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Fighting my way out of a slump...part II

Posted by fiddlepogo on Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A slump for me usually means that instead of sounding not so hot for 5 minutes while
I warm up, it sounds not so hot for half an hour to 40 mins.
But due to age and allergies, I have about 40 mins of real solid stamina!
The question at that point is, can I endure 40 minutes of horrible (relative to my standards)
and get to the place where it sounds good again? (at that point it gets to be fun and I'm motivated for maybe another half hour until total exhaustion sets in )

Do I have the persistence? The desire?
This is where the fact that I have other interests endangers the fiddle practice...
so much easier to grab the new guitar, or just turn on the computer.

The problem at the last two bluegrass jams is that I can almost always play a tune if I play at my comfortable speed.
But the tunes other bluegrassers are likely to start are:
A. complex, with abundant string changes
B. generally faster than my comfort zone

But when I'm practiced up, my comfort zone is wider and more elastic, including the faster direction.

So to function at a bluegrass jam as a fiddler, I really need to be practiced up
and in peak form.  Otherwise, trying to hop on their faster tempo is
like a hobo trying to hop a freight that's goin' too fast-
the results will NOT be pretty!

Additionally, since most of what you play at a Bluegrass jam percentage wise is backup, the jam will not help you warm up, as you probably would for an Old Time jam, where you are playing the melody all the time.

Last night I actually DID practice enough, to get out of the slump.  Part of it was that the bow needed more rosin, and it helped also to use the heavier bow.  Seems like the K. Holtz has a narrower window of sounding good, and I can hit that window when I'm practiced up, but not so much when I'm in a slump.  But the heavier bow will sound good... it just won't let me play as fast!

Then I got out the other fiddle, the slightly older of my two Knilling 4KFs that I bought used.

I had had the idea that the Precision Lights were sounding just fine for the G and D strings, but the A and E didn't sound so good.

But those strings had sounded fine when it was strung with D'Addario Preludes.  So I had put on a Prelude heavy A, and that sounded good, so last night I put on a Prelude medium E, and that sounded better than the Precision E on that fiddle as well.

So it seems that that fiddle really likes a mixed set- brighter strings on the G and D, but mellower strings on the A and E.

After practicing, I asked my wife if she had noticed that I sounded lousy at first and then got better as I practiced-

"She said "No, I thought you sounded good all the time!"

(But remember, she's NOT a musician!)

So I guess the slump is in the eye, or rather in the EAR of the one who's having the slump- it's relative to what you are used to.


4 comments on “Fighting my way out of a slump...part II”

robin jones Says:
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 @8:27:53 AM

Nothing helps me out of slump faster than sitting whatever instrument aside for a day or two or three. The longer I don't play the more I can approach it with new perspective, say in several days. Unfortunately technique suffers badly in the same time span, but in my experience that comes right back after two or three good practice sessions.

bj Says:
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 @9:25:10 AM

Well, I have no advice to offer, except to keep playing regardless of how you sound, like I do. I always sound awful and refuse to let it stop me. And since people keep inviting me to new places to play and jam, I figure that enthusiasm and love of the music has to count for something.

I hate to ask this, but it seems appropriate, given my own experiences-- Have you considered that maybe the BG jams are just not the best venue for you?

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 @12:24:16 PM

Well, Robin, it depends on the kind of slump.
I guess I do get these "bored with what I'm doing even though it sounds great" slumps, and a couple of days off does help with those.
But if I let it go more than a couple of days then I have a
"I've lost my edge and it sounds awful whenever I pick it up slumps".


If by best venue you mean "best venue to showcase my talent and chops", well, no, it's not.
But if by best venue you mean "best local venue to offer me a challenge so I can continue to grow as a fiddler", yes it is.

The Old Time Jam I host is basically a beginning to intermediate jam.
It makes me look good, but it doesn't challenge me.
I could not practice for a week and probably still do okay leading it.
The local bluegrass jam does have advanced players and I need to be playing my best to keep up with them.
Oddly, the biggest challenge is on what should be my forte-
fiddle tunes! As long as I kick them off, I'm okay,
but in a song circle format, you don't always get to do that.
I just have to face the fact that I need to practice certain tunes
so I'm ready to play them at ANY tempo that gets thrown at me.
So far, I don't feel any need to jazz up my Old Time arrangements,
just make sure I can play them fast and clean.

Now, if it was a choice between a local OT jam with advanced players and this bluegrass jam, it'd be a tough call.
But there is no such animal locally.
And bluegrass jams offer:
1. the chance to sing my bluegrass song repertoire and play my new guitar
2. the opportunity to try and learn to improvise on the fiddle.
My breaks don't ALWAYS work, but they have worked often enough to let me know that my improv on the fiddle has potential.
I have all these bluesy ideas from playing electric blues guitar, and sometimes I manage to translate them to fiddle, and when it clicks, it's such a blast!

Handsaw Says:
Friday, May 15, 2009 @10:52:28 AM

Sorry I came in late.
Asking your wife if you sound good or not is like her asking you if she looks fat. Don't trust the answer you get.
Actually, that isn't true because sometimes my wife will come in and tell me that I sound awful (when I can't seem to get the pitches right or there is a lot of screetchy scratchy going on).

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