What I've Learned from Fiddle Camps

I owe so much of my musicianship today to the mentorship of the experienced, selfless musicians who have passed on knowledge to me.

My grandparents sent me to all sorts of summer music camps as a teenager. These broadened my perspective and rounded out my skills as a musician.

I’m so excited to be giving back to the fiddle community now as I begin teaching at many of the same camps that gave me my start. In the spirit of gratitude, I thought I would share with you what I have learned at past music camps.

I’ve hyperlinked my free form notes from these events in case you want to get a sense for what you'll learn at fiddle camps.

Creative Strings Workshop

Notes from a Great faculty- Alex Hargreaves, Robert Anderson, Jason Anick, Nicole Yarling

Andy Reiner shares that Chords in bluegrass are open (so thirds can be either minor or major)

He also recommends improvisation practice where you switch back and forth between Melody and two measures of improvisation

Martha Mooke’s Multi Style Strings Symposium

Jeremy Kittel recommends

- Isolate fiddle specific bowings and drill them as you would any lick/scale you are trying to incorporate.

-Reharmonize the i chord with bVI for cool sound

-Chopping and singing is a legitimate solo option

Martha Mooke recommends…

-"Shimmer" effect pedal recreates contemporary pad synth church sound effectively.

-You can use GarageBand, logic, or mainstage to replace pedal boards- go directly from audio interface to computer- computer to amp

-Expression pedals are useful for changing parameters of effects with foot

-Line 6 wireless transmitter is the way to go, freedom to move about the room beats cables any day

Dave Eggar recommends….

-Communicate to singer songwriters, visual, or dance artists with EMOTIONS, not techniques (they don't know what most classical terms mean)

-Fiddle tunes sound great with drums, expand your opportunities as a musician this way

-Pull influences from a variety of genre sources by naming specifically what it is you like about a performance/technique

-Imitate singers with the bow and adjust bow speed to breath

Regina Carter recommends…

-Sing more, include singing along to solos with passive listening (while doing dishes, laundry, etc)

-It is possible to improvise in a harmonically complex situation by singing first - then playing (ear is ahead of instrument)

-Play hard in the string, slightly more loose bow hair, imitate voice

-When working on blues with students, be conversational (practice talking/singing and bowing at the same time. Play like you talk)

-Improvising words and melody to the blues is an excellent comprehensive creative practice.

Creative Strings Workshop Online

Christian Howes recommends that you “Record yourself and make judgements about your musical ideas, separate from your execution of them”

Fiddle Hell

Bluegrass jamming with Tony Watt and Laura Orshaw

  1. Solos often start to left of whoever kicks the song off

  2. Everyone gets one song-

  3. Talk to person next to you about not wanting to solo

  4. Kick off person often gets 2 solos

  5. Orphan chorus- chorus without a verse indicates end of song

  6. Lead singer looks up at end of every chorus

  7. Repeat last two lines

Andy Reiner recommends that you learn solos from people who don’t play your instrument

Rob Flax recommends the Primacy of the Ear book

Darol Anger’s Artist Works Series

Darol Anger recommends learning melody -> Harmonize it -> Follow it loosely

Double stops on the chords

  • Bottom two strings

  • Middle strings

  • Top Strings

Creative Strings Workshop (Ohio)

Christian Howes recommends Harmonize chords to simple tunes without looking them up

Also, there are two blues scales

  • Major and minor pentatonic ->

  • Major and minor blues scale

Strings without Boundaries String Summit

Jeremy Kittel on the Blues: Blues notes are behind b7 and b3 slow slide

Train Sounds with Pattie Hopkins Kinlaw 5th and 7th, or 3rd and fifth, or seventh and 4th

Single shuffle = *low low high high

Double shuffle =*low low high low low high low low high low low high low

Jeremy Kittel on Playing over Changes

Switch to blues scale over V

For half diminished, play DOM a major third below

E Harmonic minor over B7

GYPSY JAZZ with Dwayne Padilla

String based approach to American Jazz

Reimagined american Jazz with string instruments because Django and Stephane

Learning Rock Solos with David Wallace

Transcription under slow speeds is king

Learn the top ten rock solos of all time

Berklee Mark O’Connor Summer String Camp

Billy Contreras and Jason Anick talk the history of jazz and swing…

It Started with the Blues…

Mix of African rhythm, 20th century harmony

Swing- bepob - modern….

Swing era guitar would comp four to a bar

Bass more linear, less arpeggiated

Added chords

Common chord progression IV V I became ii V I

3 and 7 comp and are guide tone

Long tune, short solo section

Bebop era 40-50s

Things got faster

Dance music---> listening, musicians music

More virtuosity

Band would play same stuff during day and bebop in night

Trading started here

Short head and most of the tune improv

Celtic Martin Hayes and Jeremy Kittel

“Feel is so much more important than anything else in this music” It cannot be notated

Singing tunes makes playing them more organic and solidifies them in memory

In Ireland, people didn't have recordings, they had to vocalize them!

Also, people used to have music as a hobby, they would sing them at work

Casey Driessen

Chopping is 50-60 years old

Richard Greene bluegrass fiddle player played with Bill Monroe started chopping

  • Started from him being lazy and throwing down bow to wait for chord

  • Darol Anger learned next

  • Turtle Island String Quartet

To chop

  • Bottom four inches make sure rosined

  • Take good bow hold and then turn hair away

  • Gravity take bow

  • Don't press on bow

  • Violin gets in way of bow

  • Pinky on top of bow

  • Wrist and arm rather than

  • Pivot from forearm and pinky to pivot balance point and push out

  • Playing notes means straight now/chop

Three places to chop

  1. Toward Bridge tighter

  2. Middle

  3. TowardFingerboard


  • bow drags straight toward bridge

  • add a little weight just to get it skipping

  • Flat hair

Bruce Molsky talks the history of old time music

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