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I'm not as awful as I used to be . . .

Posted by bj on Sunday, August 2, 2009

Well, I'm still truly awful at actually recording myself, but my playing isn't as hard to listen to as it used to be. So even though the recordings aren't good enough to put online if I decide to sell this Jackson Guldan fiddle, it's not because of my playing. Wow. What a RELIEF!

Now, I still am not liking everything I'm hearing in my playing from when I recorded today, and I'm still not a very good fiddler, but I no longer want to hurl chunks when I hear myself. Listening to my recordings has become instructional. A tool to use.

Whoa. This is big. And I'm glad I put aside the recording for awhile. It was just TOO painful early on. If I had forced myself to do that, I might have ended up quitting in pure self defense. It HURT.

Yeah, some of my bad habits may be a bit harder to break now, but there aren't nearly as many of them as I expected, and most I already had an awareness of. The few that I'm newly aware of are very few and make sense in context, so they'll be easy to watch out for.

My intonation is pretty okay, for the most part, and when it isn't it's in places where certain things are happening with my left fingers. Like very fast parts on tunes I don't yet know well, and where the fast part isn't a pattern or part of a pattern I've used in another tune. Or right after I've used my pinkie and my hand is now readjusting to position since my pinkie is so stiff, which I've been working on, but this tells me I have to either work harder or figure out workarounds. Probably both, depending on the situation. And there is one third finger note that sometimes is still a tad bit off once in awhile. So listening will now remind me of those spots so I can maybe get some more constructive practice in. The one place that surprised me was in a tune that's one of those modally things that switches back and forth between a flatted note and the same note natural. Those switched notes are in different parts of the tune, not chained together, so it's weird that I do this. I tend to very slightly sharpen the flatted note and very slightly flatten the natural. We're talking a hair's breadth here, but I didn't notice it under my ear. And I've gotta wonder if that's a tendency of mine when this situation comes up in other modally tunes. Not that it's that prevalent, but . . . weird.

I  noticed too that during parts where I'm meeting some left handed challenges, my bow accents aren't as strong. They're there, but the drive fades a bit. Understandable, but I wouldn't have noticed without being able to hear it on playback. Doesn't happen in the tunes I know well. Just in the ones i'm still working on, so maybe it's just something to be worked through on newer tunes.

My string crossings on faster parts could also stand to be a bit clearer, though they're pretty good overall, actually better than they sound under my ear. Now I know where to focus more.

I tend to undershoot the slurs by a very, very faint hair. Always undershoot, never overshoot. Interesting. Gotta wonder if that's got something to do with temperament, and the way my ear wants to hear it when it's right under my ear.

My tone is good on slower stuff and on stuff I know well. It's less so on stuff I'm learning. I get sloppy since I'm juggling skills again. This is another thing that falls into the "work through it" category. Once I know a tune, my tone is pretty consistently decent throughout. Can I improve? You betcha. But I'm not screetchyscratchy, except in very rare slipups And sometimes (maybe even often) I make good noise. A big step up.

Tempo is good overall, except some slight sloppiness in the fast parts of tunes I'm learning. Again, something to work through.

I'm sounding generally fiddley, but I could use some more variety to spice things up. No real surprise here, since I'm already working on that, but it does show me exactly where in the tunes I need to concentrate.. And yes, I have to stop ignoring the Nashville shuffle. And add more slurs, and a few more left hand ornaments. A bit more in bowing variations too. I'm heading in the right direction with this, but I'm just plain not doing enough of it yet to take my playing to the next level.

I can also hear some good stuff, which is a REAL step up. I've (usually) got good drive in my bow, I'm in tune, I rarely make glaring mistakes, and I put some swing into the tempo. Could explain the smiles I see when I play at the flea market.

Yes, my fiddling still is a work in progress. But I for sure am not as awful as I used to be.

6 comments on “I'm not as awful as I used to be . . .”

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Sunday, August 2, 2009 @8:19:32 PM

You go, girl! At your rate of progress I will soon be eating your (rosin) dust.

Cyndy Says:
Monday, August 3, 2009 @4:46:14 AM

I'm impressed that you can analyze your playing in such detail. That skill is probably one of the reasons you're making quick progress. Cool!

Mandogryl Says:
Monday, August 3, 2009 @4:54:47 AM

One thing to watch for when recording one's self:
My folksinging performing partner and I sometimes record ourselves on her H-2 Zoom recorder (now an H-4).
This would be with 2 guitars or a mando and a guitar - not a fiddle, but you get the idea. We seem to go into "recording mode", meaning we become quite serious and more tentative while recording. This was at first. Then we secured a third person to handle the recording equipment and we concentrated on the playing. We would then simply record an afternoon of music. This was important as it allowed ourselves to "loosen-up". There is a big difference in turning the Record switch on and trying hard on the first take to get it perfect as opposed to recording an entire 3 hour session and saving what we liked. I dont know if this pertains to your situation or not, but it was my experience with recording. Even the professionals do many "takes" and save the best.
On a more positive note, as I read your blog entry I can see someone who, although not entirely satisfied with what she is doing, is at least diagnosing what is taking place. This is huge! Almost like being your own instructor, which you probably are anyway. Sounds to me like you are doing very well. DOn't worry about the recording. I dont know what you use for recording equipment, but just let the device run while you play for an extended period, if you can.
Sounds good!

bj Says:
Monday, August 3, 2009 @5:15:47 AM

ajisai, you sound better than I do. Really. My strength, if I have one, is in jamming and picking things up by ear. It then takes me a LONG time to refine things. I know lots of tunes, but I only know a couple dozen well.

Mandogryl, I had the h2 zoom and when it worked it worked well, but . . . I had to send it off to australia for warranty service. It seems to be lost in limbo, since that was months ago. The recording quality problem right now is in the equipment I'm using, aside from any other problems. I've been trying to use a puny computer mic, or the skype headset mic, both of which are giving lots of ambient buzz.

Your other comments about recording are spot on. I get red light fever, and often wish someone else was around to do that part of things so I don't even know it's happening. I think the results would be a lot better.

Cyndy Says:
Monday, August 3, 2009 @9:01:43 AM

Well that's a nice compliment (I'm guessing you listened to the file I posted on my blog) but, well, I have good days and not-so-good days and that was probably a good one . . . My strength, if I have one, is sight reading, and it's been pretty useless in the Old Time Ensemble class. (laugh)

Ozarkian DL Says:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 @8:08:49 AM

May we all ( always ) be a work in progress.....( never reaching our journey, but enjoying our trip ).

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