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Feb 17, 2022 - 9:57:19 AM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

I just recently started trying to be serious playing the fiddle. Playing in tune is driving me crazy. I seem to change my left hand shape every time I play a tune. The "pancake" method seems like it is quicker to get muscle memory with but I can also tell a classical hold will be more.. healthty? I also seem to play in tune better to a drone than backing tracks.

1. How should I choose a left hand frame?

2. Will I start getting better as I play more with people or do I really have to do scales for years first?

So.... did you guys practice scales for years and years first or start out good or just get better with time? Give me some hope here!

Feb 17, 2022 - 10:01:19 AM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

Feb 17, 2022 - 10:45:22 AM
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904 posts since 3/1/2020

Postures that involve greater finger motion will lead to intonation issues forever. A good hold is one that keeps the hand in optimal position so that the fingers can simply drop straight down onto the strings. One of the biggest issues beginners face comes from holding the fingers too high, not holding them down when possible, or putting them into position at an angle.

The pancake position is common when the instrument is held at the chest (off the collar bone and/or neck), but it limits facility—first position is usable but anything else will be a problem.

Drones are extremely useful for checking intonation. The ear is the most important part of intonation, and using exercises that improve the ear will pay exponential dividends.

Feb 17, 2022 - 11:14:52 AM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Postures that involve greater finger motion will lead to intonation issues forever. A good hold is one that keeps the hand in optimal position so that the fingers can simply drop straight down onto the strings. One of the biggest issues beginners face comes from holding the fingers too high, not holding them down when possible, or putting them into position at an angle.

The pancake position is common when the instrument is held at the chest (off the collar bone and/or neck), but it limits facility—first position is usable but anything else will be a problem.

Drones are extremely useful for checking intonation. The ear is the most important part of intonation, and using exercises that improve the ear will pay exponential dividends.


You as a child learner probably were probably taught intonation before you learned any tunes. (I looked at your bio) What is your experience with adult learners that are already musicians? I have played in rock bands as guitarist and bassist in my past but have never been a good singer. I always know I am not in tune with my voice as well as the fiddle. Is this correctable or am I doomed? I can learn songs by ear. I hear in tune and out of tune. I write music. Is it normal to be this frustrated, yet still be having the most fun I have ever had with music?

I was hoping you would tell me just keep playing the tunes and you dont have to go back to playing tiny little scales with a drone over and over again. Its just so maddening because I already know all the chords (mandolin) and the tunes (clawhammer) 

I just just didn't want to hear the truth :(

Feb 17, 2022 - 11:52:54 AM
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596 posts since 7/30/2021

If you can hear when you're out of tune, you're good already.
( If you can't hear when you're out of tune, that makes things a lot harder! )

Scales do help to make your hand get used to the intervals (where fingers go close, where fingers go further apart) but maybe just make a habit of warming up by playing a few scales slowly and In Tune. Not like you have to play scales for hours!! And getting intonation will not take years! ( Maybe few months is my guess, based on the many other violin players I have known. )

Cool that you're already a mando/banjo player!
( It took me awhile to get used to playing an instrument with frets (guitar) because I couldn't believe that I could put my finger either HERE... or THERE... and it was still the SAME note! On violin, that would have been the difference between a C and an A...:-)

Feb 17, 2022 - 12:04:15 PM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes

If you can hear when you're out of tune, you're good already.
( If you can't hear when you're out of tune, that makes things a lot harder! )

Scales do help to make your hand get used to the intervals (where fingers go close, where fingers go further apart) but maybe just make a habit of warming up by playing a few scales slowly and In Tune. Not like you have to play scales for hours!! And getting intonation will not take years! ( Maybe few months is my guess, based on the many other violin players I have known. )

Cool that you're already a mando/banjo player!
( It took me awhile to get used to playing an instrument with frets (guitar) because I couldn't believe that I could put my finger either HERE... or THERE... and it was still the SAME note! On violin, that would have been the difference between a C and an A...:-)


Thank you for your feedback. I seem to do HERE or THERE with my 3rd finger the most lol. 

