There are some great bluegrass opportunities for fan participation coming up, beyond the usual concerts and jam sessions.
Bluegrass Campout. First up is the annual Spring Bluegrass Campout at the KOA in Chula Vista over the weekend of April 29-May 1st. If you didn’t book a camp site, you can stop by for a day fee of $5 and enjoy the on-site jamming, camaraderie, and great ambiance under the shade trees.
Adams Avenue Unplugged. Also up the same weekend is the Adams Avenue Unplugged event in Normal Heights. This event takes place at a number of venues along Adams Avenue. Admission is free and the program is chock full of all flavors of roots and Americana bands. For more info visit: adamsavenuebusiness.com/event-info/adams-avenue-unplugged.
Julian Fiddle and Picking Contest. Next month brings us the third annual Julian Fiddle and Picking Contest in the scenic mountain town of Julian. The event is held over the weekend of June 4-5 at the Julian Town Hall and will feature contest fiddling for prize money as well as contests on other acoustic instruments. It’s open to the public and admission is free. It’s a great chance to visit Julian during a beautiful time of year and enjoy some great fiddling and pickin’. For more info: sandiegofiddler.org/fiddlepickincontest.html.
Bluegrass Day at the Fair. June 18 brings us Bluegrass Day at the Del Mar Fair. This annual event is held on the beautiful Paddock Stage and is free with your admission to the fair. This year’s event will run from 11am to 8pm and will feature six local bands in concert, a band scramble open to all ages and abilities, a fiddling demonstration by the California State Old time Fiddlers Association, and a youth performance featuring dozens of youngsters performing on violins and cellos. For more info visits: sandiegobluegrass.org.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. Ed Douglas, a member of the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, contacted the Troubadour to correct some information in my column last month, which reviewed four of the early bluegrass bands that influenced San Diego’s bluegrass scene (the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, Brush Arbor, Pacificly Bluegrass, and Nickel Creek). Ed noted that Kenny Wertz played banjo in the band, not guitar (although Kenny did later play guitar in Country Gazette) and Gary Carr played guitar. Thanks Ed—corrections noted.
Violins and Fiddles—what’s in a name? One of the most frequently asked questions of fiddle players, be they contest fiddlers, bluegrass fiddlers, Celtic, reggae, swing, or something else other than classical violists, is: what’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin? The answer is not much. Violins and fiddles are the same instrument, just with different names. A fiddle player might use a different kind of strings and cut the angle of the bridge a bit differently, but otherwise fiddles are violins.
In fact, most violins were and are built to play classical music but they can be equally used for other styles of music without alteration. Classical players might look for an instrument that is loud and projects well as many classical concert performances are in music venues and recital halls without amplification. Certainly, this was true when the great classical violins like the Stradivarius and Guarneri violins were made before the advent of modern microphones. A fiddle player, in contrast, is more likely to play with a pick up or into a microphone, so that the player may be more interested in a warm sound suitable for amplification.
Likewise, classical players emphasize vibrato and are likely to prefer a rounder and higher bridge that produces high action, meaning the strings are higher off the fingerboard, to accommodate all that vibrato fingering. Fiddle players, in contrast, are more likely to prefer a flatter cut bridge with low action to accommodate double stops and sliding. But, these are differences in playing style and sound preference, not in the construction of the instruments. Another answer to this question is the old saw: The difference between a fiddle and a violin? Depends on whether you are buying or selling!