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Sep 20, 2020 - 4:19:08 AM
1582 posts since 1/21/2009

How would you define smooth fiddling? Is it rhythmic, tonal?, a combination? Is it something you can practice your way into. I used to think becoming "smoother" was inevitable, the natural evolution and product of years of playing but a lot of the great players I admire, I would not say are particularly smooth although their rhythm is excellent. So I'm thinking it's a tonal thing and a personal inclination to pursue or not. Some of the great bluegrass players are often defined as smooth. Is that the demand of the style? What Is it? a bowing thing? phrasing and the way the slurs are arranged?, a dark sounding evenly balanced instrument maybe? Thoughts?

Sep 20, 2020 - 4:58:13 AM

1413 posts since 4/6/2014

A few of the things i'm trying are:

Using more, and longer slurs, and using cuts, rolls and ornaments to define the notes,
Subtle pulses in bowing to keep the rhythm.
Longer phrasing, only using "saw" stroke to keep the rhythm going when it is required
phrasing should tail off dynamically at the end of a phrase, or swell in the middle.
As in an earlier post of Kevin Burke's playing using subdivisions of 3, notes then catching up the slack with a one or two separate bows,(in a reel)
Not starting so many phrases with a definite "Plosive" sort of thing.
Alternating the emphasis from the off beat to the on beat.
Being more elastic with the rhythm within the phrases.
Getting triplets more subtle.....etc etc
As you say the fiddle will make a difference as well, but not as much as being in control of the dynamics with the bow

...oh.. and working the fingering out so that i can play a the longer phrases in one long bow on adjacent strings (may involve shifting). leaving me free to use whatever dynamics and rhythms i need to. You seem to have a handle on that already from an earlier post, (fingering the note you are playing and the next note)...also good for crossing strings for a note larger or smaller than an octave.

Sep 20, 2020 - 5:24:04 AM

11335 posts since 9/23/2009
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I think Bluegrass players are smoother than old time, normally, of course not always. I guess if you play a lot of rapid fire notes, as you often hear in BG, a long bow is just gonna be the way to go for that. I think in Old Time there's usually more "bumpy" bowing going on...usually fewer notes and just rhythmic contour and then a rhythmic bowing element put into that. Just my opinion from what little I've seen.

Of course some BG fiddlers do shorter strokes and some OT fiddlers use longer ones...so...???? I guess we all eventually find our own way. The classical people are the smoothest of all, you can't hardly tell when they change direction...but I think they put hours in each day to get that effect.

Sep 20, 2020 - 7:36:02 AM

571 posts since 8/10/2017

I have a book of scale exercises that contain various phrasings for the scale. Some are really tricky (for me). Long bows or bow direction changes where I wouldn't naturally put them. I have found that even though I only do the same old scale, it carries over to tunes unconsciously sometimes. You might consider doing something boring like that to train muscle memory to do new things.

I don't know if that makes you smoother, though. I'm unsure what that means. Fewer saw strokes of just such skill and talent it sounds effortless?

Sep 20, 2020 - 9:42 AM
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218 posts since 3/1/2020
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Smooth playing comes from a fluid wrist and an even bow stroke. Also, it’s more common in old time fiddling to keep the bow on the string without changing the articulation.

Sep 20, 2020 - 9:56:47 AM

284 posts since 6/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2

I have a book of scale exercises that contain various phrasings for the scale. Some are really tricky (for me). Long bows or bow direction changes where I wouldn't naturally put them. I have found that even though I only do the same old scale, it carries over to tunes unconsciously sometimes. You might consider doing something boring like that to train muscle memory to do new things.

I don't know if that makes you smoother, though. I'm unsure what that means. Fewer saw strokes of just such skill and talent it sounds effortless?


Hi Diane,

what's the name of that book?

Thanks,

Rick

Sep 20, 2020 - 10:23:32 AM

2072 posts since 10/22/2007
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Smooth is Kenny Baker.

Opposite of the percusive scratch some O.T. fiddlers use. Scratch ain't a bad thing, if it's what you want.

Sep 20, 2020 - 10:25:59 AM

571 posts since 8/10/2017

It's called Scales for Young Violinists by Barbara Barber (she also has one for young violists) but honestly I could not understand the book without my instructor explaining it. Explaining how it works, what the markings around the scales mean and all that. After 6 weeks I haven't even completed a whole page of it because it's densely packed with information that is indecipherable by someone like me who only had piano lessons as a kid. So instead of the book I would say maybe write your own scales and patterns.

