How to play triplets on the fiddle

Learning how to play triplets

Tonight we learnt the Strathspey Devil in the Kitchen, a Scottish pipe tune, which gives us a great oppotunity to focus on how to play triplets. It was composed by the piper William Ross. It’s a good tune to get under our belts for practicing playing triplets, as there’s plenty of them in the A and B parts. The written music for the tune is on the website music page. We’ll find another tune that we could put into a set with this one for Anne!

Playing jigs on the fiddle
Photo ©Ros Gasson

It’s important to have a relaxed hold on the bow, and to use movement in the wrist and fingers to produce the triplet. Using upper arm movement would make it hard to play the triplet with any precision. We’re aiming to play the triplets in this tune using down-up-down bowing for each one. The three notes are very short, and only use a tiny bit of the bow. The action is created by making a short strong down bow on the first note in the triplet. By bringing that down bow to an abrupt stop, the bow then ‘judders’ up and down, creating the 2nd and 3rd notes in the triplet.

Here’s a video from Blazin’ Fiddles fiddler Bruce McGregor

We also thought about how we might add dynamics into the tune, with quieter or louder parts to add some expression.

In the break in the middle of the evening, we nipped next door to see the photography exhibition  😉 …and we had some chocolate cake, too.

It seems that the research into who uses what type of vibrato is ongoing – our class theory seems to be standing up well, with only one exception found so far!

After the break, we played through Roxburgh Castle again. We spent some time working on using a circular action with our wrist to help with the string crossing in the B part. Again, it involves using quite a short length of the bow for each note, and keeping the bow moving by using the wrist and fingers. This gives us fine control over what we’re doing with the bow, and will help with starting to play the tune faster. We could play this part of the tune without moving the upper arm at all.

We ended the class by playing a few tunes together.

Learn how to play triplets in the String Circle fiddle class
Photo ©Ros Gasson