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Left hand breakthrough and other music happenings..

Posted by fiddlepogo on Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's been almost four years since I started playing fiddle again, and I've had a number of bowing breakthroughs to the point that I've been noticing that my left hand had been having a hard time keeping up.

I had been holding it so that the thumb touched the side of the neck and the first thumb joint.  Tonight I had the idea to change it so the thumbprint was partially underneath the neck, and while it made the fiddle seem a little less stable at first (I'm not a shoulder rest user) I rapidly got used to it, and it seems familiar, like I had made a similar shift at some point before the 15 year fiddling hiatus.

The left hand now feels almost as relaxed as the right arm.  I'm having to adjust the intonation slightly, but in a way it's better, because the right spots for intonation seem to fall more naturally under the fingers.

I can also play faster now, if I want to, since the left hand can keep up better, and it seems to sound better, maybe because I can use less finger pressure (seems there was a thread about that).

Last night I went to a new bluegrass jam that started up- it's a weekly jam, but unfortunately it's on a Monday evening, and I usually have gigs and jams going on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so I'm pretty beat by the time Monday evening rolls around.

Still, it was fun, and if I can muster up the energy I might make more progress in improvisation with the weekly input and inspiration.

I think the left hand breakthrough came at just the right time.

I may have to take the "Old Time" off my avatar if this keeps up!

Oh yeah.  Saturday was the "Old Time" jam.  Problem is, there really isn't anyone who comes who's really into fiddle tunes.  So mostly we are doing old songs that could qualify as "Old Time" in a general sense-  I give as guidelines that it should be before 1930 if possible and definitely have a rhythm that is compatible with the bump-ditty rhythm of the clawhammer banjos... oh yeah, and stay in easy fiddle and banjo keys!  I did put my foot down once when one guy wanted to play "Sloop John B." (wrong rhythm for the banjos)

Waltzes are okay though, since our banjo players don't seem to mind them!

So about the most modern stuff that got played were Carter Family and Woody Guthrie songs.  Old Time?  Yes and no, sort of kind of.

Not as much of a contrast to the Country-Folk song circle as I'd like, but still a good time and also very clawhammer friendly, which was part of the reason for starting the jam anyway.

Other recent events:

I had a lunchtime gig at a local junior college that went well, and also had a St. Patrick's Day gig at a local Alzheimer's unit, which went well.

Then since I had learned some songs and brushed up on my Irish jigs and hornpipes, I did another variety gig this week as though it were for St. Patrick's Day, and they enjoyed that too.

So I may be doing more Irish stuff... maybe I should pay one of the local Irish jams a visit now and then!

4 comments on “Left hand breakthrough and other music happenings..”

brya31 Says:
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 @2:21:18 AM

Good stuff Michael, I still struggle with my left hand, hopefully someday I can get it to behave

bj Says:
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 @10:07:05 AM

Now you've got me thinking about this. I think I've subconsciously been making the same shift, though it's not quite comfortable yet. Last night at the jam, on the tunes where I was hanging on for dear life, I noticed my hand had shifted. It made for tightness in my shoulders since I clamped down on my chinrest more, but I think I can solve that if I just start to work on it.

ChickenMan Says:
Thursday, March 26, 2009 @2:45:21 PM

Wow, you should count yourself lucky to have one weekly jam to attend, let alone one for 5 of the 7 days of the week! The only jam I get is with the BG band I play with, and that doesn't even come close to satisfying my OT addiction or allow for playing with different musicians. If I'M lucky, our banjo player arrives early to practice and he and I play as many tunes as we can squeeze in before the rest of the gang arrive, and that means a couple of Irish tunes and many OT tunes (like Cherokee Shuffle in "D" instead of the BG "A" that the band plays).
I wondered about the thumb positioning because my L index finger has some arthritis in the first knuckle, and shifting my hand position to TUN (thumb under neck) makes for a less extreme bending of that finger. How much "on the side of neck" were you holding it before? I've seen some who nearly wrap the thumb around the neck (or they could if they wanted) but that may be because they have long thumbs. Mine's not long and bends funny.

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, April 27, 2009 @5:17:12 PM

And I think I've changed my mind about it... back to the old way (thumb on side of fingerboard).

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