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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Is fiddling hard?


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FiddleHed - Posted - 12/11/2018:  10:18:19


Do you think it's hard to play the fiddle?



What's actually hard?



Are you able to simplify what you do enough so that it sounds good?



Do you ever just play a single note and make that sound amazing? Can you carry forth that good sound to a few notes or a small phrase? 



Can you find a way to enjoy the simple sound of the bow on the strings?


Edited by - FiddleHed on 12/11/2018 10:21:03

Brian Wood - Posted - 12/11/2018:  10:59:17


quote:

Originally posted by FiddleHed

Do you think it's hard to play the fiddle?



What's actually hard?



Are you able to simplify what you do enough so that it sounds good?



Do you ever just play a single note and make that sound amazing? Can you carry forth that good sound to a few notes or a small phrase? 



Can you find a way to enjoy the simple sound of the bow on the strings?






Are you asking as someone who already plays, or someone just thinking about it? Pretty much it's hard, in the way achieving anything of value takes effort. Good sound is a matter of taste. For me, trying to get the sound I want is hard. Others, I think, find it's at least pleasantly listenable. I don't know what you mean about enjoying the simple sound of the bow on the strings, because all fiddlers play for that reason, to some degree or another, don't they? Otherwise... maybe some are just crazy?

farmerjones - Posted - 12/11/2018:  11:41:41


One never knows until you try. You could have a "knack."
It does take certain type of hearing. Not perfect pitch, but a "relative" sense of pitch.
I get the one note thing, but where do you go after that? It's like saying Bile the Cabbage is enough. Fair enough, but not for a seeker. There are some that poo poo Orange Blossum Special. Mostly them that can't play it. Just hop on the ladder and start climbing. You may only climb up two rungs, or 50,000 rungs. It's up to you.

DougD - Posted - 12/11/2018:  11:51:57


Before you guys get too farfetched, you might want to check out FiddleHed's bio: fiddlehangout.com/my/FiddleHed
He's a teacher, and I think is trying to promote his teaching methods in some obscure way.

Brian Wood - Posted - 12/11/2018:  12:00:03


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

Before you guys get too farfetched, you might want to check out FiddleHed's bio: fiddlehangout.com/my/FiddleHed

He's a teacher, and I think is trying to promote his teaching methods in some obscure way.






Oh yeah. He should just come out and say it then. I thought they were sincere questions.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 12/11/2018:  12:10:49


Yes it's hard.

No matter how you try to hold it, the instrument is of a size that makes it awkward to hold in a position that might allow you to play it. Because you must use a bow to get what the fiddle has to offer, the awkwardness is doubled.

The lack of frets makes it difficult to find the proper pitches. The tiny length of the fingerboard makes finding the notes you desire that much tougher. If you are fractions of an inch off, you sound out of tune. If you want to access the notes that lurk up the neck, things get more difficult still.

It takes a great deal of both steadiness and gentleness to be able to draw the bow across the strings in a way that might get the fiddle to produce a decent sound...much less the sound that you actually seek. The bow bounces. The bow scratches & scrapes. The ability to produce long drawn out notes...one of the things that makes the instrument so special...can be an exercise in frustration.

But yeah. When things finally come together...and the stars are aligned...the device can make music like nothing else.

buckhenry - Posted - 12/11/2018:  12:45:49


quote:

Originally posted by FiddleHed

Do you think it's hard to play the fiddle?



 






Damn right it's hard, if it was easy I probably wouldn't do it.  I've been fiddling for 45 years and I'm still learning. I taught myself from the beginning and I will continue to seek out the fine art of fiddling for myself, and I will continue to never pay anyone to tutor me.................. 

ChickenMan - Posted - 12/11/2018:  13:17:42


Harder than guitar. Harder than mandolin. Harder than recorder and flute, but in different ways. No frets to tell you you're relatively in pitch. Those wind instruments require some breath and embrochure control, but still get you in the ballpark.
All music making requires some intention to be listenable.

The bow is harder to use than a pick or one's fingers. Intonation requires effort.

I always tell beginners to embrace the noise that you will make while trying to sound like what is in your head. There will be a lot of noise. It is one of the things I like about the fiddle.

