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different styles for different styles?
video, aly bain and nicola benedetti
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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Picklefish
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For two people so celebrated on the same instrument but having completely different styles of music and fingering/ bow holds. How is this the only instrument that Ive seen that is so forgiving and unforgiving at the same time. The only rule? Make it sound good!

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"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Picklefish
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"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Picklefish
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"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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DanielB
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Well picklefish, I don't think there is any "one best way".  Different styles of music and playing and different objectives may need somewhat different gear and techniques.

I'd say you've got it with that one rule.  "Make is sound good!"

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Picklefish
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I think its interesting that modern conception of violin instruction relys on proper bow hold, fingering techniques very similar to what the woman had gone through at the Heifetz school and yet the gentleman learned on his dads knee has very little "proper technique" and yet is still celebrated as a musician. The last part of the videos where they are in his kitchen I think is priceless. He seems to have no interest in playing her Strad. Maybe he did off camera. And she remarks at how she wouldnt be able to play his style because she was trained differently. So this begs the question...do you choose sides with the violin? Is it better to focus on one style to get the most out of it in order to improve to your full potential?  I find fiddle and classical music to be challenging the same so I dont see choosing sides. I just thought it was interesting seeing the two together talking and comparing.- JMO, fiddle on.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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DanielB
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There an old saying that goes something like "All education is just preparation for action." 

What you do with it is what counts. 

And maybe what he learned on his dad's knee was enough for him to just take it and run with it.

I mean, education is good, when you can get it.  But it is not everything.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Picklefish
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Well thats just it, why the emphasis on proper bow hold, fingering etc when it doesnt matter as long as you are hitting the notes? ( I agree with the premise of proper technique and am always mindful when I am playing to use it as best as I can) I see alot of you tube vids of famous bands and musicians who use "bad" technique but still sound amazing. She uses proper technique and a million dollar violin and has to wrestle it, He uses homespun technique on a $200 dollar fiddle and sounds just as amazing. Talent is the secret ingredient, and they both seem to have it. I love her analogy of his violin, it sounds as if it has a voice, very sweet. While hers has that growl up close but projects a nice sound to the audience.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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DanielB
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Some of it does matter, or at least there are generally harder and easier ways to get the job done.  Sure, there is more than one way the bow can be held.  At first, the Franco-Belgian hold seemed really awkward to me and I tried some others.  But various players from FM to Perlman use it, so obviously it is one of the ones that definitely can work.  When I started working on things like playing for 20 min or so straight without stopping at all, I ended up settling into it because part of why it works is it is one way to hold the bow and get the notes where the right hand doesn't start to cramp up or get fatigued as easily after a few minutes.   But I don't know "proper" from a hole in the ground.  Nor do I care if anyone says I'm holding it properly.  What I care about is that I can do what I need to do with it, and my hand stays comfortable.  I've seen FM's and Perlman's and many other player's videos on it, but I consider it more like friendly advice from experienced players more than a rule or the only "proper" way. 

Fingering, well, you kinda lost me there.  The only real "proper" I can think of there is if it has the right intonation and tone and if you can get to it effectively from where you are and get to the next note ok.  Intonation is just the frequency/pitch of the note.  That kinda has to be right enough, I guess, to be proper.  But say you need to play the first A on the D string.  In first position you'd play that with your pinky.  But is it somehow improper to shift up a bit so you can play it with your 3rd or 2nd finger?  I never knew!  LOL  I would think of that as just "shifting positions".  If you even think in terms of "positions" when playing.  I don't.  The only way I can see of that being maybe bad is if you do it to avoid practising with one or more of your fingers.  Having one or more fingers that are "weak" that you have to work around is never going to be an advantage that helps playing.  That isn't about being "proper", though, it is just sense.  With only 4 fingers, if you are kind of avoiding using 1 or 2 of them, it limits your playing.  I mean, somebody that wants to learn to type fast wouldn't cut off a few fingers, it just doesn't make sense. 

Tone from the left hand, there's a difference between the sound if you just barely press down enough to get the note to sound and a little harder than that.  If you just touch the note with a little pressure you get a slightly softer tone because the flesh at the end of your finger will damp string vibrations a bit.  But both those sounds are proper, so far as I know, so long as you are getting the one you want when you want it. 

