We meet Tuesdays from 7.30pm - 9.30pm.
at Mellor Brook Community Centre, Mellor Brook, Blackburn. BB2 7PR.

These group workshops enable enthusiastic fiddle players to meet weekly in a relaxed, comfortable, and friendly, tutor-lead environment to learn and play folk and traditional music. They learn through the playing of music primarily from the rich local repertoires of Lancashire and North-West England although regularly dip into those of Britain in general and further afield. They learn how to play the types of tunes commonly found in traditional music like jigs, hornpipes and waltzes, reels, polkas and airs. Attention is given to reproducing the style of the tune by the use of bowing technique, ornamentation and variation, along with the phrasing and expression found in that tradition.

The workshops are open to fiddle and violin players of all ages and abilities. You should have some experience and your own instrument. These workshops are NOT suitable for complete beginners but previous experience of folk music is not a requirement and nor is the capacity to read music.

If you play, at whatever level, and would like to improve, come and join us. We plan to invite well-known players from other traditions to teach us at special one-day workshops held here in the beautiful Ribble Valley. We also hope to develop our playing abilities to enable us to perform at public events and to play for social dancing at country dances and ceilidhs.

The cost of attending the workshops for the 2016/17 season is just £75 per person for a twelve week term. A concessionary rate of £50 is available for those in full time education or receiving income related benefits.

For more information see below or contact me.

Learning by Ear

Learning by ear is an important feature of traditional music. It is the way in which much of our indigenous music, song and dance has been passed down from one generation to the next. Reading music can of course be useful and the tutor uses both approaches - often teaching music first by ear but providing notation later as an aide-memoire. Students vary in the ways in which they prefer to learn and the tutor will try to respond to different needs.
You may find it useful to bring with you a portable recording device. Most mobile phones incorporate a simple voice recorder which should be ideal. You might want to bring a pencil & paper too so you can make notes where relevant and you may also wish to bring a music stand for when we refer to notation.

Ability Levels

Ability levels are very difficult to define as everyone will have had a different level of experience and will learn at different speeds and in different ways. Indeed two players of apparently similar ability will find different aspects of learning and playing easy or difficult. However, the workshops are aimed at players and experienced players and not absolute beginners.

A Player is expected to be able to play the scales most commonly used on their instrument and a range of tunes of moderate difficulty, though not necessarily at 'dance speed'.

An Experienced Player will have a growing repertoire including most of the familiar dance forms: jigs, reels, hornpipes etc, which they can play at 'dance speed'. They will be expecting to improve their playing technique, widen their repertoire and develop a traditional style.

Audio samples.
To hear us play, click here -

When & Where

The Palatine Fiddlers meet for twelve weeks of each term from 7.30 to 9.30pm on Tuesday evenings. I look forward to seeing you there!

Autumn Term 2016:
     September - 13th. 20th. & 27th.
     October       - 4th. 11th. & 18th.
     November   - 8th. 15th. 22nd. & 29th.
     December  - 6th. & 13th.

Spring Term 2017: 9 weeks only
     January       - 10th. 17th. 24th. & 31st.
     February     - 7th. 21st. & 28th.
     March          - 7th. & 14th.

Summer Term 2017: 9 weeks only
     May             - 9th. 16th. & 23rd.
     June            - 6th. 13th. 20th. & 27th.
     July             - 4th. & 11th.

The workshops are held at:-

Mellor Brook Community Centre.
Whalley Road,
Mellor Brook,
Blackburn.
Lancashire.
BB2 7PR

Click here for a map showing where we meet.

Gigs

Here are details of our performances.

