Fiddle

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Fiddle
Morris fiddler - Festivals of Winds, 2012.jpg
A fiddle being played.
String instrument
Other names Violin
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 321.322-71
(Composite chordophone sounded by a bow)
DevelopedEarly 16th century
Playing range
Range violin.png
Related instruments
Musicians
Builders

A fiddle is a bowed string musical instrument, most often a violin. [1] It is a colloquial term for the violin, used by players in all genres including classical music. Although violins and fiddles are essentially synonymous, the style of the music played may determine specific construction differences between fiddles and classical violins. For example, fiddles may optionally be set up with a bridge with a flatter arch to reduce the range of bow-arm motion needed for techniques such as the double shuffle, a form of bariolage involving rapid alternation between pairs of adjacent strings. [2] To produce a "brighter" tone, compared to the deeper tones of gut or synthetic core strings, fiddlers often use steel strings. The fiddle is part of many traditional (folk) styles, which are typically aural traditions—taught 'by ear' rather than via written music. [3]

Contents

Fiddling is the act of playing the fiddle, and fiddlers are musicians that play it. Among musical styles, fiddling tends to produce rhythms that focus on dancing, with associated quick note changes, whereas classical music tends to contain more vibrato and sustained notes. Fiddling is also open to improvisation and embellishment with ornamentation at the player's discretion—in contrast to orchestral performances, which adhere to the composer's notes to reproduce a work faithfully. It is less common for a classically trained violinist to play folk music, but today, many fiddlers (e.g., Alasdair Fraser, Brittany Haas, Alison Krauss, [4] etc.) have classical training.

History

The medieval fiddle emerged in 10th-century Europe, deriving from the Byzantine lira (Greek: λύρα, Latin: lira, English: lyre), a bowed string instrument of the Byzantine Empire and ancestor of most European bowed instruments. [5] [6]

The first recorded reference to the bowed lira was in the 9th century by the Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih (d. 911); in his lexicographical discussion of instruments he cited the lira (lūrā) as a typical instrument of the Byzantines and equivalent to the rabāb played in the Islamic Empires. [7]

Lira spread widely westward to Europe; in the 11th and 12th centuries European writers use the terms fiddle and lira interchangeably when referring to bowed instruments. [5]

Over the centuries, Europe continued to have two distinct types of fiddles: one, relatively square-shaped, held in the arms, became known as the viola da braccio (arm viol) family and evolved into the violin; the other, with sloping shoulders and held between the knees, was the viola da gamba (leg viol) group. During the Renaissance the gambas were important and elegant instruments; they eventually lost ground to the louder (and originally less aristocratic) viola da braccio family. [8]

Etymology

The etymology of fiddle is uncertain: it probably derives from the Latin fidula, which is the early word for violin, or it may be natively Germanic. [9]

The name appears to be related to Icelandic Fiðla and also Old English fiðele. [10] A native Germanic ancestor of fiddle might even be the ancestor of the early Romance form of violin. [11]

In medieval times, fiddle also referred to a predecessor of today's violin. Like the violin, it tended to have four strings, but came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Another family of instruments that contributed to the development of the modern fiddle are the viols, which are held between the legs and played vertically, and have fretted fingerboards. [12]

Ensembles

Fiddlers participating in a session at a pub in Ireland Musiciens pub Gus O'Connor-Doolin.JPG
Fiddlers participating in a session at a pub in Ireland

In performance, a solo fiddler, or one or two with a group of other instrumentalists, is the norm, though twin fiddling is represented in some North American, Scandinavian, Scottish and Irish styles. Following the folk revivals of the second half of the 20th century, however, it has become common for less formal situations to find large groups of fiddlers playing together—see for example the Calgary Fiddlers, Swedish Spelmanslag folk-musician clubs, and the worldwide phenomenon of Irish sessions. [13] [14]

Orchestral violins, on the other hand, are commonly grouped in sections, or "chairs". These contrasting traditions may be vestiges of historical performance settings: large concert halls where violins were played required more instruments, before electronic amplification, than did more intimate dance halls and houses that fiddlers played in.

