> Does anybody out there have any advice to give to a fiddle player just
> switching over to fiddle from classical violin?
I was a retired violinist (actually, a refugee from classical music, couldn't
stand all those people telling me which direction to bow and waving sticks
at me) when I joined an Irish music band. My first piece of advice is,
starting right now make yourself memorize every piece of music you play,
and as soon as possible switch over from written music to learning by ear.
Classical training is so strong that it overwhelms ear cues. If you see
eighth notes, you will play perfect eighth notes, ignoring the ear evidence
that the traditional players almost never do anything exactly evenly. You
will not learn the subtleties of pitches (especially thirds, which are often
neither minor nor major, but something in between), slides, etc. Perhaps
the most appalling mistake we classical players make in crossing over is
taking written ornaments literally. They never sound right that way.
Get yourself a Marantz tape deck, which will play cassettes back at half-
speed so you can really LISTEN for bowing and ornamentation. You will be
tempted to write it all out and read it off the chart, but you'll save
yourself a lot of time in the long run (time spent un-learning the stiff
classical way) if you just force your ear to do the work now.
Play with folks who learned by ear, if you can. It is hard to stop thinking
that you (the classically trained) are doing it the RIGHT way, but if you
automatically give THEM the benefit of the doubt, you will start to hear the
ways they've got something you don't.
The worst legacy of a classical education is the stiffness. Improvisation is
verboten in that world: every time you play a piece, you have to play all the
same notes in the same order. Lots of people who learn trad music by reading
it do the same thing, so if they play a tune five times they play it the
same way each time. But real trad players don't do that. There's an interesting
book of Willy Clancy transcriptions that contains several different takes on
some of the tunes, and the editor comments that he could have continued to
do more and more. One transcription of one trad player doing one tune one
time is like a snapshot: the living person goes on to grow and change, while
the picture remains frozen.