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Posted by David M. on Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm blessed in that I can learn a tune very quickly and easily by ear, figuring it out as I listen or after I listen to it a bit, sometimes phrase by phrase or part by part.  Getting it RIGHT sometimes takes a bit longer.  Sometimes it seems it takes some simmering for a few months to truly get it in my head so the bowing mentally works itself out, not really playing it alot, but listening to it and thinking about how the tune goes.  The notes aren't the tricky part in all this fiddling to me.  It's the tricky part of bowing that gives the drive, tone, and overall feel of the tune.

One tune like this is Tommy Jarrell's version of Sugar Hill.  I figured this tune out easily back in the summer, but never played it out much because I wasn't satisfied with the bowing.  It didn't sound like Tommy's.  Just yesterday I broke the tune out again and things were flowing alot better with it.  At lunch today that's about all I did - work on Sugar Hill.  Much better today.  Still doesn't totally sound like Tommy's, but much closer than it was.  A few more thousand times through it and I'll have a just that much closer.

Another tune that I simmered on for a few months is Dolly (aka Stumptail Dolly) by W.H. Stepp.  I could play it right off the bat, but something just didn't click.  But this past summer I started it up again and worked out a couple of left hand things (pinky) that made it flow better.  It's a great tune, now one of my favorites and one I play out all the time.

2 comments on “Woodshedding”

ChickenMan Says:
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 @1:26:11 PM

I have a similar ability to pick out a tune fairly quickly. But as you say, the bowing is where the work is, not the fingering.
So far, I haven't been brave enough to attempt any of Tommy's tunes except Breaking up Christmas (which sounds little like Tommy)
and Drunken Hiccups (same). Funny how using the pinky can fix bowing issues and ad that little something to a tune. I just worked
out Back Up and Push because of the pinky workout it is. Oh, not the boring "contest, double shuffle" version - Skillet Lickers. I can't
wait to break it out at Fiddle Club.
I like the simmering term - fits with how I am constantly thinking about fiddling.

bj Says:
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 @9:03:06 PM

I think sometimes our skills and ears have to catch up to the tune.

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