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Loooooooooong incubation periods for new tunes

Posted by FiddlerFaddler on Thursday, May 28, 2009

I reckon that some folks pick up new tunes relatively quickly.  At least I postulate that such is the case because my friend Tim Daniels seems to not only pick up the melody easily, but he extemporizes amazing licks and harmonies.

As for me, it takes me a long time to appropriate a new tune.  It is as if I have to live with it for a very long time before it is really mine.  To make matters worse, or better, depending on your perspective, mission creeps takes over and I find myself trying the melody in different octaves, and trying to add drones and double stops, and sometimes even a twin fiddle part.  All the while I'm fretting (is that a pun?) that I'm progressing at glacial speeds and am woefully inept at playing yet another tune.

And then, one fine day, the clouds part, the sun rises, angels break out singing the Hallelujah Chorus, and ... I can play the fool thing with neither fuss nor muss, and with loads of enjoyment.  The realization hits me that I really CAN play it and play it WELL.  In the twinkling of an eye I am thus catapulted from the slew of despond to the soaring heights of accomplishment.

Depending on the tune and on the degree of mission creep, the incubation periods can take over a year.  If it weren't for the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and my tenaciousnous, I'd be driven to frustration.

A current example: I am learning to play The Peekaboo Waltz.  I have come up with my own arrangement, and it is so hard to play (with LOTS of double stops) that it's driving me nuts.  I told a friend that and she thought that it was funny that my own arrangement was too hard for me to play.  Taking that to heart, I've decided to be amused by that as well, and use my amusement as the motivation to endure yet another long incubation period.

7 comments on “Loooooooooong incubation periods for new tunes”

fiddlepogo Says:
Thursday, May 28, 2009 @5:48:36 PM

Well, I can relate. When I started fiddling again after the 15 year hiatus,
some old tunes came back immediately. Some are still not quite there yet four years later. Likewise with new tunes. A couple clicked right away and are part of my current active playing repertoire. Most are taking a LONG time.
I compare it to something I noticed while studying languages.
There is a passive "recognition" vocabulary used only for listening and reading, and there is an active vocabulary used in speaking.
It seems there is something similar going on with fiddle.
I have a bunch of new midis from in a directory together, and when I select them all and play them in Media player slowed down, I can play them all, but I'm lucky if I can play 3 of them from a cold start with no external help.

And you mention Peekaboo. Waltzes are some of the worst for that-
again, I can play along with about 5 new waltzes, but can't start them for BEANS!

fiddlepogo Says:
Thursday, May 28, 2009 @5:50:42 PM

Oh yeah. One thing that seems to help a little.
If I listen to them together so often that I "hear" the beginning of one in my head after the next one ends, I think there is hope that I could play all the tunes in the directory together as a medley sooner than if I do them all individually!

John Gent Says:
Thursday, May 28, 2009 @6:05:44 PM

"... driving me nuts ..."

Not far to drive, eh Michael?


mudbug Says:
Friday, May 29, 2009 @4:06:12 AM

Sounds to me like your "arranger" part of your musical personality is highly develloped and very specific on what it will take to satisfy "him". The "player" part in you will probably always be subservient to the higher goal, especially if it's worked well in the past.

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Friday, May 29, 2009 @7:36:03 AM

> Not far to drive, eh Michael?

You have me figured out, John! Be very worried, as it takes one to know one :D

Mudbug, I don't quite have multiple personalities, just an asynchronous relationship between my expectations and my achievements. That and that I am better at arranging than at playing. My friend Tim boils reduces the arrangement/achievement cycle down to milliseconds (hence his being a great extemporizer), whereas my cycle varies from weeks to months.

bj Says:
Friday, May 29, 2009 @1:38:42 PM

Well, I know you jam regularly, so I can't suggest that to speed things up.. That's what kicked my tune learning ability into high gear. Now I'm learning two or three tunes a week, whereas before I was lucky to learn two or three a month. Not that I'm doing anything much besides a simple stripped down version at this point, when I'm learning them. But the tunes I know well are now getting "dressed up for dinner". I'm adding stuff into them with bowing, and left hand ornamentation, that had been stripped out when I wanted to learn the tune. And I'm adding my own ideas in, not someone else's, so I figure it's a process. And we all have a different way to achieve that process.

It is pretty funny you can't play your own arrangements . . .

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Friday, May 29, 2009 @1:51:51 PM

Well Hmmmmph! What's this Peekaboop Waltz anyways? My band leader sends me songs all the time, saying "Hey you need to know this by such and such gig, yada yada yada," and I've found that all I need to do is play quieter than his banjo and ACT as if I'm playing the tune....

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