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Great Lesson Yesterday, and my Teacher (and Luthier) approves of my new Fiddle and Bow

Posted by bj on Thursday, May 29, 2008

Had a great lesson yesterday. Steve said I got myself an authentic FIDDLE with a great sound. He approves, though being the luthier he is, he wants to work on the bridge just a bit, which he says is a tad on the thick side. What was startling was hearing it when he played it. It sounds so much more beautiful and deep and rich when I'm standing back from it (instead of having it up near my ear!) It was also fun watching him, the lefty, make mistakes on my right hand fiddle. Considering he usually doesn't even have to think of where his bow or fingers are going, unlike me, it was fun to watch that shoe on the other foot.

He also approves of the bow I bought, though we made an interesting discovery. In reading reviews before purchase I remembered a couple reviews that mentioned the camber of the Tabary Bows favoring the hair on the side you'd tilt toward, thus increasing the size of the sweet spot. It's engineered that way. Problem was that with a southpaw like Steve, who fingers with his right hand and bows with his left, that so called sweet spot is a dead spot. I told him about the reviews I had read and suggested he try tilting the bow so the other side of the hair was down. The minute he tilted it the other way, the sound was sweet and clear, though he couldn't sustain that play easily since it's anti-intuitive and awkward for him. So unless Jean Tabary offers a left handed version of the Prism or his other bows, I don't recommend it for lefties who don't play like a right hander.

BTW, I submitted a review of the bow and got a sql error. I suppose that part of the site is still in hacker limbo?

The important and sometimes PROFOUND bits I took away from yesterday's lesson:

  • Fast and Loud are two vastly different things.
  • You don't have to worry so much about being in the wrong spot with the bow at the end of the measure if you just make that last LONG note into two shorter ones so you can end on the upstroke, and then begin the next measure where it belongs-- on the downstroke. Wow.
  • Not every song should be played in potatoes shuffle (I think you guys call that one "Nashville") from beginning to end. Yes, it's good I've gotten so good at it, but it is now time to learn new things. Like the Georgia Shuffle. Which somehow, when I play it, translates into the Yiddish Shuffle with Zero Mostel in the background fantasizing vocally about "If I were a rich man . . . " I guess that one needs a lot more practice. Lots. More. Practice.
  • I have to conscientiously do what's uncomfortable. An example he gave me was when I'm impatient and I drum my fingers there's always a direction I go in. I have to start drumming my fingers in the other direction. Then I have to start translating that to my fiddle practices. So if I feel more comfortable playing down the scale, I should be playing up the scale. If I feel more comfortable shuffling, I should be sawing or doing the Georgia.
  • Discussions on the forum to the contrary, there are only three bowing patterns. Everything else is a variation on them. And he proceeded to show me just that. In more than one playing style, even. He's right. Wow, so that means I'm 1/3 there to learning them all. Well, 2/3 I guess, since I can saw, though I haven't been much, since I've been working on getting the potatoes shuffle into muscle memory, which Steve says I've now succeeded at. Yay!
Steve is very wise. I'm so glad to have found him for my first real fiddle teacher.

I also have another new fiddle I got today. I needed a good hardshell case and didn't want to shell out well over a hundred bucks for a decent one. Looked on ebay and put in a lowball bid on a violin/bow/case since I could see it was a really decent case. Damn, I won the bid! Ended up with a decent and comfortably playable european mass produced fiddle as well. It's not anywhere near as nice as my handmade Stockdale fiddle, but this will be a good one for travelling. Will also be good to keep around for alternative tuning, when I get that far. And that means I can get rid of the China Cheapie Finger Killer! Woohoo!

2 comments on “Great Lesson Yesterday, and my Teacher (and Luthier) approves of my new Fiddle and Bow”

strokestyle Says:
Friday, May 30, 2008 @1:43:56 PM

Congrats nice story!

bj Says:
Friday, May 30, 2008 @3:34:37 PM

Thanks, strokestyle! Wow, that's a really provocative handle. ;)

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