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Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?

Suegorgeous 01 Mar 09 - 05:23 PM
Nick 01 Mar 09 - 05:51 PM
peregrina 01 Mar 09 - 05:57 PM
Nick 01 Mar 09 - 05:59 PM
greg stephens 01 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM
Louie Roy 01 Mar 09 - 06:27 PM
GUEST,Green 01 Mar 09 - 06:42 PM
Artful Codger 01 Mar 09 - 09:36 PM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Mar 09 - 01:09 AM
GUEST,Johnmc 02 Mar 09 - 10:39 AM
The Villan 02 Mar 09 - 11:26 AM
Goose Gander 02 Mar 09 - 11:54 AM
JohnB 02 Mar 09 - 12:35 PM
Jim Lad 02 Mar 09 - 12:59 PM
Jim Lad 02 Mar 09 - 01:03 PM
Suegorgeous 02 Mar 09 - 05:27 PM
Tootler 02 Mar 09 - 06:26 PM
Jim Lad 02 Mar 09 - 06:31 PM
Nick 02 Mar 09 - 07:47 PM
Nick 02 Mar 09 - 08:07 PM
wysiwyg 02 Mar 09 - 09:45 PM
Jim Lad 02 Mar 09 - 10:13 PM
michaelr 02 Mar 09 - 10:18 PM
Artful Codger 03 Mar 09 - 01:05 AM
Artful Codger 03 Mar 09 - 01:46 AM
GUEST 03 Mar 09 - 04:25 AM
GUEST,strad 03 Mar 09 - 06:41 AM
Jim Lad 03 Mar 09 - 11:45 AM
Nick 03 Mar 09 - 12:49 PM
The Villan 03 Mar 09 - 05:15 PM
Tootler 03 Mar 09 - 07:47 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 04 Mar 09 - 02:15 AM
pavane 04 Mar 09 - 02:25 AM
Suegorgeous 04 Mar 09 - 05:43 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Mar 09 - 10:51 AM
matt milton 04 Mar 09 - 05:36 PM
michaelr 04 Mar 09 - 06:45 PM
Jack Campin 04 Mar 09 - 06:45 PM
Jess A 05 Mar 09 - 09:30 AM
GUEST,JM 05 Mar 09 - 09:50 AM
michaelr 05 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM
Suegorgeous 05 Mar 09 - 07:51 PM
Jack Campin 05 Mar 09 - 08:53 PM
matt milton 06 Mar 09 - 03:03 AM
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Subject: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 05:23 PM

I've started working with a fiddle player - me singing, she accompanying. Some songs are working, some aren't. (One thing we've quickly discovered, for example, is that the fiddle can overpower (I don't mean in volume) the voice if played (even as a drone) throughout the song, so we're experimenting with using bits of fiddle-playing scattered through.)

Has anyone else tried this duo combination? or are there any well-known duos I can listen to?

Do you have examples of songs that work well arranged like this?

Can you give me hints for how to arrange songs for voice and fiddle?

Many thanks!


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Nick
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 05:51 PM

You might check out Tom McConville. He accompanies himself on a fiddle and sings if I remember right from when I saw him. I know he's not two people but you can always pretend )or cross your eyes and watch both of him).


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: peregrina
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 05:57 PM

Or you can hear him on a couple of tracks on Janet Russell's wonderful recent CD, amazing how subtle and expressive the fiddle is, adding something unique but without ever overpowering.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Nick
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 05:59 PM

Has Janet another CD? I have several of her others so must look out for that.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM

For info on the excellent Janet Russell CD, try this clickie


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Louie Roy
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 06:27 PM

There are many Fiddlers but there are only a few backup Fiddlers. If your Fiddler isn't a backup Fiddler then you will alway have this problem


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST,Green
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 06:42 PM

If your fiddler can play the parts that would be sung as vocal harmony and if the two of you can hear (and agree) on the parts that would be harmonized and the parts that would be solo, the two of you will probably start to be able to Hear (presuming you're playing by ear?) her part.

