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May 22, 2020 - 12:02:08 PM
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36 posts since 2/10/2020

I'm just learning the devil's box now and I'm greatly enjoying it. I come from a bluegrass banjo background and, for the most part we play songs in the key of G, C, D and A, probably in that order. On the fiddle, G, D and A are going great for me. It's very intuitive and they are basically the same, just one string over. C however...oh the C.

Would anybody mind if I just bought myself a second fiddle and tuned it down a whole note and just played C that way? I'm an old man and I only have so much time to learn new stuff. Later, will talk about my idea for playing in E.

May 22, 2020 - 12:12:16 PM
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1642 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

I'm just learning the devil's box now and I'm greatly enjoying it. I come from a bluegrass banjo background and, for the most part we play songs in the key of G, C, D and A, probably in that order. On the fiddle, G, D and A are going great for me. It's very intuitive and they are basically the same, just one string over. C however...oh the C.

Would anybody mind if I just bought myself a second fiddle and tuned it down a whole note and just played C that way? I'm an old man and I only have so much time to learn new stuff. Later, will talk about my idea for playing in E.


The key of C can be its own pleasure. It's not harder than other keys. I enjoy many C tunes partly for the fact they're in C. The key of C readily lends itself to playing in 2nd position which gives you a bigger range. So I say being an old man isn't a good reason to avoid it. Enjoy the challenge and it will soon become easier. (Same goes for E).

May 22, 2020 - 12:29:45 PM
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10770 posts since 9/23/2009

To me, C on the fiddle feels like playing in the cracks, so to speak...I just can't get it. I've been playing the fiddle for I think something like 11 or 12 years steady, now...and, that's nowhere near expert level, but it should be long enough that if I EVER feel good or capable in C, I should've by now. Therefore, my opinion is whenever I do need to play in C on the fiddle...it gets tuned down a step, or else I might use the Cumberland Gap tuning, ADAD, tuned down one whole step for very easy C licks. Ain't no other way I'm ever gonna be happy with C. Another thing a person who can't seem to ever get comfortable with C could do would be to buy a cheapie Chinese viola...I bought one, a Cecilio brand...cheap and seems pretty good to me. Viola is tuned CGDA for standard tuning...so if you wanna play in C, the fingering is exactly like playing in G on the fiddle...but it's a little bit low and growly...which is good to me, and you can do whatever double stops or whatever you'd do in G on the fiddle and come out ok.

Of course the only thing is if you tried to play Back up and Push, or some other traditional C tune that need the configuration of open strings to do...like with BUAP you need to do the Hokum Bowing shuffles...you wouldn't have those strings available to you for that by either tuning the fiddle differently or playing like you were in G on the viola. That doesn't bother me personally, since I never play Back up and Push or any of those things...Billy in the Lowground might be another one...I think maybe that might work out in another tuning though...not sure, I haven't really thought to try...might try it one of these days and see. Still, my point...I avoid C. It's just not doable for me.

May 22, 2020 - 12:44:23 PM
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DougD

USA

9516 posts since 12/2/2007

Peggy, your fear of C surprises me, since you play guitàr. Its really very similar, except the g and b strings from the guitar are "combined" in the A string on the violin (a very sensible idea, IMHO). So you have to grab the g note on the D string, and make adjustments for a,b,c and d.
Also the low string is G instead of A, which means the c note is fingered a little higher. Its nice to have that open G note though.

May 22, 2020 - 2:13:05 PM
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Swing

USA

1949 posts since 6/26/2007

I would suggest a simple start..one of the problems for many fiddlers is hearing a key or the intervals.... so, if you can play in G and start that on the D string, then move everything down one string and start on the G string... once you have that indoor ears, start on the G note on the D string, that will get you up to the E string.... practice both those scales and you will be surprised how quickly the C sound comes... I personally like playing in C... we used to hold a weekly session and there was this woman who would come most every week.... so I had just played and lead a tune in C.... it was her turn in the rotation.... she says very loudly, I don't like the key of C, then she proceeds to play a waltz in C.....

Play Happy

Swing

May 22, 2020 - 2:14:29 PM
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Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2201 posts since 2/2/2008

C is a wonderful key with lots of good tunes, and for me, some good songs.

May 22, 2020 - 2:29:10 PM
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1503 posts since 12/11/2008

I'm now reasonably comfortable playing in C but I still have to agree with Peggy that it is inherently physically difficult to play the fiddle in that key.

First off, there is no open string to keep your ear tuned to.

Second, OT fiddling is traditionally a First Position discipline, which means you have to either move your left hand northward or have a preternaturally stretchy left pinkie to comfortably hit the C on the E string. In my opinion, this is the reason that C tunes are kind of sparse in the OT repertoire as compared to G tunes, D tunes and A tunes.

I will continue with my rant. As implied above, the C scale just doesn't naturally fall under the fingers like the G, D and, to a slightly lesser extent, the A tunes do (which is why so many A tunes involve a re-tuning into Cross). It is just hard for my middle finger to accurately hit the C on the A string. It takes decided backward stretch. If you ever might want to hit the F on the E string, you gotta stretch your index finger slightly backwards, as well.

