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Laura Risk

Workshop Topics

Scottish fiddling. What makes a tune sound Scottish? We'll cover ornamentation and bowing, phrasing and expression, playing 'in the groove', improvising melodic variations, and using accents to create rhythmic excitement. (Can gear this to any level from beginner on up).

Regional styles in Scottish fiddling. Learn about the differences between Northeast, West Highland, Shetland and Cape Breton fiddle styles. We'll listen to archival recordings of seminal players from each style and learn some representative tunes. For advanced players.

Pipe Tunes for Fiddlers. A look at the bagpipe influence on Scottish music. Tunes will include reels, strathspeys, jigs, marches, and airs, all either composed for bagpipes or written in a pipe style. We'll discuss ways to make your instrument sound like a bagpipe using ornaments, bow techniques, double-stops, and melodic variation. For intermediate to advanced players.

Lowland Scottish fiddle music from the early 18th century. Learn about this fascinating repertoire of variation sets, minuets, 3/2 hornpipes, and more. This music, influenced by both the Scottish folk music and by the classical art music of the time, led directly into the 'golden age' of Scottish fiddling. For intermediate to advanced players.

Fiddle tunes of Robert Burns. Robert Burns' influence on Scottish traditional music cannot be overstated. Learn the history through the fiddle tunes that he used in his songs. (Can gear this to any level from beginner on up).

Advanced Scottish fiddling (Recommend Part I and Part II or a minimum of three hours.) This course will explore the stylistic nuances of Scottish fiddling. We'll work on ornamentation and bowing, phrasing and expression, playing 'in the groove', improvising melodic variations, and using accents to create rhythmic excitement. We'll also look at the art of playing second fiddle in Scottish music and work on improvising harmonies and chordal backup parts. In addition, we'll look at the differences between Scotland's regional fiddle styles (Northeast, West Highland, and Shetland) and study recordings of players from each style. Technique and theory topics - such as tone, practice methods, simple chord theory, and playing with speed and precision - will be included as appropriate. All tunes, including strathspeys, reels, jigs, marches, and slow airs, will be taught by ear. Students are encouraged to bring a small tape recorder to record musical examples and repertoire. For advanced players.

Rhythmic variations: avoiding the downbeat! Typically, we learn to accent on the downbeat of a measure. This can place the phrasing of a piece in a "dynamic box." We'll work on emphasizing the offbeats and the 'off-offbeats' instead. Accenting in weird places can completely change the feel of a piece, and usually for the better! We will learn parts of a few different pieces and explore how varying accents in a multitude of ways can be a great addition to your playing. (Can gear this to any level from advanced beginner on up, and to all instruments.)

Improvisation in traditional music. Expand your horizons by learning to spontaneously invent melodic variations - your goal is to never play the tune the same way twice! Easier said than done!! (Intermediate/advanced, for all instruments).

Essential harmonic knowledge for fiddlers. Starting from the basics (How do you know what key a tune is in?), we'll discuss finding and playing chords on the fiddle, figuring out chord charts for tunes, and using simple chord substitutions. (all levels)

Musicality. This workshop will look at how to play more 'musically' by exploring phrasing, shaping, dynamics, and accenting. We will focus on the playing of each and every note with special attention paid to the technical aspects of playing expressively on the fiddle. (Intermediate/advanced).

So you don't know the tune? Back-up techniques on fiddle. Learn lots of tricks of the very challenging and creative process of back-up including the use of rhythmic vamps, 'chopping', drones, harmony, counter-melody and bassline construction. (Can gear this to any level from advanced beginner on up).

An introduction to French Canadian fiddling. Gaining popularity in the US among traditional musicians, French-Canadian tunes have a distinct feel and rhythm with much syncopation. This workshop will attempt to communicate that feel and introduce the participants to some exciting French-Canadian repertoire. (Can gear this to any level from advanced beginner on up).

Celtic fiddling for classical violinists. Learn the essential differences between classical violin playing and Celtic fiddling. We'll work on bowing, ornamentation, swing and groove, phrasing, accenting, playing backup chords, creating melodic variations and improvising harmonies. Learn several common tunes from the Celtic repertoire (Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton). For experienced classical players.

Classical technique for fiddlers. For fiddlers looking for better tone, better bow control, more speed, a cleaner sound, and more precise intonation. Clean up your string crossings, add dynamics and tone color to your playing, learn to play with a more relaxed and fluid technique, and develop good practice habits. (all levels)

Teaching fiddling. Are you a classical teacher interested in incorporating fiddle music into your students' repertoire? We'll explore the similarities and differences in teaching classical vs. fiddle music - there's more to it than just teaching a new repertoire! Learn to teach the appropriate style as well. There are also lots of great fiddle-teaching resources available and we’ll look at those.

Repertoire classes. I do separate repertoire classes in the following: Scottish, Irish, Cape Breton, French-Canadian (choose from advanced beginners on up).

Basic chord theory. This workshop focuses on how keys are constructed and how simple triads (chords) are formed within a key. The difference between major and minor chords and relationships between major and minor is explored. Generally for those with little or no or very rusty understanding of theory. (all levels, all instruments)

Jam etiquette. There are general rules of behavior that guide most jam sessions. This discussion addresses those somewhat organic and dynamic guidelines (all levels, all instruments).

Surviving a jam. This workshop covers "what to do when you don't have a clue!!" Jam etiquette will also be discussed. There are general rules of behavior that guide most jam sessions. This discussion addresses those somewhat organic and dynamic guidelines (all levels, all instruments).

Please note: All workshops are taught by ear, but sheet music for the tunes will be available. Participants should bring a small tape recorder to record musical examples and repertoire.