LouieRoy is right, some fiddlers just don't have the knack for doing backup.

If you can get a happy balance, I bet both of you will have a lot of fun with it.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 01 Mar 09 - 09:36 PM

Listen to Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy on their duo albums, But Two Came By and Both Ears and the Tail. Also Dave backing up Peter Bellamy in The Transports.

There are so many excellent examples of fiddle accompaniment to vocals I'm almost surprised at the question. Even when fiddle plays as part of a band back-up, you can get lots of ideas by just concentrating on what the fiddle is doing--in many cases, it would provide a sufficient accompaniment by its lonesome, with only a bit more fleshing out.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 01:09 AM

Are you a soprano, Sue? If so, try having the fiddle tuned as low as a fiddle goes, so there is less competition for the same notes.

Another thought is to use a percussive, Cajun-style accompaniment (ram ram-da ram ramda ram). This gets tiresome after a while, but then, everything gets tiresome after a while.

You can get ideas from recordings, but you have no idea how much sound engineering went into them. (For example, a voice can be recorded over itself to make it seem richer and more powerful than it actually is.) Actual humans may or may not be able to do what a recording does.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST,Johnmc
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 10:39 AM

My son finds it helpful to have the chord progression written out so that he can make up a part.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: The Villan
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 11:26 AM

I don't know if this will help, but I have a very high regard for the band called Real Time and the way they bring in the instruments including some lovely fiddle playing. Do have a listen.

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=89784346

Oh and that Judy Dinning has such a lovely voice. I have them booked at Faldingworth Live on May 16th and just cannot wait.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 11:54 AM

I was just listening to Uncle Charlie Osbourne (June Appal Recordings), who fiddles and sings on several tracks. Lots of other fiddlers have done the same - sometimes songs like Old Joe Clark, sometimes ballads like Omie Wise. Erynn Marshall, a fine fiddler in her own right, wrote extensively about the playing of song airs on fiddles in Music in the Air Somewhere (West Virginia University Press, 2007). Usually, as I have heard it done, the fiddle and the voice accompany each other in unison rather than harmony.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: JohnB
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 12:35 PM

Listen to Barry Dransfield(also the Dransfields), Nancy Kerr, Eliza Carthy and John Boden for some good ideas.
JohnB.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 12:59 PM

Brenda plays along with me and is extremely adept at coming in and out with the fiddle without taking over.
Go to this address and listen to her on "The Mountains of Mourne" or "The Roads and Miles to Dundee" for examples.
It's an art in itself and not all musicians are comfortable sitting out part of the song.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 01:03 PM

Erryn Marshall played the accompaniment on my first CD by the way.
She is a good friend and my favourite fiddler.
She accompanied me on "Peter Kagan and the Wind".
Entirely off the cuff, one take and heard me do the piece only once, right before she did her part.
Just saw her name mentioned up there.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 05:27 PM

Thanks so much to you all so far. Just to say - I've asked this question as a non-instrumentalist, and a beginner at arranging music/songs with others (including creating harmonies) - which is why I asked for advice here. I'm enjoying the challenge though!

Nick/Peregrina/Greg - thanks for the Tom McC tip. Have just ordered the Janet Russell cd, I love her singing in any case, so a good excuse! would also love to hear Tom McC playing and singing on his own, but can't find him doing anything solo on Youtube - anyone have any links?

Louey/Green - on that level it's working fantastically, and we're indeed having fun! one of the things we're experimenting with is fiddle playing harmony, though one issue might be that at the moment I mostly sing the songs quite freeform (because I've developed them acapella). So it may be that I will have to adapt and sing them more rhythmically for harmonising to work.

Leeneia - I'm really an alto.