For example, write down the G scale, plan to use open strings on the way up and 4th fingers on the way down, and then mark various patterns like:
Slur 2, single stroke 2.
Single stroke 2, slur 2.
Slur 3, single stroke 1.
Single stroke 1, slur 3.
Single stroke 2 notes in the same bow direction, single stroke 2 with the other bow direction.
Slur 3, slur 5.
Etc.

My instructor made me do most of this using an entire half a bow and keep the bow straight and play in tune. Maddeningly hard!

It seems kind of pointless and then you'll be playing a tune and suddenly something you couldn't do in the tune is something you did in your scales and it's not so hard.

Sep 20, 2020 - 5:10:35 PM

2643 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Peghead

How would you define smooth fiddling? Is it rhythmic, tonal?, a combination? Is it something you can practice your way into. I used to think becoming "smoother" was inevitable, the natural evolution and product of years of playing but a lot of the great players I admire, I would not say are particularly smooth although their rhythm is excellent. So I'm thinking it's a tonal thing and a personal inclination to pursue or not. Some of the great bluegrass players are often defined as smooth. Is that the demand of the style? What Is it? a bowing thing? phrasing and the way the slurs are arranged?, a dark sounding evenly balanced instrument maybe? Thoughts?


Smooth fiddlers always get the girl.

I'm not sure exactly what asking, smooth fiddling simply, subjectively sounds smooth.

What I think of as smooth isn't necessarily any less rhythmic; though perhaps more subtle. Part might involve less aggressive accented attacks. Softer gradual increase in note attack transients can be part. Probably more sense of legato than detache.  That involves how notes end as well... with softer gradual ends to notes, or sense of filling the space between note onsets. Using slurs, or longer bows is one way. How the bow changes direction in a smooth round way can create smooth legato feel; as in circular bowing, S or figure eight bowing. Similar how string crossing, and even bow rocking, can be smooth transitions.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 09/20/2020 17:12:22

Sep 21, 2020 - 5:53:02 AM
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RobBob

USA

2702 posts since 6/26/2007

Those dadgum violinister teachers make you work but you get that great tone and intonation from all of those drills. Heck, all I've got is drive in my fiddling but the dancers seem to like it.

Sep 21, 2020 - 7:41:54 AM

571 posts since 8/10/2017

I've got neither drive nor great tone and intonation. My intonation is better than some, and you can recognize tunes I start and I can keep time, but that's about as good as it gets for me. Hence I am not too proud to do some basic drills.

Sep 21, 2020 - 9:25:10 AM
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Old Scratch

Canada

633 posts since 6/22/2016

"Those dadgum violinister teachers make you work but you get that great tone and intonation from all of those drills."

Yes - and if you take voice lessons from an opera singer, you can sound just like Pavarotti when you sing Your Cheatin' Heart .....

Sep 21, 2020 - 2:48:02 PM
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210 posts since 6/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch


if you take voice lessons from an opera singer, you can sound just like Pavarotti when you sing Your Cheatin' Heart .....


This deserves more recognition than just a "like"

LOLOLOL!!

Sep 21, 2020 - 4:39:55 PM

8761 posts since 3/19/2009

It is all about the bow and the arm, and the arm and the bow... and Both, together, with the fingers.. Sounds simple.. Now, just gotta' coordinate all three.. "nothin'' to it.. I say as I duck and run..THat was a serious but cryptic comment.. Now.. try this..

Pick just a FEW phrases of ANY tune and play them over and over until they are what YOU would call 'smooth'... Think about what you had to do in order to get that 'smooth' playing... .. try it for about a hundred times  (or a thousand times )  through those few SAME phrases, and get back to us..  laugh         

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 09/21/2020 16:48:05

Sep 22, 2020 - 7:36:38 AM
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141 posts since 12/30/2008

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Smooth is Kenny Baker.

Opposite of the percusive scratch some O.T. fiddlers use. Scratch ain't a bad thing, if it's what you want.


There's a story that someone once asked Stuff Smith why he played violin instead of clarinet, since he often played similar lines. His answer was, "The scratch!"