The difference was likely compounded by the different sounds expected of violin music and fiddle music. Historically, the majority of fiddle music was dance music, [3] while violin music had either grown out of dance music or was something else entirely. Violin music came to value a smoothness that fiddling, with its dance-driven clear beat, did not always follow. In situations that required greater volume, a fiddler (as long as they kept the beat) could push their instrument harder than could a violinist.[ citation needed ] Various fiddle traditions have differing values.

Scottish fiddle with cello

In the very late 20th century, a few artists have successfully attempted a reconstruction of the Scottish tradition of violin and "big fiddle," or cello. Notable recorded examples include Iain Fraser and Christine Hanson, Amelia Kaminski and Christine Hanson's Bonnie Lasses, [15] Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas' Fire and Grace., [16] and Tim Macdonald and Jeremy Ward's The Wilds. [17]

Balkan fiddle with kontra

Hungarian, Slovenian, and Romanian fiddle players are often accompanied by a three-stringed variant of the viola—known as the kontra —and by double bass, with cimbalom and clarinet being less standard yet still common additions to a band. In Hungary, a three-stringed viola variant with a flat bridge, called the kontra or háromhúros brácsa makes up part of a traditional rhythm section in Hungarian folk music. The flat bridge lets the musician play three-string chords. A three-stringed double bass variant is also used.

Styles

To a greater extent than classical violin playing, fiddle playing is characterized by a huge variety of ethnic or folk music traditions, each of which has its own distinctive sound.

Europe

Great Britain

Ireland

  • Irish folk music fiddling including:
    • Donegal fiddling from the northwest in Ulster, which features mazurkas and a Scottish-influenced repertoire including Strathspey and Highland Fling dances. Fiddlers tend to play fast and make heavy use of staccato bowing and may from time to time "play the bass," meaning a second fiddler may play a melody an octave below where a first fiddler is playing it.
    • Sligo fiddling from northern Connacht, which like Donegal fiddling tends to be fast, but with a bouncier feel to the bowing.
    • Galway fiddling southern Connacht, which is slower than Sligo or Donegal traditions, with a heavier emphasis on ornamentation. Additionally, tunes are occasionally played in Eb or Bb to match the tonality of flat pipes.
    • Clare fiddling from northern Munster, which tends to be played near the slower Galway tempo yet with a greater emphasis on the melody itself rather than ornamentation.
    • Sliabh Luachra fiddling from the southwest in Munster, characterized by a unique repertoire of polkas and slides, the use of double stops and drones, as well as playing the melody in two octaves as in Donegal. [19]

Nordic countries

Continental Europe

Klezmer fiddlers at a wedding, Ukraine, ca. 1925 KLEZPO.png
Klezmer fiddlers at a wedding, Ukraine, ca. 1925

Americas

United States

Peter Stampfel from The Holy Modal Rounders Peter Stampfel 08.jpg
Peter Stampfel from The Holy Modal Rounders

American fiddling, a broad category including traditional and modern styles

Traditional
Modern

Canada

Fiddling remains popular in Canada, and the various homegrown styles of Canadian fiddling are seen as an important part of the country's cultural identity, as celebrated during the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Mexico

Silvestre Vargas (1901-1985), fiddler of the Mariachi Vargas from 1921 to 1975, director from 1931 to 1955. Silvestre Vargas Orfeon.JPG
Silvestre Vargas (1901-1985), fiddler of the Mariachi Vargas from 1921 to 1975, director from 1931 to 1955.

Mexican fiddling includes

South America

Other areas

Variants

Chasi, a Warm Springs Apache musician playing the Apache fiddle, 1886 Apachefiddler.jpg
Chasi, a Warm Springs Apache musician playing the Apache fiddle, 1886

Near relations

Distant relations

A nyckelharpa being played Vaxholm 8556 (1158877619).jpg
A nyckelharpa being played

See also

Related Research Articles

Donegal fiddle tradition Traditional fiddle-playing method from County Donegal, Ireland

The Donegal fiddle tradition is the way of playing the fiddle that is traditional in County Donegal, Ireland. It is one of the distinct fiddle traditions within Irish traditional music.

Double bass Acoustic stringed instrument of the violin family

The double bass, also known simply as the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra.

Violin Wooden bowed string instrument

The violin, sometimes known as a fiddle, is a wooden chordophone in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and thus highest-pitched instrument (soprano) in the family in regular use. The violin typically has four strings, usually tuned in perfect fifths with notes G3, D4, A4, E5, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings. It can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers (pizzicato) and, in specialized cases, by striking the strings with the wooden side of the bow.

