How do I learn gypsy (lautari) fiddle?

December 8, 2004 at 07:06 AM · Hi, I need some advice about playing gypsy (lautari) fiddle.

If there's anyone out there who knows about traditional ornamentation I would love to know how to begin learning it...

I'm aware that it isn't just trills as I'm a professional trad Irish fiddler (bitten by the Balkan and Gypsy bug!) and have a fair idea of Irish rolls, cuts, crans etc.

Are there any books, CDs, workshops, even websites, which demonstrate/teach this amazing style? My favourite balkan band is Taraf de Haidouks, they're virtuoso! and I also love Klezmer fiddle (Alicia Svigal) and would also really like to know how to play krekhts.

Any comments, advice, pointers much appreciated!


Replies (15)

December 8, 2004 at 08:33 PM · Look into Balkan Music Camp. There's one on each coast every summer. They do gypsy, klezmer, east european, everything.

December 9, 2004 at 01:05 AM ·

December 9, 2004 at 01:07 AM · Laura, beside of listening a lot of Gypsy music, think about specific modes which make this music named 'Gypsy'. The main modes are natural minor, harmonic minor and 'double harmonic minor'(or there are two augmented seconds in a scale made by raising 4th and 7th step.) So, make scales in keys you wish to use and practice them. But, what's interesting: in Gypsy music you (almost) will not find modulations to other keys, so try to 'keep' same tonality. I mean, the harmony should not lead a solo part to changing keys, but temporary; so the common harmony is like this (a minor):




Sometimes we can see a mode like this (a-minor):


It has a 'color' of dominant, or you feel like playing in E-major, but the real tonic is 'a'. It fits mostly to slow parts of a song, and make a song quite related to jewish music.

Also, try to use wide range of vibration and make your violin sounded like electric.

Don't forget to use 'gypsy' glissando during shifting, but don't overplay this affect.

Good luck.

P.S. And accept my apologize, this is not my login, but my daughters (I didn't know she logged mine out). So, read on the top Rita Livs instead of Inna L.

December 9, 2004 at 02:29 PM · Laura:The following book/CD might help:

Gypsy Violin

Ann Harbin

Mel Bay Publishing

It is available over the internet. Here is a short description (from the site

About Gypsy Violin - Book/CD

Written by Mary Ann Harbar. For violin solo. Includes violin solo songbook and examples CD. With introductory text, instructional text, standard notation, bowings, chord names, illustrations and glossary. Gypsy. 131 pages. 8.75x11.75 inches. Published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (MB.95538BCD)

Try a google search for "gypsy violin" to find sites that supply it.

Ted Sinoski

December 9, 2004 at 05:44 PM · Laura:

In addition to the book/CD, another option that I would recommend is a PC/Mac computer program called "Slow Gold" available at This allows you to sample peformances and play them back at selectable speeds faster and slower in loops etc. The program retains the original pitch or will transpose as desired. I have found it invaluable for listening to ornamentation styles, bowing technique etc. for music with aural tradition. It costs about US $50.

Ted Sinoski

Ted Sinoski

June 16, 2005 at 08:27 PM · Hello,

Well… if you want to study in Romania, Anghel Gheorghe Caliu of Taraf de Haidouks teaches “Roma” violin to some students. I am not entirely sure of all the details, but one pays a fee [weekly] and that includes room and board [you live a family and you eat with the family, you become a member of the family].

Basically you study with him when he is not on tour. It is very laid back on one hand BUT you may end up practicing all day, and then you may end up playing with all sorts of other musician’s when he has a local gig. The village he lives in is filled with some of the best Roma musicians. It is not a university; it is a living and breathing Roma community. You end up living and becoming part of the community [like it or not].

I am not a violinist, but I know the group and him because of my work as a dance anthropologist.

The fee, if I recall, is not more than a 1000 a week [ok...actually I do not remember how much, but I can find out for you if you would like. Maybe less.] but the experience and training are worth it. He only takes serious students and only on occasion. He is choosy. I am not quite clear what his criteria is, but, He expects his students to be open to instruction, and practice, constructive criticism and even more practice. One would be plying violin constantly.

If you are interested, I can find out more for you.



June 16, 2005 at 08:30 PM · $1000 a week to live with gypsies?

June 16, 2005 at 09:29 PM · What particulary kind of gipsy fiddler music are you interest of? Romanian traditional music, that was performed in different ocasions by gypsy fiddlers so that's why it is called gipsy-the taraf you are talking about is an example(in romanian, "taraf means a small orchestra that performs at wedding and traditional parties), hungarian, that is also derived from romanian folk music, or gipsy's music from other countries?

Anyway, if you want some classical suites that were developped from fiddler music, you can try Hilda Jrea and Ludovic Feldmann. They are practically fiddler pieces for violin and piano. Also, the third movement from Enescu's 3rd sonata is a fiddler developemend, more brute compared to other enescian works, in which he tries to integrate fiddler music in classical pages. This particular movement has a pure fiddler content.

If you want to make this sacrifice and come to Romania, you can be instructed for a much lower price if you go to any village's fiddler(lautar). If you want quality and pure tradition, I don't reccomend you to go to south, but to try the Maramures zone.

I don't know if you canm find it in your country, but you can order Dinicu's recordings, as well as other fiddlers, Albesteanu, Botoca, Benone Damian...

June 17, 2005 at 06:09 PM · Hmmm? I am not sure what you mean by the comment “to live with gypsies." what does that mean? When did you live Gypsies? Please... share your experience living with the Roma. Where were you? What were the good points? And what were the bad points?

