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Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?

clansfolk 09 Jul 01 - 10:06 AM
GUEST 09 Jul 01 - 07:02 PM
clansfolk 09 Jul 01 - 07:27 PM
Clinton Hammond 09 Jul 01 - 07:38 PM
bill\sables 09 Jul 01 - 07:42 PM
Murray MacLeod 09 Jul 01 - 08:08 PM
wysiwyg 09 Jul 01 - 08:38 PM
Lin in Kansas 09 Jul 01 - 09:40 PM
GUEST,petr 09 Jul 01 - 10:04 PM
Malcolm Douglas 09 Jul 01 - 10:28 PM
Lin in Kansas 10 Jul 01 - 12:01 AM
Sorcha 10 Jul 01 - 12:09 AM
GUEST,Lisa 10 Jul 01 - 03:57 AM
Orac 10 Jul 01 - 09:43 AM
Bob Bolton 10 Jul 01 - 09:53 AM
Hardiman the Fiddler 10 Jul 01 - 11:47 AM
Louisa 10 Jul 01 - 11:54 AM
Art Thieme 10 Jul 01 - 12:12 PM
clansfolk 10 Jul 01 - 03:00 PM
Art Thieme 10 Jul 01 - 09:32 PM
GUEST,Lyle 10 Jul 01 - 10:09 PM
Rick Fielding 10 Jul 01 - 10:30 PM
clansfolk 13 Jul 01 - 08:17 AM
The Shambles 12 Aug 01 - 06:21 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Aug 01 - 07:19 AM
Clinton Hammond 12 Aug 01 - 01:49 PM
GUEST,jsarts 18 Jan 09 - 07:55 PM
MaineDog 18 Jan 09 - 08:05 PM
Stringsinger 19 Jan 09 - 02:26 PM
Will Fly 19 Jan 09 - 02:53 PM
The Sandman 19 Jan 09 - 04:14 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 19 Jan 09 - 04:32 PM
The Sandman 19 Jan 09 - 05:41 PM
cobber 19 Jan 09 - 09:09 PM
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Subject: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: clansfolk
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 10:06 AM

Hi,

I'm thinking of getting a fretted fiddle or having one made/altered

Has anyone had/got one who can share their experiences with me - advice me of makers/person who would fret one for me?

Points to bare in mind - I think I would prefer an electric model, and I like in the UK.....

Any help advice would be great......

Pete


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 07:02 PM

Hi,

Is there any particular reason why you want to fret a fiddle ? I started out musical life as a piano/guitar/bass guitar player and gradually moved to fretless bass and fiddle. I find the attraction of the fiddle is its fretlessness (along with the bow dynamic). Anyway, don't let me stop you going for it.

Good luck.

Ian S


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: clansfolk
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 07:27 PM

Ian,

I have played the fiddle on and off for too many years - mainly being off, I find on occasion everything is right then at other times nothing is right - I play banjo guitar mandolin plus most other stringed instruments with several bands and I would like to add the odd fiddle tune - I have no trouble with the bow and fingering other than I find I'm off slightly at times..... I know I should put the time in to learn the instrument proper but - have little time left over - and I'm getting on a bit - old dogs new tricks etc..... I just fancy having a go with a fretted fiddle to see if it would add the sound I want without the inconsistency my playing has at the moment! I also heard one being played at a festival we were playing and was very impressed having had a "mess" thought it could be for me - and was wondering what the "pit falls" are.......

So thought I'd throw it in the Mudcat pond for comments.....

I also "cheat" with a midi guitar! but it does give a different flavour to the overall sound and cut down on the amount of gear I have to drag along to gigs!!!!

Thanks for the interest.....

Pete


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 07:38 PM

a fretted fiddle?

Ya... it's called a mandolin... enjoy!