Artful/Villan/Jim - thanks for links to some great music/musicians - but I'm really looking for music that's ONLY fiddle and voice, as to me, the dynamics/options/arrangement would radically change if we had other instrumentalists, especially guitar, and I probably wouldn't be asking this question. (I'm assuming that Martin C and Dave S aren't just using fiddle and voice, but also Martin's guitar? tell me if I'm wrong).

Artful - would much appreciate it if you could tell me your "many excellent examples of fiddle accompaniment to vocals"? that's one of the things I'm asking for! :)

JohnB - great, I'll give those a listen - and you've just reminded me that I do in fact have a track of Nancy doing precisely this! thanks.


Any more ideas very welcome!


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Tootler
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 06:26 PM

Bella Hardy accompanies herself on her fiddle. When I saw her she was mainly playing a drone which became a bit monotonous, but I imagine she has developed her technique somewhat since then as it was about 3 years ago.

Can you get your fiddler to try some double stopping - you can then get a more chordal accompaniment. Also how about playing pizzicato for a more subtle effect. I remember seeing one fiddler - I can't remember who now - turn his fiddle round and play it like a guitar when accompanying a song.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 06:31 PM

I have a few tracks with just me and the fiddle.
It didn't really change the dynamics that much, if at all.
Which really leaves it up to the both of you to figure out.
Play around with it and see what works for you.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Nick
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 07:47 PM

Jim - I listened to the Mountains of Mourne and it was lovely but it wasn't a solo voice and fiddle. I know lots of fiddle and accompanying instrument(s) AND voice.

Which begs another question of Sue...

If you hitch up with JUST a fiddler you must have in your head what you want otherwise you would have gone for a more traditional (not as in Traditional as in music) line up.

I happen to love unaccompanied Bach Violin music but it is delightful in being sparse (and the guitar side of me fills in the bits unnecessarily in my head).

I would guess that it's a very very hard thing to accompany a voice with a fiddle unless you are used to doing it. If you are used to doing it then you'd know how.

I'd guess that you would want your fiddler to sometimes play unison; sometimes play harmony; sometimes play chords/dyads; sometimes pizzicato; sometimes bow roots; sometimes elsewhere; somtimes fill the gaps and sometimes leave the spaces. AND keep the interest of the audience without getting in your way.

Bloody difficult.

Hard to do on a piano. Hard to do on a guitar.

And the singing has to be wonderful too! :)


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Nick
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 08:07 PM

I've always liked Fairport and a couple of things came to mind - John Gaude (but lots of extra instruments come in) or pick out Dave Swarbricks fiddle part on Matty Groves. I'd guess if your fiddler is of that standard and with that level of creativity you will have no problem.s


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 09:45 PM

On point: http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=63818

Sort of related: http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=42910

Fiddle bleu: http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=52155

~S~


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 10:13 PM

"Has anyone else tried this duo combination?"
Yes

"Do you have examples of songs that work well arranged like this?"
Yes


"Can you give me hints for how to arrange songs for voice and fiddle?"
I tried.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: michaelr
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 10:18 PM

I see a big problem here which is that the violin and the female voice occupy almost exactly the same musical spectrum (talking about pitch here). I don't know of any acts that use only this combination, and am not sure I'd want to listen to it.

I respectfully suggest adding an instrument that a. can give you lower pitches and b. can work as a rhythm instrument, such as... hmm... let's see...







a guitar!


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 01:05 AM

I suggested Carthy and Swarbrick precisely because, on quite a few numbers, Carthy didn't play guitar; it would just be his voice and Dave's fiddle.

Another example: "Poor Soldier", sung by Ginny Hawker with fiddle accompaniment (by Tracy Schwarz?) on the compilation Mountain Journey. Even though she sings ad libitum, he accompanies her in near unison while droning with either the tonic or fifth. His unison playing sometimes lags slightly behind her lead (understandably), but it works beautifully.

What sort of songs do you want to sing with the fiddler, and in a traditional or modern style? Who sings the same kind of material or in a similar style?


