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Jan 22, 2021 - 9:49:02 AM
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2 posts since 1/22/2021

Im 17 and have been playing for a few years now, and recently i have had the opportunity to play at a local saloon, with the house band, however the do a lot in keys like C# F, F#, and B and i would love some pionters on taking a break/playing in these relatively underplayed keys, and what sorts of scale/fingering patterns to practice, and thoughts on playing the melody or just general noodling withing the scales, thanks!

Jan 22, 2021 - 10:12:36 AM
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gapbob

USA

736 posts since 4/20/2008

Hardly ever do anything like that, but you might want to pretend you have a capo and use your first finger to stop the tonic (where a capo would be), then use the other fingers in the same pattern that the fingers would have made, so get used to doing fingering using the middle finger taking the index finger's role, the ring taking the middle finger's role, and the pinky taking the ring finger's role, using the index finger for open strings.

You probably realize that there are finger patterns associated with playing (1 as index, 5 as pinky)
• All fingers far apart
• 3-4 close together, others far apart (4-5 when using index as a capo)
• 2-3 close together, others far apart (3-4 when using index as a capo)
• 1-2 close together, others far apart (2-3 when using index as a capo)

Jan 22, 2021 - 10:17:12 AM
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Swing

USA

1990 posts since 6/26/2007

Not as difficult as you might think.... use your first finger as a capo, example for the key of C# First finger C# on the A string and the G# on the E string... use your other fingers to run the scale... remember that all you really need to know is the intervals i.e. steps between the notes... once you get that down then go to the other keys... the fiddle is tuned in fifths so the patterns repeat themselves....

Play Happy

Swing

Jan 22, 2021 - 10:25:15 AM
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309 posts since 6/11/2019

First off, I'd practice scales in every key in a closed position so your fingers memorize the patterns.

For B, that's not really too bad, it's just C patterns minus a half step. Play on G/D strings in half position and A/E strings in first position, using your index finger as a capo. And if you like bloozy, you can use open A and open D so it's the blues (minor) scale.

F is not hard either--you got all the open strings if you want them. I either play in half position or go up to 2nd position and use the index capo (as if I was playing in E + half step)

I'd treat F# either like F + half, or B patterns moved right one string

Same for C# = C + half, or F# moved left one string...I think I got that right

In either case, learn where the tonic (base note), 3rd, 5th and 7th are in the scale pattern and lay on em. If all else fails, use rhythm on the tonic--they'll think you're playing jazz

Jan 22, 2021 - 12:46:48 PM

2 posts since 1/22/2021

Thank you all for the tips! I have been practicing for hours already and its not as hard as I originally thought, however )being a clawhammer banjo player), I stumbled upon another way to play in C# and F#, not sure if its reasonable, or just plain lazy, but I just tuned everything up a half step, and played in C and F. It seems almost like a viable way to play, however what are your thoughts about this? is it unreasonable to do this?


Thanks again!

Jan 22, 2021 - 1:23:07 PM

1863 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Average fiddler

is it unreasonable to do this?


Thanks again!


Sure, there are great advantages to doing that if it's not a problem to keep tuning the fiddle. Learn the other positions too so you can do both eventually.

Jan 22, 2021 - 1:31:18 PM
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1738 posts since 12/11/2008

Flat the Third gives some good tips. But what I do is just finger one or two note riffs, using the tonic and either the minor third or fifth, letting the bow lend interest and expression. When I was a rock guitarist, once-upon-a-time, I found that slides and vibrato were my two simplest, most expressive tools. Slide into the One. Slide into the Three. Hang onto them them! Vibrato them!

Jan 22, 2021 - 1:37:22 PM

2653 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Average fiddler

Thank you all for the tips! I have been practicing for hours already and its not as hard as I originally thought, however )being a clawhammer banjo player), I stumbled upon another way to play in C# and F#, not sure if its reasonable, or just plain lazy, but I just tuned everything up a half step, and played in C and F. It seems almost like a viable way to play, however what are your thoughts about this? is it unreasonable to do this?


