Slow Air Workshop
In Strachur Memorial Hall on Sunday 20th July, we welcomed back the workshop’s first tutor, Amy Geddes for a workshop on the art of playing the Slow Air.
An interesting concept was that Amy was going to work on the differences in playing an East-coast and a West-coast air, something which many of us had probably not thought much about, if at all!
A group of around twenty fiddlers gathered for the 11am start and we were delighted to welcome folk from Cowal Fiddle Workshop and Mid-Argyll who made the effort to join us. Amy had already run a similar workshop in Dunoon on the previous day for the Cowal Fiddlers and some of them had come back for a second day to join us! Needless to say she was using different material on both days.
Non-players may tend to think that it is harder to play fast tunes than slow ones, but in many ways the slow airs are much more demanding for the player – at a simple level if you are playing faster you are on each note for less time so errors are less noticeable!
The day began with a Scott Skinner tune, The Cradle Song. This was the east-coast melody, then in the afternoon we worked on a great melody called Bidh Clann Ulaidh (The Ulstermen) as our West-coast choice. From the basic melody, the skeleton of the tune, Amy began to show us how to flesh out the tune to bring it alive in performance. We were shown techniques to enhance our playing, using grace notes and other embellishments, and for the more advanced players in the group the option of playing in 3rd position! Bowing techniques were highlighted too and we practiced using upstrokes, downstrokes, full bow, half bow and different pressures on the bow to create dynamics and give the tune a shape.
The lessons were built around teaching the tunes by ear, which is of course the method preferred by the LFW, though Amy had the scores available for later study for those who wanted to have the notes.
The workshop was a huge success and all of us who attended went away with lots of ideas and techniques to be practised and built in to our own playing. A huge thanks to Amy for her patient and very skilful teaching, especially as we were quite a mixed group, and for letting us hear at first hand just how much those techniques she had taught could so completely transform the performance of a tune.