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Star of the County Down
How can I play faster??
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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Marikoli
Paraguay
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January 26, 2016 - 12:35 pm
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Hi everybody, today I wanted to share my recording of Star of the County Down (Reel).

Since the last feedback I've received I'm trying to keep my right elbow a bit higher so that my wrist isn't so bent. Now with this song I have a new problem. I really wanted to play this song faster, but I can't. Even at the relatively slow speed that I recorded I keep having these noises and unclean notes.

If I play it slower, it sounds really nice and with an even tone. As soon as I try to speed it up it gets all squeaky. I would really like to improve that. So, who can give me some advice on how I can play faster with a clear tone and have nice smooth transitions when I go from one note to the next?

Thanks so much!! ūüôā

Enjoying my violin adventure! :-)

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BillyG
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January 26, 2016 - 4:18 pm
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Heyyyy - that's not bad at all actually @Marikoli - I like it !  

Only listened twice - I'll listen more closely again - but on these first two listenings - - I am kind of thinking that what you are maybe aware of is either issues of string crossing or finger-timing/adjacent string touching (finger OR bow).... just maybe...   I was sort of aware of occasional "unexpected squeaks"

As a relative beginner (who is NOT a beginner) myself - I've found (and largely now overcome ) "squeaky sounds" coming from two primary sources ( and yes - we are all different - your issues may not be the same - and I have no tutor to guide me )  and for me they were....

(1) Fingering.   I was "perfect" ( LOL like SURE I WAS ) when playing slow - I mean in absolute left-to-right-location of the finger ( i.e. not necessarily in the early days "up-or-down-direction" in the sense of intonation  hahahaha ).   And as I played faster - yup - I found that maybe  my left hand finger (whichever one - doesn't matter) was slightly misplaced - and "the fleshy-part would just touch against a higher or lower string".  Not a problem in-and-of-itself - and indeed - maybe at times done INTENTIONALLY by a player to dull an unwanted "open string ringing sound"  What I found was - when that  (unintentionally happened) I got this sort of "short buzzing sound" as an open string was unintentionally touched....

(2) Bow angle - returning to the string-crossing point - not easy - it has got to be clean - not just the bow action - and indeed "bow movement almost stopped" so to speak if say - moving from a note on the E string back down to say a note on the D string so you don't accidentally sound the A for instance - and yes - of course there are SO MANY other ways to play such a transition - you maybe dont NEED to go to the D string with shifting etc etc - but that's beside the point...

Anyway - that was just how I saw it - it sounds like I suffered much the same, and gradually improved ( well...  I say that - I am hopefully continually improving )

Thanks for your post - TRULY it is not bad at all - I would not be too concerned - you are "aware" of your "issues" - keep at it - concentrate - 

(1) on finger position (left to right on the string / touching or not-touching-adjacent string  - I'm not referring to your "horizontal" fingering in the sense of intonation - that was absolutely fine),

(2) your bow angle and bow pressure. 

(3) analyse CLOSELY what you are doing ( both hands, bow and fingers ) during string crossings and just HOW the "timings between both actions" interact....

I know from my own perspective, once I tried to speed things up I had more than the issues you describe.   I had a REAL issue with bowing - it was seriously bad - I could not for the life of me co-ordinate what I was doing with the left-hand fingering and "bow direction changes"....  Slurs were easy, but "bow-up-bow-down-bow-up-bow-down" etc associated with each note being different  - was a real challenge - and I got a lot of "squeaks and odd sounds" as the bow pulled/pushed on nthe strings BEFORE my  finger had properly "landed" on the string..... - and that's strange cos I do that without thinking when finger-picking guitar - LOL

   Nonetheless - what I've said was just from my own perspective having experienced much the same - but it may be quite different for you - but - what you have there is sounding pretty good to me...  Thanks for the post !!

BillyG

  

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.  

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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damfino
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January 26, 2016 - 4:41 pm
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I gave it a listen to look for the squeaks you were hearing, and what I was hearing is what I was doing when I was starting to play Jackie Tar up to speed, the little quick bow squeaks that sneak in there. I asked my teacher about them, to give me something to work on, because they were annoying me. What she told me it comes from is tension in your bowing wrist, she said that goes away with practice and getting more confident when bowing, you relax and lose that particular squeak. I've found that to be true with me.

