Fiddlewidget for String Teachers

Activity 7- Ornamentation

Time required: 40 minutes to one hour, depending on time devoted to practice


1.The written score produced in Activity 6a, with the melody and chords shown in numbered scale degrees.

2.Some means of "stretching" or re-copying that score, to leave us room to write in some additional notes.

3.The instrument that we are demonstrating, i.e. violin, viola, etc. We'll just be working on the melody, so there shouldn't be a need to actually play chords here. But we will need to know what the underlying chord is, to help us with note selection.

4. A Fiddlewidget, or the appropriate charts to identify the notes in the key of the tune, and the chord triads needed for the chord progression.

The simplest way to get started here is to begin with the basic "structural tune", or the melody line from Activity 6A, and work some other notes into it, leaving the structural tune unchanged as much as possible.

I'll just focus on the first full measure, which is mostly eighth notes and all in the underlying chord of G major:

Now, to gussy this up a little, I'll stick in some extra notes among the eighth notes here, leaving the structural tune where it is. I'll make these extra notes red, so you can tell what has been added, and because I end up with more notes, they have to be quicker to fit them all in.

I wrote these in as sixteenth notes, just to communicate the idea to a music teacher who reads staff notation and understands it. In my actual workshops I might not do this, because my students might not read music that well. You might not write it all out either, to avoid turning an improv discussion into a writing exercise.

Actually, if my students have a pretty good feel for the melody, I don't insist that they write anything down at all, unless they come up with a really good lick that they don't want to forget, or they want to be sure they practice it the same way every time.

But what we are trying to establish right now is this:

    1. Leave the structural tune intact as much as possible

    2. Choose any additional notes from the key the tune is in (refer to the scale diagram or Fiddlewiget set to the appropriate key)

    3. On the accented notes (downbeats), selecting notes that are in the underlying chord usually fit better. (This is what the Fiddlewidget or triad charts are for.)

Once we get comfortable with these rules, of course, we immediately start breaking them. Sometimes that can sound good, too.

Activity : Students can take that first measure and come up with their own modifications--change those added notes, and work with the rhythm, too, if they want to.

Try staying within the 1 chord, then get a little more adventurous, staying in the G scale. Get further out on the limb with notes that are not in the scale, and see how that changes the sound. We can make it a little more bluesy by adding flatted 3 or flatted 7 scale degrees (Fiddlewidget is great for identifying those and locating them on the instrument).

Once they get comfortable pushing that first measure around, they will probably want to go on with the rest of the song. Encourage them to go ahead and do that, either in class or as homework.

You can even approach it as a group activity for the class or for smaller groups.

Assess these experiments by playing their creations, and my only requirement here is that I like to hear the structural tune when they're done. If we can't hear the melody anymore, we probably need to refine it until we can.

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