In any case, I've come to paranoically believe that the insistence on C tunes comes from the cruel minds of piano players. After all, is there any easier key for the piano than C? It's all white notes!

May 22, 2020 - 4:13:26 PM
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48 posts since 1/21/2017

Besides the mental challenge (for me) of playing in C, It's also harder physically (for me). I can really feel it in my hand afterwords. No open strings. There's nothing wrong at all with keeping another fiddle tuned to cajun tuning...FCGD. That's how they play all those C accordion tunes.

Edited by - coryobert on 05/22/2020 16:17:48

May 22, 2020 - 4:28:38 PM

62 posts since 1/19/2018

I play a couple of waltzes in c and I agree that it’s harder to play in but it really makes the fiddle sound great. Nice and deep

May 22, 2020 - 4:56:17 PM
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Beardog

USA

130 posts since 8/12/2012

I came to the fiddle from bluegrass banjo, too. Welcome to the wild and fretless side!

A good place to start is "Billy in the Low Ground". Play the A section in 1st position. Learn the B section in first position, then shift the B section up to second position. At least that's how I started to learn the key of C on my fiddle. You just have to jump out of the comfort zone of 1st position to do much in the key of C. I agree with others. It isn't inherently easy on the fiddle. I am currently working on Kenny Baker's version of Ashland Breakdown. It is really a tough one, at least for me. It sounded deceptively simple...It isn't! You might try "Stone's Rag", too. It is fairly easy, and is in the key of C. I think it also goes by another name that has something to do with Texas, but I can't recall it at this moment.

May 22, 2020 - 5:34:14 PM
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4573 posts since 9/26/2008

Open strings in key of C = ALL OF THEM.

C is great. If you are playing bluegrass, slide your ring finger up to E note on A string. You "tune" it with the open E. Then smash the A and E strings down where the C and G notes are. Now you are playing in a closed position, which is great for BG. The F note on the E string is played with the open A to get it in tune. E note on the D string tunes up with the G string OR you play the E and C note together.

Plenty of open strings to "work with" if that is your concern. 

Edited by - ChickenMan on 05/22/2020 17:35:02

May 22, 2020 - 6:33:01 PM
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LukeF

USA

48 posts since 10/15/2019

How about getting a 5-string violin? The low string is C.

May 22, 2020 - 7:00:28 PM

10770 posts since 9/23/2009

It's probably easier with a 5 string, my guess would be. On guitar I love the key of C, if I'm fingerpicking, which is what I mainly do. I can play just about anything I can think to try to play on guitar by fingerpicking in C...but if I'm playing in another key...I often will capo to where I can backup my playing with (what I consider cool) licks from C...because I love C so much for fingerpicking on guitar.

But on the fiddle...no. I don't like C. So I often capo up to D to play in the C shape on guitar and allow myself to also play along on my multi track recordings using the fiddle, or else, the other way around, play in C and tune the fiddle down. I don't like C on the fiddle.

May 22, 2020 - 7:28:53 PM
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117 posts since 6/11/2019

Play in one pattern on G/D strings, then if you need to play up an octave, shift up to 2nd position (which is just a half step) on A/E strings. You can stay there the rest of the break if you want. Play the whole thing in 2nd position if you want. C is a piece of cake, just like B, which is C minus 1/2.

May 22, 2020 - 7:35:17 PM

Beardog

USA

130 posts since 8/12/2012

Yes, C major is "easier" on a 5-string fiddle. Just shut your eyes and play as if you are in G, D, or A, but "starting" on the lowest string (C). The only problem is learning to use your bow and your left hand fingers just a little bit differently on a 5-string fiddle.....

May 22, 2020 - 8:54:16 PM
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doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Beardog

I came to the fiddle from bluegrass banjo, too. Welcome to the wild and fretless side!

 


Like me, did you come the fiddle because you observed that the fiddle players were getting all girls, only to then realize, after all that fiddle practice, that it was you all along that was the problem and not the instrument?  What, just me? 

May 22, 2020 - 8:54:33 PM
Players Union Member

boxbow

USA

2506 posts since 2/3/2011

I can learn some C tunes and play them but improvising in C is very hard.

May 22, 2020 - 8:55:18 PM

doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by LukeF

How about getting a 5-string violin? The low string is C.


That thought has crossed my mind.  In this time of corona, it's difficult to get my hands on one to try. 

May 22, 2020 - 8:56:54 PM

doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

Hey, thanks for the great discussion. This has been very helpful and also good to know that I'm not the only one with C problems. I haven't explored the 2nd position at all yet, but maybe I have reason to try it now.

May 23, 2020 - 12:34:29 AM
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2457 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

C however...oh the C.

Would anybody mind if I just bought myself a second fiddle and tuned it down a whole note and just played C that way? I'm an old man and I only have so much time to learn new stuff. Later, will talk about my idea for playing in E.


I can't speak for if "anybody" would mind. It depends on who and the context. If playing for yourself, nobody minds what you do... it's your fiddle.