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 01:46 AM

michaelr: So, by your logic, men shouldn't be accompanied by guitar or banjo, either, due to the common range? And fiddle isn't suitable for rhythm playing, despite the strong rhythmic drive it imparts in both Irish music and bluegrass? Take off your musical blinders.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 04:25 AM

If you are ever lucky enough to play with a fiddler who understands Bluegrass, all you have to say is, "Just play Chucks and fills"
The fiddler will then give you a rhythm accompaniment on low, often double stopped strings (on the off beat, using short staccato bow strokes) and melodic ornamentations and musical comments at the ends of the lines and the gaps between the verses.
What more could you want? A good player will get it perfect on the first take, and there is no competition between fiddle and vocals.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST,strad
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 06:41 AM

A set of octave strings will drop the fiddle sound so it doesn't clash with the singer. Good vibrations for the player, too.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 11:45 AM

"A good player will get it perfect on the first take, and there is no competition between fiddle and vocals."
That's been my experience.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Nick
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 12:49 PM

Seth Lakeman does it quite a lot in an energetic sort of a way too


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: The Villan
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 05:15 PM

Seth Lakeman does it standing up


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Tootler
Date: 03 Mar 09 - 07:47 PM

to michaelr

If what you say is the case, then how is it that Bella Hardy and Liza Carthy seem to manage?

I must admit I have only seen brief clips on TV of Liza Carthy accompanying herself but I have seen Bella Hardy on stage and I didn't think that the pitch range of the instrument and voice caused a problem - the different timbres saw to that. My real criticism was she relied too much on a drone accompaniment and it became a little monotonous after a bit. It was a while back and I am sure she has come on since then.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 02:15 AM

You might note, how fiddler, Mairead Nesbitt, and vocalist, Lisa Kelly, double violin to voice, perfectly on the held notes!! Also, note Lisa singing to only drums. This, is truly an excellent performance!!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfO6JpR5Ip8&feature=related


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: pavane
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 02:25 AM

If you can find it, listen to Nic Jones singing "Edward", accompanying himself on fiddle (from his first or second vinyl album, not sure which). From memory, he uses what is basically a pentatonic tune


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 05:43 AM

Tootler - you can see Bella here


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 10:51 AM

Hello, strad. I'm not a fiddler, but I'm curious. What are octave strings? Can they actually drop the pitch a full octave? If so that's amazing.

Do you know of anywhere to hear octave strings on the web?
=======
In my opinion, the clip of Bella is a good example of the problem. I can't understand a word she is singing.

Also, her voice is hard and thin. This makes a good contrast with her husky fiddle, but who wants to sing every note hard and thin?


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: matt milton
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 05:36 PM

I have always enjoyed and admired the way the fiddle parts work on the Mississippi Sheiks stuff. They were a duo, and they had an acoustic guitar as well. But the fiddle played up when it needed to, and played discretely when it didn't . If you don't already know their stuff, buy one of the many compilation CDs there are out there. It's great stuff anyway, especially if you're into country blues. The fiddle echoes the moaning, sobbing style of the singer beautifully.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: michaelr
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 06:45 PM

I looked at that clip of the Bella girl. Not what I'd want to listen to.

What I was saying (apparently not too clearly) is that the violin's range of pitch matches that of the female voice and, I dare say, that's what it was developed to do. It doesn't do rhythm too well, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Mar 09 - 06:45 PM

Bruce Molsky - he's recorded quite a bit of himself singing with his own fiddle accompaniment, but nothing much on YouTube.