ūüôā But good job! Happy fiddling ūüôā¬†

~ I'm not torturing cats... I'm learning to play violin! ~

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micra
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January 27, 2016 - 12:36 pm
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I'm no expert as far as critiquing other people's playing, but for what it's worth I am agreeing with damfino, I can almost feel you tense up when you get to a string crossing in anticipation... ¬†relax ūüôā ¬†

Where I am an expert is on tensing up, it is my biggest problem because every little step forward in my learning has come with much struggling and effort - and the harder you try, well, the tenser you get.  For me at least, it comes out most notably in the bowing.  And painful joints!

Perhaps a consequence of everything coming so naturally to you is that when you discover something that's giving you trouble, you try that much harder to overcome.  That's not a bad thing (I'd give ANYTHING if just one little thing would come easy to me on the violin!!!), but I have to second the advice given above, relax, remain confident in your abilities for you surely have them, and keep practicing at it.  

I might add for me, if I'm not getting it at the desired tempo, I slow it down to the point where I am getting it right, then practice at adding speed until I get it right.  My teacher is always pushing me too hard to play at tempo, and this is not something I like.  To me, if it's not sounding good, what good is it to be at tempo?  I'm not doing something right, I need to fix it, address the tempo, which can be ramped up incrementally.  I know I'll get there, but to me I need to achieve the good tone before I step it up.  for what it's worth...   

You are doing great!

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damfino
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January 28, 2016 - 11:27 am
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micra My teacher does the same thing, pushes me to play up to speed. I think the reasons teachers do this is because they know we are holding ourselves back, and they are pushing us because they know we are capable to do more. 

~ I'm not torturing cats... I'm learning to play violin! ~

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Marikoli
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January 28, 2016 - 11:49 am
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Hi @BillyG, thanks so much for your extensive reply ūüėČ I think the issue is indeed with me not coordinating the left hand fingers together with the bow movement and I should look at where I place my fingers. Be sure that I will certainly work on all the things you mention. Haha I loved it when you say that playing slurs is no issue at all but bow up-down-up-down etc is much harder. At first I thought otherwise. But indeed, I sometimes slur notes automatically because it's easier than moving the bow fast up and down. ūüôā

Thanks @damfino and @micra for your feedback. Before I thought I wasn't tense when bowing, but I think I am. I understand that now and I going to try some exercises to have a more relaxed bow hand/wrist/fingers. ūüôā I realize it will take time. Sometimes I want to be able to do much better than I do now or start on more difficult pieces. But it's all about patience with the violin, isn't it. The truth is that I do love to play slow, I like it much more, but I really wanted to do this fiddle song. Anyway, next on my list are some slower songs to work on good tone and intonation...¬†

Good luck to all of you too!! ūüôā

Enjoying my violin adventure! :-)

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BillyG
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January 28, 2016 - 1:27 pm
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And good luck to you in your journey @Marikoli - that's the beauty of this forum - we have all come from a "different place" - some with tutors, some without - and we all speak as beginners and from our own personal experience.   What *I* have "uncovered on my journey" will be different from others - without "being there" none of us have the "immediate knowledge" of another persons problems.  A vid or audio only gets us half-way-there, and we just comment, hopefully constructively, sharing what we "think we know" LOL...

To my mind, it definitely is true (and said by many here) that working on intonation before speed is a good thing.   Pressure to "play at the tempo expected" - doesn't sound like a good plan to me - but - I have no real idea about that and a paid tutor may have their own agenda to "meet targets" I suppose ( oh - I didn't mean that to sound bad about your tutor !  sorry - it was just a passing thought from my own days in academia where "targets for your students" were (apparently) all that mattered, nothing else intended...)

I have found, on some faster tunes, yes - playing it "slowly" gets me to a point where I sort of say to myself "I can play this now" and sort of stop at that level.....   a few days, or maybe weeks later, I'll revisit the tune, and, just in my head, yes, I suddenly KNOW I want to play it faster, throw in a little trill, whatever (well, I play fiddle music mostly - so I'm allowed to improvise and do that !)   A few more practice sessions - and suddenly it is "different enough" to call it "mine" - and own-it.... LOL  ( well, I "own it" for now - but whichever tune it is, it will ALWAYS evolve, I know that already - if everyone sounded the same - there would be no point... LOL )

It really is a lovely journey...  fantastic

May we never be parted from our fiddles !!!!

