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All those years of singing...

Posted by Sassafrassa on Friday, August 20, 2010

Hello, again.  I'm finding that my years of singing in choruses and choirs is finally paying off! It really makes it much easier to hear and learn a tune by "ear" rather than by notation.  I learned to sing this way in choirs when I was young,...we would hear a section of an anthem or song, practice it a few times, then move on and do the same for the next section.  It really developed my ear, and I didn't realize how much until recently.  I am using the same techniques when I am learning songs on my fiddle.  I like learning this way rather than reading music, even though I can read a little bit.  It just seems so much more natural to me.

My bigger challenge at the moment is being able to consistantly hit the right notes.  I can get the pattern (of notes on the fingerboard) easily enough at this level of playing, but hitting the correct pitch is more of a mystery!  Even the slightest change in position makes a HUGE difference as to whether the note is flat or sharp or dead on. I can hear when I make a mistake, and it can be quite grating, but at least I CAN hear it, and correct as I go.  I keep waiting for that muscle memory to kick in! ;) I've read posts on the threads here that discuss difficulty in hearing when the pitch is off, and I'm thankful that I have a good ear.

My other observation at the moment pertains to bowing.  Again, pressure--even the slightest bit--can really affect the pitch!  Amazing.  I understand why this has been called the devil's instrument all these years.  It certainly can frustrate and bedevil you!! Bow pressure is still eluding me a bit.  Too much and it sounds horrible, but too little, and my bow seems to bounce and skitter around too much.  It makes the sound much too wobbly and weak.  Every so often, I get it, and it sounds wonderful when I do.  It gives me the confidence to keep going.  If all I could make were those moaning, screeching sounds, I think I'd get kicked out of the house! Lastly, it seems that when I play on the G string, sometimes it gets really airy or whispery, which I find odd since it is the thickest string.  Perhaps it is the angle that I am bowing it.  It seems to be the antithisis of my E string, which whistles and screeches quite often as I bow it by mistake! Between the two, I sound like I've got demons in my fiddle...there's that devil reference again!

Thanks for reading, and I will post again soon.  Oh, I did name my fiddle...Tara, after Tara Nevins. She plays with Donna the Buffalo, old-time fiddle, and Cajun fiddle.  Tara is also my niece's name, and the name of the Goddess of compassion, protection and creation.  So...perhaps some of that creation will rub off on me!!



3 comments on “All those years of singing...”

cheekee Says:
Friday, August 20, 2010 @3:37:43 PM

i feel your pain. i hate the way the slightest shift of the fat on my finger changes everything. some days it is so bad my eyes water. i'm not kidding. i have really good relative pitch and a skill level on the fiddle that just doesn't match it. i have had many days where i realize i need a break because i've started to clench my entire body. frankly, i think that i should have tighter abs and a better butt because of it...but i'm still squishy. sigh.

but...i was at a camp almost 2 weeks ago, and our instructor had some good advice. first...make sure that LH position on the neck is proper and consistent. take a minute to check it before starting. second...play loud. sympathetic vibrations between the strings help you play in tune...and you are less likely to play in tune if you are playing quiet. third...play slow taking the time to listen to every note and build up the speed gradually so you build the proper neural pathways in your brain. finally...you will have to learn to relax.

a lot of my intonation problems happen as i'm tensing up. i might have a stiff left arm. my left hand might be a little grippy on the neck. i could be squeezing the daylights out of the strings. i may not have a proper grip on the bow so the pressure on the strings is uncontrollably varied. man...that list goes on...and on....and on....and on....bah!

bj Says:
Saturday, August 21, 2010 @9:55:57 AM

Compassion, Protection and Creation, oh yeah, that's a Goddess ALL beginner fiddlers need!

My first musical instruction was choral singing too. Since fiddle is so close in feeling and spirit to the human voice compared to other instruments, earlearning does feel more natural and intuitive.

Sassafrassa Says:
Sunday, August 22, 2010 @4:26:43 PM

Cheekee--relaxing is such a challenge! I think that I am trying to overthink things as I'm playing. The good notes, when I hit them, seem to occur when I'm not thinking about it so much. And things are getting better. I can sometimes make it through almost a whole phrase before things get wonky again!! I've been trying to practice loosening things up, and it seems to slowly be working.

bj--I hope Tara lives up to her name!! As far as the singing/violin comparisons, I feel it, too. It is so much easier to learn it by ear. The notation ends up slowing me down and confusing the issue rather than helping.

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