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On cruise control, not sure what to do next

Posted by brya31 on Saturday, July 25, 2009

I am at 1 year and 3 months into this journey and I not for sure what to do to improve.  I dont say this in the manner that I think I am good, I say this in the manner that I do not know what I should focus on to make myself better.  Maybe I am just in a hurry to sound good?  I dunno.   I come here and read post on shuffles, styles, scales,  ....etc  etc   and I get dizzy.  Every night I practice scales and I practice tunes that I hear at the local jam session.  My first big goal is to be able to play along with all those nice folks and not stand out like a sore thumb.  So now I play three common tunes every night along with background music from the computer, I am hoping this will get me used to playing with others.  For some reason, no matter how well I know a song, if the banjo guy or another fiddler jump in and they are sitting right next to me, it completely throws me off. So playing along with online friends, LOL...hopefully will help me overcome this issue.  I also get bored playing these tunes over and over.  So I try to figure out the accenting thingy and the different shuffle thingy, but I guess I just dont have the skills to do these yet, becasue I just cant get it!  So then I try to just play the songs with drones.  Sometimes it sounds ok, but usually it just sounds like I am crowding a tune with noise.    I guess it is really confusing because I really dont know where I should be at this point.   I wish they had a begginner adult class locally so I could get some good direction on where I am and where I should be going.   I know I should be bring this up to my instuctor, but I have and he pretty much just lets me know I am doing fine.  As some of you may know, he does not criticize.  Maybe I am just in a hurry to walk before I crawl, heck I dunno, but it sure is frustrating, especially since this darn thing is so addicting!

9 comments on “On cruise control, not sure what to do next”

OTJunky Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @7:07:23 AM

I dunno - there are so many tunes out there, and so many ways of playing them that I don't seem to run into this problem. I looked at your "favorite bands/musicians" list so here're some suggestions.

You can find Tommy Jarrell playing "Old Jimmy Sutton" on YouTube. This tune is deceptively simple, yet it involves the essences of Jarrell's bow-rocking style and will probably take about a year to learn. And you can see the old master play it anytime you want.

You can also find the Carolina Chocolate drops lady fiddler playing "Colored Aristocracy" on YouTube. A great tune and you can see and hear exactly how she does it.

And you can find a complete "concert" by the Foghorn String Band at the Kennedy Center site. They play a lot of tunes there but one that's approachable is "Wink the Other Eye".

So, it's probably time for some "ear training" - meaning pick up these tunes from YouTube first, then eventually get to the point where you can pick them up from just recordings - no video.

Once you've done that, you'll never have to wonder what to play next because there'll be more things available to play than you can learn in a life-time. The only issue will be picking the tunes you want to learn.


brya31 Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @7:10:43 AM

Thanks for the help OT this blog was me blowing off steam I was following that shuffle thread and getting so confused I had to let some steam I sure wish I could get my ear trained I have been working on it, but it isnt going to fast. There was a Down Yonder tune I loved on you tube, I took it to my instructor and ask how they are doing all those double stops, he said those arent double stops most of that song is being done on one string. : ( My ear failed me again, LOL

mudbug Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @8:26:56 AM

Hey brya, I know what you mean. You know where you want to eventually be, but there is no clear, straight, obvious line to get there. No matter how good you get, you end up on plateaus that will take time to bust out of. Just keep beating your head against the ceiling, and it eventually does break, although not as fast as we would like.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @8:50:54 AM

Hey Brya, I'm six and almost seven years into this journey, and I don't know. Is there a slow jam where you are, a place in which people learning their instruments can play "Cripple Creek" and "Old Joe Clark?" These sessions are kinda nice in that you not only meet some fine folks, but also get some cool feedback.

brya31 Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @9:33:56 AM

Yes Humbled there is and I frequent it, but much of that jam is very unorganized and the songs and tunes really vary, it will go from a Dolly Parton tune to a gospel tune to Soldiers Joy. I would love to organize an OT jam someday, but right now I dont enough confidence in my own playing to even attempt to organize a jam.

bj Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @12:21:06 PM

First of all, I think Humbled is onto something. Is there anyone at that jam who plays at an intermediate level and who is approachable? I know we usually want to learn from the experts, but sometimes someone who is a little closer to our level has a better understanding of what the stumbling blocks are, since they've gotten over those themselves more recently. If there is someone like that, ask that person if they'd be amenable to helping you become better at jamming, by maybe meeting informally once or twice a month. Cook the person dinner as a thank you.

I'd also suggest you learn some new tunes in keys you don't know as well as the keys you're playing in now. And yes, learn them by ear. That's an essential skill for getting comfortable at jams, and I wouldn't worry overmuch about drones and ornaments so much as just GETTING the melody by ear. Some good ones to start on--

AEAE tuning-
Waterbound (this is a FUN tune!)
Sourwood Mountain
Old Bunch of Keys
Little Billy Wilson (3 parts!)

Banjo Tramp
Loggieville Two Step
Snake River Reel
Maggots in the Sheephide

Cuffy (this one gives your up and down the strings skills a WORKOUT!)
John Brown's March
Nail That Catfish To A Tree

Learning tunes will give you more fiddle phrase vocabulary. The more vocabulary you have under your fingers, the easier it becomes to learn new tunes. Besides, it'll kick you outta your rut. :-)

One thing I found out running my jam is that being the lead fiddler on a tune nobody else at the jam knows makes me feel like less of a dummy. They learn it fast, if they're good fiddlers, but there's a real feeling of accomplishment that comes in teaching a tune to others, so don't be afraid to go off your jam's tunelist once in awhile. In my music files I have an example of this on Maggots in the Sheephide. I'm the one teaching that tune. Yes, I got nervous and screwed it up royally, but I did recover, and folks learned the tune from me. That felt really good!

I have a couple fiddlers at my jam who can only measure their playing time in days or weeks. I always start them off just finding the open notes in any tune and playing them when they come up. They can usually do it, no matter how green they are. I do tell them what key we're in and which strings they should concentrate on for that key. I know you're further along than they are, but it might be a place to start as far as getting more comfortable at jams.

fiddlepogo Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @1:26:39 PM

You are 2 hours and 20 minutes away from Bloomington, Indiana,
where I've heard Brad Leftwich lives.
If you take IN-43/N US-231you avoid Indianapolis.
Brad has some DVD instruction materials,
and that combined with occasional personal instruction from him
might get you really far, really fast.

brya31 Says:
Saturday, July 25, 2009 @3:44:03 PM

Funny you mention him MIchael, I was just looking at his DVD Play Old TIme Fiddle Volume 1, I am thinking I may buy it. There are so many books and dvds out there, I am confused, LOL I am on

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, July 26, 2009 @5:21:03 PM

Personal bias for a fellow downbower aside,
I think tapping into fiddle resources in your own region are always a plus,
and while 2 hours and 20 minutes isn't short, it's doable on an occasional basis.
Hey, if you lived in Southwest Arizona, I'd tell you to go to fiddledan,
and he's not even a downbower, at least not deliberately! ;^D

DVD's definitely have a big plus in that I've found that learning bowing is VERY visual- really, most of the bowings I've learned I just happened to get to see as well as hear.

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