Feb 17, 2022 - 12:09 PM
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596 posts since 7/30/2021

Heh heh!
That's the finger to watch during scales, then!

Feb 17, 2022 - 12:31:09 PM
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6013 posts since 9/26/2008

As stated above, you've already got the ear (for better or worse laugh). 3rd finger should be easy. You have the open string next to it that is an octave for most keys. Work first and third finger while playing your built in drone (the open string below). Back and forth, minimal pressure (always a problem with fretted instrument players) and minimal movement. Your fingers should come down like pistons into the tips. 

Adults are always impatient, and musically inclined adults even more so. Breathe and enjoy the journey.

Edited by - ChickenMan on 02/17/2022 12:37:31

Feb 17, 2022 - 12:36:37 PM
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596 posts since 7/30/2021

Very good point!
When you put down your 3rd, you can check it against the open string to the left ...
(assuming fiddle is in standard tuning and is in tune)

Feb 17, 2022 - 12:46:03 PM
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nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

As stated above, you've already got the ear (for better or worse laugh). 3rd finger should be easy. You have the open string next to it that is an octave for most keys. Work first and third finger while playing your built in drone (the open string below). Back and forth, minimal pressure (always a problem with fretted instrument players) and minimal movement. Your fingers should come down like pistons into the tips. 

Adults are always impatient, and musically inclined adults even more so. Breathe and enjoy the journey.


I asked in hopes to hear some learned by ear self taught folk opinions as well. And it is super fun!!! The must fun I have ever had with music! I love how my fiddle teases me and always tells the truth no matter how bad it hurts LOL. My wife (married 3 years :) is classically trained and was competitive in her childhood. Her notes are freaking amazing. They swell and just wow!! Made me shy for a bit and I didn't practice for a while! Old time bowing is a whole other sore subjuct at home HAHA

Feb 17, 2022 - 2:30:06 PM
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2287 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by nickmc

I was hoping you would tell me just keep playing the tunes and you dont have to go back to playing tiny little scales with a drone over and over again. I


In some sense tunes are scales too, just not linear. Work on intonation as you are playing them. It's an ongoing process. Use the advice Rich gave. You can always go back to scales once in a while if you find that helpful (I don't), but tunes are made of intervals too so you can play tunes and improve your intonation at the same time.

Feb 17, 2022 - 6:00:51 PM
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141 posts since 1/21/2017

Dude, you're being way too hard on yourself, judging by the videos you posted. I really like that "Oh Lawd Gals".
Your intonation is better than a lot of people who've been playing for years and your timing is solid. It IS a fiddle, so yeah, play around with the drones, and don't be afraid to slide into some of your notes. I had the opposite experience of you. I started playing clawhammer after years of fiddling and it was so refreshing to have frets...even the mistakes were in tune.
You said it yourself..."the most fun I have ever had with music"...you'll be great with that attitude.

Feb 17, 2022 - 6:11:11 PM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by coryobert

Dude, you're being way too hard on yourself, judging by the videos you posted. I really like that "Oh Lawd Gals".
Your intonation is better than a lot of people who've been playing for years and your timing is solid. It IS a fiddle, so yeah, play around with the drones, and don't be afraid to slide into some of your notes. I had the opposite experience of you. I started playing clawhammer after years of fiddling and it was so refreshing to have frets...even the mistakes were in tune.
You said it yourself..."the most fun I have ever had with music"...you'll be great with that attitude.


Thanks Cory. It is super fun to play fiddle with real humans! 

I'm glad you picked up clawhammer as well. It's really fun. I like to figure out tunes on both. Gives a cool "view" on the tunes!

Feb 17, 2022 - 6:13:16 PM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
quote:
Originally posted by nickmc

I was hoping you would tell me just keep playing the tunes and you dont have to go back to playing tiny little scales with a drone over and over again. I


In some sense tunes are scales too, just not linear. Work on intonation as you are playing them. It's an ongoing process. Use the advice Rich gave. You can always go back to scales once in a while if you find that helpful (I don't), but tunes are made of intervals too so you can play tunes and improve your intonation at the same time.