FiddleHed - Posted - 12/11/2018:  17:33:19


Hey @abinigia and @DougD, I just want to clarify some things:

I am indeed a fiddle teacher.

I ask "Is fiddle hard?" and more importantly "What is actually hard?" as a way to both teach as well as learn (for myself).

Can you pinpoint exactly what is hard? A certain tune may be hard, but what is actually hard? Is it one particular section? Then ask, "What's hard about that?" How closely can you pay attention to what you are doing? Can you break something down to the point at which it is no longer difficult?

The other reason I ask is that I'm constantly trying to learn how to be a better a teacher. I've been doing it awhile (22 years) but am still making big discoveries. I'm also still not getting through to certain students and want to know why.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your thoughts.

ChickenMan - Posted - 12/11/2018:  18:00:15


I think some of the “hard” is not getting the sound you’re aiming for which, as you know, can ultimately be a lifetime pursuit. You don’t get an immediate tolerable tone; that can be hard on the ego, especially one that might be accustomed to quicker gratification.

Some quick back and forth string changes can be troublesome. Remembering to be relaxed is hard.

sbhikes2 - Posted - 12/11/2018:  18:19:24


Yeah, it's hard.

It's hard to put your left fingers in the right place. Even if I can do it well enough that I've even gotten compliments at my precision, under certain circumstances, I will sound as bad as day 1 at it again.

It's hard to coordinate the right hand. It's hard to hold the bow right. It's hard to get that fiddle music sound, make it sound rhythmic and driving. It's not enough to just play the notes of the tune.

It's hard to cross the strings in some ways. It's hard to find the notes that aren't in 1st position. I don't even know what the other positions are. I just try to hit that high note and get back fast enough to be done with it.

The thing is, if you have "natural leadership qualities" and people sort of seem to want you to lead sometimes, you should learn to play the fiddle if possible. You can maybe get by with mandolin if you can't master the fiddle and you can play the mandolin loud enough, but for old-time music anyway, the fiddle is where it's at. At least that's where I find myself.

Fiddler - Posted - 12/11/2018:  19:26:15


What's hard??



That *$^@#!&  bow. If it weren't for that pesky thing, it would be easy.  Oh, and then there's intonation and flatted keys.... and..... And did I mention holding the silly thing?  Who invented this device of torture?



I've been playing since 1977. Like you, I have been in a life-long discovery process.



 

Johnny Rosin - Posted - 12/11/2018:  19:28:57


Fiddling is impossible. There is no sound evidence that it’s ever been successfully done. Zero!

DougD - Posted - 12/12/2018:  02:59:46


Oddly enough, many of the best fiddlers I've known have made it look quite easy, not hard at all. I'm thinking of players like Howard Armstrong, J P Fraey, Marion Sumner, Walt Koken, maybe Kenny Baker, and many others. Even Tommy Jarrell, who put a lot of energy in his playing, made it look like an extension of his arms and fingers - his whole body really. I don't know if this is because of natural ability or the amount of time and effort they put in, but there are stories about people who were able to play a tune or even a dance, the first time they picked up the instrument. It looks like you just skitter the bow back and forth and wiggle your fingers a bit, and presto - out comes music. Of course this approach doesn't often produce the result you're hoping for, but I think these players are able to visualize things, and not put too many mental blocks in their way.
I've only seen a couple videos of myself playing, and I always look kind of gawky, but I don't look like I'm working too hard.
These may be the kind of concepts Jason wanted to explore.


Edited by - DougD on 12/12/2018 03:00:27

Fiddler - Posted - 12/12/2018:  06:08:09


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

Oddly enough, many of the best fiddlers I've known have made it look quite easy, not hard at all. I'm thinking of players like Howard Armstrong, J P Fraey, Marion Sumner, Walt Koken, maybe Kenny Baker, and many others. Even Tommy Jarrell, who put a lot of energy in his playing, made it look like an extension of his arms and fingers - his whole body really. I don't know if this is because of natural ability or the amount of time and effort they put in, but there are stories about people who were able to play a tune or even a dance, the first time they picked up the instrument. It looks like you just skitter the bow back and forth and wiggle your fingers a bit, and presto - out comes music. Of course this approach doesn't often produce the result you're hoping for, but I think these players are able to visualize things, and not put too many mental blocks in their way.

