Here’s a fiddle raga performance of Rights Of Man.
Here is a downloadable mp3 for your listening pleasure (so you can listen to this while walking the dog, doing laundry or going to sleep at night):
Performance liner notes
- I’m playing a fiddle strung with viola strings tuned DADA. It’s similar to old-time “saw-mill” tuning, except lower sounding (closer to a viola which starts a whole step lower: CGDA).
- I start by playing long notes and some harmonics. Finding the sound.
- At 0:30 I start to hint at the melody. Still, I free time and taking lots of liberties with timing.
- At 1:04, I play near the bridge (aka ponticello) to get a weird overtone sound that mimics fuzz guitar.
- At 2:18 I start a new A part with a bow dragging technique. It sounds more “classical”. Later in this pass, I add a lot of notes from the scale, aka melodic variation.
- At 3:30 I add some slides to give it a bluesy feel.
- At 3:50 I slid up to F sharp. This lightens the mood a bit. It also seems to add a bluesy feel. Also happens at 4:14.
- Came up with a slow tag to end it.
What’s the point of making these fiddle ragas? The main reason is that I just enjoy practicing this way. And I think you might too. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just try to enjoy the sound you’re making, even if you’re playing the most basic version of the tune.
Then pick up your fiddle and play right now.
Practice this tune in the original key of A minor (Dorian) with this A drone:
What the heck is a fiddle raga?
The short answer: it’s an improvisation based around a fiddle melody accompanied by a drone. I am experimenting with a form that combines this Indian music form with traditional fiddling.
“Well, what is a raga?” Super-simple answer: it’s an Indian musical form in which musicians improvise with a drone playing in the background. They use a set of notes which are somewhere between a scale and a melody. It starts with a free-time section called the alap. Free-time means there is no beat yet. Later, the musician or musicians play in a set rhythm. There is A LOT more to ragas than this…
What is a drone? It’s a repeating tone or series of tones that serves as a reference. Drones help you to play in tune but they also can be a nice, hypnotic form of backup when playing alone. I love this form of practice! This performance is a way of sharing variation, improvisation and drone practice with you.
Are fiddle ragas a real thing? Sure! Now they are. I’m not a purist (though I’m glad the purists are out there preserving the music as it’s been played). I love these two styles of music. And they seem to work well together. That is, they’re not the cheesy-fusion-with-rainsticks type of music. But that’s a matter of opinion! Anyway…
The point is, I hope you enjoy this and that it inspires you to make your own practice more creative and fun.
If you want to learn how to add variation to Irish fiddle tunes, check out my Irish Fiddle Variation course.
Thanks for listening ?
Now, go fiddle with it…?