Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fiddle Tutorial - The Irish Washerwoman

Free online fiddle tutorial - learn an Irish jig, the Irish Washerwoman

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fiddle experts visit Skokie

FiddleImage by grepsy via FlickrRachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer aren’t just fiddlin’ around with their music.

They’re serious, committed young musicians, living in Nashville, and immersed in performing, writing, and exploring a wide range of folk and related styles, from traditional and bluegrass, to folk-rock, swing, and progressive. They are multi-instrumentalists but concentrate their music on the fiddle, and both recently switched to playing the more advanced 5-string fiddle.

Baiman and Sedelmyer perform Jan. 7 at the Ethical Humanist Society in Skokie for its Second Saturday Coffeehouse series hosted by Vicki Elberfeld. Special musical guest will be Matt Brown.

Baiman, 21, is an Oak Park native, and began playing violin at age four, learning to read music traditionally, but also using Suzuki books. She grew up involved with fiddle contests, music camps, and workshops, and has studied with Mike Casey, Jeff Midkiff, and, most recently, Matt Combs at Vanderbilt University, where Baiman is a student majoring in anthropology and music. Baiman is also part of the Nashville-based progressive folk quartet, Rockin’ Acoustic Circus.

Folk roots

Her evolving musical path began early, Baiman explained. “In the past, I’ve always been really focused on and influenced by music that has a built-in role for an acoustic fiddle. The first music that I fell in love with was old-time and bluegrass fiddle music. However, my parents always listened to a lot of folk singers, and some of my earliest memories involve being huddled up in a tent at some random folk festival in the pouring rain.”

It’s drier these days, she added. “Since moving to Nashville and hanging out with a lot of different musicians, I’m sort of being re-exposed to the folk and folk-rock traditions. I think my current musical choices really reflect this return to the idea of a great song, and songwriting, but obviously I’m still completely obsessed with the fiddle, so there is a lot of that there too.”

Sedelmyer, 27, a native of Erie, Pa., grew up exposed to the music of the ’60s and ’70s, artists like Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Neil Young, among many others, and was involved in bands in high school and college. But he didn’t originally plan on a career in music, and earned a degree in Business Management at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

But he recognizes the value of his education as applied to his current pursuits. “I think studying business management in college taught me conceptually about how to think strategically and always keep a bigger picture in mind. That said, I gained most of the knowledge I have now about the music business playing and touring with The Farewell Drifters,” he said.

“As an equal partner in a nationally touring band that ran the strategic elements of the business almost entirely on its own, we learned how to manage all of the necessary components, creating original music, booking, promotion, distribution, merchandising, and financial management to keep the wheels turning.”

Working together

Baiman, who met Sedelmyer at a jam session in Nashville, said the duo aims for a “full sound.”

“We both have instinctual ideas about how to play a tune or a song, and luckily they tend to be different
and complementary, but there is still the issue of making sure somebody is fulfilling the rhythmic and melodic aspects at all times,” she said.

“Usually, our instincts are telling us to play the fiddle like a fiddle, but in this case, we have to think about playing the fiddle like a mandolin or a banjo. We will listen back to a song and find places where the groove drops out or it’s just getting too repetitive, and through the process of ‘fixing’ these issues, we usually come up with our best ideas. Singing is also a challenge, as the fiddle is a physically difficult instrument to sing with.”

The upcoming show in Skokie will be focused on American folk music.

“We’re going to play a blend of American folk music utilizing primarily two 5-string fiddles and vocal harmonies,” said Sedelmyer. “We’ll play original instrumental compositions, old-time, bluegrass and folk music, re-defined and orchestrated through the sonic landscapes of two fiddles. The multi-talented Matt Brown will also perform on claw-hammer banjo, guitar, fiddle, and vocals.”

Fiddle experts visit Skokie - Lincolnwood Review

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stradivarius may be bit of a fiddle at more than $1m, say researchers

The front view image of the Antonio Stradivari...Image via WikipediaTHE reputation of the most expensive and revered violins in the world has taken a battering.

In an experiment, concert violinists were unable to pick out two Stradivarius violins from modern instruments, based on their sound alone. The findings were published this week.

The violins might differ in price by more than $1 million but the virtuoso musos opted for the cheaper, modern versions.

It is potentially bad news for Australian Chamber Orchestra's Satu Vanska, who last year became the custodian of the first Australian-owned Strad. It is even worse news for the lead benefactor of the investment fund that bought the 400-year-old, $1.79 million instrument, the fashion designer Peter Weiss.

A researcher at the University of Paris, Claudia Fritz, asked 21 musicians attending an international violin competition in Indianapolis to play different violins: three modern instruments and three made by Italian master craftsmen - one by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu about 1740, and two made in Antonio Stradivari's workshop about 1700.

Dr Fritz dimmed the lights and passed the violins in random order to the musicians. Each had time to play and rank them on playability, projection, response and ''tone colours'', a measure of the quality of the sound. To mask any telltale aroma from the old instruments, each chinrest was dabbed with perfume.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Fritz and her co-authors said their findings were a ''striking challenge to conventional wisdom''. The violinists mostly preferred new instruments, and overall they were least keen on one of the two Stradivarius instruments. The three old instruments had a combined value of $10 million, 100 times that of the modern violins.

''They are beautiful instruments, but the prices are insane,'' Dr Fritz said. ''It doesn't matter if the violin's old or new; all that matters is whether it's a good violin or a bad violin.''

A violin maker in Victoria, John Ferwerda, agrees. ''It has always been known that not all Stradivarius instruments are preferred by players,'' he said.

As a rule of thumb, Mr Ferwerda said, new instruments ''have a newer sound, a crisp, clear sound, while older instruments have a deeper, more mellow round sound''.

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Stradivarius may be bit of a fiddle at more than $1m, say researchers