I've only seen a couple videos of myself playing, and I always look kind of gawky, but I don't look like I'm working too hard.

These may be the kind of concepts Jason wanted to explore.






Doug, I think that the longer we play, the more we find ways to make it a more natural extension of our body. When I see accomplished classical violinists, I see this. I see this with some OT fiddlers - some examples you mentioned.  (When I see videos of me, I shudder!  In NO WAY does it resemble my mental image of me!!)



I think that it all comes with playing time. A teacher can help a student find that "comfort zone", but it will take time for the student to "work into it" and make it natural.



 

farmerjones - Posted - 12/12/2018:  07:07:26


I equate it to brushing your teeth. Some do it routinely, and dont think a thing of it. And uh . . . . . .some dont. This is why i dont teach.

Old Scratch - Posted - 12/12/2018:  08:36:49


I believe it makes a huge difference when you start playing - in my experience, it's exceedingly rare that someone becomes a top-notch fiddler if they didn't start by age 19 - that seems to be the dividing line. There are exceptions, but often when you look into those, you discover that they had a few years of violin lessons as children. It's an instrument that you have to grow into - and if you done done your growing by the time you pick it up, it's probably going to be a struggle.

Another thing I wonder about is body type. Seems to me that a disproportionate number of good fiddlers are tall and skinny - at least in their younger years. I know that lots aren't, but ....

pete_fiddle - Posted - 12/12/2018:  09:26:16


" Is fiddling hard?" Not that hard at the start, but it gets harder as i find out how good/great other players are. i love a challenge, especially one that involves sitting around in pubs playing music, and i don't mind making a fool of myself on the journey....

i reckon if someone is going to play fiddle they'll get there or thereabouts "by hook or by crook" and hopefully have a good journey, A paid teacher maybe part of that journey for some...but not for me.

In the words of Michelle Shocked, if i remember right, she said "I thought everyone just picked up the fiddle and played"..... then its just a question of, how far do you want to take it?.... be careful on that one.....;o)

Brian Wood - Posted - 12/12/2018:  10:02:22


One thing that made it really hard to start was pain in my neck. It took me a couple years or more to figure out I needed a shoulder rest and a low chin rest. Pain all gone after that and I started playing every day. One thing that is hard for most people who wish they could play the fiddle is making time to actually do it every day. It really takes commitment.

FiddleHed - Posted - 12/12/2018:  12:30:59


quote:

Originally posted by Fiddler

quote:

Originally posted by DougD

Oddly enough, many of the best fiddlers I've known have made it look quite easy, not hard at all. I'm thinking of players like Howard Armstrong, J P Fraey, Marion Sumner, Walt Koken, maybe Kenny Baker, and many others. Even Tommy Jarrell, who put a lot of energy in his playing, made it look like an extension of his arms and fingers - his whole body really. I don't know if this is because of natural ability or the amount of time and effort they put in, but there are stories about people who were able to play a tune or even a dance, the first time they picked up the instrument. It looks like you just skitter the bow back and forth and wiggle your fingers a bit, and presto - out comes music. Of course this approach doesn't often produce the result you're hoping for, but I think these players are able to visualize things, and not put too many mental blocks in their way.

I've only seen a couple videos of myself playing, and I always look kind of gawky, but I don't look like I'm working too hard.

These may be the kind of concepts Jason wanted to explore.






Doug, I think that the longer we play, the more we find ways to make it a more natural extension of our body. When I see accomplished classical violinists, I see this. I see this with some OT fiddlers - some examples you mentioned.  (When I see videos of me, I shudder!  In NO WAY does it resemble my mental image of me!!



I think that it all comes with playing time. A teacher can help a student find that "comfort zone", but it will take time for the student to "work into it" and make it natural.



 






@Fiddler, @DougD,



I like the idea of making the fiddle "a natural extension of the body." An extension of your arm. And an extension of your voice. Singing what you play is helpful for that.


Edited by - FiddleHed on 12/12/2018 12:32:14

FiddleHed - Posted - 12/12/2018:  12:36:06


quote:

Originally posted by abinigia

One thing that made it really hard to start was pain in my neck. It took me a couple years or more to figure out I needed a shoulder rest and a low chin rest. Pain all gone after that and I started playing every day. One thing that is hard for most people who wish they could play the fiddle is making time to actually do it every day. It really takes commitment.






