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Shuffling my way to Nashville

Posted by bj on Sunday, December 28, 2008

So lately, interspersed with all these holiday interruptions that have me wishing strongly for a nice intense block of fiddle happiness, instead of another obligatory get together with people I only see this time of year, most of whom I wouldn't miss if I didn't, I've been revisiting all the tunes in my tunelist, especially the simpler ones that I learned first, and adding in some nashville shuffle here and there. It's coming along slowly. The operative word here being slowly. As in everything back to slowdown speeds.

But I feel like it's finally STARTING to come together. I'm trying to do this in a somewhat randomized way, rather than locking into doing the shuffles in the same place every time, like I used to lock down all the bowing when I originally learned the tunes. This randomization requires a lot more awareness and brain work, but I'm starting to get a better feel for how things fit together with rhythm and bowing, and since I no longer have to focus on the mechanics of holding the bow or concentrating on dang tone, I can really work on how the patterns can fit together on the fly. Yes, it will take awhile before I bring this up to speed and it starts to feel natural, but it's already feeling good. My biggest problem is my own impatience to be GOOD NOW.

I've also been doing some bowrocking add-ins, to add variety, making a long note  into two short ones, with the bass drop being the second note. That I'm finding even easier than adding in shuffles.

This all represents about half my practice time these days. The other half is learning new tune melodies in simple form. That's getting easier and easier. I've recently added Bonaparte's Retreat to the repertoire, and I've been working on Kitchen Girl (which is probably still a bit out of reach, but I'm determined!) and Sally Ann. I've also been picking up the fiddle and playing along with my OT pandora channel. I'm finding that as long as I keep to a simple melody line, I'm playing along with most of it before the end of the tune. With a few mistakes, but still, it's coming easier. I think by next fiddle camp season I'll be able to hold my own in all but the fastest jam circles.

6 comments on “Shuffling my way to Nashville”

ChickenMan Says:
Monday, December 29, 2008 @2:31:08 PM

Sounds like you are stepping up to new challenges. I don't know if you read the article about English fiddling that was posted as a link somewhere here recently, but that article said the Nville shuffle was the mainstay of fiddlers in the mid 1800's. The article also mentions that American fiddling from your neck of the woods and south still retains much of the Old World in it's style.

I personally can't NOT shuffle, which gets in the way sometimes when trying to play along with my BG band, where the bass player likes to slap and make extra beats that don't quite swing like I do.

bj Says:
Monday, December 29, 2008 @3:03:04 PM

I've also been doing more sawstroke. It's the first thing I should have learned, but somehow I missed it since I fell in love with the GA shuffle and stuffed every damn thing into that pattern when I was first learning, which made me sound more fiddley faster, but . . . I really should have learned sawstroke first, since now it seems like a LOT of work.

Must be tough having an OldTime Heart in a BlueGrass Band.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Monday, December 29, 2008 @8:13:39 PM

Yes yes, the Nashville shuffle is fun. I now love to mix it with the Georgia shuffle--Fiddlepogo has this shuffle on his music page, played slowly so you can understand it. And I agree that it's hard not to want the songs to be "good now!" Yeah, I go through that all the time. And "Kitchen Girl?" Hmmmm. I've not heard it. I'm going to look it up.

bj Says:
Monday, December 29, 2008 @8:24:13 PM

There's a Henry Reed version of Kitchen Girl here:

I've also got an Alan Jabbour mp3 of it which is just slightly different than the Reed version, but I don't remember where I snagged it. Give me a holler if you want me to send it to you, Humbled.

robinja Says:
Tuesday, December 30, 2008 @1:18:25 PM

This shuffle thing is such a can of worms! I usually spend my time trying to avoid overshuffling! I am not the analytical bowing type, so I don't really know one shuffle from the next (and don't want to!), but I definitely think that shuffling can be overdone (and have been told so by my teacher). At the same time, it is a necessary component of fiddling and fits a lot of tunes (or phrases of tunes.) Either way, good for you to have stuff you're working on - things to put in your fiddler's bag of tricks. I guess I am in polish mode - acquired new tunes, lost mojo on old tunes.

bj Says:
Tuesday, December 30, 2008 @2:24:08 PM

Well, yes, they can be overdone, but that tendency is there because they sound so dang good and fiddley when done well.

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