That said, for many folks it's more than just playing a sequence of notes... there's often quality to the tune that comes with the key layout, fingering, bowing, slurs, string crossing, unisons, drones; to which gives each a certain feel. For fiddle tunes especially; many are really designed to take advantage of uniqueness each key.

I've never found C tunes necessarily harder, some C tunes seem be more difficult to play with D layout. I do often tune down to play with a C diatonic accordion... not because it's easier to play, not a problem for me to play in C (or G as pull) -  but those tunes have better feel fingered/bowed as D layout (or A tunes as pull).

 

quote:
Originally posted by LukeF

How about getting a 5-string violin? The low string is C.


5 string doesn't really make playing easier... just allows to play lower like a viola. It might be same name notes, won't be the same sound quality; and some tunes won't work as melody goes down to low A or G. 

May 23, 2020 - 1:20:45 AM
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2457 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

I'm now reasonably comfortable playing in C but I still have to agree with Peggy that it is inherently physically difficult to play the fiddle in that key.

First off, there is no open string to keep your ear tuned to.

Second, OT fiddling is traditionally a First Position discipline, which means you have to either move your left hand northward or have a preternaturally stretchy left pinkie to comfortably hit the C on the E string. In my opinion, this is the reason that C tunes are kind of sparse in the OT repertoire as compared to G tunes, D tunes and A tunes.

I will continue with my rant. As implied above, the C scale just doesn't naturally fall under the fingers like the G, D and, to a slightly lesser extent, the A tunes do (which is why so many A tunes involve a re-tuning into Cross). It is just hard for my middle finger to accurately hit the C on the A string. It takes decided backward stretch. If you ever might want to hit the F on the E string, you gotta stretch your index finger slightly backwards, as well.

In any case, I've come to paranoically believe that the insistence on C tunes comes from the cruel minds of piano players. After all, is there any easier key for the piano than C? It's all white notes!


I don't understand the inherently physically difficult? Perhaps due to very poor hand position??

Most OT fiddling in C plays naturally well in first position, using the open fingering, (not closed) uses open strings, so give a guide to intonation.  Does not require moving the hand nor have any more stretch to them; notes are right under the first 3 fingers, for normal range of finger size.

have a preternaturally stretchy left pinkie to comfortably hit the C on the E string

That is really not a note in first position, rather shift up. It's not that common for C tunes to have to go up to that high octave note. Note that if the melody requires that high octave note, playing in D, or tuning down a step makes more higher up the neck.

middle finger to accurately hit the C on the A string. It takes decided backward stretch.

It's the same as the middle finger hitting the G note on an E string.

 

After all, is there any easier key for the piano than C? It's all white notes!

IMO, it's a similar concept on piano... the key changes and affects the fingering, crossing and fluidity. I don't think C is the easiest key... the piano players I play with, don't seem to prefer it, and I find myself, the black notes can make some fingerings easier. I notice hardly ever hear some styles of piano much played in C (sparse repertoire).

May 23, 2020 - 4:27:58 AM

1346 posts since 4/6/2014

i start with an octave of E Phrygian on the D an A strings ,because its in the middle of the fingerboard giving me the option to shift up down or to one side or another. Then i use the other 6 mode patterns that surround it for the rest of the positions/shifts.

The single octave mode patterns can of course be extended through 2 or even 3 octaves, or i can shift to another Mode pattern by shifting up or down a 2nd 3rd 4th ...etc

There are only 7 single octave mode patterns on adjacent strings to learn for all the Major keys and their relative (natural) minors. And they contain all of the diatonic Double stops, arpeggios, and pentatonic  scales as well.

May 23, 2020 - 8:39:39 AM
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Beardog

USA

130 posts since 8/12/2012

quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by Beardog

I came to the fiddle from bluegrass banjo, too. Welcome to the wild and fretless side!

 


Like me, did you come the fiddle because you observed that the fiddle players were getting all girls, only to then realize, after all that fiddle practice, that it was you all along that was the problem and not the instrument?  What, just me? 


Yes, that was my experience, as well. But on a positive note, the banjo player jokes about drooling and teeth were no longer directed at me!

May 23, 2020 - 10:55:03 AM
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1642 posts since 8/27/2008

It occurs to me that if you' don't want to play the key of C then you also have trouble with Am, and playing blue notes in A. That's a lot of fiddling to miss out on. I don't understand why anybody wouldn't spend a little time to get it. It's just like G only over one.

May 23, 2020 - 11:04:03 AM
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doryman

USA

36 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood

It occurs to me that if you' don't want to play the key of C then you also have trouble with Am, and playing blue notes in A. That's a lot of fiddling to miss out on. I don't understand why anybody wouldn't spend a little time to get it. It's just like G only over one.


I'm very new at this.  I have trouble with everything.   I'm quite a bit a ways from worrying about playing blue notes in A. 

May 23, 2020 - 11:40:32 AM
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1642 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by doryman
 

I'm very new at this.  I have trouble with everything.   I'm quite a bit a ways from worrying about playing blue notes in A.


I hear you. I suggest you don't get scared off of learning to play in C though. It is the same as G shifted over. Not any harder if you practice it a little from the beginning, in my humble opinion.

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