John gave a workshop at the MBOTMA midwinter fest what follows is a summary and his notes:
First, let’s start with where the first position notes are located on the violin.
The strings are G, D, A and E. We number the fingers 1, 2, 3 and 4 but we will also code the fingers as being high (H) or low (L):
We can associate each note in a do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do scale with a set of harmonized chords. We will refer to these harmonized chords with roman numerals. Do-mi-so-and do are all the tonic, or I chords,. Re and ti (the outer ones toward the ends) are the dominant or V chord, and fa and la, near the middle are the subdominant IV chord. This works in all keys.
“Do” is your starting note, so, in the key of “C” - “Do” is “C”.
Now, most songs have a typical progression in the key of C that would be C-F-G-C
of course, not all fiddle tunes are in the key of C, but we can generalize this progression into the Roman numerals: I-IV-V-I - which we can apply to all key signatures.
We can now show the I-IV-V-I chord progression for three different keys using only the middle two strings.
These patterns can be moved to the left (the two lower strings) so that the first row would become the key of C rather than G as shown. Likewise, it could be moved to the right where it would be in the key of D. (Be aware that these are not the only possible string and fingering combinations to play C, D and G chords).
Double-stops are just pairs of notes from arpeggios. Major chords arpeggios are do-mi-sol-do from the major scale. The idea is to practice the double-stops in each row from left to right, giving a chord progression much like a guitar player learning chord changes.
In practicing, try to get the notes in tune individually, and then play them together. The do-re-mi- scale at the bottom of the sheet shows how the major scale can be harmonized using the I-IV-V-I chords. Try singing the scale and playing double-stops shown.
The sheet on Bowing/Phrasing gives an interpretation of traditional fiddle bowing. This is related to the rhythmic work done by a percussionist. Saw stroke bowing, where the bow changes direction for each note, was demonstrated, but isn't shown on the sheet. The first pattern (sometimes called a 'lick') is the basic shuffle. In a measure of eighth notes, there is a slur on the first and third beat, so a longer bow stroke there. The pattern then is down-short-short-up-short-short.....the short strokes alternate between the upper and lower half of the bow.
This is an important rhythm in lots of traditional music and is found in guitar and banjo playing as well as fiddle.
The sheet continues with a more syncopated lick which begins just before the measure with a pick-up note: and-one-and-TWO-and-three-and-FOUR/and-one-and-TWO-and......This starts with three notes on an up bow followed by a fast down stroke on the two and four. All the notes are the same length, so the down stroke has to be three times as fast as the up stroke in order to stay centered. This emphasizes second and fourth beats, giving the music some drive. The idea would be to practice these licks individually, but then mix and match, according to your own taste. Eventually the licks lose their identity and the phrasing becomes intuitive. The middle of the sheet shows an exercise sometimes called a folded scale. It can be helpful to do this first with saw stroke bowing, then with the basic shuffle, then with the syncopated lick (The lead in note is needed only for the syncopated pattern) .
At the bottom of the handouts (which are linked below) are two longer bow licks which will probably work best if demonstrated. Both of the licks start on the fourth beat and continue through the third beat, and give the music depth and drive.
All of this bowing will work best if the bow arm, wrist and even fingers are flexible--loose, but controlled. Try to move your right hand wrist in a circular motion so you don't need to use the larger muscles of your right arm. This makes for more fluid movement ... and sound with less effort.
There is a lot of material here, and it can take some time to work it into your fiddling. This material is meant to be building blocks to help develop an individual sound. For reference we are providing the handouts from the MBOTMA workshop:
Click here to download the Double Stop handout
Click here to download the Bowing handout
This material is provided by John Wallace who teaches fiddle at:
The Homestead Pickin Parlor
6625 Penn Ave S,