@abinigia:



Yep. It's a bit of a mystery to me still. It's a super simple thing we all have to do: play every day. Yet some manage to do it and some don't. Why do some people successfully practice every day and others don't?



Establishing a regular time and place helps. 



But on the other hand, you just gotta want it!

buckhenry - Posted - 12/12/2018:  12:40:27


quote:

Originally posted by FiddleHed

 Why do some people successfully practice every day and others don't?


 






I practiced every spare minute I had, but after a day of manual laboring I was just too exhausted to do anything....... 

FiddleHed - Posted - 12/12/2018:  12:43:44


quote:

Originally posted by DougD

Oddly enough, many of the best fiddlers I've known have made it look quite easy, not hard at all. I'm thinking of players like Howard Armstrong, J P Fraey, Marion Sumner, Walt Koken, maybe Kenny Baker, and many others. Even Tommy Jarrell, who put a lot of energy in his playing, made it look like an extension of his arms and fingers - his whole body really. I don't know if this is because of natural ability or the amount of time and effort they put in, but there are stories about people who were able to play a tune or even a dance, the first time they picked up the instrument. It looks like you just skitter the bow back and forth and wiggle your fingers a bit, and presto - out comes music. Of course this approach doesn't often produce the result you're hoping for, but I think these players are able to visualize things, and not put too many mental blocks in their way.

I've only seen a couple videos of myself playing, and I always look kind of gawky, but I don't look like I'm working too hard.

These may be the kind of concepts Jason wanted to explore.






@DougD, you hit upon a key obstacle, "not put too many mental blocks in their way." This is kind of deep! It extends out to the rest of our lives. People have limiting beliefs which prevent them from doing things they love. Somehow, we have to learn how to just DO WHAT WE ARE DOING to the best of our ability.



And a key practice, "these players are able to visualize things." I believe you can train yourself to visualize music and learn it more easily. Singing what you play is a bridge to hearing music in your head, aka "audiation".

gapbob - Posted - 12/12/2018:  13:17:30


Fiddling is hard if you make it hard. It is fun if you make it fun, seeing where you are going, and learn to enjoy the path to reaching that place.

If I could throw a switch and play like Tommy Jarrell, I would not throw it, I don't want to go there, I want to go where I want to go.

I play fiddle because there will always be much more to learn, I want that lifelong challenge.

Everyone learns differently, everyone enjoys things differently, the key to life is to find the things that are enjoyable. I find learning things fun, I could never get excited about watching tv/sports/theater, etc., day after day. I would find it boring. Playing fiddle gives a lovely sound, as well as a restless taskmaster.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 12/12/2018:  14:15:09


Most folk can sing what they have in their head, maybe not as in tune as they would like, but they know what their intentions are.



just got to get those intentions onto the fiddle by whatever means is best for each individual, and refine them if you have the time, if not they are still your intentions.... and i think folk realize that when they listen, and adjust their own expectations (or just walk away)



that's one of the differences between fiddling and violining ...direct communication between the fiddler and the listener, with no pre conceived ideas of how it "should" sound imo



as a case in point

youtube.com/watch?v=IlWLuchrMuQ





 

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 12/12/2018:  19:27:16


Hmmmm …. When I first started fiddling it was noise not music. After a few years it was very simple music. After some more years I started adding doublestops several years after that the doublestops are in tune … mostly and now I play fairly well after thousands of dollars in workshops and lessons and more in fiddles bows and strings.... not to mention I don't know how many hours playing …. was it easy …. of course not.. but worth it …. oh yeah.

RichJ - Posted - 12/13/2018:  06:24:28


"Fiddling" ... hmmm, just what do you mean by that term?

Scratching out a simple tune? Not really that hard. I've taught a few classes and had folks doing that in a couple of weeks.

But, if your definition of "Fiddling" means to sound like a "fiddler", then that's really hard.
I've been trying to do this for 6 years and still no success.

