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Resuming Lessons

Posted by jonno on Friday, March 7, 2008

I just moved this from a post in "Playing Advice" to my blog as it seems more appropriate here.   

Had my first lesson in six months this evening.  Trying out a new teacher.  He teaches only bluegrass, is self-taught, can't read music, and plays with several bands. 

He liked my bowing.  He was very pleased that I could play Old Home Place in different keys - this came out because he was accompanying me on the guitar and couldn't find his capo - so he had me play it in G, then A, then B. 

Then the work started - he pointed out that my vibrato is too fast, my left hand is not relaxed, and, although I'm not choking the neck, my fingers are too close in to the fingerboard to allow flexible movement.  He spent a patient 30 minutes figuring out what I can do differently to change my left hand so I can have a slow, relaxed vibrato that pulses with the beat of the tune. 

It was like he was patiently opening a door that was frozen shut with rusty hinges.  After many attempts, I finally moved my finger in the right motion.  I had to:
-  relax and disconnect joints that are in the habit of moving as a solid mass
- move my hand slightly away from the fingerboard (not have my fingers in such a tight curve), and
- let the gravity of my hand rest on the fingertip that is playing the vibrato.
I was able to do it for a few seconds, then my hand would freeze solid again.  It's like coaxing a turtle out of its shell.

My assignment over the next two weeks is to listen to a lot of waltzes and slow tunes by Kenny Baker and Bobby Hicks.  I have a feeling that when I get this vibrato motion down,I'll have an entirely different feel of how my fingers interact with the fingerboard.

Keeping my fingers crossed (er, I mean relaxed),


4 comments on “Resuming Lessons”

tiquose Says:
Friday, March 7, 2008 @10:59:10 AM

Sounds like you found the right teacher for where you're at right now.

I'll be very interested to find out about your progress with the vibrato. Meanwhile, I will make my own vibrato attempts, keeping in mind your comments.

Saturday, March 8, 2008 @7:16:50 AM

Sounds like a great teacher, and great  student. Your account makes me think that perhaps I should be looking for a teacher. I've always been self-taught at everything, and the few other fiddlers I know sort of seem to know how to do what they do, but can't explain much about it. (and none of them are really what I'd call GREAT fiddlers to begin with.)

Your account reminds me that it takes some very different skills to be a good teacher, particularly in the area of watching for very subtle nuances of left hand finger pressures and so on.  All the teachers I know of, so far around my area are more orchestrally oriented, but I'll bet I just haven't looked hard enough. Keep up the detailed accounts.


davers Says:
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 @7:47:15 AM

Congrats on finding a teacher that you seem to click with! That's great! I'm jealous.. :) Keep us updated on your progress!



fiddlepLuker Says:
Monday, November 23, 2009 @3:34:53 AM

I also echo a big congratulations on finding a great teacher that has patience and will help unlock some secrets -while not really secrets they sure seem like it at times. Please keep us updated on how things go, your stumbling blocks & how you overcame them.

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