Thanks again!


Alternative lower/higher tuning is viable in some cases; often for other different specific reasons, and limited to quite exclusive keys.

Not sure it is too viable in your case. - "do a lot in keys like C# F, F#, and B" would become D, F#, G and C. So still have to learn to play in F#; on stage can't simply retune on the fly.

As well, if the "a lot" is not exclusive to those keys, you will likely find struggle to play in other keys. Communication with others gets complex. 

As others mentioned, learning the 2 or 3 closed positions is not that difficult, and makes for a system that can move up or down the fingerboard.

Jan 22, 2021 - 1:43:41 PM

2653 posts since 9/13/2009

I will mention one other possibility that some folks have tried. The actual fiddle capo device. Much like how a banjo might just capo up to play in B or Bb (as if it were G).

But like using a capo on a mandolin, idea that never much took off though; more hassle, than just learning to play closed positions.

Jan 22, 2021 - 2:51:41 PM

2253 posts since 8/23/2008

You could carry two fiddles one tuned a semi-tone lower. But F and B major are standard fiddle keys anyway. The C# and F# major keys in first position are great for the bluesy notes if that's appropriate for the songs. I have played C# major as C major shape in closed position a semi-tone up, and F# major as G major shape a semi-tone down. Closed positions are really handy for those times the guitarist accidently puts the capo on the wrong fret and plays in Ab minor.

Jan 22, 2021 - 3:47:25 PM
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2546 posts since 7/12/2013

Closed position is probably going to be key if you have to play a lot like that. If you learn to play in closed position in B you can just move that up and down to play Bb, C or move it over a string and play Eb, E, F, or F#. The cool thing about learning to play in that closed position is that if you have learned any licks/kick offs you can now perform them all in those other keys as well. If I get a second I can make a quick video showing how that works.

Jan 22, 2021 - 4:22:39 PM
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2253 posts since 8/23/2008

Practise all the standard keys in 1st, 2nd and 3rd position, and learn how to shift between these positions within each key.

That will give you all the facility you need to play in the less common keys.

Jan 22, 2021 - 4:28:24 PM

2201 posts since 10/22/2007

Goto jazzmando.com. follow link to FFcP. Stands for Four Finger closed Position.
Yes, one has to extrapolate the info to the fiddle fingerboard, but I've stolen a lot of stuff from the aforementioned site.

Jan 22, 2021 - 4:46:19 PM
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11699 posts since 9/23/2009

All I can say is OUCH.

Jan 22, 2021 - 11:21:55 PM

Jimbeaux

Germany

374 posts since 5/24/2016

Interesting thread for someone like me who only plays oldtime, but occasionally plays with someone who sings songs using a text with the chords written out.

This is a related question so I'll add it here.

What about following unfamiliar chord progressions? I know that we can cheat and use fifths if we can't find the third (major or minor). What stumps me is when I see a chord with a number like 6, 7 or 9 or something like SUS.

I know that the best solution is to learn all the chords, but what is the second best option or cheat considering we only need to play a maximum of two notes at once?

Maybe to just play the root note is the least obtrusive option?

Jan 23, 2021 - 2:36:17 AM
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2253 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Jimbeaux
What stumps me is when I see a chord with a number like 6, 7 or 9 or something like SUS.

 

The best thing to do is study the structure of chords. The chord is built in 3rds from the tonic note which is the name of the chord. 

The basic chord is the triad comprising the 1st, 3rd  and 5th notes of the scale. There fore the chord C has C , E and G notes.

If the C scale is written thus C D E F G A B then the D minor chord would be D F A; the 1,3,5 notes taken from the second mode of C major. 

The extra numbers included in the chord name refer to the degrees of the scale.. thus the 6 would be an added A note in the C chord, and the 7, and 9 would be a B and D added to the C chord. The suspended chord ( SUS )  is usually a sus4 or sometimes a sus2; the 3rd note of the chord is omitted and replaced with the sus note. 

