Welcome to the Fiddle Studio Podcast featuring tunes and stories from the world of traditional music and fiddling. I'm Megan Beller, and today I'm bringing you a setting of Sí Bheag Sí Mór from a session at the Bru House in Dublin, Ireland.
Hello, everyone, I hope you're well. Today I'm going to be talking about Fiddle Camp. I just got home from the fiddle camp that I started way back when I was just out of college in Rochester, New York. It's at the Kanack School of Music. I brought my younger two kids to Fiddle Camp for the very first time. They have some experience with fiddling, but they haven't played a lot in groups. So it's very interesting to watch them.
They went to camp every day, and they were learning fiddle tunes. From their perspective, they learned some cool tunes, they met some fun people. And that's kind of what they got out of Fiddle Camp. But as a fiddler and a fiddle teacher, I was watching them and wondering what they were going to get out of it. I noticed sort of from an outside perspective, some of the things they were learning that weren't just the fiddle tunes.
I wanted to share that with you, because a lot of people think about going to a fiddle Camp and wonder what they might get out of it. And if you think you're just going to learn a couple of new tunes, well, you can do that on your own with YouTube. But there are so many more things you can get out of going to a music camp. So here's what I saw.
The first thing is they were hearing fiddle music all day long. This seems to be expected. Since it's Fiddle Camp, you're hearing a lot of fiddle music, but it's really a lot more fiddle music than they normally hear. Maybe they hear me practice a little bit, they might hear their father play a CD in the car, they might play a tune to themselves, but to be hearing it all day long really gets the sound and the style of fiddling into your ear.
In hearing these tunes all the time, they were for one thing, learning the tune. Not just learning to play tunes, but they're also memorizing and hearing those tunes that they were learning and a lot of other tunes to that they now have in their memory, whether it's their short term memory, their long term memory. They have so many more tunes that they've been exposed to, and that they've heard a lot.
In addition to getting used to all the different fiddle tunes, they've also gotten a lot of experience now with the form, the form of fiddle tunes playing the A part, repeating, playing the B part, repeating. it takes a little while before people are very comfortable with that form. I'll notice that a student doesn't really have the form yet when they'll play a tune, and they'll just play one B part and then stop. And they're not looking at me like "Oh, should I do the repeat?" they just thought the tune was over there. And they don't have a sense of oh, there's something missing here. The tune's not complete until I play the B part.
Again, just being someplace where you're hearing fiddle tunes all day. And always with the proper form A part, repeat, B part, repeat, you're really getting the form ingrained in you to where you aren't going to just play an A part and forget the repeat. At least not every time, you're gonna get that repeat in there because the tune will sound kind of too short without it.
Another skill is the skill of jumping in. Jumping in is so important to musicianship. So that's when other people are playing. And then instead of starting with them exactly at the beginning of the tune, like 'one, two, ready, go', and everyone starts, they've already started playing. And then you need to jump in to match what they're doing kind of right in the middle of the fiddle tune. It's very hard to learn when you're all by yourself. You can try with recordings, but it's just not the same as having a lot of experience playing with people who aren't waiting for you.
So it's not your teacher. I probably do this too much where I stop and wait for a student because I do think it's important for people to have time mentally to think through where they are in the tune. But at a camp, they're just going to keep going and you're going to have to jump in. And then if you fall off, you're gonna have to jump in again, keep getting on that wagon.
When you're jamming a lot, not just going to a jam on Thursday night, but every day multiple jams. You'll have a lot of exposure to noodling, which is what I call it when you don't know the tune or you only know it a little bit. Have your fiddle up on your shoulder and you're trying to pick out a few notes. And if the tune gets repeated, you get to pick out hopefully a few more notes every time. I encourage people to noodle especially when I'm leading a jam, that's a beginner jam or a slow jam. I'll kind of explain what it is and say it's totally fine to do this.
If you don't know the tune at all maybe don't play as loud as you can while you're trying to get it. But if you want to quietly noodle along, that's highly encouraged. I love to noodle it jams it definitely depends on how tired I am and how much familiarity I have with the tune. If it's the beginning of the night, I might be noodling along on everything I don't know. By the end of the night, a very notey real comes up, I'm much more likely to just put my fiddle down and drink my beer and enjoy the experience.
Hearing the chords played, and the steady beat of an accompaniment is also a really big asset for going to a camp, we normally don't play with accompaniment at home. In my fiddle lessons, I try to accompany my students every week, it's not a big part of the lesson. If you go to a camp where there's accompaniment several times a day or throughout the camp, you'll really be hearing the rhythm and the timing of the tunes. How a jig sounds and feels different from a real and how a waltz sounds and feels different from an air that's in four. And you'll get a sense of that because you'll be hearing the accompaniment.
Also just for playing in tune, hearing the chords behind it or how the notes line up with the key. I find that students play much better in tune when they're hearing the chords. And when they've heard them enough that they internalize the key. They have a sense of the resting tone. They have a sense of the dominant tone in the background of when they're playing they're hearing the tonality, and it's really going to help you play in tune.
The whole immersion experience, I think is why people find going away to camp to be very moving. When you talk to people about their experiences at Pinewoods or Ashokan. Even the kids who have come to my camp, just a little day fiddling camp for many years. They'll say things like 'this was life changing. It was magical. It was amazing.' I think that really speaks to all of the things you learn just beyond a few new tunes. So go to camp. Plan on it for next year.
Our tune today is from the same Irish session I've been pulling from from, that Bru House session. I have this waltz and two more tunes. So this waltz is called Sí Bheag Sí Mhór. It's a very famous Irish waltz in D. It was composed by the blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan, the years I have are 1672-1738.
O'Carolan played for many years as a harpist before beginning to compose tunes and ended up composing a whole repertoire of fiddle tunes and dance music in traditional Irish style. The story about Sí Bheag Sí Mhór is that it was his first attempt at composition. His teacher said it's time for you to start making up your own tunes, sent him home. He wrote this waltz, which is a beautiful waltz. The title could be big hill, little hill or even big fairy Hill little fairy Hill.
Charley and I are going to play it here for you.I hope you enjoy it.
Hey, thanks so much for listening. You can head over to fiddlestudio.com for the sheet music to this and all of the tunes I teach. I'll be back next time with another tune for you have a wonderful day.