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Do I need to lighten up?

Posted by Moonpie50 on Monday, November 14, 2011

I have went through a succession of things this year as far as fiddling goes. It took me a while to get my bowing down that is for sure. But now that I have arrived at better intonation since last year. I still feel that it is not perfect. My goal is to play old-time. I enjoy the fiddle tunes and this is the direction I have decided to go because it is such fun music.

But it drives me nuts when I don't think that my intonation is perfect. Sometimes I know that I am a little off. So my whole focus goes to that rather than concentrating on other aspects of fiddling. I have listened to a lot of music from OT fiddlers such as Tommy Jerrells and his intonation seemed off most of the time. Am I focusing on something that is just to silly to focus on? I feel that I could make more progress fiddling if I didn't get so hung up with all of that.

8 comments on “Do I need to lighten up?”

bj Says:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 @6:52:11 AM

Playing with others is the BEST way to dial in your intonation. So if you haven't yet, get thee to a jam with your fiddle in hand!

Moonpie50 Says:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 @8:51:23 AM

I play bass in a jam alot and back up people all the time. But the fiddle is a new one on me. I am thinking that maybe I am putting way too much emphasis on being perfect with intonation. I listen to others and they aren't always in perfect pitch I noticed. Especially older fiddlers like Tommy Jerrells. Not taking away from his fiddling but I am think Old time in general is not perfect in intonation in comparison say to classical. Thanks for your response!!!

robinja Says:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 @1:04:27 PM

Some of what is heard to be as poor intonation is intentional, I believe. I am not a scholar of such things, but apparently modern music (particularly keyboards) has biased our ears toward equal temperament. Some of what we may hear as being off key is either part of an older scale. I think there was also some intentional "in between" notes around the 3rd and 7th of the scale, which when played alone on the fiddle or with a fretless banjo sound great, but they sound off when played against chords. There's an interesting thread on the banjo hangout about this right now. Since I started on piano as a kid, I'm probably ruined for life, but I do try to have a more open mind about this scale issue. I think a little dissonance adds to the oldness of the sound, especially when it's done with intent. There's a difference between that and playing scratchy and out of tune.

That said, intonation is important, and it's great to work on it, but I don't think you should obsess over it. Like everything else, it will improve the more you play and listen, and like BJ says, playing with others will speed it along that much faster.

boxbow Says:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 @2:14:19 PM

Y'know, that bass isn't parked right there under your ear like with a fiddle. I still don't know what my fiddle really sounds like. The people I jam with say nice things, but I hear everything bad and not nearly enough good. They also are very up front about their opinions when they think I'm out of order. I think a fiddler should pay close attention to what he's playing, knowing that the room hears something else. So, these people that you jam with, are they all super polite all the time and would never dream of saying anything disparaging? Can I play with them?

Regardless, your fiddling is also a sanctuary for when life seems over-full. It's good to have something so challenging, yet non-vital. In a word, manageable. Life's challenges, on the other hand, can be unrewarding and unrelenting and utterly unmanageable.

I need to fiddle for other reasons, but that right there is a big one.

Moonpie50 Says:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 @4:23:47 PM

Know the people I jam with are bruttally honest actually...If you stink they pretty much let ya know it. But I have been with people who have thought that they were God's gift to musicainship and in actualality they were average players. But bass is something that has taught me alot about playing in other keys and has helped tremendously with my timing, and muscianship. It is a drag to drag around all the time but people are glad to see ya when you show up. Becuse it rounds a string band out pretty well.

bj Says:
Friday, November 18, 2011 @8:08:24 AM

boxbow, what you said about fiddling being a sanctuary is AWESOME! And yes, moonpie, I wish you'd show up at our jam with that there bass, since we seldom have one. When one shows up it's the heartbeat of the sound!

FiddleJammer Says:
Monday, November 21, 2011 @7:03:25 AM

Intonation is something that OT fiddlers put in the backseat, seems to me. Tune structure is driving, and groove is in the passenger seat. Keep playing tunes and your intonation will improve. What doesn't improve will morph into style.

I wrote about being a slave to perfection in an old blogpost At my age, I'm never going to play like Mark O'Connor. But, I can have a good time jamming, doing the best I can on that day.

Moonpie50 Says:
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 @1:57:00 AM

Thanks for the great comments it puts things in a different perspective. I can see where one could put all their energy into perfection.

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