When: Event: Where:
Where we're going:
Where we've been:
2016
11-12th. November 2016 Northwest Fiddle Fest The Atkinson, Southport. PR8 1DB
28th August 2016 Botany Bay Canal Fest - 1PM. Botany Bay, Chorley PR6 9AF.
9th July 2016 Rossendale Traditions The Whitaker - Museum & Art Gallery, Haslingden Road, Rawtenstall
10th May 2016 The Palatine Fiddlers annual deployment to Staveley! Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley, South Lakes. LA8 9LR
1st May 2016 Hurst Green Annual Fete Hurst Green Memmorial Hall, Avenue Road, Hurst Green. BB7 9QB
2015
21st. November 2015 Lancashire Heritage Special event Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford. BB9 6JQ
23rd. October 2015 The Lancashire String Band - Book launch. Wheelton Village Hall. PR6 8HJ
16th. May 2015 World Fiddle Day 2pm - 3:30pm, Rossendale Museum & Art Gallery, Whittaker Park, Rawtenstall. BB4 6RE.
12th. May 2015 The Palatine Fiddlers annual deployment to Staveley! Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley, South Lakes. LA8 9LR
2014
15th. July 2014 To mark the completion of the new extension. Mellor Brook Community Centre, Blackburn. BB2 7PR.
17th. May 2014 World Fiddle Day 1pm - 3pm, Harris Museum & Art Gallery,
Preston. PR1 2PP
Bring your fiddle and join us?
13th. May 2014 The Palatine Fiddlers deploy (again) to Staveley. Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley, South Lakes. LA8 9LR
11th May 2014 1pm, Chorley Food festival 2014 Flat Iron car park, Chorley. PR7 1AY.
9th. May 2014 The Phoenix DIY Ceildh From 8pm, Adlington Community Centre,
Chorley. PR6 9RF
2013
15th June 2013 2pm, Blackburn Festival 2013 Witton Country Park, Blackburn. BB2 2TP.
18th. May 2013 World Fiddle Day 2pm, Brockholes Nature Reserve, Preston.
2012
22nd. April 2012 St. Georges Day Festival
for The Soldiers Charity.
Lytham Green,
Lytham St. Annes.
10th. March 2012 Mellor Brook Fiddle Day - Evening Ceilidh. Mellor Brook Community Centre. Whalley Rd, Mellor Brook. BB2 7PR.
2011
27th. November 2011 Lancashire Day celebrations. Samlesbury Hall
Preston New Road, Samlesbury, Preston.
PR5 0UP.
4th. September 2011 Lancashire Society presentation - from 12 noon. Fylde Folk Festival,
Mount Hotel,
Fleetwood.
20th. May 2011 Bromley Cross Folk Club Barlow Institue
Edgworth, Nr. Bolton
BL7 0AP.
12th. March 2011 Mellor Brook Fiddle Day 2011
evening concert.
Mellor Brook Community Centre. Whalley Rd, Mellor Brook. BB2 7PR.
2010
20th. November 2010 Accrington Market Hall, 1 - 2.30pm Accrington Market Hall.
Blackburn Road,
Accrington.
BB5 1ER.
5th. September 2010 Lancashire Society presentation Fylde Folk Festival,
Mount Hotel,
Fleetwood.
17th. July 2010 Friends of St. Annes Library - Open Day. St. Anne's Library.
Clifton Dr South,
Lytham St. Annes.
FY81NR.
2009
27th. November 2009 Lancashire Day. Ribble Valley Borough Council.
Council Chamber,
Church Walk,
Clitheroe.
Lancashire.BB7 2RA.
17th. Oct. 2009 2nd. Big National Ceilidh charity event proceeds to WaterAid. All Welcome. 01254 812131 for tickets. Mellor Brook Community Centre. Whalley Rd, Mellor Brook. BB2 7PR.
20th. June 2009 Clitheroe Castle Grand (re)Opening, 2pm - 4pm Clitheroe Castle & Grounds, Clitheroe, Lancashire. BB7 1AZ.
25th. May 2009 - Bank Holiday Monday Turton Fair, 1pm - 2pm. All welcome. Turton Tower, Chapeltown Road, Turton, Nr. Bolton, BL7 0HG
14th. April 2009 The Palatine Fiddlers deploy (again) to Staveley Beer Hall. Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall, Staveley, South Lakes. LA8 9LR
2008
22nd. Nov. 2008 Traditions Festival fundraiser - craft fair & music workshops Lostock Hall High School
11th. Nov. 2008 Ribble Valley Arts Alliance website launch. The Grand at Clitheroe. 18 York St., Clitheroe. BB7 2DL.
18th. Oct. 2008 Big National Ceilidh charity event proceeds to WaterAid. All Welcome. Mellor Brook Community Centre. Whalley Rd, Mellor Brook. BB2 7PR.
6th. Sept. 2008 Lancashire Wildlife Trust Open Day. All Welcome. Seven Acres Country Park, Bury Road, Bolton. BL2 6DH
12th. Aug. 2008 The Palatine Fiddlers deploy to Staveley Beer Hall. 8pm start -all welcome. Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall, Staveley, South Lakes. LA8 9LR
26th. May 2008 - Bank Holiday Monday 2pm - 3pm at Turton Fair. All welcome. Turton Tower, Turton, Bolton.
13th. May 2008 The Palatine Fiddlers meet The Lakeland Fiddlers. 8pm start -all welcome. Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall, Staveley, South Lakes
15th. Mar. 2008 Mellor Brook Fiddle Day evening concert 7.30pm Mellor Brook Community Centre, Blackburn
23rd. Feb. 2008 Traditions Festival fundraiser 11.30am Lostock Hall High School


Click to go to the notation library for the tunes covered during the current term and the midi files too.......just in case the melody has slipped your mind! For the notation for one of the earlier tunes, go to the Dots Archive.