But when accompanying with double stops the 1,3, and 5th notes, in all inversions for smooth voicing, are the most important.   

Edited by - buckhenry on 01/23/2021 02:51:58

Jan 23, 2021 - 5:04:59 AM
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boxbow

USA

2602 posts since 2/3/2011

This thread has become quite a pain in the aspirations. I feel like the guy with a moped watching the Isle of Man Time Trials on the Speed channel.

Jan 23, 2021 - 6:40 AM
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2201 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by boxbow

This thread has become quite a pain in the aspirations. I feel like the guy with a moped watching the Isle of Man Time Trials on the Speed channel.


P'shaw. Just use your ears. It's only music. Sus, augmented, split, even inversions, there's only two notes one can realistically play. Even, ii, and vi, sometimes can't be expressed well because the chord is fleeting. Violin wasn't meant to express full chords. That's not It's "part." At most a chord arpeggio. 

Backing up a bit. The primary thing is to be on key. Start out simple, knowing where the I, IV, V, are in the key. All the other chords are at the same interval compared to the 1, 4, & 5. (said before)

Let's say you're at a jam. Everything is going good, then somebody calls out a Beatles tune. You don't have time to mentally cipher let alone construct complex chords on the fly.  Your best defense is knowing your fiddle. Followed by knowing the tune, or having at least hearing it prior.  Then knowing how to play in every key.  Just listen and try to catch on. Remember John Hartford said you don't have to be right until the last note of the phrase.  So, keep walking. Up or down. Pentatonic or chromatic or in between. If you don't get there in time, keep walking, keep moving. 

Jan 23, 2021 - 7:13:42 AM
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309 posts since 6/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones
you don't have to be right until the last note of the phrase.  So, keep walking. Up or down. Pentatonic or chromatic or in between. If you don't get there in time, keep walking, keep moving. 

This bears repeating

Jan 23, 2021 - 10:25:16 AM
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Swing

USA

1990 posts since 6/26/2007

I am going to add one more thing.... make a circle of fifths diagram...easily found on YouTube.... there is an order of sharps and an order of flats... this will help you visualize the notes and intervals in all the keys...

Play Happy

Swing

Jan 23, 2021 - 8:08:48 PM
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Peghead

USA

1590 posts since 1/21/2009

What I do is practice via the octave positions, not keys. There are 4 major scale positions ( or templates if you will) each one starting on a different finger. They cycle vertically and horizontally and when you get them in your hands, keys become derivative and similar. I play in the major scale as far as I can starting on a different finger. The one that ascends, starting on the middle finger and it's arpeggio (ugh) are especially important for playing in closed positions. It's the big one, you have to stretch back for the half steps but after you get comfortable with it, the other 3 positions are a piece of cake and the fingerboard will open up.  It's a missing link of sorts and an important connector but it takes practice. The octave ends on the index finger which is every fiddlers happy place. Within each scale position I run through the modes and that's the whole fingerboard. It takes about half an hour depending on my focus. I do arpeggios separately. This is not to be confused with music. Playing in closed positions means having your pinky in place and ready to be an equal participant. It may require you to adjust how you hold and support the instrument? I still try different things to try to get just a little more comfortable. It's really great that you're starting to do this early, I didn't. Good luck -

Edited by - Peghead on 01/23/2021 20:36:05

Jan 24, 2021 - 9:57:58 PM

2253 posts since 8/23/2008

Greg's post reminded me of something I haven't practiced in awhile, and that is playing the '4 major scale patterns across all 4 strings' moving up the neck by a semi-tone each time using the same pattern, going as far as is comfortable.

I hope that don't give no body any pain in the aspirations............

Jan 25, 2021 - 12:57:33 AM
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1471 posts since 4/6/2014

Transcribe the tunes, learn the melodies, memorize the chord progressions, mess around with them, and have fun.

