Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Fiddle Lovers Online

Downs and Ups

Posted by bj on Friday, November 6, 2009

Since last Sunday I've been in the doldrums with my playing, nothing seemed to go very well, my intonation and timing were off, I sounded awful to my own ears. And ended up playing in public with Jane last Tuesday night while all that was going on. I sounded Terrible. Horrible. Dreadful.

But no one left the room while we played. And Jane seemed okay with the way things went. She went so far as to suggest that we make a concerted effort to put a band together and gig on a regular basis, an offer she wouldn't have made if she thought I sounded like overripe manure, even if I thought I sounded like overripe manure.

We, each of us in this journey, can be our own worst enemies. We can beat ourselves silly over stuff that other people don't hear the same way we do. And then take things people say and overanalyze them to read a negative meaning into them about our playing.

For instance, a guy I know from the jams told me of a fiddle teaching course he knew about. The first thing that popped into my brain was "He thinks I desperately need this, I'm so bad!" In truth, I had, a few days before, asked him about another (incredible) fiddler's availability for a lesson, and he'd offered this as an alternative, since the fiddler friend of his I'd asked about isn't available since he's already headed back to WV.

Last night finally broke the gloom and doom logjam. I still had one of my fiddles tuned to GDGD, a tuning I don't use that often. I decided to learn a few tunes that were "native" to that tuning. So I dug in the recordings and found the Tom Bigbee Waltz. I played the recording and was playing along with it at "jam" speed before the second round came around. And played it over and over again for about two hours. It's beautiful. It's stately and dignified, while also being lovely. I played it for another half hour this morning, after it threaded its way through my dreams all the time I was asleep.

This waltz is one I wouldn't have "gotten" a few months back, even though it isn't that big a technical challenge or anything. But there's a tricky part right near the beginning of the A part. It can be played either with a Kenny Baker two note pulse or a ghost bow-- either method will make it flow beautifully, and I used both effortlessly since I  HEARD that two note pulse in the way it was being played on the recording. And in another time through the tune, you can hear the ghostbow on the recording. Some people say they can't hear bowings, but sometimes you can, if your ears are big enough. I guess my ears are growing. The tune went right into my ears and came out my fingers nearly flawlessly the first time, and as I played it further, it became flawless, and eventually became MUSICAL.

Anyway, I shut down the recording this morning, and listened to my own playing of the tune on its own. It sounded GOOD.

4 comments on “Downs and Ups”

autumnstrings Says:
Friday, November 6, 2009 @2:57:17 PM

That's one of the first things I learned. What I hear when I play is not what those in the room hear. I record all my practice sessions now so I really can hear what others would hear.

Way to go!

Mandogryl Says:
Saturday, November 7, 2009 @4:03:39 AM

Maybe you've reached a plateau where you are indeed sounding good, as Jane says, but you are used to, or immune, to your playing, and just don't know who good you are.........
Maybe you need more technical literature, htat you are possibly in a rut......
I think we are sometimes our own worst enemies. You are so right when you said that we do over-analize, and if we think we don't sund right we make changes which often only make things worse.
But in your case I think you are playing just fine.
It is good that you have found a new tune to help with you confidence. I can't wait till I achieve your level.
I hope you and Jane do indeed form that band.

janepaints Says:
Sunday, November 8, 2009 @10:08:51 PM

Regarding not just BJ, but EVERYBODY, in ANY creative endeavor, ANY 'skill-level':
Don't worry too much about 'how you're doing'....don't think yer all that....but, also, don't think yer yer best but keep in mind that we're mostly the WORST judge of our own merits....we're each the person LEAST able to 'know' what we actually sound like (or write, paint, etc like) matter how long we pursue any discipline, it's always the same elements operating: things we hope to achieve, things we have achieved, things we'll never achieve...aspects we're good at, aspects we ain't so good at....having been serious about sonics & visuals for 40-some years, I've learned not worry too much about any of it, just keep doing it, don't get too high nor too low about it...don't take the feedback of others TOO seriously, either praise or criticism...just keep at it, via the body, heart & soul method. ...always keep yer fingers crossed too, just in case....accept that there are 'plateau periods', when things feel like 'same-old-same-old' and 'excitement periods' when new ideas get ya all excited about everything all over again...and, alas, 'total yuck periods', when the notion of using yer fiddle for kindling wood becomes very appealing....BJ doesn't hear her fiddling the way I've been hearing it--once every 7 or 14 days, on average. Everytime she's playing better than the time before...sometimes just a bit bitter, sometimes a 'giant step'....She can't see it because she's always in the middle of it, just like we don't see our own kids' getting taller, but when we see other people's kids, intervals of a year, it's amazing, seems they're sprouting upwards like beanpoles! Well about a year ago BJ was saying stuff stuff like "i can't play the jiggy fast tunes"..."i'm not strong rhythmically...."i can't play waltzes"...."yer wacky back-up impromptus throw me off"....but now she's doing all the things she said she can't do, fine and dandy, and when i toss curves into the back-up she just keeps, my, no telling what we can accomplish when we put the ol' elbow grease into it....and put the hours into it.....a cliche but true: just keep keepin' on....which brings to mind these words of wisdom from Archie Bell & The Drells' immortal non-fiddle-tune hit 'Do The Tighten Up': "Not only do we sing, but we can dance just as good as we want." IMO Archie and the Drells were on to something there. By the way, what the heck is a Drell?

bj Says:
Monday, November 9, 2009 @5:59:45 AM

Somehow I don't think this is what Archie had in mind . . .

Thanks, Jane. I seem to be saying that a lot lately.

You must sign into your myHangout account before you can post comments.

More posts from bj

Newest Posts

Click for Details 'Nursing home' 10 hrs

Click for Details 'How to start?' 17 hrs

More >  

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories