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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: How to combine a passion to play fiddle with hard manual job


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/52672

Frank_L - Posted - 01/06/2020:  12:45:48


I would like to consult following problem I have been thinking about for a long time. How to combine a passion to play fiddle with hard manual job. Well, I am not young any longer, but still I would like to improve my skills. How to, after returning home after a day spending with a chain saw in the forest or spreading manure on fields? I wonder how many of you there are experienced with manual jobs and still are able to do excellent job on fiddle. I would appreciate any comments, hints, recommendation.

Mobob - Posted - 01/06/2020:  13:12:49


First and foremost, take good care of your hands. Best of luck, getting older ain't for sissies.

Gentleman From VA - Posted - 01/06/2020:  13:13:14


I wonder what it is you struggle with precisely, whether it be time, fatigue, finesse, delicacy or a combination of any or all of these?

My recommendation to alleviate any of these issues though is the same; set up a routine. I wake up way earlier than I need to in order to get ready for work, then practice for 30-45 minutes every weekday morning. On days off I practice for 45-60 minutes. Maybe this won't work for you but there is some sort of routine you can figure out to do something similar. Remember to do your best to relax your brain and give yourself 10-15 to just zone and play too. Helps with getting too tense and worked up (at least for me)

I have worked hard labor jobs (construction, railroad, warehouse) most of my life and this is what I developed to get over the "I'm too tired" hump

pete_fiddle - Posted - 01/06/2020:  14:09:33


A lot of tunes in fiddle traditions where written and played by manual workers. They come alive when they are played by folk who are manual workers themselves. Work rhythms, Dance rhythms and accomplished simplicity give them their beauty. It's what fiddle music is all about for me.

Frank_L - Posted - 01/06/2020:  14:23:52


quote: About my problems: mostly intonation, rhythm and higher speed. And memory. Getting finally ability to read music (after many years) I lost the skill to remember tunes by heart. I also found it is better to practice in the morning  My method is simple. After feeding animals, I make a cup of coffee, open some tune collection at a random page and play one tuner after another. Finishing the coffee I continue with my daily jobs. I know there are well proven methods how to go ahead, but this one is probably some balance between how to progress and make a pleasure for myself. Besides, the other problem is that sometimes I get up with not enough motivation.     

Originally posted by Gentleman From VA

I wonder what it is you struggle with precisely, whether it be time, fatigue, finesse, delicacy or a combination of any or all of these?



My recommendation to alleviate any of these issues though is the same; set up a routine. I wake up way earlier than I need to in order to get ready for work, then practice for 30-45 minutes every weekday morning. On days off I practice for 45-60 minutes. Maybe this won't work for you but there is some sort of routine you can figure out to do something similar. Remember to do your best to relax your brain and give yourself 10-15 to just zone and play too. Helps with getting too tense and worked up (at least for me)



I have worked hard labor jobs (construction, railroad, warehouse) most of my life and this is what I developed to get over the "I'm too tired" hump






 

rosinhead - Posted - 01/06/2020:  15:12:46


I too get up early to enjoy more time playing the fiddle. I work a lot of 12 hour shifts and by the time I get home I'm both physically and mentally exhausted. I used to take my fiddle with me everywhere so when I had 10 or 15 minutes to spare I would spend it playing a few tunes. It really helped because those 10 and 15 minute sessions add up to extra hours of practice/playing. It all depends on what adjustments you can make. The time spent in the mornings I feel is the most beneficial though.

ChickenMan - Posted - 01/06/2020:  15:24:04


quote:

Originally posted by Frank_L

quote: About my problems: mostly intonation, rhythm and higher speed. And memory. Getting finally ability to read music (after many years) I lost the skill to remember tunes by heart.......I make a cup of coffee, open some tune collection at a random page and play one tuner after another.



 






I will get grief for this, but ditch the notation. I’ve seen this with other instrument players too, your reliance on the paper bypasses the memory part of the brain. Your memorization troubles are because you don’t internalize the tunes, (and daily random tunes aren’t doing anything to alleviate the issue). Try focusing on a tune that grabs your attention and commit to memorizing it.  Also, focus on rhythm (or intonation etc) for a week, maybe record yourself (actually, definitely record yourself) as that will give you the feedback needed to see where you are improving (or not). Otherwise, it sounds like you’ve got a routine, albeit a short one - cuppa coffee would go cold during my practice. Sadly, “excellence” requires more time than most real world adults have. I assume you practice in the morning because your hands are a wreck by the end of the day, but a short run through of the morning’s tune-to-be-memorized before bed might helpful. Studies show much happens towards that end while we sleep.

isaacallen71 - Posted - 01/06/2020:  16:07:21


I can attest to the ditching of the notation. I can play Westphalia Waltz all day when lookin' at the paper, but by gum and by darn it I can't even get past the first few measures when I look away. On the other hand, I know Oh Susanna like the back of my fiddle. Internalizing a tune makes it a joy to play, and allows you to improvise and change things as ya want. Just my two cents!

buckhenry - Posted - 01/06/2020:  16:43:02


quote:

Originally posted by Frank_L

quote: About my problems: mostly intonation, rhythm and higher speed. And memory. 


open some tune collection at a random page and play one tuner after another.    



 






 






This is where I see the problem; reading/playing one tune after another, which is good for learning to 'sight read', but there's too much focus on that because you're neglecting  the skills you mentioned; intonation, rhythm, speed, and memory. 



Within the limited time you have prioritize the skills required to move to the next level eg; memorize a few easy tunes, work on the intonation and rhythm of those tunes, perhaps include some basic exercises to improve those skills.



Speed will come after you learn how to relax the tensions.   

farmerjones - Posted - 01/06/2020:  17:33:28


One of the best fiddlers that ever was, worked for the county, and ran a road grader.


Edited by - farmerjones on 01/06/2020 17:34:23

Eric Sprado - Posted - 01/06/2020:  18:56:24


I swung a blacksmith hammer for 25 years and was ('til losing left hand) a pretty fair semi professional fiddler. Best fiddler I ever knew in person,Jim Widner. worked pulling on a green chain his whole working career. All physical work has one thing in common-it is performed best with a relaxed body. I barely grasp my blacksmith hammer. The objective is to move metal without getting fatigued. I logged too in the winter,walking beside draft mule... Try really hard to put your body at ease.. Also-try to do all you can to reduce vibration damage from chainsaw.

boxbow - Posted - 01/07/2020:  04:34:27


I no longer abuse my hands like I did as recently as 10 years ago. Mandolin was really hard after working all day, but fiddle wasn't bad. Since I was learning not to over-grip the fiddle and bow anyway, fatigue helped. I had no choice but to played a bit slower. Some of the flashier things came out muddled. I probably learned more about making a fiddle sing with a light touch under those circumstances because I had no "heavy" touch to speak of. Kind of like swinging a hammer. Anybody can whack away with everything they've got, but that's only good if you're making a mess. With a fiddle, that means bad tone, bad intonation, racing and uneven tempo, muddy articulation.

Work with the fatigue, not against it.

I spend less than 10% if my practice time with sheet music. I value it, but I don't rely on it.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 01/07/2020:  07:26:01


OK ..... purchase a phone that has a bit of extra memory and put fiddle tunes in it. Listen often. I realize for some work you need to involve your ears ... but not for all work. A phone call will come through over your music listening if that is a concern. Instead of opening a random book to a tune and playing make that half of what you do. Make seven short lists of tunes. three to seven tunes, and play one list daily from memory. Practice both skills as both are worth retaining. Lastly play often in closed positions where the intervals ignore open strings. This will help both your reading and your memory playing. Play on!

ChickenMan - Posted - 01/07/2020:  13:14:27


Oh yeah, what Richard said about listening to the tunes you want to memorize. And the short list.

Old Scratch - Posted - 01/07/2020:  13:59:58


A lot of the old-timers who worked long hours and hard did not have a huge repertoire of tunes. There's no harm in having just a handful of tunes that you enjoy playing and play well. Chances are you'll never have an opportunity to play more than a few tunes at a time in public performance (?) anyway. If you enjoy sight-reading random tunes, there's no harm in it - but it's probably not a big help, other than improving your sight-reading.

Old Scratch - Posted - 01/07/2020:  17:48:55


Here's a video that's tangentially related, and might be of interest.  From the description: "Bertrand then talks in French about the fiddling style of the islands and the fact that many fiddlers play a slow style with very strong bowing. He demonstrates how Madelinots fiddlers have a different bow stroke than Cape Breton fiddlers. The Madelinot fiddlers, who were mostly fishermen with calloused hands and sometimes missing fingers, would tend to play with less notes and more rhythm."  In other words:  more bow work to make up for limited melodic (left-hand) work.  youtube.com/watch?v=r-4biShWFp0

Old Scratch - Posted - 01/07/2020:  19:04:15


Btw, those things are demonstrated; you don't need to understand French to get the idea.

Woodcutter - Posted - 01/08/2020:  04:19:25


Frank --- get yourself a GOOD pair of ear muffs (if you don't already have some) and wear them whenever the chainsaw is running. Damage to your ears will definitely hurt intonation.

Peghead - Posted - 01/08/2020:  09:20:36


When your hands are stiff soak them in warm/hot water for a little while before you play. If they're sore add some epsom salt. That's best done at night. Put your palms together spread your fingers and raise you elbows once in a while to stretch your fingers and forearms.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/08/2020:  09:54:41


We always had to work hard just to live...or we'd die from cold, no water, hunger or whatever...always had to work pretty hard just to stay alive. I busted my knuckle one time when our 12 lb maul slipped on a chunk of ice on the log I was splitting when it was below zero out. No money or insurance and hubby set it with sticks and tape so that I could continue to play guitar and banjo, didn't have a fiddle back then. Once we moved up here, the hard work stopped but the time-consuming jobs came in to take its place, pretty much.

But, what Pete said. If you play Old Time, anyway, a lot of the tunes were born out of a hard life and a lot of hard work. I think when you have obstacles to deal with you develop a desperation to play, and combining it all together, you will find yourself playing one way or another...although thinking about balancing it all will drive you crazy. At least that's my history. Also, not being allowed to have instruments or be interested in music growing up...lol...that built the deseperation quite a bit too.

These days I do wear gloves when we do any work. Trying to protect the hands as much as I can.

But...you're living like the folks who made the tunes, played them good, and handed them down for us. Maybe the idea doesn't help much, but I wish you the best in the balancing act. Since you have the passion, you will do it, one way or another. Just protect your hands anyway you can.

TuneWeaver - Posted - 01/08/2020:  12:59:22


quote:

Originally posted by Frank_L

I would like to consult following problem I have been thinking about for a long time. How to combine a passion to play fiddle with hard manual job. Well, I am not young any longer, but still I would like to improve my skills. How to, after returning home after a day spending with a chain saw in the forest or spreading manure on fields? I wonder how many of you there are experienced with manual jobs and still are able to do excellent job on fiddle. I would appreciate any comments, hints, recommendation.






Frank, I just now found your post and have not read even ONE response,  but the topic  'hit home'.... I can only relate to my own experiences.. My career was that of a massage therapist.. Sounds exotic?  No.. It was very labor intensive.. I gave massages 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 25 years.. My arms took a beating.. My arms ached and more than once I considered quitting... but that is beside the point.. I always took my fiddle with me to work, and on my lunch hour, I'd play IN MY CAR, for Years.. learning to fiddle.. Before that, when my kids were young, I'd only play in the back room AFTER the kids were in bed... Also,, at one time I owned a Meat Market.. I'd keep a fiddle on a shelf under my cash register and when there were not customers, I'd pull out the fiddle and struggle away.... Once your are Committed to the Fiddle, you'll Find a way.



As for your hands.. well, I again can only give my personal experience as a response.. When my arms hurt the most, I ACCIDENTALLY found that Full Range exercises relieved the pain in my forearms and hands . Do something as simple as trying to crush a wad  of paper in your hand.. You'll be using your hands in a way that a chain saw doesn't offer.. PM me if you want more info about that. ..  Check those exercises out.... ..Good luck..



 



 


Edited by - TuneWeaver on 01/08/2020 13:10:41

Frank_L - Posted - 01/08/2020:  15:24:53


Thanks for all hints and comments. Many of them comply with my experience. And for sure all it improves my motivation to keep on practising. Thinking on the topic I realize that there may be also advantages in doing manual job, especially when working in the open air. In fact I spent most of my active years working in industry and often returning home stressed and mentally exhausted. Now, being retired I switched to taking care about the homestead which makes me tired physically, but I can feel the music somehow differently, deeper.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 01/08/2020:  15:28:54


loading and unloading wagons, roadwork, gardening, groundwork,plumbing, carpentering, logging, fixing and maintaining stuff, gigging, carting gear in and out of gigs, building etc..etc..heavy duty partying, fiddling, jack of all trades master of none. Music ran through them all.



Best thing i ever did was get a hydraulic log splitter after 35 years or so, of using axes and wedges. Still got my Alpina 120 pro, Husky 365, and my Husky 254xp and use them for slabbing and logging for the house, (but i avoid wooden handle tools now..apart from my trusty billhook that saves me bending to pick up logs). Don't know what will happen if/when my old Kubota tractor gives up the ghost ?



Wrists shoulders and forearms and back are starting to give in but then I've always been a "gracile" sort of a chap. i'm hoping ive still got a decade or so of fiddling left...But who knows???......Definitely get a hydraulic splitter... if you haven't already got one...oh and a helmet with ear muffs like Woodcutter said.

Mandobart - Posted - 01/15/2020:  19:56:51


My grandfather was a hard rock coal miner. First in the UK where they dug tunnels under the North Sea following the coal seams. In 1913 he moved to the US (NM) and mined around Raton for the Kaiser Coal company.

He joined the British 17th Lancers (cavalry) when WWI broke out. After the war he came back to the US and to mining. He was a good fiddler (and captain of the miner's rugby team).

He was a very physical guy, but he and his wife (my grandma, who played piano) were in demand for playing dances around northern NM/southern CO. in the depression every bit was needed - I think that may have helped motivate him.

I still play his 1880's German trade fiddle. Sweet tone. Over 100 years in northern NM above 7000' high and never humidified. I guess it was tough, too.

Humbled by this instrument - Posted - 01/18/2020:  10:39:45


Frank, before my cancer hit I was working as a janitor for a local school district here, a job which included carrying a noticeably heavy backpack vacuum on my back whilst cleaning quite a few rooms. Of course, I'd also mop, sanitize bathrooms, carry forty to sixty pound loads to the trash bins, and so on. At the end of my shift I was tired. I'd go home, eat, chit chat, and then go play my fiddle. By the way, I also rarely had the hand soreness nor the neck problems (and so on) that my fellow fiddlers would often mention, and I think it was due to my keeping rather fit at work, my muscles easily handling holding the fiddle and dragging the bow 'cross the strings.

Now whether or not I do an "excellent" job on the fiddle...well...let's just say that the dogs no longer RUN into the other rooms and place paws o'er their ears....

Curt

pete_fiddle - Posted - 01/18/2020:  12:33:39


i think with fiddling, that shock injuries are a thing to avoid (especially in cold weather). They can clam a wrist or hand into an unusable knot in a matter of days, and take months/years to heal. but like Humbled and others say, most of the other stuff just keeps you in trim, and gives more insight into the folk who  wrote and played this fiddle music.

TuneWeaver - Posted - 01/18/2020:  13:07:21


I've often thought (and I've usually been wrong when I've thought) that some of those old fiddle tunes that used in between notes instead of sharps or naturals, had been developed because of a lack of finger dexterity which may have been caused by hard work... Thoughts?

Old Scratch - Posted - 01/18/2020:  13:42:28


My thoughts? I doubt it. Okay, that's just one thought, but it's my only one on the subject ... !

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/18/2020:  20:09:13


Well people used to sing the same way they fiddled...so I'm not of the opinion that it was lack of finger dexterity...just the way to get across the melody line.

alaskafiddler - Posted - 01/18/2020:  20:34:40


quote:

Originally posted by TuneWeaver

I've often thought (and I've usually been wrong when I've thought) that some of those old fiddle tunes that used in between notes instead of sharps or naturals, had been developed because of a lack of finger dexterity which may have been caused by hard work... Thoughts?






Most of the in between notes are based on a bit different intonation system. Intonation systems (such as using neutral thirds/sevenths) are not just any random but more deliberate; fairly consistent. Often you can hear it in the singing as well.



Of course some folks just had/have poor intonation; probably random and inconsistent. Nothing to do with manual labor, hard work... or simple desk job.



 



 



 

BR5-49 - Posted - 01/25/2020:  00:16:53


Betwixt my fiddling and music making, I've done some physically demanding jobs that have taken their toll. I wear a brass chain and a magnetic bracelet around my right wrist. The difference they've made is a relief.

bsed - Posted - 01/25/2020:  06:13:33


For starters, you ought to wear work gloves.

boxbow - Posted - 01/25/2020:  06:17:05


The Dragger's Reel written and played by Eddie Arsenault. He was a professional fisherman from Prince Edward Island. He was also a dandy fiddler.  Seems he made it work.  The video begins with him describing listening to his boat motor and writing the tune.



youtube.com/watch?v=pKJKYkw0x2g



Here's another video showing him playing.  Look at the forearms on that guy!  I love to play the second of two tunes that he plays here.  It's a jam buster, though.



youtube.com/watch?v=xvyep7jstVc


Edited by - boxbow on 01/25/2020 06:22:13

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/25/2020:  17:12:35


Are those guys brothers? Amazing. Good playing and the dancing was really good too.

Old Scratch - Posted - 01/25/2020:  18:09:42


Yup, brothers.

Old Scratch - Posted - 01/25/2020:  18:18:43


Btw, lots more of Eddy Arsenault here:  bowingdownhome.ca/islandora/ob...bdh%3A221.   Scroll down to the bottom for the audio/video.

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