I've learned a little bit about Strathspeys this past couple years, from workshops, tutorials, articles & playing - but still on the journey - no expert.
I have found Strathspeys extremely fun to play - I hope I can encourage others here to try to learn some!
Don't try to learn a Strathspey from a book! It's hard to determine the Strathsbey bowing & rhythm idiosyncrasies from books & sheet music - and I have learned the notation can be inaccurate or 'tamed'/'smoothed out', which is a Strathspey death sentence. Workshops & Video Tutorials are GREAT!
• The FIRST thing I recommend to do is LISTEN, to as many Strathspeys as you can, as often as you can - to feel the iconic, jagged, 4/4 RHYTHM!
• Strathspeys are usually slower than Reels, but there are also 'Slow' Strathspeys. I have found most Strathspeys played much faster in Cape Breton Style (even 'slow ones).
• There are 3 main ornaments that generally show up in Strathspeys - the 'Scottish Snap', the 'Birl', and the 'Scrunch' (I can recommend tutorials - you'll want to master these and a few others).
Even if you don't want to learn the "Miller O'Hirn Strathspey" - I recommend WATCH THIS VIDEO - to get a good idea of what a Strathspey is!!!!! It's part of an Alasdair Fraser Workshop.
I enjoyed his workshops this past April's FIDDLE HELL Festival.
• There are wonderful Strathspeys in Major, Minor & Modal Keys! In fact, check out Strathspeys - at The Session there's 56 PAGES listed, with 10 per page! You can find titles in a key you prefer, then search on YouTube for a performance of it - or listen thru a streaming audio source. Quite a few Strathspeys have been recommended in different threads here on the Forum.
• Rants can be Strathspeys - What is a Rant? Thread
This tutorial is a GREAT one to start learning a Strathspey!
Fiona Cuthill video tutorial teaching "Cutting Bracken", the 'Scottish Snap' & Strathspey rhythm!
Fiona Cuthill is extremely generous - has more Strathspey tutorials and many other great Scottish fiddle tutorials at Fiona Cuthill - YouTube Channel.
Wow, I just had a fabulous treat!
Found a recorded Intermediate Fiddle Class from last year, by Dan MacDonald - going over "The King George Set"!!! Miss Lyall's Strathspey (which I've been meaning to learn for awhile), King George IV (I've previously learned), The King's Reel & Old King's Reel.
You can get a sampling of Dan MacDonald's other zoom lessons, along with very slowly played tune videos & up to speed ones, at Dan MacDonald Fiddle Teacher - YouTube Channel. He has a Beginner and Intermediate Playlist.
Some of you may find it worth inquiring about lessons!
Just wanted to share this strathspey I started on today - in a minor key!
"Mrs. Gunn's Strathspey", which is followed by "Sweet Molly" Reel (seems like a Scottish Drowsy Maggie variant), and "Wise Maid" Reel - arranged & performed by Bonnie Rideout!
...going to try to learn the whole set, eventually. (lol)
I'm usually very skeptical about how trad tune transcriptions are notated - they usually don't match the versions I've heard/seen performed.
That said, Bonnie Rideout plays "Mrs. Gunns Strathspey" ALMOST EXACTLY how it's notated at The Session link I gave (grace notes, too)! - just wanted to mention this, since quite a treat for me. 2nd note, in the 2nd measure, is a D - not E!
I actually fell in love with this set of tunes quite a few years ago. It's on the very 1st Bonnie Rideout CD I bought, "Kindred Spirits" - WAY before I thought about picking up the fiddle. 🤔 Maybe it was part of the reason I did!
...lots of fun, to be learning another tune with a jagged rhythm (syncopation? 🤣)!
Thanks for pointing that out - certainly seems to be the case!
Here's a Strathspey & Reel for Halloween!
Some great videos available of "The Warlocks Strathspey" by Robert Lowe (Scotland), including the MacMasters, but I chose to share this one performed by Faith Grossnicklaus, because you can see her fingers & bowing - she also plays "The Witches Reel" by Joseph Lowe (Robert's Brother). I'm pretty sure these are both fast enough to be considered Cape Breton style - so don't be afraid to slow them down.
It's in my favorite E minor!
Here's an excellent S·L·O·W Scottish Strathspey/Air - "Ghoid iad mo bhean uam an reir" (They Stole My Wife Last Night) from Patrick McDonald (1784) - performed by Alasdair Fraser & Paul Machlis.
Good Tune in A minor!
...these rhythms are so addictive.
