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Fiddle Faddled Fun

Posted by harwilli55 on Sunday, December 12, 2010

So, I am not sure how much progress I make. I sure am putting lots of time behind the bow these days.  And that is a great thing indeed.  My wrist is getting more flexible which I had thought would be an impossibility, especially after watching other long term fiddlers.  I kept wondering if perhaps there were a medication for stiff wrist syndrome (SWS).  However, I have found that the best medicine is a rare homeopathic recipe called "Practice " !!!

One of the first steps towards learning anything is developing an awareness of what it is that you want. Once you have it in mind, then you enter that painful period of trying to make it happen, while never actually making it happen. I have learned that when I am living in the land of frustratia, that is when I am actually doing the most learning. So, I have found it important to keep my frustration tolerances at a high level for elevated periods of time. This of course, is where I perpetually live in fiddleworld.  I can always see, hear, feel, what it is I want to sound like, but just as in a bad dream, the closer I get, the further it eludes me.  However, this is where  playing with friends comes into value since they are the ones who usually say " Hey, Wow.....that _____ is sounding really good !!!"  And for a moment,  a brief one at that, I transcend beyond my own limits and teeter ever so gingerly in that land of " Oh Yea....I've been working on that " feeling of contentment and joy.

Our normal monthly seisuin was canceled by the pub we play.  They had been rented out for corporate X-mas parties that night. However, we met to play at one of the members house, who usually host an after seusuin jam.  We worked on some new material, principally some pub songs we want to use to get the patrons involved singing.  After fiddling for a bunch of sets, I put the fiddle away and got to hammer out some rythym on the guitar.  The bodhran player and I got an awesome back and forth going to propel the rest of the melodic instrumentalists. Way too much fun....that was !!!

 After everyone else had left, I got to sit down and fiddle with this awesome CH banjer fellow for a while.  And it was incredibly fullfilling and fun.  I really really like the fiddle * bano duet sound. What made it even more awesome, was that as we would play a tune, at some point, we would really start listening to each other.  This made for some really great communication and created even more energy to continue.  Since I tend to play at jams with large groups of people, this kind of listening, responding, and communication is rarer than I would like. At a jam, I can sometimes, with the right people sitting beside me, get that kind of sympathetic commincation happening and I love when it does. However, when it happens in a smaller more intimate setting, that to me is when I really do reach that transcendent state .

I am really starting to explore cross-tuning which I am loving.  I realized that what had kept me from exploring it was fear of the unkown.  I am comfortable re-tuning my guitar to an open tuning because I have played it so long and  know the limits of tension I can put on the strings.  So, part of the fear of cross-tuning, was envisioning not only breaking strings, but believing it would be such a long involved process that would interfere with the flow of a jam, or I would miss out playing because it would take so long.  Yea....I know....but that is how the mind, at least my mind works.  Then there was the issue of the unfamiliarity of where my fingers would find what notes on the altered strings and could I in my own mind make sense of where those notes were on the fingerboard. 

What I have found, is that I can tune quicker than I thought, and fairly accurately by ear. I still need to make slight adjustments with a tuner, but even that is getting better the more I play around between tunings. As for the fingering, I have found that some tunes are enhanced and need no special work, while others I really have to re-train both my fingers and mind. Here again, I am finding that the more time I spend doing this, the less thinking I have to do and the more natural it becomes which transfers over to learning new tunes to play in that open tuning.

Enough for now, time to get ready for the weekly OT autobahn jam !!! Fast, Fun, Furious, and great people to model after !!! Happy Holidays !!

5 comments on “Fiddle Faddled Fun”

mudbug Says:
Sunday, December 12, 2010 @3:10:46 PM

Nice post, Harlan. I think we all as fiddlers have to keep our frustration in check, because improvements on this instrument are so miniscule, which, given enough time, become finally noticable. It's nice when others notice, sometimes what we ourselves don't. You shoulda found out who was having the party and called 'em up for a gig.

bj Says:
Sunday, December 12, 2010 @6:56:38 PM

Your second paragraph had me howling with glee! Oh sheesh, been there, done that and wore out three teeshirts!

Andah1andah2 Says:
Sunday, December 12, 2010 @7:15:46 PM

working on the flexible wrist...
getting into cross tuning...
feelings of frustration with pockets of fiddle joy...
this sounds like one of my blogs :)
BJ taught me the best way to retrain your fingers is to learn your A and D tunes cross tuned rather than standard, then no conversion necessary. You would already know it in the best tuning. I'm starting to realize that standard tuning is like an ice cream sundae without the toppings.
BTW, I like your musician list. My pappy said son you gonna drive me to drinkin' if you don't stop drivin' that hot rod lincoln.

tsaimichael Says:
Friday, March 25, 2011 @2:55:08 PM

We end up in the land of frustratia because we are often our own worst critcs and we know what we want to sound like. Thank goodness for the encouragement of friends who can help us to keep up our frustration tolerance, and also help us to recognize the progress we have actually made. Happy fiddling.

Susanne Says:
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 @4:38:53 PM

Harlan!!!!!!!!!! How absolutely GREAT to hear from you and your nice little heartwarming comment made my day!!!!! I have two videos up at the mando hangout and I have two mp3 files here from the time when I could play the fiddle (=actually practiced) and some more stuff on You Tube. I'll update my blog with new videos when I have any. Please come over there at and give me some comment love and to stay updated with new recordings... what about you, how are you keeping? I understand you play a lot of fiddle (at least around Christmas time when you wrote this post).

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