It is hard to slow down and listen while playing. Sometimes I even forget to breathe lol. 

Feb 17, 2022 - 6:20:52 PM

141 posts since 1/21/2017

"It is super fun to play fiddle with real humans! "
That's it right there. You're lucky to have Tobin to play with. I really miss having a solid rhythm guitar to play with.
You're doin' it!

Feb 17, 2022 - 8:06:31 PM
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2816 posts since 10/22/2007

Nick,
I'd say you're doing everything right. Including enjoying the ride.

Feb 18, 2022 - 4:08:17 AM

199 posts since 11/28/2018

I'm an adult beginner with a musical background. About 3 years in I recorded myself for the first time and it wasn't pretty. What I did was to really slow down and concentrate on each note, working especially to try to use only the smallest amount of the fingertip to stop the string. And as soon as my ear perceived a note was out of tune I would 'mini-slide' into the correct position. Fairly quickly the 'mini-slides' became more like 'micro-slides' and were needed less often. Practiced roughly 45 minutes a day, sometimes with sheet music but more often just playing by ear. And it payed off big time.

Oh, and NEVER compare your playing to your wife's!

Feb 18, 2022 - 5:33:43 AM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by coryobert

"It is super fun to play fiddle with real humans! "
That's it right there. You're lucky to have Tobin to play with. I really miss having a solid rhythm guitar to play with.
You're doin' it!


Very lucky! I get to play banjo for my wife when she fiddles too! I know tons of guitar players but to find players who are tight and actually learn the songs is rare.

Feb 18, 2022 - 5:38:52 AM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Woodcutter

I'm an adult beginner with a musical background. About 3 years in I recorded myself for the first time and it wasn't pretty. What I did was to really slow down and concentrate on each note, working especially to try to use only the smallest amount of the fingertip to stop the string. And as soon as my ear perceived a note was out of tune I would 'mini-slide' into the correct position. Fairly quickly the 'mini-slides' became more like 'micro-slides' and were needed less often. Practiced roughly 45 minutes a day, sometimes with sheet music but more often just playing by ear. And it payed off big time.

Oh, and NEVER compare your playing to your wife's 

Recording is good because you dont keep going when you mess up. Kinda like a teacher is there saying "nope, start over".

I've noticed trained players are machines! There hands and eyes and ears are super trained but a lot of the time they dont know, "why" things are happening. Where as my basement trained weirdo friends can jam to anything, write songs, memorize quickly, but mechanically are weak. 

Apr 7, 2022 - 8:41:57 AM

14 posts since 4/4/2015

I'm a self taught, late in life (started at age 58 with no prior musical background) fiddle from scratch player. I abhor playing scales, arpeggios and etudes...but I have no doubt that if I did more of that I'd be a better player. It's just if it had been necessary for learning to play, I'm quite sure I would've quit.
I've found that learning and playing tunes I like (all by ear...I don't read music proficiently enough to play from it) repeatedly with the aim of improving my intonation and timing (also a struggle) and recording myself with the Voice Memo app on my iPhone so I can "hear" progress is the best way to practice. I do occasionally warm up playing some scales...especially double-stopped scales.
Self-recording has probably been my best improvement tool...second only to my wife's "I hope you realize your weren't in tune" or "You sped up while your were playing that time) "admiring" remarks.

Apr 7, 2022 - 10:58:09 AM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

There are so many things to pay attention to!

I recently started trying to play with others. I am good for one song. I end up holding my breath and who knows what else and I'm. Shot after that.

I read another post on here about keeping a note card in your pocket. Mine would say. Breathe.

Apr 7, 2022 - 11:02:07 AM
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nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

To add to that, I also play other instruments. Pretty well I think. The fiddle takes a different part of your brain and attention. Like patting your head, rubbing your belly, and counting backwards by 3's.... at the same time.

Apr 7, 2022 - 1:13:59 PM
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5746 posts since 7/1/2007

I hurt my shoulder a few years ago and couldn't play much for a long time. Now, to get my chops back, I play scales in various keys for 15-30 minutes ,with very tight concentration, every day. That's all your body/ brain really needs to establish good intonation. Scales and rhythm exercises prepare my body so that hopefully I have already practiced the phrases that are parts of tunes I am working on, so it's just a matter of putting them together. Seems to be helping quite a bit.

