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Exploring Foreign Territory

Posted by bj on Friday, August 28, 2009

At the jam the other night one of the guys mentioned the tune "Boatsman" but nobody knew how to kick it off, and we ended up getting sidetracked and playing something else.

Well, I remembered the mention of that tune the next day when I saw it written down on my "A tunes to learn" list, and found the Ed Haley version in my "A tunes to learn" music folder. Oddly enough, I remembered Jane mentioning it as a tune I should learn, after I told her I had learned Waterbound. I can't remember if she sent me that music file, or if someone else had, but there it was. I listened. What a GREAT tune! And Ed Haley is awesome, for sure.

Learning it-- whoa, seemed deceptively simple. It's not. There are a few quirks to this tune that drive me nuts. First of all, it's got pickup notes, but they're in the beginning of THE B PART. Which means it's almost impossible to bow sensibly and still get the basic sound Haley got. I'm still working on that. I had to throw the cats out of the room and shut the door so I could stamp my foot on the downbeat (without my foot being fair game for a catfight) and put the downbow there on that downbeat. That almost gets me to the right place but . . . ack. It's still awkward, I end up throwing the bow direction kludge in at a different point and in a different way every time since none of 'em seems comfortable or sensible and, more importantly, none of 'em sounds quite right.

So I tried sawstroking the entire tune. That's even worse. The selective slurs coupled with sections of sawstroke are what gives it the distinctive feel. Sawstroke throughout just makes it boring.

Then I tried just bowing whatever direction happened. That was the worst option of the three, since no matter how careful I was with the accenting, the tune seemed to lose all its drive and coherence, even though in a way that was the EASIEST and most intuitive way to bow it. Problem is it sounds like overripe manure. Ugh.

So I'm still working on the bowing. I expect I'll work on it for a few weeks and alluva sudden realize the problem is gone and not be able to remember when I figured it out. That's what usually happens.

Oddly enough, the C part, which goes way up the neck to a place I'd NEVER  been before, isn't that hard. I'm not as consistent at it as I'd like to be, but I'm a whole lot better at it than I had any right to expect to be, given this is a first for me! It's only on the E string, and only a few notes near the beginning of the C part. I have to plant my first finger where my third finger would usually go, which I was surprised to find is pretty easy to consistently nail, then I have to be aware that the spacing between fingers is a little shorter, which is a bit harder and the part I'm not as consistent on, but I can (usually, almost) do it. AND I can usually get back down the neck without screwing up.

The next thing is figuring out why Ed Haley doesn't have a regular pattern for when he's gonna throw in that C part. It's always in place of the A part, and followed by the B part, but he doesn't alternate, he just does it . . . whenever he damn well feels like it, seems like.

But what a FUN tune!

Wow, this is my week for new things. The next to last new tune I learned, Metzer Polka, from the Jehile Kirkhuff collection of tunes, requires me to use my pinkie on the D string. I would never have thought that possible, but it's the third note in a chromatic run starting with the 2nd finger, so at least it's 1) not a huge stretch on the D and 2) my ring finger is already down. My pinkie is literally lame, and doesn't work very well with any independence from the ring finger. I was surprised to learn I could do this pinkie on the D string at all, though consistency is not quite there yet. I have to remember to keep the pinkie right up and relaxed/bent against the ring finger so it's ready to go down. If it isn't ready that way, I can't make the move in time with that freaking spastic digit, and it ends up literally slapped (with an audible SLAP) flat on the string instead of using the tip on the string, since I don't have the control unless it's following the ring finger's "trajectory", and since the next note is open A, using it flattened is not an option like it would be if I was using it on the E string, especially since I don't have the dexterity in that digit to lift it off in time. It's really got me wondering if there's a surgical fix. That finger has been lame since I was 8 years old and saw stars when a kickball hit it exactly the wrong way. Doesn't help that I also have ulnar issues from mousing left handed. *sigh*  Oh well, could be worse. I'm USING it on the D string. If you had asked me a year ago, or even six months ago, I would have told you it was impossible for me to do so.

So much new territory in one short week! I love it!

8 comments on “Exploring Foreign Territory”

OTJunky Says:
Saturday, August 29, 2009 @7:42:47 AM

LOL - that "foreign territory" is only around 1 1/2 inches from "home"...


ChickenMan Says:
Saturday, August 29, 2009 @10:21:47 AM

bj,Do you have Ed's scratchy 78rpm recording or someone else doing "Ed Haley's Boatman"?
Ed's technique is pretty deceptive I think. He held the fiddle to the chest or in the crook of his arm and I hear tell he sometimes rocked the fiddle in conjunction with bowing and sometimes did things like double up bowing...any way he was one of a kind. He could play many variations of tunes and he could easily play the 3 or so minutes the recorder could record and not repeat a part. The recording I have seems to start in mid tune, or with a little tag of what I'm going to call the A part, then I get BABCBABCBABCBA and a short A tag on the end. The A part also seems longer than the others. Other versions I found are basically the same, ABCB repeat until the wax recording disc runs out.

bj Says:
Saturday, August 29, 2009 @5:20:45 PM

I've got an mp3 sent to me by somebody. It does have some scratchiness in it, but not too bad. It does start weirdly, like you said, but it's different the rest of the way. It's that bit of A, then BABCBABABCBABCBAB. Near as I can remember.

I've been playing almost two years, OTJ, and that is the first time these fingers have left HOME!

janepaints Says:
Sunday, August 30, 2009 @7:17:47 PM

Dang, BJ, do you have an ANALYTICAL mind regarding fiddling! (this said as a descriptive observation, no positive or negative connotations intended). My entire approach to fiddle tunes is 'hear or imagine a tune, then mess around with it 'til it feels okay.' Which is also my approach to visual stuff. The only area of music where I'm analytical is harmonic structure/chords, which probably explains why I love playing jazz and, whenever there's a good piano around, inventing 'classical' piano stuff. I get LOST in chords, and LOVE getting lost in chords. But otherwise, I'm about as analytical as a dog sniffing an old shoe. :)

bj Says:
Sunday, August 30, 2009 @7:24:26 PM

Well, Jane, that's why you sound like you and I sound like me, LOL!

janepaints Says:
Sunday, August 30, 2009 @10:02:40 PM

what's all this 'BABCBABABCBABCBAB' stuff?.................................heck, only method I know is the ABRA-CA-DAB-RA method.....tho sometimes OPEN SESAME works purty good too.

Feodosia Says:
Monday, August 31, 2009 @6:22:36 AM

>>.what's all this 'BABCBABABCBABCBAB' stuff? <<<
Sounds like BJ's almost ready to write the tunes out for us :-)

B'fer you know it , she'll be studying them shuffle-bow pattern thingies too and be able to show you how to do a Backwards reverse loopty-loop Georgia bug tussle with that fiddle bow !
She'll even be able to read and understand FiddlePogo' s posts !

Well, studying Ed Haley is never a bad thing ....

bj Says:
Monday, August 31, 2009 @6:30:12 AM

Read and understand fiddlepogo's posts? Now THAT is an impossibility.

We missed you Saturday, Jimmy. Where were you? Did you compete?

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