With the two violins in the video, I thought they were both really nice.  For different sorts of situations.  They talked about that.  But that didn't make one better than the other.  Personally, for what I *like* trying to play, I liked his fiddle a bit better so far as sound.  But that is personal taste and doesn't make her violin wrong at all.

The whole "proper" thing, I'll take an example from guitar, even though that annoys some folks here because they don't seem to see two stringed instruments as being similar in some regards.  I've been playing for over 30 years.  Not claiming to be great or anything, but I've played in bands and some people over the years have liked my playing.  There will be times for certain moves where my thumb may not be on the "proper position" at the back of the neck.  There may even be times when I will use my thumb to fret notes on the low strings, because all 4 fingers may already be busy.  If someone criticizes that as not being "proper form", I can generally bet they have only been playing for somewhere between 6 hrs and 6 months.  If they had been playing longer, they'd already know that there are some things you can only do by breaking "proper form" and that many of their "guitar heroes" do the same things.  But you don't want to play like that all the time, because it can make other moves more difficult. The "proper" position with the thumb on the back of the neck only seems awkward at first.  It really is better/easier for doing most things.  So when you are showing stuff to someone who is just starting out, that is what you show them, but more because it will be better for things like barre chords and most scales than wrapping the thumb around the neck.  

I've gotten long-winded on this, but basically while I agree with you that there is no "proper" beyond getting the right sounds, the usually recommended ways are often best for the greatest number of situations.  That is why the experienced players are using them at least most of the time.  No sense in re-inventing the wheel.  But that if one is using "improper" ways of playing to cover or keep a weakness in a finger or whatever, it isn't going to help in the long run.  "Basics" are called basic because they are good building blocks to have to work with.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlestix
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You're right about one thing, Daniel..... Your thumb is part of your hand,,, use it.

 

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Picklefish
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I define "proper" as the methods that all agree in the theory, teaching materials published as well as whats taught in the schools. For the left hand this is straight wrist, palm facing you and arched fingers lifting and tapping on the finger tip not the pad. For the bow hold, traditional in the frog thumb and first knuckle placement of the bow using index and pinky as balance pressure points. Any "how to" book will show this as proper. I acknowledge that this combination is the most practical and offers the best overall approach to the most styles.

My only point was the observation of two people, one "traditional, proper, classical" and one well, not. Yet, both have great success with the instrument. So my question is, if you arent going to be a classical violinist why learn to play like one when obviously it doesnt take away from the non classical fiddling sound to use improper technique? And then why do all the learning materials emphasize one proper way? Even Brian Wicklunds book has a page on proper which is the classical method. So without making it a serious discussion on all the virtues of each, I just thought it was interesting to make the comparison in contrast. (As I am rarely serious about anything) Just sayin.

I think its a conspiracy by the music elite to keep us down by forcing us to learn complicated and difficult methods and making us feel inferior when we cant grasp them. School age kids are graded on technique and the hillbilly style aint acceptable. just sayin.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Fiddlestix
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So, what is the point here ?   dunno  Different bow hold's, different type's of music, different style's of playing ?

Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas hold their clubs differently and have totally different swings, but they have the same thing in common......... Success   1st-place

I guess that must be the point.

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Fiddlerman
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August 9, 2012 - 2:15 pm
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I think that no matter what type of music you choose to play or work on, the more time you put into it the better it is. Great technique is technique that works for you and allows you to play with less effort.
If choking up on the bow allows you to play with a sound that you like better and you have no good reason not to do it, then it is right for you regardless of what others might say.
Regardless of what type of music you do decide to play, having a sense of musicality built into yourself will make the music better. Talented musicians are just that, "talented" and it makes no difference what they choose to play.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
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How refreshing !!

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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springer
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I watched a jam session at a fiddlers convention once and noticed that the leader of the bunch did not use his pinky at all. He would shift into 2nd 3rd 4th position to play as needed and he really could play. He played totaly by ear because he could not read music and had two fiddles tuned to two different scales. He also put the fiddle on his chest to play and held the bow up from the frog. In other words he did every theing "wrong" and sounded great. Made me want to go fishing.bananabananabananabanana

 

BUT his major efforts were put into making violins. He made fiddles out of all kind of woods and did not always make a scroll on the head.dancingdancingdancingdancing

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DanielB
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Well, you know, when it comes down to it, it is your time and your fiddle, springer.  You can play it however you want to. 

