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Dec 5, 2020 - 7:50:50 AM
3 posts since 12/5/2020

Hello, I've found good discussions on this forum about playing rhythm and backing up other instruments while jamming, but not ones that answer my specific question, so here goes.

Last weekend the weather was nice so I was jamming outside with a mandolin and bass player (bluegrass). When the mandolin would take lead, I would do what I've learned to do to back up which is to "chop" and/or "swell" a few notes of the current chord, keeping my volume so that I could hear the player's notes over mine. However, when I watched a video of the session, I sounded, like, WAY TOO LOUD. I think this was because fiddle just carries stronger than mandolin, even though I could hear standing right next to the player.

Anyway, I'm at a loss for what I can do to better control dynamics. Dynamics meaning, volume. I sometimes feel like I can't play any quieter and still make a sound, but I'm still too loud.

Are there other ways of playing, bowing techniques etc. that can be used in these kinds of situations?
Also what are other players' general approaches when playing behind a lead?

Dec 5, 2020 - 8:03:25 AM
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177 posts since 11/28/2018
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1. Where was the microphone --- could it have picked up you more than the others?

2. Did you ask them whether you were playing too loud? Friends will give you an honest answer.

Dec 5, 2020 - 8:12:09 AM

2314 posts since 10/1/2008

Well .... step back from the camera / mic whichever, play closer to the bridge with a lighter touch on the bow, use a slide mute as a last result. You could also try out some different strings. Mostly it's about touch / bow pressure and it takes practice. If you watch Jason Carter with the Del McCoury Band or Aynsley Porchak with Carolina Blue you will see them stepping back and at times dropping out completely. Yes fiddles carry better than any other strings... it just something else to deal with when playing... except with a banjo. R/

Dec 5, 2020 - 10:36:18 AM

1472 posts since 4/6/2014

Thinking about Dynamics myself, Here's a few things i'm practising at the moment:

Consciously start a phrase off loud then tail it off at the end.

Start soft swell it in the middle then tail it off.

Start soft and swell at the end.

Try and keep things at a constant amplitude ie: No emphasis, then Ditto just emphasizing the on or off beat.

If i'm playing Irish stuff i like to treat the various ornaments as micro phrases, and use the same thinking .

After a while i have found that this tends to even out amplitude as i have to gauge it "In Context", with tempo, acoustics and accompaniment... (Which is just myself at the moment, or the track i am playing along with).

When playing into a Microphone things get more complicated as the room, mic distance, position microphone type and signal path all have more effect than playing acoustically. Then a good pair of headphones help to hear what the mic is "Hearing"

Dec 5, 2020 - 1:16:37 PM

3 posts since 12/5/2020

Wow, these are some good ideas for exercises. I guess I hadn't thought that maybe just need to practice... but, like everything else it makes sense, the more you practice blah blah

Dec 5, 2020 - 1:20:02 PM

3 posts since 12/5/2020

I'm glad Jason Carter name came up... these modern fiddlers are exactly who I was thinking about... they just blend in to the overall sound beautifully.

BTW In my original post I wasn't talking about being amplified. The recording was on a iphone.
Yes a microphone or pickup adds a whole 'nother dimension.
But then there's also maybe a sound guy, if you're lucky, a decent one. In which case you just have to play consistently I feel like.

I did not realize that playing closer to the bridge affected volume. That sounds like a cool trick and something to practice in addition to what pete_fiddle was saying.

Dec 5, 2020 - 2:31:11 PM

2204 posts since 10/22/2007

As you know, every instrument in the band occupies it's own space. Being careful is a good thing, but when in doubt ask the rest, "Too loud?" It's only been too loud (for me) once, running through a 100watt amp. Otherwise, if you are thoughtful, it sounds like you are, you're fiddle is gonna fill where a fiddle fits. I don't chop too much. But watch Micheal Cleveland. I love harmony. I'm always trying to find that lower register harmony line. But everbody seems to enjoy those high fills. Actually more than i do. If i don't do it, i get, "Hey! Let's hear that fiddle!"

Dec 5, 2020 - 2:32:45 PM
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9976 posts since 12/2/2007

I don't know if I'd trust a phone recording to be an accurate representation of the sound. Asking your friends what they think s a good idea.
Also, the fiddlers mentioned play in full bands. Without a guitar and banjo you are naturally going to stand out more.
Practice is also a good idea. Playing softly is not something that necessarily comes naturally.

Dec 5, 2020 - 2:37:31 PM



65 posts since 2/2/2014

Another option is to play with the bow angled so you are effectively playing on/with fewer hairs. I find this technique useful.

I’m a bit confused about the option of playing closer to the bridge to reduce volume unless you have flawless bow control. I started off my fiddle journey taking lessons from a Juilliard violin graduate. He said that in the classical world, playing close to the bridge is what violin soloist did/do to project over the orchestra, yea that and playing on million $+ instruments.

Edited by - Snafu on 12/05/2020 14:39:12

Dec 5, 2020 - 6:33:36 PM

2314 posts since 10/1/2008

SNAFU are well to be cornfused. I certainly am / was. Playing closer to the bridge will only be whispy and quiet if you have extremely light bow pressure and as you point out use less hair. It's always in the bow. R/

Dec 23, 2020 - 7:01:50 AM

4289 posts since 6/23/2007

In many cases the person playing an instrument does not hear it as well as the musicians sitting in front of and a little further from the instrument. When you have somebody else play your instrument you are surprised by how it sounds. It does not sound that way when you hear yourself playing.

If everything is done by "ear", you might have the singer or person taking the "break" provide a signal letting you know if you are too loud or not loud enough.

Dec 23, 2020 - 10:27:10 AM
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2604 posts since 2/3/2011

I had been chopping as back-up with a stiff downbow. Some kind fiddler at a workshop suggested doing it on a stiff upbow. When I say stiff I mean pressing down on the string with the bow and pulling it off to generate the note. Open strings in particular will "talk" for a second or two without any penetrating tone.

Dec 23, 2020 - 6:33:35 PM

5016 posts since 9/26/2008

Originally posted by boxbow

I had been chopping as back-up with a stiff downbow. Some kind fiddler at a workshop suggested doing it on a stiff upbow. When I say stiff I mean pressing down on the string with the bow and pulling it off to generate the note. Open strings in particular will "talk" for a second or two without any penetrating tone.

This is exactly how I have always chopped. 

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