Old Scratch - Posted - 12/13/2018:  07:53:03


Naaaaaa - it's a breeze! Nothin' to it!

floydmusicschool - Posted - 12/13/2018:  15:32:20


I've played, and taught, fiddle for 13 years now. Its only in the last 5 that I've felt a little successful. It is really hard, and really worth doing!

ChickenMan - Posted - 12/13/2018:  15:57:45


I’m curious about how long this student who says “it’s hard “ has been at it. Are they young and unable to/unwilling to voice what it is they find hard? Are they an adult who might just be impatient because fiddling doesn’t necessarily click into place like many other “hobbies” or pass times can?



Another possible reason for “it’s hard “ - some might struggle with achieving the note duration they are shooting for (when they choose to change bow direction or move a finger); they may have a perception that they are terribly off when in fact they are much closer than they think. You know, beat yourself up over it. IMO this can be exacerbated by playing too slowly. Yes, playing slow is a good practice, but to me, beginners lack the bow control/finesse to play as slow as many I’ve witnessed try doing. If they can bring it up a tiny bit, or more, there will be a tempo that is “easier” to control.



Doug’s comment about the ease with which those fiddlers played really speaks to being relaxed. Tone problems? Relax. Tempo issues? Relax. So much can said about being comfortable in what you do while you what you do. Dig it?


Edited by - ChickenMan on 12/13/2018 16:03:29

alaskafiddler - Posted - 12/13/2018:  21:40:49


I never thought of it in terms of if hard, (nor soft).



There are a lot of comments about initial issues of sound generation and control. Many instruments have similar initial difficulty, some in slightly different ways; might make unwanted noises, bad tone, or not in tune.  Singing also has to deal with intonation and tone (is singing hard?) 



OTOH - A cheapo keyboard (like 80s Casiotone)... has probably least initial sound generation/control issue. Push a key and sound comes out (tone, dynamics, pitch, intonation) exactly as good as the most experienced player. (so is it easy?)



Those just initial issues or differences of sound generation, IMO not significant in big picture in what makes actually playing or creating music difficult or easy on any particular instrument; other differences show up that affect difficulty/ease to play certain things on certain instruments; to which it can become a lot of apples to oranges comparisons.  Of course  there are some of what folks might find difficult, is not instrument related, but more universal in making music.  



As with the Casiotone (or even a piano); initial ease of sound doesn't translate to ease of making music.  

ChickenMan - Posted - 12/14/2018:  05:18:08


"initial ease of sound doesn't translate to ease of making music."



Agreed, except you and I have years of playing between now and when we started, and I can't recall if you've ever mentioned, but I personally had about 20 years of guitar and flute playing (as well as a 'lifetime' of singing) before picking up the fiddle. My point? I knew it was only a matter of time before I 'got it' because I already understood the various nuances that make music music. A rank beginner might find being musical 'hard' but can literally be more musical than a fiddle just by being in tune and strumming a chord on the guitar. Push a key sound comes out. Draw a bow and it raises goosebumps but like nails on a chalkboard. To me, one can be perceived as instant music, the other a cat torture device.

Everything I'm tossing out as hard is me trying to put myself in a beginner's situation, long ago though it was.



I asked questions to get a better picture of the OP situation. Ultimately "hard" is what you make it .

gapbob - Posted - 12/14/2018:  06:19:43


Right on, Billy, it is only "hard" if you do not enjoy it. If you do not enjoy it, why are you doing it?

pete_fiddle - Posted - 12/14/2018:  11:43:37


If your intentions are to play an acoustic instrument and sound like cat torturing or angel farting, ....or anywhere in between, fiddle is the instrument to do it on, the rest of em just ping, ding or plunk....etc



 if you wish to accompany cat torturing or angel farting, get a viola or a cello...or a guitar or something.....fiddle is king.....along with rhythm, (dont know who is king and who is queen but they are both definitely royalty) ...imo....wink



It's all as hard as you want to make it

phiddlepicker - Posted - 12/14/2018:  11:57:24


Depends, does fiddling require an arched bridge or a flat bridge? What's the best rosin? Is it fiddling with or without a shoulder rest? We really have to settle those important questions in an objectively quantifiable manner once and for all, first. laugh



Oh, and somebody needs to stay sober enough to write it all down...but it won't be me.