So many GREAT Strathspeys in this thread - I've played several, but still a few more to go! 😁
I wanted to share this particular set I like before it gets lost in my bookmarks! Can't decide if the 1st tune is a 4 part March or Strathspey (can't a version be played either way?), then definitely 2 more Strathspeys & 3 Reels, played by Patsy Reid,
Links to sheet music & info at thesession.org:
"Father Eugene's Welcome to Cape North" by Mike MacDougall - is listed as a March at thesession.org, but after listening to this, doesn't this sound/feel like a Strathspey? I think I'm hearing too many dotted notes in this version to be a March - maybe why I love it... playing it!
"Yester House" - Strathspey.
"Miss Drummond of Perth" - Strathspey.
"The Oyster Wives' Rant" - Reel.
"Rise Ye Lazy Fellow" - Reel. I really like this the best of the 3 reels - playing it!
"The Highlandman Kissed His Mother" - Reel by Joseph Lowe.
@Ford Glass -
Probably not a very pretty sight to imagine me jumping into a HUGE pile of sheet music (I'd never be able to get up 🤣), but I'm going to have fun checking them out!
Hope everyone takes a look at the impressive line up of Scottish Fiddle teachers you provided! I enjoy tutorials by Fiona Cuthill - noticed a teacher for Hardanger fiddle!
Have you seen any of the lessons by Dan MacDonald (post #3 here)?
I'm back signed up now for a bit with FIDDLEVIDEO - Haneke Cassel & others teaching. And, I just finished a couple months of Masterclasses on Patreon with Martin Hayes, for his style of Irish music.
I'll be taking many workshops at Fiddle Hell next April. I'll hopefully catch Alasdair White, Jeremy Kittel & maybe Alasdair Frasier, again. It will keep me busy working on stuff for the rest of the year. I have so much interest in other genres, too! See about last April's: April 2022 🔥 FIDDLE HELL 🔥 Festival! Thread
Thank you for the great links!
I was looking over the sheet music link you provided & ran across Lady Dalrymple (North Berwick's) Strathspey, which appears to be very close to the Lady Hamilton Of Dalrymple Strathspey - The Session sheet music (audio, also).
I've been pretty much fascinated with the Neil Gow, Am version, played by Tim Macdonald & Jeremy Ward, but they start it as an Air then move into more of a quickstep - not as a Strathspey:
I started a thread (before this one & before I knew any better) which ended up mostly a discussion about this strathspey & playing music written for this time period. There's also a link to some history of the tune (Traditional Tune Archives). A bit too much to move it all to this thread. (lol) Cape Breton Strathspeys & Reels Thread
Anyway, since that thread, I took a workshop with Alasdair Fraser, last April, he mentions 2 types of strathspeys - 'listening' and 'dance' types. He was quite adamant we shouldn't learn Strathspeys from sheet music, because much has been transcribed by people who don't know what a strathspey truly sounds like. That said, sometimes we need a little help from sheet music!
Kevin Lees (fiddle) and Sebastian Bloch (guitar) play a sweet 'listening style' version that pretty much matches the Gm sheet music for this strathspey - not much snap, which is nice, too.
This is my long-winded way of getting around to asking you if you've heard this strathspey played anywhere else, maybe more 'strathspey-like'
- and your thoughts on it?
...think I'm only going to be happy if I work on ways to play both of these, together. 😊
thanks for all the stuff. Had not come across Dan MacDonald before. There is soooo much opportunity out there to learn from videos etc it’s fantastic. The lessons I have had to date have been from teachers based in Scotland, or from recent ex pats. I have been living abroad from over 25 years, so I wanted to go ‘the source’ so to speak.
Like you, I also enjoy playing Strathspeys (and marches). I enjoy the jagged rhythms and the space in the tunes, find they offer more opportunity to have fun with.
I had not come across Lady Dalrymple before. The only one from the above list that I have learned before is Miss Sarah Drummond of Perth. Love the snaps.
@Ford Glass -
I have to apologize, I have a lot of respect for your wanting to learn from the source.
For some reason, I had it in the back of my mind that Dan MacDonald was a Scottish fiddler, but he's Canadian.
Alasdair Fraser learned in Scotland, he didn't move to California until 1981.
I have had my eye on these lessons, since I like to challenge myself beyond my current skill level - to at least know what I should be working toward. (lol)
I am definitely a bit fascinated by how different Scottish Fiddle tunes may have been played during the actual time period they were written, vs. recent times, and enjoy what little I've been learning about Scottish music history.
Is there any way you can make it to this year's Celtic Connection's Festival in Glasgow?
Celtic connections., think if was going to travel that far and spend that much $ think I would rather do a fiddle course/retreat rather than take in a performance. For example, the band “Blazin’ fiddles” does a week long retreat called “Blazin’ in Beauly”, a Scottish town up north. Looks like fun.
