Fiddle Hell (that's a title, not an expletive)

October 7, 2020, 11:21 AM · For those of you who enjoy a plethora of musical styles, I’d like to recommend an online festival called Fiddle Hell. From November 5th through the 8th – a time when our current reality may be truly tested – you can participate in 160 workshops, 35 concerts, and 34 jams via Zoom. Now, obviously you can’t do all of that during one weekend, so they are making all of this available online for three months. Take a look at and see if it’s something you’ll enjoy.

Replies (13)

October 8, 2020, 2:10 PM · Sounds fun, but I'll need to stop wiping the rosin off my violin now if I want it to have enough buildup by November.
October 8, 2020, 5:31 PM ·

And...10% discount for over 65, too bad you gonna miss out on that Paul.

October 8, 2020, 5:59 PM · Dang! That's okay I got my upper-middle-class stimulus check.
Edited: October 9, 2020, 7:21 AM · As soon as registration was available, I signed up. For the past six years it has been a rewarding & fun way for me to learn a variety of styles with skilled teachers. The biggest task is to pace yourself as there is opportunity to learn or jam until the wee hours of the morning. It has always been a very well-run set of workshops bringing teachers from all over the US, Canada, and other countries.

There is something for every skill level and the quality of teaching is superb. Interestingly enough, quite a few of friends I have met there also play in classical orchestras or chamber groups but also find the variety of rep delightful and the development of memorizing skills a huge benefit.

Returning to violin & fiddle late in life - and now 75 - it is also a great way to easily get in hours of non-stressful playing on my instrument. And, instead of folks asking "what piece are you on?" to determine your "level," they start up a tune, folks join in, and if you don't know it you can learn it on the spot. Pure joy - no stress. My favorites are the Quebecois, Swedish, and Eastern European tune

October 9, 2020, 7:26 AM · Whenever I see rosin on someone's fiddle I feel an urge to wipe it off. I wipe my bow and top and strings every half hour if I can.
October 9, 2020, 8:11 AM · Um, that whole finish-destroying habit of leaving rosin to build up on violins/fiddles is not practiced by all folk musicians. We respect our instruments, keep them cleaned, have luthiers to maintain them, pay for good strings - and I even keep mine in a Musafia case. My instrument doesn't get treated any differently whether I am playing folk music or classical.

Personally, I don't know what point is being made by folk musicians who allow and seem to love that build-up, but is a bit presumptive to think that it is a standard or common thing in all the folk music world. Some of the loveliest instruments I have seen or been allowed to play were at Fiddle Hell and Ashokan.

And, what is even more wonderful is that most people attending folk camps are playing just for the joy and challenge of it and don't require performance nor an audience. Just sayin'.

October 10, 2020, 5:58 AM · I think that some people view that build-up of rosin as proof of how much they play. And for some they may view it as a continuation of a tradition that may have started among untrained fiddlers who didn't know any better but who played well and had followers who tried to learn from them and thought that the rosin buildup was part of "the sound."

Along with those who let the rosin build up are those who play with broken/loose hair on their bows -- rather than cut off a strand of hair when it gets loose or breaks, they let it fly around as they play as if it's part of "the show." Or possibly they view it as an indication of how much and how hard they play.

But I agree with Jane Rose, most of the fiddlers I've seen (many at the Lowell, MA, Folk Festival) or played with, they value their instruments greatly and take great care of them, wiping off anything that might harm the instruments, such as rosin or sweat from their hands. Many fiddlers couldn't afford to get another violin as wonderful as the one they play so they take as much care as a concert soloist does.

October 10, 2020, 9:52 AM · It really sounds fun!
Edited: October 10, 2020, 11:59 AM · Jane Rose wrote, "And, instead of folks asking "what piece are you on?" to determine your "level," they start up a tune, folks join in, and if you don't know it you can learn it on the spot."

I'll note that Fiddle Hell still classifies players by level. Practically every fiddle tradition in the world has some form of general hierarchy of what easy, intermediate and advanced tunes are, too. The etiquette for these camps seems to be "go to the level that you think you're at, and if it's too easy/hard, try another class and/or the instructor will suggest that you try a different level."

It's very hard to instruct for a general level. People don't ask about level of playing to be snobbish. They do it to get a context for what a player is or isn't likely to be able to do.

Fiddlers seem to base their level classifications on a combination of some measure of technical command of the violin, plus familiarity with the particular style in question.

October 10, 2020, 12:40 PM · You are right, Lydia. Going to a workshop at the right instruction level is important, and most folks do the correct self-selecting. Some FH jams give a level (as well as common tune list) so one can find a sweet spot of participation.

My unintentionally snobby comment, which I appologize for as probably inappropriate, references many of the comments here about concern about what piece/book of a series one is in as a competitive thing.
As is regularly pointed out here to students saying they are playing X, the quality of the playing is more important than the piece or where in the book one is. These comparisons are less common because of the nature of the gatherings, but inappropriate competitiveness exist everywhere.

For me, these types of camps have allowed me to get in many hours of playing with others that until recently was unavailable for me with classical studies. The ear training and endless arpeggio training within many tunes makes for sweet familiarity with the instrument. Now I live where I access to an excellent classical teacher, a community orchestra at my level, and quartet/small group opportunities as well as multiple genres of welcoming folk music groups.

At my age, adding skills and improving technique is a slower, steeper path so opportunities to just play and make music with others is valued highly.

Edited: October 10, 2020, 12:55 PM · "They start up a tune, folks join in, and if you don't know it you can learn it on the spot."

My experience is that people who started playing music as adults with traditional instruction and who are maybe willing to give fiddling a try will be turned away by any such expectation of "learning it on the spot" entirely by ear, with no notes to look at.

Of course it depends on your native aptitude for playing by ear. In my area (southwestern Virginia, which is known for fiddling and old-time music generally), there are fiddle jams that are open to people bringing fake books and fiddle jams where its "no sheet music" and not much accommodation if you can't learn it on the fly at full tempo. (All the regulars know hundreds if not thousands of tunes, even if they're fairly mediocre violin players.)

The best kind of learn-by-ear situations are where the person leading the tune first actually goes slowly and teaches it to you phrase by phrase until, say, 75% of everyone's got it (you can't wait for absolutely everyone because invariably there will be someone with a tin ear who just cannot learn it). Examples of workshops that I've done where tunes have been taught this way have been led by Amy Cann and April Verch -- those were great experiences.

Edited: October 10, 2020, 1:57 PM · Yes, Paul, the classes/workshops are taught bit by bit at varying levels and no one is just left to figure it out. I meant that for casual gathering or jams. April Verch is an excellent teacher and since you had her, you know the drill. In a workshop nobody is expected to jump off a cliff. Sorry if I implied that for workshops/classes. The only time I have heard classical violinists break out an play together out-of-the-blue was with the Bach double. (smiley face)

Incidentally, the very first time I went to a workshop of this kind, it was very intimidating even though the instructor was doing very slow and careful, patient instruction as you described. Learning by ear was like jumping off a cliff for me. Now, the joy of learning new tunes by ear - on the fly in a jam - or using "dots" - is unending fun.

My explanations and details have not been expressed as clearly as they ought and I apologize for taking away positivity from the original post by Michael Kennedy inviting folks to try Fiddle Hell.

(no sarcasm-smiley)You could just tell me to go to Hell, and I will in November! (smiley face-happy stuff)

Edited: October 11, 2020, 8:11 AM · LOL! It does sound like a fun clinic.

And Jane, if you do go to Hell, I will surely see you there. :)

By the way, I grew up about an hour from Hell. And our friend David Burgess ... he's even closer. :)

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