Zoltan Altal from Transylvania (actually not that far removed from Molsky's style, considering):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O03gEqyLWw


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jess A
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 09:30 AM

re: octave strings on normal fiddles - yes this is essentially putting much heavier strings on which play a whole octave below the normal pitch of a fiddle. It can work... and it can not work. Depends a lot on the natural resonance of the instrument itself - I've heard octave violins that sound thin, fuzzy, and quiet, which as far as I know is all down to the size of the airspace that is vibrating (that being the reason why cello bodies are as large as they are). You can get purpose built octave fiddles which have the same scale length as a normal fiddle but have deeper bodies and thicker ribs. A fairly modern invention, and again, some work better than others imho.

re: fiddle accompaniment of songs in general, something I have done a bit of myself with or without other instruments... at any one time I tend to choose either to be doing something rhythmic and chordal, to add texture and fullness of sound, or doing something harmonic which is almost treating the fiddle as a second voice. Either way the primary focus HAS to be supporting the song and whatever I try to add by way of drama, texture, and fullness of sound needs to not dominate or take over. Often difficult to tell from the inside whether this is working or not and recording of practices is a very useful tool. As rules of thumb I'd say when starting out, less is more. But too little can be dull and pointless... it's often just a question of keeping experimenting. Another tip - analyse what other accompaniments that you like are doing - no matter what instrument they are on. Think about what the accompaniment is adding - and how it is doing it. Then see if you can produce a similar effect on the fiddle.

Michaelr - you're saying that you don't think the fiddle 'does rhythm too well'? I'd be tempted to say 'lots of fiddle players don't do rhythm too well' instead. The fiddle is an extremely flexible instrument and can be played in a very rhythmic way. It's just that lots of players either don't try to or aren't too good at it.

Lastly, I'd definitely second all of JohnB's suggestions (Barry Dransfield, Nancy Kerr, Eliza Carthy and John Boden). I am constantly blown away by what Nancy does with her fiddle as an accompanying instrument - even more impressive in that she's often accompanying her own singing. Not sure if there is any footage on youtube but if you can find a video of her doing 'Dance to your Daddy' you'll probably see what I mean.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: GUEST,JM
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 09:50 AM

I was incredibly impressed by Jenny Thomas at Sidmouth a few years back. Just her voice and a violin singing and playing into a single mic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnTfg88t0sE
http://www.myspace.com/jennymthomas

There isn't a limit to what can be done, but it takes a bit of imagination and intuition for harmony.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: michaelr
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM

Of course the fiddle can be played rhythmically, but it's not the instrument best suited to that.


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 07:51 PM

Thanks again to all so far - this is fantastically helpful! gives us much to work with.

Artful - we're doing trad (English, Irish, Scottish) songs, including Wind that shakes the barley, Black is the colour, etc, plus one or two of mine. So definitely in the vein of Martin, Bella, Nancy and Eliza, though on the whole our songs are on the slow side. I really enjoyed that clip of Jenny Thomas too.

Leeneia - puzzles me that you can't hear what Bella sings - I can hear practically every word. Must be the accent!?

Sue


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Mar 09 - 08:53 PM

Anyone in the UK or who can fake it - go to Radio 3's "Listen Again" for tonight's "Late Junction".

It ended with an extraordinary version of the mediaeval Norse poem "Draumkvedet", a solo voice with the accompaniment added later. Mostly it was a slowly changing drone on folk winds with subtle electronic sounds. A lot of it could have been done on the fiddle, if you'd thought of it.

I missed the beginning but just stood stock-still in the hallway listening for ten minutes. The most amazing thing I've heard on the radio for months.

Info from the Radio 3 site:

Berit Opheim Versto (voice) & Karl Seglem (goat horn, electronics): Draumkvedet
Album: Draumkvedet
NORCD 0978


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Subject: RE: Singer & fiddler - how to arrange?
From: matt milton
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 03:03 AM

"Of course the fiddle can be played rhythmically, but it's not the instrument best suited to that"

Well of course the instruments that "best suited" to playing rhythmically are drums and percussion. But I'd put the fiddle quite a long way up the list. I mean, gypsy jazz fiddle, bluegrass fiddle, klezmer fiddle?! How much more "rhythmic" d'you wanna get? I think Stephane Grapelli would have raised his eyebrows at that statement.


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