String instrument Class of musical instruments with vibrating strings

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when the performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

Rebec String instrument

The rebec is a bowed stringed instrument of the Medieval era and the early Renaissance. In its most common form, it has a narrow boat-shaped body and 1-5 strings. Played on the arm or under the chin, the technique and tuning may have influenced the development of the violin.

Hardanger fiddle Traditional Norwegian stringed instrument

A Hardanger fiddle is a traditional stringed instrument used originally to play the music of Norway. In modern designs, this type of fiddle is very similar to the violin, though with eight or nine strings and thinner wood. Four of the strings are strung and played like a violin, while the rest, named understrings or sympathetic strings, resonate under the influence of the other four.

Cape Breton fiddling

Cape Breton fiddling is a regional violin style which falls within the Celtic music idiom. Cape Breton Island's fiddle music was brought to North America by Scottish immigrants during the Highland Clearances. These Scottish immigrants were primarily from Gaelic-speaking regions in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides. Although fiddling has changed considerably since this time in Scotland, it is widely held that the tradition of Scottish fiddle music has been better preserved in Cape Breton.

Bowed string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by a bow rubbing the strings. The bow rubbing the string causes vibration which the instrument emits as sound.

Violone

The term violone can refer to several distinct large, bowed musical instruments which belong to either the viol or violin family. The violone is sometimes a fretted instrument, and may have six, five, four, or even only three strings. The violone is also not always a contrabass instrument. In modern parlance, one usually tries to clarify the 'type' of violone by adding a qualifier based on the tuning or on geography, or by using other terms that have a more precise connotation. The term violone may be used correctly to describe many different instruments, yet distinguishing among these types can be difficult, especially for those not familiar with the historical instruments of the viol and violin families and their respective variations in tuning.

Violin family Class of wooden bowed stringed instruments

The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the 16th century. At the time the name of this family of instruments was viole da braccio which was used to distinguish them from the viol family. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and (possibly) double bass.

Irish fiddle

The Celtic fiddle is one of the most important instruments in the traditional repertoire of Celtic music. The fiddle itself is identical to the violin, however it is played differently in widely varying regional styles. In the era of sound recording some regional styles have been transmitted more widely while others have become more uncommon.

History of the violin

The violin, viola, and cello were first made in the early 16th century, in Italy. The earliest evidence for their existence is in paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari from the 1530s, though Ferrari's instruments had only three strings. The Academie musicale, a treatise written in 1556 by Philibert Jambe de Fer, gives a clear description of the violin family much as we know it today.

Scottish fiddling may be distinguished from other folk fiddling styles by its particular precision of execution and energy in the delivery, for example, the rendering of the dotted-quaver/semi-quaver rhythmic patterns, commonly used in the Strathspey. Christine Martin, in her Traditional Scottish Fiddling players guide, discusses the techniques of "hack bowing", "the Scottish Snap", and "snap bowing". These techniques contrast quite sharply with the most common bowing patterns of Irish fiddling. The style has a very large repertoire consisting of a great variation of rhythms and key signatures. There is also a strong link to the playing of traditional Scottish bagpipes which is better known throughout the world.

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is a fiddler, born in Dublin, Ireland, who attended Trinity College Dublin, becoming a Scholar in Theoretical Physics (1999) and earning a First Class BA degree in 2001. He is known for developing a drone-based fiddle style heavily influenced by the uilleann pipes and the music of Sliabh Luachra.

American fiddle

American fiddle-playing began with the early settlers who found that the small viol family instruments were portable and rugged. According to Ron Yule, "John Utie, a 1620 immigrant, settled in the North and is credited as being the first known fiddler on American soil". Early influences were Irish fiddle styles as well as Scottish and the more refined traditions of classical violin playing. Popular tunes included "Soldier's Joy", for which Robert Burns had written lyrics, and other such tunes as "Flowers of Edinburgh" and "Tamlin," which were claimed by both Scottish and Irish lineages.

