Workshop, Study Session and Birthday Cake
Saturday, February 7, 2015
In our continuing effort to learn and play Minnesota fiddle tunes, the Minnesota State Fiddlers Association sponsored a workshop to study the tunes of fiddler Leonard Finseth as recorded by the Lone Valley Stock Farmers band in the Minnesota Fiddle Tunes CD/Tunebook II.
Times: 1:00 - 2:00
Second and Third Position - Fiddlers who are haven't worked with positions, or those who wanted a refresher, came early to work on using third and second position using four tunes in the Leonard Finseth Tune Book (Waltz in A, Reinlender in D #1 and #2, and Old Time Waltz in G)
The following information was provided by Mary Pat Kleven:
* Second position is where you put your first finger (index finger) where your second finger (the bird finger) is usually located.
* Third position is where you put your first finger (index finger) where your third finger (ring finger) is usually located.
Using positions in old time music:
* Most Old Time and Irish music has very little position work (in the Leonard Finseth Tunebook only 4 out of the 19 tunes require using positions)
* The more recent the tune, the more likely it is to use positions
* Most common is the high C and high D on the E string. For example if you want to play “Ashoken Farewell” in the key of D and you want to move up an octave, it necessitates going up and hitting that high D clearly and with confidence.
* Being able to shift positions gives you more crayons in your crayon box – it provides another octave for variations, added interest, for example, being in third position gets you into position to hit the mid-string harmonic on E.
* OK, a word about the size of hands. If you have big hands, you can probably stretch your fourth finger to get the notes you want from first position. However, if your hand is smaller it’s probably necessary to move into second position. This is why a number of ladies will often use second position.
* Moving your hand out of first position improves left hand hold, it requires you to release any “death grip” that you have on the neck of the violin. By necessity you must play looser to shift positions.
* Helps with correct bow position because the higher the left hand position, the closer the bow should be to the bridge. If you play the bow over the fingerboard while moving your left hand into higher positions the string will not vibrate as well. You need to keep your bow in the “Kreisler Highway” (that area midway between the bridge and the fingerboard named for violinist Fritz Kreisler) and apply more pressure when playing in higher positions
* Selection of position and fingerings will vary from fiddler to fiddler – no “right or wrong” answer. There are different reasons besides “Hitting the high note” for shifting into a higher position. Some fiddlers may play third position on the “A” string to avoid playing an open “E” and at the same time avoid a string crossing. Some people have shifted into positions to get different double stops or to keep a consistent bowing pattern.
* Think of shifts into higher positions like “rock climbing” – Plan your ascent instead of jumping up.
There many are different ways to shift:
* Replace finger on repeated note for example 3rd finger in first position with 1st finger in third position.
First and Third Position
* Shift on an open note this gives you time to shift your hand without any slide. (use open as a drone if possible to get proper tuning).
* When shifting into third position use the back shoulder of the fiddle as a reference point.
* Find the best fingering for you, practice over and over to develop muscle memory. Listen to backup to get the right note.
2:00 - 4:30
Leonard Finseth Fiddle Tune Book Study Session - As a group, we went through as many of the nineteen tunes in the Leonard Finseth Fiddle Tune Book as we could. We were joined by three members of the band, Clawhammer Mike Sawyer, (banjo), Ann Patton Larson (accordion) and Bob Dixon (guitar) who recorded all the tunes.
During the session we talked about how, at one time, 90% of European immigrants in Northern Minnesota were Scandinavians, and how Minnesota (and to a degree Wisconsin) fiddle music is essentially Americanized Scandinavian music. Fort Snelling in the 1800's and the WPA projects in the north woods in the 1930's brought Appalachian styles (Slides and double stops) into that Nordic musical world. Leonard Finseth and his music was a cross section of this Nordic/Appalachian combination which is typical of this region.
And no birthday party is complete without birthday cake.
Thank you Carla!