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What are you thinking when you play?

Posted by Faire Fiddler Maid on Saturday, March 24, 2012

This is the question that has a changing answer.....depending on what you are working on at the time.

I've found that the more I can commit to memory, the better. I have limited brain power. I try to commit left hand fingering , timing and how the tune sounds to memory..

When I'm playing, I try to focus on which string or strings I'm bowing on,  look at where the bow meets the string and listen...then adjust to how I want it to sound in my head and keep listening. If I'm playing with others, I add listening to those around me as well.

Now clearly, when I first start to play a tune,  I'm thinking more about my fingering. It really is a process about how to commit certain aspects of playing to memory and it takes time and it's likely different for each person.. For me, before I even play a tune, I will have listened to it many times so i know how it sounds..then I learn it flavor it how I like it to sound.

I'm really into patterns so this aspect of learning to play has helped me remember things as sets of fingering on the string, like the relation between the circle of 5ths and the fact that each string is a 5th note patterns that repeat within tunes and across tunes.

OK ... Now I've gotten myself all excited.....time to play.!!!

10 comments on “What are you thinking when you play?”

richdissmore Says:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 @2:44:13 PM

i feel pertty good i was able to play for 20 minits that the longest i have been able to play fidddle . guitar i,m able to play for hour be for i,m tired i guss that storke took alot out of me some time when i get my list of songs together i,ll send them to you to see witch ones you know by for now Rich

bj Says:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 @5:23:07 PM

The less I think about the better I play. The minute I engage the brain the playing goes into the trash heap. As long as I'm just going with the flow, I'm fine. And If I'm really successfully NOT thinking, I can sometimes sing while I fiddle.

EJKiszenia Says:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 @5:53:52 PM

I'm just starting off, so I have a TON going through my mind! LOL The biggest thing that pops up is "STOP MOVING SO MUCH!" When I play Bass Guitar, I have a tendency to walk around or just move in general. I like to get into a grove and just flow with the music! The problem is, I'm still learning the basics on violin and my persistent moving is throwing my mechanics off! :D Once I have the basic mechanics down, the next thing that might go through my mind is "don't poke someones eye out with my bow!!!"

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 @6:23:21 PM

"Where...WHERE...can I get that next glass o' whiskey?"

Plunkett Says:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 @10:37:31 PM

I'm with bj. Once I learn a tune and start to speed its it up, if I start to consciously think about what I'm doing my fingers seem to get all embarrassed and clumsy. It's not a problem though, I enjoy not thinking.

carlb Says:
Sunday, March 25, 2012 @6:21:17 AM

I play on two strings as much as possible, so I often think about the double stop interval and sometimes change them up (e.g. when A chord is called for, sometimes I play an A on the D string (pinky) and a C# on the A string and other times I might chose to play an E on the D string and a C# on the A string). Many double stops, like my example, can be found in Miles Krassen's "Appalachian Fiddle" Oak Publications, 1973. There are some used copies available for about $25 if you do a search for Author: Krassen and Title: Appalachian Fiddle at Bookfinders <>.

fiddlerd Says:
Sunday, March 25, 2012 @7:38:47 AM

I'm thinking.....stop thinking!! Play you know the song...flow! I'm working on playing without looking at my hand and bow.....very much fun!

cornfed Says:
Sunday, March 25, 2012 @11:40:48 AM

What BJ said.

I don't think about anything...I just play. Not really concentration, just allowing the music to come out. to much thinking just screws me up.

Faire Fiddler Maid Says:
Sunday, March 25, 2012 @3:42:13 PM

Great responses everyone! Thanks!

fiddlepogo Says:
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @6:11:13 PM

I go through phases early on in learning a tune where I think intensely about first one aspect of the tune, then another.
Initially I probably think mostly about the left hand. I actually don't think much about the bowing anymore, since most of my favorite shuffles are in deep memory and get applied automatically by feel... UNLESS there is a problem.... but that's rare.... usually by the time the left hand is comfortable with the notes, the bowing arm has worked something out with the brain.
I sometimes have to focus on getting a mental movie of the left hand finger motions for the first phrase... if I can remember the first few motions, I can get started, and then deeper memory can take over.
However, I don't consider myself to have learned a tune until I can STOP thinking about it while playing.. if I can daydream while playing a tune, then I know that I know it pretty well.

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