Edited by - hokelore on 09/22/2020 07:36:51

Sep 22, 2020 - 8:09:14 AM
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8761 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by hokelore
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Smooth is Kenny Baker.

Opposite of the percusive scratch some O.T. fiddlers use. Scratch ain't a bad thing, if it's what you want.


There's a story that someone once asked Stuff Smith why he played violin instead of clarinet, since he often played similar lines. His answer was, "The scratch!"


Tim..you've heard me play..."The scratch!" is my STYLE!!!

Sep 22, 2020 - 11:15:01 AM
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218 posts since 3/1/2020
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quote:
Originally posted by hokelore
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Smooth is Kenny Baker.

Opposite of the percusive scratch some O.T. fiddlers use. Scratch ain't a bad thing, if it's what you want.


There's a story that someone once asked Stuff Smith why he played violin instead of clarinet, since he often played similar lines. His answer was, "The scratch!"


Stuff Smith was a truly unique player. I've heard it said that he was the first true jazz player, at least the first to fully assimilate the Bebop style.

I don't think of him when it comes to smooth playing, though. He was great at getting a different kind of sound from everyone else, and a lot of that came from his often raspy sound and his sudden outbursts of runs and arpeggios.

It's fascinating to listen to the Jazz  Violin Summit recordings, where Stuff played with Jean-Luc Ponty and Stephane Grappelli. The latter two played with a smoother bowing style, but the three complimented each other well. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 09/22/2020 11:15:54

Sep 22, 2020 - 1:53:05 PM
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1672 posts since 12/11/2008

I truly enjoy the scratchiness and scrappiness of OT fiddling. It adds punch, vigor and fun. I remember a fellow fiddler who made a pretty good living as a violist in various L.A. based movie studio orchestras. Over the several years we played alongside each other she assiduously roughened her fiddle playing. She eliminated her vibrato (which was tough for her). She shortened and put more heft into her bow strokes. When it suited she started sliding into notes.

Sep 22, 2020 - 4:31:21 PM
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170 posts since 1/31/2013

Define smooth fiddling? You know it when you hear it. How to do it? Probably start young and work on speed, tone, etc. Why do it? Not sure. If old time music is your passion then attention to rhythm, drive, phrasing, would be more important.

Sep 22, 2020 - 6:16:29 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

633 posts since 6/22/2016

I do recall many years ago asking the PEI fiddler Paul MacDonald how he got his smoothness - not sure if that's how I worded it, but that was the gist of it - he said, "I spent a lot of time playing scales":  https://bowingdownhome.ca/islandora/object/bdh%3A295  (scroll down to hear the smoothness and see the bow-work).

Sep 22, 2020 - 7:10:27 PM
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7 posts since 3/20/2020

If you are looking for smooth fiddling, listen to any of Bobby Hicks’ music. Bobby Hicks is simply the best fiddle player there has ever been, or will ever be.

Sep 22, 2020 - 8:37:43 PM

bitman

USA

16 posts since 9/1/2019

Seminole Wind.

I can't believe it's not butter.

Sep 23, 2020 - 5:37:19 AM

176 posts since 4/15/2019

hokelore mentioned clarinet playing and fiddle playing. When I was learning harmonica I used to play with either fiddle playing or clarinet playing. It was easy to match the notes.

Sep 29, 2020 - 8:20:07 PM

mrneil2

USA

11 posts since 4/7/2018

quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2

I have a book of scale exercises that contain various phrasings for the scale. Some are really tricky (for me). Long bows or bow direction changes where I wouldn't naturally put them. I have found that even though I only do the same old scale, it carries over to tunes unconsciously sometimes. You might consider doing something boring like that to train muscle memory to do new things.

I don't know if that makes you smoother, though. I'm unsure what that means. Fewer saw strokes of just such skill and talent it sounds effortless?


Sep 29, 2020 - 8:21:14 PM

mrneil2

USA

11 posts since 4/7/2018

Can you tell us what scale book you use? I thinks I need one and yours sounds like a good fit

Sep 30, 2020 - 6:58:04 AM

571 posts since 8/10/2017

It's called Scales for Young Violinists. It is pretty illegible without a teacher to explain it. There are a lot of markings and shorthand that I had never seen before as a person who only took piano lessons a long time ago. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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