;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: bill\sables
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 07:42 PM

Pete, it sounds interesting what you are trying to do, You could try Terry Docherty the luthier from Ashington Northumberland. He makes outstanding freted instruments and has also made fiddles, I'm sure he could fret an old fiddle to try it out. I will PM you with his email address
cheers Bill


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 08:08 PM

Isn't the whole point of the traditional fiddle (or viola or cello) the fact that it can actually be played in tune, unlike a guitar or a mandolin? Putting frets on it would destroy the whole raison d'etre, IMHO.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 08:38 PM

Be sure you get fine tuners on all the strings if you go fretly, so you can tune easily to others you are playing with, since you can't micro-adjust pitch by fingering.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Lin in Kansas
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 09:40 PM


John In Remote Kansas (JIRK) on LIK's cookie

I have not seen a successful fretted fiddle, but that doesn't mean they haven't been built. A couple of "little laws of musical physics" suggest that this may be more difficult to do than we might expect.
Most plucked instruments use relatively high string tension, to get a good resonance - sustain from the string. A rough rule of thumb is that the string should be at about 80 percent of the yield stress of the core wire. Since a fiddle doesn't need "sustain" - the bow can put in as much power as needed, fiddles (and banjos) are sometimes called (in friendly tones) "slack-string" instruments. Compare the pressure needed to fret a guitar or mando string with what it takes to finger a fiddle.
Since the string is at a lower tension, it is "more stretchy," and fingering it at different positions will cause a much larger percentage change in tension - depending on the position along the string.
Variations in the "stretch" effect as you move along the fingerboard is one of the reasons for "compensating bridges" on nearly all mandos, and most good guitars. "Compensating" a bridge as tall as is found on most fiddles would seem to present some real technical difficulties - and any compensation built into the bridge would probably only be good for a particular kind/set of strings. Without compensation, or with the wrong compensation, it would seem likely that you would produce an instrument that is always out of tune - no matter how accurately you tune the open string.
While classic banjos were once nearly always unfretted, the more modern ones usually have frets, so the problem can apparently be approaced - we know that no one ever accused a banjo player of being out of tune! Your luthier might want to look at a few banjo designs, as examples of an instrument that does exist in both fretted and fretless forms, and in traditional instruments uses a "slack" string more comparable to a fiddle string; but note that the banjo strings are (compared to a fiddle) very close to the fingerboard.
I seem to recall a fretted "fiddle" used in Norwegian/French(?) ethnic music, but I believe that the purpose here was to permit addition of multiple "drone" strings - and the instrument was limited to very particular style(s) of music. I believe one showed up on the PBS "Antiques Road Show" some months ago, although I don't recall that the "appraiser" really knew much about it.

Sounds like an interesting project. Do let us know if you proceed - or if you find knowledgeable advice (as opposed to mine).

John


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 10:04 PM

i would think that fretted fiddles would be viols which were a different family of stringed instruments that looked something like the violin but were gradually replaced when the Italian violin became popular in the 17th century. They had frets, and a sloping shoulder rather like the bass which by the way is the last descendant (so to speak) of the viol family.

The movie Tout les matins du Monde (all the mornings of the world) featured this instrument although it was the cello version.

anyway Im not an expert by any means. Petr


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 10:28 PM

There have been plenty of bowed fretted instruments, but as John suggested, many of them were specifically limited in both scale and compass, often, as he said, to accommodate drones.  Viols and similar instruments were frequently fretted, but often those frets were moveable gut loops, and usually only occupied the lower part of the fingerboard; the higher part being unfretted to permit accurate intonation.  I believe that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull had a fiddle fitted with frets, and he certainly claimed to have recorded "violin" parts on some of their records (Life's a Long Song comes to mind) which sounded pretty convincing.  To my mind, frets would be rather limiting, but that's no reason not to try it, and it could work very well with an electric.  Seriously, though, I'd fret only up to the fifth on each string; anything beyond that would probably be unlikely to give useful results.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Lin in Kansas
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 12:01 AM