Feb 16, 2021 - 9:38:17 AM

katbula

USA

6 posts since 11/21/2011

Tons of good advice here already, but wanted to chime in. Here's the process I use and teach for gaining familiarity with any new key. I'm cutting and pasting from an email I sent to my list (katbula.com) so forgive me for the steps that echo things others have already done a good job of suggesting in the community discussion here:

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STEP 1: Pick your target key.
Work on one key at a time. I'm a big fan of the "inch wide, mile deep" philosophy of learning. If you try to master every key at the same time, it might be very entertaining (and/or overwhelming)... but you're not likely to really integrate any one key to the point where you can use it comfidently.
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So start by picking one key for now. I recommend starting with one you've encountered "in the wild" at a jam or band practice.
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If that hasn't happened, look at the circle of fifths (google it if you need to) and pick the key--of all the ones you're unfamiliar with--that is closest to the 12 o'clock position.
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The closer a key is to the bottom of the circle of 5ths, the more awkward it is on fiddle. We might as well ease into this project with a slightly easier key.
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Once you've chosen your target key, here's how to stalk and catch your prey:
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STEP 2: Figure out which notes belong in the scale for your target key.
You can google this (e.g. "notes in F# major scale") if you're not sure.
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STEP 3: Start with nearby keys and scales you already know.
This can be reveletory, if you've been hacking away at hard scales without noticing how they relate to the easier ones.
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For example, the key of B is kind of annoying, because you have to skip the open A string and use your first finger for both A# and B. (The same thing happens on the D string.)
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But if you're already comfortable in C, try shifting your hand down a half step, and pretending you're playing in C. (Use your pinkie instead of the open strings, or it won't work.) Boom--you're playing in B. It's like you put on a reverse capo. If you're comfortable in Bb, you can also use that fingering but just slide up a half step.
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This might be blowing your mind if you come from a classical or other very formal background. In the classical world we aren't usually encouraged to shift around willy-nilly like this without applying a lot of brain power to exactly which position we're in and which notes we're playing.
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But half position, second position etc. aren't actually harder than first position. They're just different! As long as you're using consistent finger patterns within each position (not shifting randomly), it's not going to cause you problems to use this "pretend capo" strategy.
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STEP 4: Transpose familiar melodies into the less familiar key.
This is a great way to get your fingers familiar with the maneuvers they'll need to play actual songs in the new key.
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Here are some ideas for tunes to try:
children's songs, Christmas carols, Happy Birthday, etc.
simple fiddle tunes (think Old Joe Clark, Siobeg Siomor, etc. - what was the first tune you ever learned?)
pop songs--Try it! Some will work great. You may find that others are a lot less simple than you expect. (Beatles songs are notorious for this.) If you're spending all your energy trying to remember how to play the tune at all, so you can't focus on getting the new key figured out, it's totally okay to move on and pick a simpler tune. Or you can just pick out the first one or two lines of the more complicated song.
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STEP 5: Practice improvising in the new key.
You can do this "a capella," so to speak. Just start goofing off, mixing and matching notes from the scale. It doesn't need to sound any particular way at first. You're just exploring the territory. As you get more comfortable you can start to let your creativity take over and see what kinds of ideas want to come out your fingers.
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If (um, realistically, when) you hit a note (or ten notes in a row) that don't belong in your target key, just keep going. It truly gets easier the more you practice!
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When you're first getting to know a key, it's common to find your fingers accidentally migrating into a more familiar one (assuming you don't have perfect pitch). The best way to deal with that is to play with an accompaniment of some sort, so you can hear when you start to drift.
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If you're not lucky enough to have a patient, supportive guitarist or pianist in your life, you can use an app like iRealPro or any other recorded backing track you can find. It doesn't super matter what genre the back up part is in, since you're mostly just trying to get fluent with the notes/fingerings.
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