Violin Journal: #2

This week, I have been working on my first violin piece: Scarborough Fair.

I decided to learn this famous old English folk song by ear. By using trial and error, I was able to feel my way around the violin, which gave me a greater connection to it. I found that this approach also allowed for greater expression and exploration of the piece as the constraints of written notation were removed.

Disclaimer: I have set myself the challenge of recording only two or three takes for my vlog and using the best of those. This means that what you see and hear is a true reflection of my progress to date. As such, some parts are less… tuneful.

The piece itself makes for interesting development in terms of aural comprehension. Rather than being in a major or minor key, Scarborough Fair is in the Dorian Mode. This essentially involves flattening the 3rd and 7th note of the major scale, giving us a typical sound for many old English folk songs. Having to think about this when playing encouraged me to consider the different intervals and respond to what I was expecting to hear with slightly different finger placement. You can read more about the modes in this previous article.

For those interested in the historical background of the song, it does indeed tell us of ‘Scarborough Fair’. The fair did exist, and has its roots as far back as the 13th Century. The origins of the song are shrouded in mystery though, and it’s likely that it actually came about much later. One suggestion is that it is a descendant of a Scottish ballad, ‘The Elfin Knight’ (17th Century). While the traditional fair unfortunately no longer exists, there are still frequent celebrations in its memory. Recently, one of these celebrations involved a jousting competition!

If you’d like to know more about the piece, this article covers it in a little more in depth: The History and Romance Behind Scarborough Fair.

Top Tip #3

Play in time! Work on timing by using a metronome or accompaniment. In this week’s video, I played along with my own pre-recorded piano accompaniment. It added a new dynamic to my practice and you can hear in the recording that I struggled to get to a few notes in time. It’s easy to gloss over this when there is nothing keeping strict time.

The more you practice with a metronome or accompaniment, the less you need them.

Next Week…

I will be working on minor scales and looking at arpeggios for both major and minor keys. I’ll be trying to improve intonation and sight-reading too.


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