Apr 9, 2022 - 6:37:45 PM

3161 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by nickmc

I just recently started trying to be serious playing the fiddle. Playing in tune is driving me crazy. I seem to change my left hand shape every time I play a tune. The "pancake" method seems like it is quicker to get muscle memory with but I can also tell a classical hold will be more.. healthty? I also seem to play in tune better to a drone than backing tracks.

1. How should I choose a left hand frame?

2. Will I start getting better as I play more with people or do I really have to do scales for years first?

So.... did you guys practice scales for years and years first or start out good or just get better with time? Give me some hope here!


I did not practice scales for years and years, or much at all... just started playing tunes (and seconding), in context. I also started with fairly  pentatonic/interval based melodies, pretty much just few single keys (D, G, A, C).  I did get better from playing with people, esp good players... pretty much dived in, sink or swim. 

As far as playing in tune... and left hand. I took the approach...  good intonation is in the ears, then let the ears guide the fingers. I learned to use a relaxed left hand, allows flexibility in fingers, and variety of holds (including at chest, and no it's not limiting)... that is, not really aiming for any fixed frame, glued position or fixed muscle memory thing. (perhaps comes from playing instruments of different scales). I don't usually do any warm up exercises or scales, can usually get my intonation/fingering bearings quickly as part of getting in tune.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 04/09/2022 18:44:50

Apr 11, 2022 - 2:41:55 AM

nickmc

USA

130 posts since 5/31/2021

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by nickmc

I just recently started trying to be serious playing the fiddle. Playing in tune is driving me crazy. I seem to change my left hand shape every time I play a tune. The "pancake" method seems like it is quicker to get muscle memory with but I can also tell a classical hold will be more.. healthty? I also seem to play in tune better to a drone than backing tracks.

1. How should I choose a left hand frame?

2. Will I start getting better as I play more with people or do I really have to do scales for years first?

So.... did you guys practice scales for years and years first or start out good or just get better with time? Give me some hope here!


I did not practice scales for years and years, or much at all... just started playing tunes (and seconding), in context. I also started with fairly  pentatonic/interval based melodies, pretty much just few single keys (D, G, A, C).  I did get better from playing with people, esp good players... pretty much dived in, sink or swim. 

As far as playing in tune... and left hand. I took the approach...  good intonation is in the ears, then let the ears guide the fingers. I learned to use a relaxed left hand, allows flexibility in fingers, and variety of holds (including at chest, and no it's not limiting)... that is, not really aiming for any fixed frame, glued position or fixed muscle memory thing. (perhaps comes from playing instruments of different scales). I don't usually do any warm up exercises or scales, can usually get my intonation/fingering bearings quickly as part of getting in tune.

 

 


Thank you. I think I lean towards this approach. The more I play, the more I hear and i get better at adjusting all the time. 

Apr 24, 2022 - 2:33:14 PM
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Peghead

USA

1656 posts since 1/21/2009

If you're interested in pursuing the standard classical left hand position, it can be practiced using your pinky to establish the hand frame. Place all your fingers on the D string with your pinky noting an A (unison with the open A) in such a way that it doesn't touch the A string. The tip of you fingers do not need to be centered on the string but they should be curved, forming a little tunnel. Straight wrist is standard, but there are variations. This sounds easy but it's not for some. Depending on your body type, you may have to work on shoulder rotation to get your elbow and thumb under the neck. Go slowly and don't hold it for more than a few seconds until you get limber with it. Do it occassionally, it's a stretching exercise and may take a while so don't over do it. The other way to approach it is to hold the fiddle like a guitar, place you fingers the same way as above and bring the fiddle up to your shoulder as far as you can comfortably. It took me a really long time to be comfortable and functional with this but I'm tight. Having a functional 4th finger is a great thing for fiddling. I love my tunes but I do scales and arpeggios all the time. What's the harm? It's all good.

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