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  • Writer's pictureLisa Rosa

Fiddle Contest Standards

Updated: Jan 1, 2022


Each tune is scored in the following way: Rhythm & Danceability-25 points, Old Time Style-25 points, Degree of Difficulty-25 points, and Intonation and Clarity of Tone-25 points-for a total of 100 points per judge per tune. Points for each tune are then added to get an overall score. Judges should use the entire range of scores in each area, e. g., if someone plays a very simple tune in a very simple way, they should receive difficulty points in the 0-10 point range.Ranges should divide as follows: Outstanding-21-25 points (25 means perfect in that category)

Above Average-16-20 points Average-11-15 points

Below Average-6-10 points Unsatisfactory-0-5 points (0 means they registered-and perhaps got on stage­ but didn't play,like a small child with stage fright)

This helps spread the scores out; there will be fewer ties. Further, the scoring will have a better perception of fairness on the part of contestants. They are told that there is a 25 point scale for each of the four areas; yet in many contests, Judges have used various scales, some as small as 21-25, which is essentially a five point scale! This resulted in a contestant who played the Black & White Rag (difficult version that went into 4th position several times, flashy string crossings, and complex rhythms) getting a 23 on difficulty and his sister, a beginner who played a simple version of Little Liza Jane, getting a 22 on difficulty. How do you explain that to children-and to their parents? Categories "somewhat'' Defined Degree of Difficulty-things which should receive difficulty points include: harder keys (anything other than A, D, and G); arrangements which include key change(s); tunes which modulate a lot; tunes which change from major to minor or vice versa; triplets; fast, flashy string crossings; playing in higher positions;double stops; slides; difficult arpeggios, such as diminished or augmented; fancy bowings like rocking, hooked, interesting slur patterns, e. g., slur 2, separate 2, slur 3, separate 1; slur 4, interspersed with separate notes (double shuffle or hokum bowing and playing pizzicato are not allowed); syncopated or otherwise difficult rhythms,difficult finger patterns. Clarity & Intonation-No cross-tuned instruments are allowed. Instruments must be tuned to A-440. Judges should listen for in tune playing and a clear sound with clean string crossings. Each note should be audible. Double stops should be in tune, and harmonics should ring clearly. There should be no scratchiness or tinny or whiny tone. The sound should be full and fairly robust, but not so loud that it scratches. Rhythm & Danceability-The music should make you want to dance. There should be no extra beats in a measure and no faltering in maintaining a steady dance rhythm. The music should not slow down or speed up during a tune (think dancers tripping over their feet). There should be a well-accented down beat in each bar. The contestant should play in-sync with the back-up musicians, and the music should be played at a dance speed (hoedowns at about M.M. 120-144). Points should be deducted for speeds that are too slow-or too fast-for dancing. Hoedowns should be square, with no swung eighth notes-think square dance

music. Waltzes should not drag; usually the eighth notes are swung. Choice

tunes should be played in accordance with the type of tune, e. g., marches should be square and marchable; rags should be danceable, swinging and not played at a blazing speed; jigs, polkas, and shottisches should be fairly fast.

Old Time Style-Old time style has evolved in the fiddle contests to mean Texas contest style-clean playing; lots of notes and improvisations added to a basic tune, but the tune must still be recognizable; triplets are slurred, not bowed; there is a sweetness to the playing; and the music must be danceable. It should have some "character" to it, not just be notes put out into the room. Vibrato should be sparse in hoedowns and fast tunes; waltzes should have a little more vibrato, but slow and elegant, not fast and nervous sounding.

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