Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Makes a Fiddle (Violin) Left-handed?

Or maybe the question should be, "Can I just switch the strings around on a fiddle to make it left-handed"?  The answer to that question is no, and there are some very good reasons why:

Interior Construction - Every fiddle has a bass bar that is part of the internal construction of the top of the instrument.  On some cheaper instruments, the bass bar is actually carved into the top of the fiddle.  All good quality instruments (and even most student quality instruments) have a bass bar that is a separate piece of wood that is fitted to the top of the fiddle and glued in place.  The bass bar provides strength to the top of the instrument, and it also helps bring out a good, low end (tone quality) to the instrument.  The bass bar is on the side of the fiddle that has the low strings on it (G & D).  If you switch the strings around, the strength provided to the top of the instrument will be on the wrong side, and this will also negatively affect the tone quality of the instrument.  Both of these things could be ignored and, as a general rule, would not cause the fiddle any physical harm to the instrument.

The sound post is a major factor in how a fiddle sounds when it is played.  This is the little stick of wood that looks like a dowel rod on the E string side of the inside of the fiddle.  It is not glued into place, but is positioned with a special tool to sit right behind the bridge opposite the bass bar.  You can't change the positioning of either the bass bar or the soundpost without changing the positioning of the other, and since the bass bar is glued into place, this would not be an easy (or economical) thing to change.


(Click on the picture to make it larger)

Angle of the Fingerboard - The neck and fingerboard of a fiddle should be tilted slightly towards the E string side of the instrument.  This angle (tilt) creates a better bow arm position and less bow arm fatigue.  Can you get used to it differently? Yes, in theory you could.

In this picture, I actually took two pictures, one of each side of the same fiddle, and then pasted them facing each other so you can see how the E-string side of the neck is slightly smaller (lower) than the G-string side.

(Click on the picture to make it larger.)

The next picture shows how the E-string side of the fingerboard is lower (closer) to the top than the G-string side.

(Click on the picture to make it larger.)

Positioning of the Pegs - A true, left-handed fiddle will have the pegs drilled opposite.  Changing the strings around without refitting the pegs may cause several different issues.  For one, the peg closest to the fingerboard may interfere with hand position.  (This depends upon how large your hands are and the exact positioning of your hand on the neck of the fiddle.)  The second issue is the angle of the strings coming off the pegs and going across the nut.  Strings may rub on other pegs in the pegbox, or the angle could cause premature string breakage at the peg or nut.  Since the pegs are fitted on a taper, you cannot just switch them around.  The peg holes have to be bushed (filled in and redrilled).  




So why am I telling you all this?  Because many unscrupulous sellers (especially on places like E-Bay) will try to sell you a "left-handed" fiddle that is not truly left-handed.  Unless you have the correct knowledge, you will not know any better and will end up with something that is hard to play and doesn't sound good.

If you haven't learned to play yet, let me encourage you to learn to play right-handed.  Please take the time to read my other blog entry about left-handed people learning to play right-handed:  Left-handed or Right-handed?  There is no replacement for a great start!




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Instructional Jam and Backyard Pickers Play at New Athens Home

One of the things I try to do regularly with my jam groups and family bands is to have them play for the local nursing home.  With the instructional jams, we work on the tunes for several months, and then everyone volunteers for breaks and for singing the lead on the vocals.  At that point, we are just about ready to perform.  We practice for several more sessions, and then I will set the concert date.  You have no idea what this means to the residents at the New Athens Home!  I regularly get song requests and am asked, "When are you coming back"? every time we play there.  I've even been asked for pictures of the performing group!

You may think you are too nervous to perform for anyone, or maybe you think you are not good enough.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  These folks LOVE the music!  They sing along, clap, and banter back and forth with us.  I always have jokes to tell, and they even appreciate my bad jokes!  I've been told that we made their day, that we brightened their day, and that they had been waiting for us all day!  This is such a great opportunity for everyone.

What do my students get from it?  Not only do they get the performance experience, but they have a goal.  They know what to work on, when they are going to perform, and they often have very specific questions about what they are playing and how to play it.  They learn to sing harmony and lead, they learn the chords to the songs they are playing, they learn how to go from backup to lead playing, they learn jam etiquette, and so much more!

We played for the residents of the New Athens Home for the Aged last night, and they had a special treat because one of our family bands performed a song as well, and it included two Irish dancing sisters and tin whistles!

I hope you will consider sharing your talents, and I hope you will enjoy the pictures!


 
 



Friday, March 3, 2017

The Bluegrass Shack 2017 Jam Schedule

Every other Tuesday night we have an acoustic jam session that is free and open to the public. You can come to play, sing, or just listen and it is free. Jam session is from 7:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. There will be players of all levels and we will pass the microphone.

Our public jam is open to all levels of players, but we do ask that you are able to perform certain basic things, like keeping the beat, tuning your instrument, and knowing basic jamming etiquette.  If you are a true beginner and don't have any or much jamming experience, you may want to attend our Beginner's Instructional Jams as an alternative to our Open Jam.   You can get more information by calling or e-mailing The Bluegrass Shack.

Here is a list of the dates we will be having the jam.  If for some reason we need to cancel a jam, we will remove it from this list and post on Facebook.  You are always welcome to call to confirm.  We hope you'll come join us!

Jan. 10, 11
Feb. 7, 21
Mar.  7, 21
Apr. 4, 18
May 2, 16, 30
June 13, 27
July 11, 25
Aug. 8, 22
Sept. 5, 19
Oct. 3, 17, 31
Nov. 14, 28
Dec. 12

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Chris' 2017 Private Lesson Schedule

Chris will not be teaching private lessons on the following dates.  Please note that group lessons WILL be taught unless it specifically mentions no group lessons on the date.

January - Only teaching Jan. 4&5 - No lessons until February
February Teaching all days
March 6, 7, 8, 9
April 10, 11, 12, 13
May 15, 16, 17, 18
June 19, 20, 21, 22
July 10, 11, 12, 13
August 14, 15, 16, 17
September 18, 19, 20, 21
October 23, 24, 25, 26
November 22, 23, 27, 28
December 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28 (No group lessons)
January (2018) 1, 2 (No group lessons)