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.  

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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damfino
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January 28, 2016 - 2:26 pm
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madbill I think it would be a really bad thing to push a person who isn't ready to play up to speed. If my intonation happens to be off, my teacher will focus on that, or sometimes we will just focus on the rhythm of a song. But if I have the basic of the tune down when I come to class, she will push me where I would most likely question myself or go easy on myself.

~ I'm not torturing cats... I'm learning to play violin! ~

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BillyG
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January 28, 2016 - 5:07 pm
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damfino - yes Mandy - I think we are absolutely in agreement on that - I wasn't being "down" about tutors / teachers at all - absolutely not - good education and the giving of it is priceless - and it sounds like you do have a good tutor which is great!  

And indeed, more power to anyone who has access to one - we ( as tutors - which I was in a different subject entirely ) - sure - as the tutor one should know and feel just "when" it is appropriate to push the student - and similarly - when to draw them back a bit and concentrate on basics etc... -  but equally - I've seen it from the other side - where we ( as tutors ) were "pressed" / "pressured" by the establishment to "achieve THEIR goals" - which were neither mine (which was to share knowledge) nor the goals of my students - mostly post-graduates, many of whom simply wanted to change direction in their studies  ...  

Sorry @Marikoli - the original poster - a bit off topic - but - interesting how things unfold, and it's all related to some extent...

BillyG

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.  

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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damfino
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January 28, 2016 - 5:44 pm
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madbill Naw, I knew you weren't being down on teachers ūüôā¬†

It would be hard to be the educator, knowing the right balance for each person. 

~ I'm not torturing cats... I'm learning to play violin! ~

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Marikoli
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January 29, 2016 - 5:29 pm
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damfino said
madbill Naw, I knew you weren't being down on teachers ūüôā¬†

It would be hard to be the educator, knowing the right balance for each person. 

I guess it's difficult indeed for a teacher to know the right balance for each person. Even for ourselves it's difficult to know. I think finding the right balance is one of the hardest things about being self-taught. I for example was pushing myself way too hard the first months, expecting things I really couldn't do yet. And I was going through my pieces too fast. I had only practiced something a couple of days and I already wanted to move on to the next song. After 4 or 5 months I understood that is really not the way to go. That's why I started to set some reasonable monthly goals for myself. And it's really helping me to not go too fast nor go terribly slow.

But even so, I still sometimes want to push too hard, like me wanting to play pieces that are actually still too fast for me ūüėČ Anyway, I keep enjoying and next month I'll be practicing some slower pieces ūüôā

Enjoying my violin adventure! :-)

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Fidelestre
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January 30, 2016 - 4:11 pm
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marikoli ,

This reel is a piece that can sound great when played at a variety of speeds, and your performance sounds nice.

I too struggle with playing reels and jigs at the customary tempo. I've read on The Session that master fiddler Kevin Burke and others point out that playing traditional pieces slow versus fast are very different undertakings. The bowing, in particular, will be quite different for a slow and fast performance. Burke suggests learning to play fast by doing just that - playing fast. He suggest breaking a piece into small sections and practicing each small section at proper reel or jig tempo until mastered:

https://thesession.org/discussions/30048

Having pointed this out, I do think that Burke's advice assumes a certain skill level, and not everyone is yet at that skill level. I am certainly not yet there. For me, it does help to practice slowly and then increase speed gradually. Someday I hope to be able to play at a more suitable tempo!

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Uzi
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January 31, 2016 - 11:52 pm
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Perhaps the reason that you can play it well slowly and then make mistakes when you try to speed up is because you're not thinking your about your fingers when you play it slowly, but when you try to speed it up you start thinking about your hands and oops.  That happens to me every time I turn on a recording device. 

Luckily, that song is preformed at all sorts of tempos, so you can't go wrong.  However, might I suggest listening to a bunch of people perform the song on YouTube and learn the lyrics.  Then sing it in your head and play along to your internal singing, that will help you to think about the music instead of your hands and it just might help. 