Since you know about the Roma then you know if one wants to learn one should go to the source.

For example... I am a dancer and dance academic who is affiliated with the UNESCO Culture Sector. I am a dance Anthropologist, but my field is cultural diplomacy. Using the arts as tools in multi track diplomacy.

My model is traditional Korean dance. If I want to learn traditional Korean folk dance, certainly, I can go to anyone who claims they know the material in New York City [this is where I live]; however, it is best that I go to Korea. I can go to the Capital, Seoul, and learn in the studios and universities. It is even better if I go to the country side and live with my teacher who is probably very old, lives in a tiny piece on land way out in the country side or on some secluded mountain area, he / she probably can’t read and you spend ALL your time with your teacher…AND... This teacher is considered a national treasure by those who understand the art form. When you leave... You KNOW the dance. Its movements, its meaning, its soul. You learn the culture and learn the language. Even if one can only stay a few days, one learns much more than the art form in a studio. One learns about the parameters of the art, the artist and ultimately... the self.

My point is… if one wishes to study classical violin, study with the best classical violinist. Another example, if one wants to study jazz violin, one should study in a jazz environment, not a classical environment. If one wishes to study gypsy violin, then one should surround oneself in a gypsy environment.

SO...that entire aside... I saw Laura's posting, and she wanted to learn "gypsy" violin.

Since I am familiar with these gentlemen of Taraf de Haidouks, I thought I could share with her.

Well Taraf de Haidouks is an award winning music group who has been featured in documentaries [Latcho Drom] and Johnny Depps movie [a man who cried]. I believe they have 4-5 albums and several songs on other compilations and they are also on several soundtracks. The details can looked up about them. Here is a website on the Group

Anghel Gheorghe Caliu... Does take private students and he has a reputation of being very particular. Yes... He actually turns students down because he does not feel they are serious.

As for the name of the group… the English language translation is “Band of Outlaws.” That IS the name of the group.

Anghel Gheorghe Caliu does not have a personal website that I know of. I can find out... or one could contact the record label. I think UNESCO also has information to reach this group… maybe the world heritage section [I can check for you]

As for the cost of a week in Romania… well... that is personal and subjective. Those individuals, who think it is too much, think about how we paid for our tuition at university. And think how much we pay for individual lessons as artists... per hour!

To folk artists and those who admire a teacher or musician, think about what it would be like to study with that person 24 hours... non stop living and breathing the art and the culture.

At least... the money paid to Mr. Gheorghe, goes towards his family and their education. The situation in Eastern Europe is very bad for the Roma. Discrimination and racism is awful [think antebellum south]. Roma culture is rich and varied. There is so much to learn.

Frankly… I would rather give my money to an individual who will use the money for their family, then have a university take my money and spend it frivously. [Oh… Yes... I went to Juilliard, the New School for Social research and Finally NYU for all my degrees].

Besides… Those who are truly interested in “gypsy” violin, pay him because they feel it is worth it and perhaps they feel it is part of their education as artists. All artists make choices based upon inspiration and what brings them joy.

Be well



June 17, 2005 at 06:16 PM · That's insightful information and you're a valuable resource.

June 17, 2005 at 06:34 PM · Hi,

for example, try

there is everything on Hungarian music.

This is gipsy, and traditional Hungarian, Romanian and Gipsy music.

All summer long in Hungary and Romania (Transylvania) there are dance and muscic workshops.

Prices are around 250 Euro (about $ 300)

You can learn all about the music overthere!!


go to the right side: nyari taborok.

to listen to the music, activate the media player on the right top side.

if you need more info, send me an email;

June 17, 2005 at 09:05 PM · Have fun!

November 30, 2010 at 02:53 PM ·

Hi there ! It has been a while since the beguining of this post, but, does anyone have more information about having lessons with Anghel Gheorghe of Taraf de Haidouks? I'm going to romania in a few months and i really want to have lessons there, if not with Anghel with someone as good ! Anyone can help me? Thanks !

November 30, 2010 at 05:29 PM ·

Laura, I see you're based in Birmingham, UK, so you may be interested in Chris Haigh's website  Chris plays a lot of Eastern European fiddle music (I know, I went to one of his workshops when he visited Bristol a couple of years ago), and is very knowledgeable about the genre. Chris, along with others, is running the annual London Fiddle Convention on Sunday 20th February 2011 at Cecil Sharp House in Regents Park; full details on This event would be ideal for making connections.

May I recommend Pete Cooper's "Eastern European Fiddle Tunes" (a book of 80 traditional pieces for violin from Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and the Klezmer tradition).  It is published by Schott (ED 12886, and ISBN 978-1-902455-89-1). The book has detailed notes about the various Eastern European music genres and comes with a CD of the music played by London-based Pete Cooper. My teacher, who is herself very much into EE fiddle music, uses this book as a source when we like to have a change from Suzuki. 


June 20, 2015 at 10:22 PM · Laura,

I have been to two Tcha Limberger lessons at Djangofest Northwest. To me, the ultimate experience would be a week of lessons at his home in Brussels: RESIDENTIAL WORKSHOP & PRIVATE TUITION – HELD IN A VILLAGE NEAR ATH JUST OUTSIDE OF BRUSSELS


Requirements. Reasonable knowledge of your instrument and the courage to learn by ear.

Held over three days 10h00 – 17h00 divided into two sessions


200 € for the workshop

100 € for the accommodation and vegetarian food



120 € for one day teaching divided into sessions of 2 hours each.

30 € for the accommodation and vegetarian food.


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