Old time fiddle

Old time fiddle is a genre of American folk music. "Old time fiddle tunes" derived from European folk dance tunes such as Jig, Reel, Breakdown, Schottische, Waltz, Two Step and Polka. The fiddle may be accompanied by banjo or other instruments but are nevertheless called "fiddle tunes". The genre traces from the colonization of North America by immigrants from England, France, Germany, Ireland, and Scotland. It is separate and distinct from traditions which it has influenced or which may in part have evolved from it, such as bluegrass, country blues, variants of western swing and country rock.

"Blues fiddle" is a generic term for bowed, stringed instruments played on the arm or shoulder that are used to play blues music. Since no blues artists played violas, the term is synonymous with violin, and blues players referred to their instruments as "fiddle" and "violin".

Canadian fiddle

Canadian fiddle is the aggregate body of tunes, styles and musicians engaging the traditional folk music of Canada on the fiddle. It is an integral extension of the Anglo-Celtic and Québécois Frenchfolk music tradition but has distinct features found only in the Western hemisphere.

Bluegrass fiddling is a distinctive style of American fiddle playing which is characterized by bold, bluesy improvisation, off-beat "chopping", and sophisticated use of both double-stops and old-time bowing patterns.

References

  1. Gyles, Mary Francis (January 1947). "Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned". The Classical Journal . 42 (4): 211–17. JSTOR   3291751.
  2. Reiner, David; Anick, Peter (1989). Mel Bay's Old-Time Fiddling Across America. Mel Bay Publications, Inc. p. 37. ISBN   978-0-7866-5381-2. Double shuffle: syncopated string crossing on a chord, with the top note changing.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Harris, Rodger (2009). "Fiddling". okhistory.org. The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved 2017-04-07.
  4. Alison Krauss - The bluegrass rose blooms ; http://nodepression.com/article/alison-krauss-bluegrass-rose-blooms Archived 2016-12-29 at the Wayback Machine
  5. 1 2 "fiddle." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 6 March 2009.
  6. Anthony Baines: The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments. Oxford University Press, USA (November 12, 1992).
  7. Margaret J. Kartomi: On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology, University of Chicago Press, 1990 p. 124.
  8. Encyclopædia Britannica (2009). stringed instrument. In Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved on 2009-03-14 from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/569200/stringed-instrument.
  9. "fiddle, n.". Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press. 1989. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
    (as access to the OED online is not free, the relevant excerpt is provided) "The ultimate origin is obscure. The [Teutonic] word bears a singular resemblance in sound to its [medieval Latin] synonym vitula, vidula, whence [Old French] viole, Pr. viula, and (by adoption from these [languages]) [Italian], [Spanish], [Portuguese] viola: see [viol]. The supposition that the early [Romance] vidula was adopted independently in more than one [Teutonic language] would account adequately for all the [Teutonic] forms; on the other hand, *fiÞulôn- may be an [Old Teutonic] word of native etymology, although no satisfactory [Teutonic] derivation has been found."
  10. "Bosworth and Toller". Web.ff.cuni.cz. Retrieved 2012-04-30.
  11. Mario Pei, The Story of the English Language (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967), p. 109.
  12. Weinfield, Author: Elizabeth. "The Viol | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art". The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  13. "The Session: Sessions" . Retrieved 28 August 2006.
  14. Webster, Andy (16 March 2012). "Traditional Irish Music in New York City". The New York Times . Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  15. "Amelia Kaminski Productions". Willockandsaxgallery.com. Archived from the original on 2011-11-12. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  16. "Fire & Grace". Culburnie.com. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  17. "The Wilds". Tim Macdonald and Jeremy Ward. 2017-11-15. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  18. Joseph Lyons. "Scottish Fiddle Music". Scotlandsmusic.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-19. Retrieved 2012-04-30.
  19. "Regional Irish Fiddle Styles". Irishfiddle.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2012-04-30.
  20. "Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Fiddle". Fiddlingaround.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  21. "Klezmer Fiddle". Fiddlingaround.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  22. "East European and Gypsy Fiddle". Fiddlingaround.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  23. "Gu-Achi Fiddlers - Old Time O'odham Fiddle Music (CR-8082)". Store.canyonrecords.com. Archived from the original on 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  24. "Western Swing Fiddle". Fiddlingaround.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  25. "Jackson School of International Studies - Canadian Studies Center". Jsis.washington.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  26. "Portrait of Chasi, Bonito's Son..." National Anthropological Archives. (retrieved 11 June 2010)

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