Re “Miss Sarah Drummond of Perth” strathspey. The Session is an excellent resource for finding the dots. The only issue I personally find is picking which version to play when there are multiple options. For example, the above strathspey has 16 different options listed on The Session. I know there are probably no “wrong” versions, but I do want to try and play something which may be close to the original as possible.
@Ford Glass -
I know there are a lot of workshops associated with Celtic Connections, but the Blazin’ in Beauly should be a nice relaxing atmosphere!
We've had some other discussions on the forum about listening to a genre of music enough (not hours, more like years) to be able to feel if sheet music or playing fits the style - and the importance of learning regional differences, especially if you plan on jamming with locals (when in Rome...). It's part of why I believe it's important for players of fiddle music to be able to learn by watching and listening, not by sheet music - if possible, and important to try to find multiple references. Don't get me wrong, I believe in the necessity of archives and it's nice to know of variations, but sometimes I think Fiddle sheet music does more harm by being confusing, than good...
I can see where all the different versions of Miss Sarah Drummond of Perth Strathspey, listed at thesession.org - is really confusing, because some of them don't even sound remotely related. At least The Session has audio files that can be slowed down, now - which is a HUGE help when comparing versions!
I know Hanneke Cassel plays it in A mixolydian, but 2nd time around she plays the A part down on the G string, then back up to the B part.
I decided to check out her sheet music at FIDDLEVIDEO.com (paid subscription). It's weird, says that it's in "A" and shows 3 sharps (C#, F# & G#), which is A major - but EVERY G# is marked "Natural" (so it's really A mixolydian)! She doesn't notate anything about playing the A part down an octave, 2nd time around - but she does play it that way.
I would say the closest sheet music version would be the 2nd, Miss Drummond of Perth (aka. "An Gille crùbach anns' a Ghleann" - The Cripple Lad of The Glen) listed at Ceol Sean (but the C#'s & F#'s are not notated), quite a few versions there - and at thesession.org, I'd pick the 14th, but the rhythm isn't written right.
I'm definitely a fan of Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas - "Miss Drummond of Perth" starts at 0:39 minutes in.
This play along sheet music says from Neil Gow. It's clearly in A dorian, which I think is a bit 'tame' - and seems smoothed out too much for my liking. BUT, this may be easier/perfect for starting out with!
The Battlefield Band does a piper version of Miss Drummand of Perth on YT, so it's probably one of the others listed at Ceol Sean. I'd start by making sure C's & F's are played sharp, but I'd get the feel of the melody by listening to them a lot, because their phrasing is definitely different from the others I've just mentioned.
I do want to know traditional origins - and if pipes & fiddles are playing together, the Fiddler has to work with the pipe's limitations (and not be drowned out) - but I don't think the fiddle has to sound like the pipes, especially in situations where the fiddle is what dancers are relying upon! If not playing for dancers, I don't believe there's anything says you can't play these tunes like an Air - and make it your own.
Worth mentioning - I don't want to intimidate anyone brand new to the fiddle, here on the forum - I have the same issues with all Fiddle music & I've only recently made my peace with it, but it's taken me listening for 3½ years and I only started learning how any of this works a year & a half ago! I really want to support everyone who enjoys this music and wants to start learning some of it - no matter how far along in playing! 🤗
I say START learning however you can, whatever version you like, because as we grow with the music - we can refine it and make it more authentic for the genre.
Some beginners might learn best starting with a video such as this!
If for me/myself playing solo - I'd pick Hanneke Cassel's version to learn.
Which version are you drawn to?
one thing to keep in mind about the session website..or any..is a version or setting could have been posted by a flute..or concertina..whistle...accordian player. and may be for a specific recording someone made not a generic version.
That may be why some tunes dont sound exactly like what we are looking for. A 'D' flute players lowest note is our open D string I think..so they wouldnt likely post a version that uses anything lower.
just a thought and hopefully helpful. I know we are all about fiddle and string playing here... but alot of the other sites are less specific.
Thanks for pointing that out!
Very true, and I can tell much of the time even more, by reading in the comments.
There's usually more ABC notation in the comments, too - about variations. I can't remember anything about how to read it, though!
Unfortunately, Miss Sarah Drummond of Perth has a version where the A & B parts are reversed and several with no dotted rhythm at all, but runs of notes like a scale played up & down. It's understandably confusing for someone, who might be new to learning strathspeys, for example (or other types of fiddle music) - to stumble upon such an array (anywhere), and be left to try & figure which one to learn.
...I realize it's the nature of the beast, though - because people are just trying to do the best they can to help others, and to share their love of music. 😊