So far as I know (but bear in mind, I am a noob myself) none of that is wrong.  Some of it is even conventional, but the conventions of an older time.  Playing the fiddle/violin against the chest?  It used to be played that way.  Moving it up to the shoulder is the more recent way of doing it is all.  There's probably a reason, but I don't know it offhand. 

Holding the bow at the frog I think is to give easier use of the whole length of the bow.  Just like the Franco-Belgian hold developed to give more control over bow pressure and the angle the hair hits the string at. 

I've known some excellent guitarists that don't use their pinky.  But they also can't do absolutely everything that a player who does use it can.  Some things will be harder.  Doesn't mean they didn't play quite well, even with that self-imposed limitation, though.

The exception with those sorts of things is if you are paying a teacher to teach you what they know.  In that case you are giving them cash money to show you their ways and help you develop some of the skills they have.  Kind of a waste of money to pay for guidance and then ignore it.   Or if you ask someone who plays classical or whatever to take the time to help you with learning a piece and then you insist on doing things very differently, you can be handing them more aggravation than it is worth their time for helping you. 

But if you are teaching yourself, and learning everything you want to learn and getting the sounds you want, then how would there be a problem? 

Well, unless thinking of it as "breaking rules" or something makes it more fun!   If it is fun, then you'll play more, and in that case you should maybe even look for more "rules" just to break them!  LOL

I think that probably a lot of different woods could be used, really.  Maple/sycamore and spruce were maybe the best that were available when the modern violin evolved it's shape and etc.  But these days lots of exotic woods and other materials are available, and I don't believe at all that they've all had a fair trial.  But the dimensions and sound of instruments made with them might end up being a bit different as designs using those materials evolve.  The current "proper" dimensions I think assume use of the woods currently considered traditional.  But something new might be developed that would sound just great.  Maybe even better in at least some ways than what we have now. 

I will say one thing, though, just a bit of advice, musician to musician.. If you see anyone doing something cool and getting some cool sounds and they are doing it using a different method or bow-hold or whatever than you currently use or have been told to use?   You should absolutely try it for yourself as soon as possible, and if it works, keep it!  You owe it to yourself to at least give it a good solid try and see if it maybe can work for you too.  That's how any musician picks up tricks from seeing another musician play.

@Picklefish: So far as conspiracy by the music elite?  LOL  Who says they're the elite?  Who are we talking about here, maybe some music teachers and a few authors of music books?  Lady Gaga probably makes more than all of them put together in a year.  Paul Williams is the current president of ASCAP, as I recall.  Not saying I actually worry about either of them, but if I was looking for a conspiracy, I think it would have a bit more bucks and influence behind it than a few teachers or book authors.  I figure most teachers and authors of music method books are either just trying to make a few bucks by regurgitating what they learned or maybe actually trying to help people learn to play cool stuff. 

Your audience, whether it is a packed stadium of thousands or just yourself.. Is not going to care where you put your thumb or how you hold a bow.  If you get good sounds and they like what you are doing, then you win. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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cdennyb
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wow, what a thread subject! Very interesting. Of course Daniel has written the longest response I've seen so far and I'm not going to try and out do him. No way...

I think the style of violin you play has it's "rules" for learning... A classical violinist will have a whole different set of foundational building blocks to learn than a bluegrass kid growing up in the hills. Although each would grow to become a virtuoso in their own rite... nether would be comfortable or be able to play the others type of music. (...without a lot of practice and coaching!)

I think simple things that are basic and similar to each type of music would be taught about the same, holding the bow, holding the violin, tuning it, rosin etc., but that's pretty much where the similarities would end.

I think in general, the classical crowd of professional musicians look down their noses at the hillbilly style of music played on that thing called a "fiddle" and although they look down their noses, they couldn't play it anyway! LOL

So, in closing this comment, I think some basics are necessary before you can honestly go out on your own and develop a "style". Even for electric and rock concert stuff, you still need to know finger position, best way to hold it, best grip on the bow etc. because after a 2 hr set, you gonna be hurtin... and you try and learn how not to hurt while practicing so that kinda dictates a change in style whether you intend it be changed or not. Sometimes the basics are there to protect us from ourselves.

And of course there's the difference in strings.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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