John In Remote Kansas (JIRK) on LIK's cookie

I see that Malcolm Douglas beat me back with the comment that most early fretted-bowed instruments used gut frets. The gut was simply wrapped around the neck, usually while wet, and allowed to dry in place. Reports were that players spent a lot of time "adjusting their guts," but these reports come from modern players trying to recreate ancient music.
This suggests that you might be able to apply temporary frets to your violin, using something like large gauge fishline, or perhaps very small electrical tie-wraps, to get a feel for whether this is really something that will work for you. If you only fret for first position fingerings, the lumps on the back side of the neck shouldn't affect playing much, since the hand stays pretty much in one place.
If you have a nice fiddle, I'd avoid putting wet animal flesh on it, and would be careful about leaving anything in place for too long, since almost any "crack" can attract moisture, finger oil, etc that could damage the finish. Repairs to the finish are one of the most difficult (and expensive) things you can do to a good fiddle.
If you decide that you like the results from temporary "frets," fingerboard removal and replacement is a pretty standard maintenance/repair procedure. You could save the original fingerboard and have a new "fretted" one made. Of course, if you have a "good" fiddle, there is always a risk when you bust things apart.

John


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Sorcha
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 12:09 AM

I saw one once on TV played in a Mariachi band. My thought was, "Why bother?"

For me the appeal of a fiddle is in the "fretless-ness"--I can get a LOT more notes and slides than a fretted instrument. I can "bend" notes easier than a fretted player, and I can make weird sounds like Alley Cats, or Ghost Riders..........

If you don't like mandolins, check out mandolas and ocatave mandolins..........to me, at least, a "fretted fiddle" is an oxymoron.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: GUEST,Lisa
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 03:57 AM

I once got a chance to play a fretted fiddle, and I absolutely hated it. (Fiddle is my primary instrument.) I *like* that fiddle don't have frets! But another problem was the fact that the thing was too darned heavy in the neck. You'd have to use your left hand to hold it up, and well, then you couldn't get your fingers to move properly. I don't know. It was an interesting experiment, and an interesting instrument, but my advice to you would be to simply get a real fiddle. It's not all *that* difficult to learn where your fingers ought to go. Plus how are you gonna make a blue note? (Like "C supernatural", for instance?)


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Orac
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 09:43 AM

If any of you have seen Tanglefoot from Canada (And they are not to be missed) ... Joe plays an 8 string fretted fiddle just for one number. Its obviously a pig of a thing to play and I'm sure he only uses it as a novelty.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 09:53 AM

G'day Clansfolk,

I'm right outside my instrumental expertise here, but commercially made 'fretted' violins were quite common. I have seen a couple of old "Manby" patent ones - which have indented, rather than raised, frets ... about 2 mm wide and less than 1 mm deep.

The instruments are otherwise standard violins and have normal strings, tension, bowing characteristics &c. My friend, who played one for some time, eventually put is aside - in favour of a nice fiddle in the Guanarius style (but that's another story). He didn't mind the frets much - except when he wanted a nice glissando.

Historically, most Manby fiddles ended up with new - fretless - fingerboards when their owners became confident without the 'frets' and skillful enough to need the techniques allowed by a fretless fiddle.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Hardiman the Fiddler
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 11:47 AM

I'm seldom here these days, but your post caught my eye. Clansfolk, why would you want to fret a fiddle?

Many fiddlers, when they are starting out use a thin strip of electrical tape which they traditionally place at the E position the F sharp position and the G position on the D string, to use as a guide. Eventually we get to the point where we realize that we don't need the tape, so we gleefully remove it. I agree with the above posts that suggest that frets would hamper your ability to slide and to do many of the ornaments that are frequently a part of the fiddler's craft.

A mandolin is tuned the same way as a fiddle, so another fiddler's trick is to use a mandolin to perfect the fingering. The challenge with this is that you will have learned the song perfectly well, but you have to relearn it for the fiddle, while you are figuring out the bowing patterns.

Happy fiddling

Hardiman


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Louisa
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 11:54 AM

I'm a fiddle player and I've never seen a fretted fiddle, and would imagine it would make the neck heavy. The tape is a good idea. I have to say that I would quite like a fretless mandolin cos if you ask me the darn things just get in the way!