Looking after your Fiddle & Bow

Cleaning - The Bridge - Pegs & Fine Tuners - The Bow - Replacing Strings - Cracks & Buzzes - The Environment

A well-made fiddle can last for a very long time. Even some of the earliest instruments made by the master luthiers of Italy are still played regularly and their sound qualities continue to be proclaimed, inspite of their age and what apppears to be their delicate construction. A fiddle's life is therefore directly related to the care taken to look after it. Changes in temperature and humidity and knocks and bumps, along with the occasional whisky or beer spill, can seriously threaten a fiddle’s health not to mention the fiddlers themselves! Genuine repairs and setting-up of the instrument are best left to a skilled luthier but there is a lot you can do yourself to keep your instrument in the best possible playing condition by:
           Regular cleaning - including the bow,
           Replacing strings,
           Straightening the bridge,
           Watching out for cracks developing,
           Listening for and solving the problem of buzzes and
           Storing your fiddle and bow in the best environment.


Cleaning
Your fiddle will be easier to keep clean if you only hold it by the neck and in the area of the chin rest.The rosin from your bow leaves a thin layer of dust on the belly of your fiddle, that’s the top to you and me. Wipe it off (along with the sweat!) each time you finish playing, with a soft, lint-free cloth. I use a good quality duster that has been washed a few times. Don't forget to clean the stick of the bow too before it goes back in its case. Rosin is slightly acidic and if it is left for even short periods of time it can attack the varnish. In extreme cases it can even restrict the vibration of the belly of the fiddle in the same way it does when it builds up on the strings.

You can remove the build-up of rosin on the body with a special fiddle cleaner. Some cleaners polish as well as clean, smoothing away fine scratches. You can also buy special fiddle cleaning cloths, impregnated with polish that is released when you use them. Whatever you do, don't try to clean your fiddle with household cleaners as they can contain abrasives and solvents that can easily destroy the varnish. And don’t use the cleaners anywhere near the strings or the bow hair. Ideally use a lint-free cloth for the neck, strings and fingerboard - the parts you touch with your fingers. Wipe the strings with the cloth and then pull it gently between the fingerboard and the strings to remove any rosin build-up. The strings will stay playable for longer if you wash your hands before you touch them.

You can occasionally give the fingerboard an extra clean by dabbing it with a soft cloth moistened with a little methylated spirits. To make absolutely sure that none of the meths gets onto the varnish of the body, keep the bottle well out of the way and do not allow the cloth to drag over the body.

It is a good idea to remove the rosin residue from your strings from time to time. Rub a cloth down along the strings a few times from the top of the fingerboard to the bridge. Don't push too hard and damp the strings too with one hand because they can really screech when you do this. If the rosin cannot all be removed then you could try doing the same thing with a drop of methylated spirits on the cloth. This will definitely remove the rosin and anything else too. Like the varnish for example, so be very careful to keep the cloth away from any other part of the instrument. For safety's sake you could wrap another dry cloth over the body to protect it.

Over time, dust and dirt will find its way inside your fiddle. To clean it out, pour in half a cupful of dry, uncooked rice and carefully shake it backwards and forwards around the body a few times. Then turn the violin upside down and let the rice run out. Most of the dust will be removed



The Bridge
The shape and function of the bridge, developed over centuries, is to support the strings and to transmit their vibrations to the body of the instrument. It is this action that is is essential to the tone of the instrument. The bridge is shaped so that the back surface which faces the tailpiece is absolutely flat, and the surface which faces the fingerboard is arched. The back of the bridge should be in an upright position in relation to the belly joint. This is why it might appear as though the bridge is leaning towards the tailpiece. This makes sense as the tendency of the bridge is to warp in the direction of the fingerboard due to the constant tuning of the strings. The strings should not be allowed to dig too deeply into the top of the bridge as this will reduce their ability to vibrate freely. Most E strings come with a thin plastic sleeve over the string designed to prevent the string cutting into the top of the bridge. If fitted correctly it will not have any noticeable effect on the sound. Other than simple adjustment to the position and angle of the bridge, the fine tuning of the bridge should be left to an experienced luthier. You may not know it but in Old Time music, from the Appalachian Mountains in the USA, the fiddle players often cut their bridges almost flat to allow them to play more than one string at a time more easily!

Pegs & Fine Tuners
It is the conical shape of the pegs that allows them to be secured easily in the pegbox. However they can become worn or distorted with continual use and because the wood of the peg box may be softer than that of the pegs themselves, the holes may become bigger too. Dealing with these problems are best left to a reputable repairer or luthier but keeping the pegs moving freely without squeaks is something anyone can do. Each time you replace your strings check the pegs are moving freely and apply some peg wax where neccessary according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Fine tuners do not require much maintenance. If one does get a little stiff, a smear of vaseline on the threads of the screw usually solves the problem.