Edited by - phiddlepicker on 12/14/2018 11:59:26

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 12/14/2018:  13:46:30


Where else but a fiddle forum would we be free to get so mired in the minutiae? Bring on the discussion. Bring on the obsessiveness, Create heat. When some of it creates light, all the better.

buckhenry - Posted - 12/14/2018:  13:50:00


quote:

Originally posted by ChickenMan



 Ultimately "hard" is what you make it .






I agree with this, and if you don't make it ''hard'' then you are content within your comfort zone. I can play heaps of fiddle tunes, but I wanted more. I wanted to play classical and gypsy, and improvise in jazz and hijaz, back singers in any genre. And, I want to play the Bach sonatas and partitas. So my definition of ''hard'' is when you push your self to learn more, and there is more stuff to learn than you can fit into a lifetime. ''Hard'' does not necessarily have a negative connotation, and 'hard' does not mean you are not 'enjoying ' the journey. I get excited when I reach a goal after working so ''HARD'' to achieve. 

ChickenMan - Posted - 12/14/2018:  15:20:46


"Hard" is what you're aiming for, hoping to make it eventually "easy."

buckhenry - Posted - 12/14/2018:  16:28:25


'Easy' is the result of following the appropriate approach and working diligently and effectively...…...

sbhikes2 - Posted - 12/14/2018:  16:34:55


It's definitely bird torturing. Take it from me and my cockatoo.

And where else but a fiddle forum? How about a mandolin forum. Talk about minutia. Mandolin is so simple, why do they make it so complicated?

ChickenMan - Posted - 12/14/2018:  19:15:44


quote:

Originally posted by sbhikes2

It's definitely bird torturing. Take it from me and my cockatoo.



And where else but a fiddle forum? How about a mandolin forum. Talk about minutia. Mandolin is so simple, why do they make it so complicated?






laugh

boxbow - Posted - 12/15/2018:  07:23:28


Hard is an In basket that never empties and easy is an Out basket that never fills.

Earworm - Posted - 12/15/2018:  09:42:02


I have no memory of what my actual sound was like as a beginner (that's just as well), but I remember I had real joy in the discovery of it. I took pleasure in just making any noise at all, and even just owning the fiddle, carrying it to my destination, preparing it for playing. My only goal, I think, was to try to become independent enough that I could try out a few songs by ear on my own, played well enough to communicate the tune to others.



For your student, I suggest helping them celebrate the joy of "small steps" and appreciate what they can do this week, or this month that seemed difficult a short while ago. We can all talk ourselves out of projects by comparing ourselves to others. Some people also draw a bright line between people who "have" talent, and people to "don't-have" talent. If they are really rank beginners, they may need to let go of some of this mystique, and understand that musicians and artists of all sorts are just ordinary human beings, who want to know the next thing they can learn. 


Edited by - Earworm on 12/15/2018 09:55:56

Brian Wood - Posted - 12/15/2018:  15:21:31


quote:

Originally posted by Earworm

 



For your student, I suggest helping them celebrate the joy of "small steps"






It's true that not all people are equally talented when it comes to music. But that shouldn't mean some shouldn't bother. Rather, for your students who find fiddling hard, I suggest there are some things that are pretty essential to being able to play well with others, which should be a goal. I would say that keeping time is even more important than playing the right notes. I noticed at a jam the other night that some otherwise competent players, in a moment of confusion, might gather their wits and then proceed from where they left off, leaving everybody else to figure out and re-boot. What I usually do in that situation is let the time keep running in my head and plug in where I should be in the tune when I come back in.



In other words, when you ask is fiddling hard, we're mostly responding here in some abstract or jokey ways. The fact is there are different things that are hard for some students. I really think understanding timing is the most important, and maybe the least addressed, problem in playing tunes. Some people have it naturally, but lots of people don't, or it's a matter of degree and can be improved.

boxbow - Posted - 12/16/2018:  09:30:53


About 20 years ago I arranged to take a half dozen lessons on my recently acquired fiddle. My teacher was not really a fiddle player himself, but we got all the parts pointed in the right direction. Something he said was that he didn't really believe in a musical talent as it is commonly understood. He did it for a living and he said if you just take a workmanlike approach, you'll get somewhere. I've found that to be true.