Louisa


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 12:12 PM

Gordon Bok plays a "cellamba"---a fretted cello. Results vary. It can be quite impressive used sparingly on recordings.

But a fiddle is another can of frets. I doubt you'd have much room between frets. (And playing an F chord (let alone augmented and diminished)-- whew, that's tough enough on a guitar. ;-)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: clansfolk
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 03:00 PM

Wow......

I won't go further into why I want try a fretted fiddle as I did this in my second posting.....

But thanks to all that have put their options forward - re mandolin I already play mandolin - but they don't bow very well :-) and re learning fingering as you exert pressure between two notes allowing the fret to pick the right note I would think this would aid you to play "out of tune" on the fiddle as you would play flat all the time?

re. slides I would be looking for more on the style of low "jumbo" style frets and presume like on other fretted instruments less pressure on the strings would allow a slide that was virtually above the frets and give a more even slide

As a banjo player who has played both fretted and unfretted banjos must admit the style varies quiet a lot but both have their own charms - and the frets certainly were a "God send" when playing bluegrass runs

I have a "few" fiddles (both electric and acoustic) which I mess on and feel a fretted fiddle would be fun if nothing else (especially if I could MIDI it!!!) I hope this doesn't upset too many real "violin players" out there - maybe if it was renamed it would be more legitimate???

I also have and use on stage a Q-chord (previously the omnichord) which is basically an electric string less auto harp..... which also has a niche in our playing.

I am aware of one builder of 6 string fretted fiddle builders in the states Woods which have had very complimentary remarks made... but a) the price is very high and b) I'm a long way away from the states - I will try the chap in Bills reply and see what he advises...

keep the observations coming they are all very helpful

Pete


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 09:32 PM

Well, it's something to fret about I guess.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: GUEST,Lyle
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 10:09 PM

Certainly this is a let down after Art, but to see some "different?" fretted violins, go here:

http://www.woodviolins.com/wvhp.html

Anyone played one of these??

Lyle


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 10:30 PM

Hi Pete.

I used a fretted fiddle for over a year, and eventually got tired of it. The benefits are that your noting (especially in the upper register, or with double stops) may be a bit truer, but not being able to slide at all is a complete drag.

Just one of a thousand little weird tricks I've tried. Some work, some don't, but they're fascinating to try. If you go ahead with it though, you have to raise the action a bit, and I suggest tying gut (from a violin string) around the neck the way the viols were done.

Have fun

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: clansfolk
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 08:17 AM

Art - I'll bow to your experience and stop worrying!

Pete


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: The Shambles
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 06:21 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 07:19 AM

"Indented, rather than raised, frets" - that's an interesting idea. Presumably you press on the fret rather than just below. Has it been tried on any other instruments, and if so how does it work? I can imagine it might be quite effective on a banjo, or a dulcimer.

Hurdy gurdies are a bit different from fiddles obviously, but they are in effect continuously bowed instruments with the equivalent of frets (ie quantum leaps between consecutive notes rather than any option of sliding through the intermediate notes), and they can sound pretty good.


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Subject: Fretted Fiddles And Ian Anderson
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 01:49 PM

MD... et al.

By way of clarification, because I'm a little picky about such things... I can find no indication that Ian Anderson has ever played fiddle, fretted or otherwise, on any of J.T's albums... And certainly not on Life's A Long Song...

back to your fretting now...

;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: GUEST,jsarts
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 07:55 PM

For the best of all worlds.

Here is a commercial stick on fret set for the fiddle. Its cheap, it works and when you have the time to practice your scales you can take it off

http://www.frettedfiddle.com/


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: MaineDog
Date: 18 Jan 09 - 08:05 PM

I have seen beginning students paint frets on with nail polish (?) as an aid to learning where the fingers should go. Or You could tie them on, you know, as pieces of string or gut in the right places. Eventually, if you do well, you will learn that you are better off without them.