The Bow
The development of the bow to it's modern form was perfected by François Tourte (1774-1835). After a painstaking search he came to the conclusion that pernambuco wood was the ultimate material for bows given it's weight, strength and elasticity. It grows in South America and Pernambuco is in fact a region in Brazil. Tourte introduced many features of the bow we now consider as standard and established the optimal length of the bow at 74 to 75 cm. Although now it is quite common for a bow to be made from other cheaper woods too and more recently from carbon-fibre, a well made pernambuco bow is still a prized possession and comes with a high price tag.

A bow usually holds around 150 hairs. It is said that the best hair comes from the tails of wild Siberian stallions. Others say that the mare's tails are more suitable as they are always drenched in urine! I don't know about that but I do know that fine bowhair also is imported from other parts of the world too, including Hungary and Canada. If the bow is in regular use it may lose its capacity to hold the rosin properly. The fiddler should notice the bow's difficulty in producing a good tone. It is then you should take advice from a experienced maker or repairer before considering replacing the bow hair. A good bow should be able to keep the tension on the hairs without overtightening the screw and be flexible without the need for unnecessary weight from the right hand. When the bow is laid on a flat surface without tension, the stick should be touching the surface for approx 2/3rds of its length.

Wipe the excess rosin off the hair with a cloth as you would your instrument and you can remove the hard build up of rosin on the hairs at the frog by scraping them gently with a finger nail. Occasionally the tensioning screw may become stiff and a general clean and lubrication of the threads with a smear of vaseline can often cure this problem.



Replacing Strings
Strings don't last forever and the tonal qualities of them all change over their lifetime. If you do play regularly you will notice when the sound quality of your instrument changes, this is often a reminder that it is time to consider changing a string or all of them. There is no firm rule when you should do it. I play every day and I tend to wear out the As first so I change my As and Es every couple of months but the Gs and Ds last a little longer. If you are playing regularly I would suggest changing them every six months to begin with. If you notice them wearing within this period then you should consider changing them sooner next time. If one string breaks, the new one may sound very different to the others so it is often a good idea to replace them all at the same time. If you do change them all, only replace them two at a time. This will prevent the soundpost and bridge from coming loose. Start with the two strings on one side of the instrument first. Loosen them using the pegs and remove them. Replace the lower one first (either the E or the G) as the middle two strings are strung above the outer two in the peg box. Make sure the loose ends of the strings don't catch you in your eyes or scrath your fiddle's varnish. Replace them by attaching them to the tailpiece first and push the other end of the string through the hole in the peg and start to wind. I always overlap the string with itself on the peg shaft. This ensure it will never come loose. The pegs for the E and A string wind in a clockwise direction to tighten them, the G and D string pegs go anti-clockwise. Hold the slack part of the string tight as you wind it in towards the peg making sure the string winds up the peg shaft towards the outside of the peg box but not in contact with it. Guide the string into its position on the bridge and into the groove on the nut and if it is an E string, make sure the sleeve is positioned correctly before putting the string under tension. When all the strings have been replaced check the bridge for position before tuning. If you have any problems please just ask.

Cracks & Buzzes
A good instrument that is well looked after is less likely to have problems of this nature but older instruments, where their history is unknown can sometimes be prone to cracks or buzzes. This can be due to changes in temperature or humidity loosening parts of the instrument over time or it could be just the winding of a string coming loose. The solution, if it is a crack that is slowly appearing, is to contact your local repairer immediately. Buzzes, however, can often be identified and rectified by a thorough examination of the instrument. It could be something simple like a build up of rosin on the strings but it might be something much more serious. If you have any problems of this nature please let me know.

The Environment
The effect of changing levels of humidity on a fiddle can be critical. The amount of moisture held by the wood of an instrument reflects the humidity of the air around it. When the air is dry the wood shrinks and when the air is humid or damp it swells. Sudden changes in particular can have a detrimental effect and can cause the wood to crack. The ideal level of relative humidity for wooden instruments is around 55%. Although it is almost impossible to keep an instrument perfectly acclimatized, you can avoid major damage to instruments by not placing them too near radiators, or in very hot or frozen cars. Avoid places where there may be sudden changes in humidity and temperature and try to store the instrument in a room where the relative humidity is between 45-55%. To help you do this many modern fiddle cases come with built-in hygrometers.

When you are travelling with your instrument, by whatever means, make sure you have it in a good quality case to prevent it from the inevitable bumps and knocks and always make sure the case is clearly identified with your name, address and contact number. The safest place for your instrument, in a car, is behind the front seats. Don't leave it for all to see though, so if you must leave it unattended, lock it in the boot. If you are on a train or a bus always keep it where you can see it. A good fiddle can be a substantial investment so always insure it separately or include it, if you can, in your household insurance. You may need to have it valued to insure it and I can recommend The Violin Shop at Blackpool who did this for me recently. Most importantly, make a note of your fiddle's distinguishing marks or, better still, take several photos of it (easy nowadays with digital cameras) so if, heaven forbid, it does go missing, you can easily identify it.