/10/2017

I really think rather than blaming the instrument for not being able to control which string you are playing you should just learn to play. I played fiddle off and on for about 20 years. I finally decided to take some violin lessons. Wow, I'm learning a lot. I play worse than ever but I'm learning a lot I did not know, couldn't have seen others do even if I tried, wouldn't have even known to ask about, and couldn't figure out on my own. Now when I watch somebody play, like David Bragger videos, I can see better what he's doing and not doing.

WyoBob, I'll bet there's some guy who fixes fiddles in his garage somewhere in your state. The guy who took a look at my mandolin and fixed my ukulele works out of his garage, even here in California. I have no idea where to find a "professional luthier". They're all word-of-mouth. You gotta find the others who play fiddle. They will know someone.

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