MD, (the perennial very low intermediate fiddle student}


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 02:26 PM

In some instances I can see the advantage of fretted fiddles. Mark Wood, maker and performer makes them for his electric models.

There are reasons to use fretless and fretted basses so why not fiddles as well?

The fiddle is one of the hardest instruments to play because it requires hours of practice to get the notes in tune. For those who transfer their skills from mandolin or guitar, the fretted fiddle can help get quicker responses in intonation.

The biggest drawback I can think of is the tone production which may be affected by the frets.

Being purist about the fiddle makes no sense. It's an expressive instrument capable of lots of different musical styles and this would affect the choice to go fret or fretless.

If the goal is to master intricate melodic lines quickly, I would think that the fretted fiddle would make sense.

In limiting the instrument, an analogy would be not wanting the guitar to be anything but played in a classical style with nylon strings and held between the legs.

I think if a person started with a fretted fiddle and then if needed could graduate to fretless when the fingers have memorized their positions on the board. Painting fret positions on the board rely on visual rather than tactile approaches, not the fastest way to learn. Muscle memory is the chief ingredient to learning an instrument.

Mark Wood uses his fretted electric instruments to play rock lines ala rock guitar.

It depends on the style, the player and the approach to music.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 02:53 PM

I'm just picking up the fiddle after years of playing mandolin. The mandolin playing has certainly helped me in the violin fingering - and I've resisted the temptation to mark the fingerboard in any way.

Strangely enough, I find I get more accurate intonation by NOT looking at the fingerboard at all, but doing it all entirely by feel. But it does take some mastering! Luckily, I learned some viola at school (over 50 years ago, admittedly), so the actual bowing action isn't too bad.

Practice, lad... practice... that's what I tell myself.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 04:14 PM

if you have to, put little white marking tape,but really you need to develop your ear, dont look but listen if you are out
The whole point about the fiddle is that you can play quarter notes if you want to.,you can play beteen f nat and f sharp.
Stringsinger, it is not a question of memorising your positions,its a question of adjusting quickly if youre out of tune,its aquestion of developing your ear,listening[not watching,not trying to do it by measurement],then correcting.
It is also aquestion of temperaments,fretted instruments are generally in equal temperament,a fiddle being fretless,can play in bothe equal temperament and mean temperament,therefore it is more versatile,start sticking frets on it,and youare limiting it to equal temperament.
lastly many fiddlers do not just stick in first position,if they wish to change position,they slide up,most fiddlers would find frets an encumbrance,because they are used to sliding to a new position without being impeded by frets.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 04:32 PM

There is a company that sells a "stick on" fretted fingerboard for violins to help beginners culivate correct finger positioning.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 05:41 PM

There is a company that sells a "stick on" fretted fingerboard for violins to help beginners culivate correct finger positioning.[quote]
firstly the fiddler has to learn how to tune,the best way to do this is to LISTEN to a note/sound,fidlers are much better off without strips but just listening,preferably playing along with a fixed note instrument,or with another fiddler who plays in tune
stick ons do not develop the ear,much better to blindfold the fiddler,and get him to play slowly,with a fixed note instrument. preferably long notes guessing whether he is sharp or flat, adjusting and developing his her ear.ITS ABOUT LISTENING.


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Subject: RE: Help: Fretted Fiddles - any experience?
From: cobber
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 09:09 PM

I still play one of the old Manby fretted violins that Bob Bolton talks about. I play it because I like the sound rather than the fact that it has frets, plus it makes people look. As Bob said it has grooves where the frets are and was originally (1920s) made for learning on. One fiddle maker told me the tone would improve if I had a different fingerboard fitted but I like it. As for the frets, I don't notice them when I'm playing and I don't have any problems with glissando. You can feel the groove if you want to which helps learners but you can just ignore it if you wish and slide right over the grooves. Incidentally, I was told that in the 1920s the Manby company was the biggest violin making company in the world having factories in Melbourne, London and I think Paris and New York. They made orchestra grade fiddles as well. Does anyone know much about them?


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