Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Learning Irish Fiddle With Dale Russ

I can play Irish fiddle ornaments effortlessly, naturally, it seems, but it wasn't so in the beginning. I had lots of help from Dale Russ.
Ornaments, the extra little grace notes, help to create Irish fiddle's charm and distinctive style. An example is a quick note above the main note,  then returning to the main note. In classical music the violinist clearly delineates all three notes, but Irish fiddle ornaments, called a cut in this case, are more rhythmic than sounded. The ornamenting finger brushes across the string rather than playing it firmly.
I love those little touches, and I learned them by studying Dale Russ's "Basic Irish Fiddle" on videotape when I began playing Celtic music in 1990. I studied his finger movement in slow motion and practiced those ornaments slowly to develop the necessary coordination. In concert with this study I listened to tapes of Irish fiddling to understand the placement of ornaments within the main note. It's a series of notes that can't be precisely notated, and depends on the player's understanding of the music.
If I had grown up in a Celtic fiddle tradition I would have had that sound in my head from youth, but I did not so I had to embed the style in my brain. I was playing in a community orchestra when I found Celtic music, and after a year those ornaments began inadvertently entering my classical playing. Knowing which way the wind was blowing -- a decidedly Gaelic gale, it was -- I left the orchestra and committed myself to the traditional music I had long sought.
Dale's tape was sold through Lark in the Morning, and my friend Tom had loaned it to me. Dale now offers online lessons through Peghead Nation at I recommend his clear teaching and playing style for the person wanting to learn Irish fiddle.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.