Donal Baylor – Bluegrass Fiddle Master-class

by | 29 Jan, 2008

donalbaylorNational Folk Festival – Easter 2008

Donal Baylor will explore tunes, solos, techniques and the classic Monroe sound of twin fiddling at this year’s National Folk Festival and part of the festival’s ever growing bluegrass music component. Donal is one of Australia’s finest bluegrass fiddlers and highly regarded as both a player and teacher.
I spoke to Donal this week and asked what is in store for master class participants at his workshop.

Who is the workshop aimed at?

Fiddle players from any background at an intermediate to advanced level. It is a class for those fiddlers who are curious as to the intricacies of bluegrass but haven’t yet fully explored it. It is also for those who do have an understanding of the music, but want to significantly build on their abilities with an experienced guide.

What should we bring?

Your fiddle obviously, it is very much a hands-on session, pen and notepaper is also handy for any notes and personal recording devices are welcome.

What will be covered in your workshop sessions?

My workshops focus heavily on playing and active participation by participants rather than a lecture. Throughout the sessions, participants are encouraged to ask questions and raise any issues that are relevant.

  • Brief history of the style and its development over time. Influence of Bill Monroe and key players.
  • Stylistic characteristics; Tempo, Keys, Back up, Shuffles, Blue notes, Double stops and chords, Up the neck (second and third positions), Playing breaks to songs, kick-offs and endings, Fiddle tune repertoire building, Playing variations.
  • Fiddle set up, Strings, Bridge, Rosin, Bow tension.
  • How to practice, Organisation, Space/time, Tuning up, Focussing a session, Practice tools. Bluegrass Licks – learning the language and developing a personal style.
  • Improvising – when, where and how.
  • The shuffle and the double shuffle – how to build it up, and use tastefully.
  • Playing in Harmony – the bluegrass wall of sound.
  • Playing in a band or jam session – Etiquette, What to play, What not to play.
  • Tunes used in examples – Can’t You Hear Me Calling – a classic solo from a bluegrass pioneer, Sally Goodin – how to make a tune come to life, Florida Blues – improvising and tasteful variations, Texas Gallop, twin fiddles, Bill’s Dream – triple fiddles, Back up and Push – double shuffle and more.

By the end of the week the participant will have a good understanding of the bluegrass fiddle style, a greater appreciation for the music and be well placed to advance further. I provide written material and a CD, recommendations for further listening and a guide to books and other useful resources.

Feel free to contact me with any queries: Donal Baylor.