Ethnography of Fiddle/Scottish fiddling

Scottish fiddling, even to many an untrained ear, can be distinguished from other Celtic and folk fiddling styles by its particular precision of execution and energy in the delivery. The style has a very large repertoire consisting of a great variation of rhythms and key signatures, arguably more than in related styles such as Irish music. There is also a strong link to the playing of traditional Scottish bagpipes which is better known throughout the world and is a chapter of its own.

Regional styles edit

Shetland edit

A bouncy and lively style with much Norwegian influence. It employs ringing open strings above and below the melody line. There is also some amount of Irish musical influence due to migrant workers and seafarers (fishing and merchant), which lead to influences from Shetland and the rest of Scotland cross pollinating back to Ireland. Particularly to the Donegal fiddle tradition which is more characteristically Scottish in style. This is particularly due to the counties geographic location, and rural isolation to the rest of Ireland as well as its Scottish influence. [1] [2]

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North-East edit

An elegant and classically influenced style with roots in the bothy. The original home of the strathspey, these tunes were played with much staccato and use of the Scots snap, as well as the arrow stroke (also known as the driven bow).

Much can be learned from listening to recordsing of the great fiddlers. These include

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West Coast / Gaelic / Highland Style edit

This style also includes the inner and outer Hebrides and Argyllshire. This region holds plenty of bagpiping influences in its playing. As a result of its piping influence, it places a very high value on the pipe march. It is related to the Cape Breton style of music, the Cape Bretoners having come from the Highlands to Nova Scotia. West coast fiddlers include Angus Grant (Senior), Iain MacFarlane, Eilidh Steel, Archie MacAlistair, Donald Riddle, Allan Henderson, Eilidh Shaw, Duncan Chisholm, Alasdair White.

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Borders edit

A lot of hornpipes and tunes of varied rhythmical emphasis using much double-stopping (ie playing two notes/strings together) often compositions are composed or rearranged to incorporate two or more fiddlers.

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Cape Breton, Nova Scotia edit

Cape Breton musicians promote their music as a style of Scottish music, though some purists argue that Cape Breton is located in Canada, not Scotland, and therefore the style shouldn't be given the same treatments as the others. This music is often accompanied by a piano and has a very apparent dance rhythm, often being complimented with step dancing. Irish immigration to the Americas has also had a substantial influence upon Cape Breton music.

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Scottish fiddling in general edit

Due to migration from rural Scotland to the industrial areas and the rest of the world, many players have returned again over time with certain traditions intact and some evolved through the melding of various styles. This is very apparent in the "central belt" region of Scotland, where two fifths of the population reside. There is a significant influence in this area from immigration from Ireland and the rural areas of Scotland coĩnciding with the rise of industry.

Top fiddlers from Scotland today include Aly Bain, Bruce MacGregor, Duncan Chisholm, John Martin, John McCusker, Chris Stout, Iain MacFarlane, Charlie McKerron, Eilidh Shaw, Eilidh Steel, Douglas Lawrence, Catriona MacDonald, Alasdair White, Aidan O'Rourke, Calum MacKinnon and many more, including a burgeoning number of fine young players.

With mass migration the tradition has been carried with the emigrants (both voluntary and forced migrations) all over the world and "Scottish Trad" is now played around the world. Key performers in the USA include Bonnie Rideout, John Turner, Melinda Crawford, Colyn Fischer, Alasdair Fraser, Hanneke Cassel, Ed Pearlman, and Elke Baker.

Another style worth mentioning is the music of County Donegal, Ireland (just a short boat journey away), which is not strictly Scots but Irish. The accent on the Donegal fiddle tradition is somewhat more akin to the Scots tradition than to the Irish. The historical connection between the west coast of Scotland and Donegal is an ancient one (many shared names) as can be heard in the volume of strathspeys, schottisches, marches, and Donegal's own strong highland piping tradition. (See Donegal fiddle tradition). And, like some Scottish fiddlers (which tends to use a short bow and play in a more straight-ahead fashion), some Donegal fiddlers worked at imitating the sound of the highland pipes. Scotland has influenced Donegal fiddling in various ways. Workers from Donegal would go to Scotland in the summer and bring back Scottish tunes with them; Donegal fiddlers have found some good tunes in Scottish tunebooks and learned from records of Scottish fiddlers like J. Scott Skinner and Mackenzie Murdoch. And fishermen from Donegal have returned from Shetland fisheries with Shetland tunes. [3]

The Scots snap or Scottish snap is a very particular characteristic of much Scottish music. It is generally represented in musical notation by a sixteenth followed by a dotted eighth.

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Modern Day Fiddlers edit

Scots fiddlers:

Cape Breton fiddlers:

American fiddlers:

External links edit