Having said that, as @Fidelestre points out, there are a many unusual bowing techniques  and embellishments in celtic music  that take some time to learn and it's probably worth studying and practicing them if you like that music. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Marikoli
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February 1, 2016 - 9:26 am
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Thanks @Fidelestre for the link to that article. Very interesting comments and made me realize that it's normal to have this problem. I won't worry anymore about playing fast, I'll just give it more time ūüôā And meanwhile I'll keep working on relaxing more while playing.

@Uzi, I would never have thought of it, but I really like the idea of learning the tune and singing it in my head while playing. It might help me relax and get the feeling of it. Thanks for the tip! ūüôā

Enjoying my violin adventure! :-)

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damfino
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Uzi is right about there being a lot of different bowing techniques used in fiddling. The book I'm going through teaches a lot of them. It's the Complete Irish Fiddle Player. My teacher swears by it for learning the bowing techniques. I really have learned a ton from it, and I'm not quite halfway through it yet.

~ I'm not torturing cats... I'm learning to play violin! ~

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Marikoli
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February 3, 2016 - 9:13 am
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hi @damfino, seems like an interesting book. Does it contain songs or does it explain the bowing techniques too? I was just wondering because you have a teacher and wanted to know if your teacher explains the techniques to play each song or if they are described in the book? In that case it might be interesting for me to buy it...

Enjoying my violin adventure! :-)

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damfino
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The book has a lot of different fiddle tunes (jigs, hornpipes, reels, polkas), advancing in difficulty, and slowly adding in the bowing techniques. It also comes with CDs to play along with to learn the songs. It does explain the bowing techniques, and gives you exercises to work on... the guy is actually very wordy through the whole book so my teacher tends to just quickly explain it and tells me I can read through it if I want to.

 
My teacher used this book for herself years ago when she started switching from classical violin to fiddle, so she really likes it.

~ I'm not torturing cats... I'm learning to play violin! ~

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coolpinkone
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Very nice playing... this is one that will get better and better. As everyone has said.. there are varieties of tempos to play.  Congrats on playing and double congrats for posting.  When you post it opens up all kinds of conversation and we all get tips and "iron sharpens iron." Bravo

Thanks Everyone for posting and commenting. It really helps me a lot to be part of this violin community.  

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Marikoli
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Thanks @coolpinkone for commenting! Yes, it is great indeed to be here and learn from each other!! Where I live there is nobody who plays the violin and there is no violin teacher... so sometimes I feel I am alone in my violin journey. But then I come to the forum and meet all you people who are doing the exact same thing and it's really nice to be here and share these experiences. violin-1267

Enjoying my violin adventure! :-)

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fiddlinsteudel
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One thing to work on is a looser wrist and being able to play notes with just your wrist and fingers.

Think about this (metaphor on the fly so bear with me): When you are walking and you stop yourself completely it's easy. You just stop. Now thinking about sprinting and trying to come to a complete stop, it's pretty hard, you might stutter a little bit before coming to a complete stop. I think the same thing goes with bowing. If you are playing at slower speeds it's easier to stop your bow without getting the little extra scratches than when you play at a high speed. 

The other thing is that if you are using your arm to mostly move the bow then you have more moving mass that you have to stop, so if you are playing at slow speeds stopping your whole arm requires less effort that stopping your arm at high speed. 

Your wrist and fingers provide a cushion that allow your arm to change directions slightly before your bow. So instead of your whole bow coming to stop and then your whole arm/wrist/fingers changing direction, your arm can stop, change directions before your bow does, which helps with smoothing out the transition.

Also the more speed your bow has the less pressure you need. Try playing around with with pressure and how much you apply to the bow/strings.

It's important to be able to play quickly on all areas of your bow, but playing in the upper half of your bow is easier than in the lower half.

There's lots of videos on loose wrist exercises, Fiddlerman I'm sure has some. But for analyzing your speed, turn the metronome on, and practice playing open strings. And slowly increase your speed on your bow. Start at a reasonable speed (40 - 75 bpm) and do long bows (tip to frog) every beat. Then double the speed and then if you are comfortable there, double the speed again. Keep your body and arm and wrist relaxed at all times. You should be as relaxed playing 32nd notes as your are playing whole notes. 

Good luck sorry for the rambling.

Mark

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