Running into this on a piece I'm currently working on, which runs 16ths about 120 and then throws in some triple 16ths. I can play them by practicing slow, and then unit-chunking my muscle memory, but somewhere between 110- 120 I lose the ability to intentionally control the individual notes (bow or finger) bc I literally cannot process at that speed.
Is this common? Is it trainable? Or work-aroundable? I'd love to hear your experience and/or advice!Tweet
So--chunking practice--agree! Separating bow and finger work-agree, and yesterday I had a really effective session honing in my bow proportions on a slow metronome.
I think what Paul and Buri are referring to is what seems to be eluding me. I need to be able to listen "from out further" and hear the beat and structure as a whole, and I can, but I expect to still be able to hear (audiate) the clarity and detail within and that's what I lose at a certain speed. It feels like not being able to see the leaves across the parking lot when I take my glasses off. Maybe I'm overthinking?
Experiment with hair ribbon angle and hair tightness as well as location on the hair length and stand-off distance (bow height). Down bow is easier, but developing up bow as well would really pay off.
The other issues with fast sequences are dealt with above - but they often require a reasonable fast memorization of the sequence. I find it helpful to also spend time on the music - listening to the passage and singing it (aloud or in your head). That way (it feels as if) your fingers will drive the sequence and not your brain.
In Irish fiddle music, the ornamentation involves notes that occur extremely fast, and if you try to hold the individual notes in your mind, you will be unable to play the phrase properly. I did an experiment when I was in grad school (as a composer). I wrote a string quartet that used traditional Irish phrasing, bowing, and ornamentation. I worked these elements until I could write absolutely every detail (including changes in bow speed, etc) into the music. I wanted to see if virtuoso players, given an exact notation in the music, could deliver an authentic sound. No, they couldn't. Even when I demonstrated how to play, say, a slow roll--they couldn't match what I could do. Obviously, they would have had to work on it, as I had to do when I learned it. As I explained at the time, knowing how to speak French doesn't mean you can speak Arabic.
So, for ornamentation in fiddle music, I would suggest that you step away from the idea of hearing each note, and think of these things as gestures. This is not unlike Buri's suggestion, where you eventually experience the passage as a single gesture, but you do have to start very slow because, if this is fiddle ornamentation, there will be a few things that you are being asked to do that you may not have done before.
When I teach Irish fiddle, the first ornament I teach is the "cut", which was the first ornament I was taught. It's a grace note, basically, but you don't push the string down, you just touch it as you increase your bow speed. It should "pop." It doesn't actually produce the note you would get if you pushed the string down--it's percussive and there's a harmonic in there...Different styles are different, but the way I was taught was that the way you cut an open string is with the second finger, the first and second fingers are cut by the third finger, and the third finger is cut by the fourth finger. Of course there are exceptions, but that's the standard. There should be no. tension. whatsoever. in your left hand when you do this. Better to practice super-slow and have no tension. Some Irish players will do this with a bit of a circular motion of the cutting finger. Think of it as a little flick.
When you can cut every note in first position, then you can confront triplets, of which there are many types. There are triplets played within a single bow stroke and "bowed" triplets, either a single pitch repeated three times, or different notes. Though this is called a triplet, a bowed triplet it isn't really a triplet. The rhythm is two 1/32s and a 16th. The bowed triplets are the hardest ornament, IMO, because the movements should really be mainly in your right hand-and-fingers, not your arm. The famous Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham told me that he learned to do this (and honestly, Scottish/Cape Breton fiddlers are the absolute masters of this ornament) by sitting sideways on a chair without arms and locking his right arm on the chair back so that he HAD to do the ornament only with his wrist and fingers. You will start this super slow getting each note (begin with a super-light bow touch--don't dig in), but you are headed for a "BRRT" sound that, when I do it, I experience it as a single thing. My favorite exercise for this is not from fiddle music, but towards the end of the Biber solo passacaglia, there are a few variations that feature this ornament (apologies--I am a fiddler only playing baroque music seriously for a decade or so, and I am not sure this is exactly how this passage was played, but it's how I do it, and it is a great exercise).
The triplets and three-note graces done in a single bow stroke are of course easier, and while you chip away on the bowed triplet, these will give you more immediate gratification. The lightest possible touch on the string, but this time you really stop the strings. Irish fiddlers will often say that exact intonation on these ornaments may not be all that important, since they are mainly rhythmic and go by so fast, but... mea culpa, I generally try to get it in tune. Anyway, all this talk of triplets is meant to end up focusing on the triplet you would play within a single bow stroke, with the main note and the note one step lower... say, E on the D string and the open D. Practice speeding up the bow as you play it. It doesn't pop like the cut, but does get a little louder as it goes--"eeyAWL" or something.
Now, the roll. There are several versions, but I will explain the standard slow roll on the D string first-finger E (it will use the triplet I just mentioned) There are two ways I have had this explained to me and they are both correct, and different ways to conceive of a roll. Basically, a roll is what in classical music is called a "turn," but if you try to play it as a turn it will sound awful, because classical players want to put their fingers down. I know several players who have not humbled themselves to learn this correctly, and they simply cannot play the ornament fast/light enough. Don't be that player.
The way I was taught to play a roll was that it's a cut, followed by a triplet, all in one bow stroke that speeds up. Keep in mind that when I play a roll, often it is on a whim, improvised in the moment. I don't experience each note, I just... play a roll. "Bree-AW"--just an instant. So, you start on the E, cut with your third finger about where a G would be (rolls are almost always like this with the fingering for the top note obeying the rules of cuts), and then play the E-D-E triplet. Important point--I *barely* lift my finger in this triplet. It is not a triplet with three distinct pitches, it's like "ee-yah-ee". The whole roll should "pop" like the cut. The other explanation for how to play a roll that I liked was Kevin Burke's, whose touch in Irish fiddling is worth studying, IMO. I was a complete Kevin Burke fan boy when I was in Dublin in 1979, following him and Micheal as they worked up their repertoire, playing at Tailor's Hall (I think it was) every week, trying to steal everything Kevin was doing. He would describe a roll as five notes, each one getting faster--that helps you understand the bow pressure/speed, which increases as you execute the ornament. I will say that if you watch his left hand though, it is still a cut plus a triplet.
Sorry for the novel, but if you want to play this music, IMO it is worth the effort to learn the language. Cheers!
FWIW the performance did go really well--my chunking and slow practice paid off, and I think we ended up closer to 110 than 120 which helps! :) But re: my original issue of hearing, I had a bit of a "moment" and think I've figured it out!
I have a tendency to default my "head audio" to my vocal voice. (I didn't realize this until my 20's and yes, you can imagine it affected my playing!) I'm pretty intentional, now, about audiating my violin in my classical playing, but for this group (church worship) I often learn or create my parts while driving and do a lot of it vocally...So...if you can imagine, I was trying to audiate these crazy fast fiddle figures in my singing voice. It's not a blur, it's a smudge! The moment I changed voice and started audiating it as a violinist--it came into focus. Yes, it is too fast to individually process every note BUT it is all there, the content of the figure is intact.
I did feel a bit of a ditz when I figured that out... :)
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