I do this for the fun. I don't work as hard at it as I used to, but I've never stopped having fun. Some things are more difficult to pull off than others but mostly I enjoy the skill-building. I'm not on a schedule. I don't answer to anyone. This isn't work for me in that sense.

Earworm - Posted - 12/16/2018:  09:54:35


It's like any good game - easy to to learn, but it takes a lifetime to master.

bf - Posted - 12/17/2018:  18:55:35


Do you think it’s hard to play the fiddle?


I first picked up the devil’s box a year ago this past May, coming from old-time banjo, to try and get a different perspective on and better understanding of fiddle tunes. I suppose it is as hard as anything one enjoys enough to want to work at. I guess I don’t focus as much on the difficulty as firstly I’m enjoying every moment which always makes a task seem easier, and secondly I don’t think I really have any ambitions outside of sharing my love of music with friends and family. Are there things I currently lack the skill or knowledge to perform? A great many, but I don’t find that a deterrent. Breaking things down into manageable parts and building from there has served me well so far. If anything I have so much I look forward to having the opportunity to learn.



What’s actually hard?



I’ve sat in on some jams where tunes were new to me and at a tempo that was faster than I’ll be able to play for awhile. I tend to spend the first several times through just listening. Then I’ll try to pick out a note, find the next one, and work out what I can as long as the tune goes on. I find often if I can get a tune in my head, be able to whistle or hum it, I can offen work out a version of the tune on my own. The hardest thing I suppose is remembering a tune amongst a dozen after the fact. I do come across tunes I remember having worked out bits of before and it comes a bit quicker each successive time.



Are you able to simplify what you do enough so that it sounds good?



That is key for me. I have to take what I hear, strip out the double stops and ornamentation, boil the tune down to a simplistic melody and start to work it out from there. Once I’ve figured out my basic tune and spent the time to really learn it well I might try to add a bit of this back in. At this point I haven’t become solid enough with most times to warrant this. I don’t know that I have a tune yet that I know so well I can’t play it wrong yet.



Do you ever play a single note and make that sound amazing?



I do work on single notes and bowing, especially while warming up, but I don’t know that I’d describe the sound as anything comparable to amazing. Pleasing and enjoyable, sometimes, but not amazing as of yet.



Can you carry forth that good sound for a few notes or a small phrase?



I think I have the ability to do this on occasion. I joke with myself that I can only consciously focus on so many aspects of the fiddle simultaneously before one drops from observation. Bow hold, bow pressure, bow position, bow arm tension, isolate motion from the shoulder, left hand tension, don’t pancake the wrist... somewhere in there I’ve lost focus on one if not several of the above or other aspects and the circle begins again. Sometimes it is easier to focus on one or two for a period to the exclusion of others. Sometimes I just close my eyes and focus on tone alone. Somewhere in there there is a sweet bit of something for a phrase or two.



Can you find a way to enjoy the simple sound of the bow on the strings?



Yes! This I can and do often.



 

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 12/17/2018:  21:00:02


quote:

Originally posted by boxbow

 Something he said was that he didn't really believe in a musical talent as it is commonly understood. He did it for a living and he said if you just take a workmanlike approach, you'll get somewhere.



 






All I can think of are all the musicians I've played with who've been doing it regularly for twenty-plus years, but despite developing reasonable technical facility still can't convincingly carry a tune or convey more than one emotion.  Do they have talent?


Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 12/17/2018 21:03:13

Old Scratch - Posted - 12/19/2018:  09:10:01


No question in my mind that talent is a 'thing'. I've seen people with considerable natural musical talent who were not motivated to develop it, and people like me with not much but who keep plugging away at it, year after year ......

boxbow - Posted - 12/19/2018:  13:57:47


quote:

Originally posted by Old Scratch

No question in my mind that talent is a 'thing'. I've seen people with considerable natural musical talent who were not motivated to develop it, and people like me with not much but who keep plugging away at it, year after year ......






Perhaps this is my own bias.  When I hear people discuss "talent" it seems it's usually not musicians using the word and they seem to imply  prodigy rather than deliberate effort.  The folks I play with readily acknowledge that a person can play well, that he or she contributes to the group.  Having put in some effort myself makes me view the whole thing more technically.

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