Playing fiddle harmonies

Harmonies on the fiddle

Tonight we started the class by going back over the waltz we learnt last week, then we learnt a harmony to play along with it. The written music for the harmony is on the music page. The tune and the harmony have short phrases which repeat several times. Listening to the tune while you’re playing the harmony will help us to hear how these parts fit together.

The B part of the harmony is a set of simple repeating chords, played on the A and E strings. We broke into pairs and one person played the chord sequence while their partner gave them feedback to help them keep their bow perpendicular to the fiddle strings. We then spent some time looking at how to improve our tone while playing these chords.

* We’re playing a long down bow followed by two up bows and lifting the bow up off the strings in between each chord. As we were bringing the bow down onto the strings for the down bow, we tried getting the bow moving downwards before it hit the strings.

* We practiced playing the down bow as a long bow, starting at the heel of the bow, and playing right to the tip. Bringing the heel of the bow onto the strings, rather than the centre or tip of the bow, gives us a lot of control over when the bow actually starts to come into contact with the strings.

* We tried playing with slightly less pressure on the A string than the E string.

* It’s worthwhile practicing playing chords as much as possible when you’re practicing alone, where you can hear both notes, and hear when they are in tune with each other. Playing chords is a great exercise for hearing tuning more clearly.

We played through Roxburgh Castle, and then went over the chord accompaniment that we learnt for the tune.

We finished off the evening by playing through Ramnee Ceilidh and Da Merrie Boys of Greenland.

Learning harmonies in the String Circle fiddle class, Edinburgh
Photo ©Ros Gasson