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Epiphany and thanks!

Posted by bj on Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You folks are the greatest! Of course, the detective work I did also helped bring me to a point where I think I've solved a major problem. But y'all pointed me in the right directions!

I had this epiphany after my last b*tchy blogpost here, when nothing was working:
http://www.fiddlehangout.com/myhangout/blog.asp?id=2533&blogid=688

SteveO had this to say in comment, "Part of learning to fiddle is learning what works FOR YOU.  Everybody's hand, arms, shoulders, chins are different lengths.  What works for one DOESN'T work for another sometimes.  Just relax and see what grip works best for you....."

He also said, "Even when playing different fiddles, each one is slightly different, with the notes slightly falling at a different position than another instrument."

Now, put these comments together with the fact that I recently started using a different fiddle that doesn't have a flattened bridge, and recently put new strings on it, tells you that there was an equipmental  reason for at least part of my troubles, especially given the fact that I'm new enough to not realize how hugely little changes can affect my playing (well, NOW I understand that!) and didn't quite understand that there would need to be adjustments, the way you experienced folks understand it.

Now, add in the fact that my teacher, at the last lesson, told me I was keeping my bow hair way too tight. What he didn't tell me is that that's why I was choking up on my (fairly orthodox) bow grip, but that's what was happening. So I loosen the hair a lot, still choke up since that's my tendency with that grip, use a different fiddle with its many differences in playing, and with new strings to boot . . . ack, no WONDER I was having all those issues! It's amazing I could get through a tune at all! I was fighting with everything!

So the first thing I learned in all this is . . . change ONE DAMN THING AT A TIME! That way you know what is or isn't working. That lesson falls into the realm of a PROFOUND lesson. And it's embarassing I had to learn it as it applies to the fiddle since I've already learned that lesson re computer coding. Ack.

I started doing a lot of reading on the forum re different things. I think I started with rosin (one of my issues) and went from there, with one thing leading to another, but with the comments made on my blogpost in mind the whole time, especially the pieces I just quoted. I also did a couple searches, and one was for "bow grip".

You know, that damned "classical" bow grip has NEVER felt right to me. So when I started poking around and realized there were other fiddlers who didn't hold the bow that way . . .

http://www.fiddlehangout.com/myhangout/photos2.asp?id=41&photoID=256&albumid=0

Well, it was worth a try, huh?

I can now analyze what went wrong, after analyzing why this feels right, and know that the combination of loose hair and the choke hold was way throwing off the bow balance, especially since I was still bearing down on the bow and far from relaxed. The minute I took up the Thumb Under Frog bow grip, like in the picture, things all snapped back to almost normal. I regained almost all of the ground I had lost. Tone and control improved immensely, and since the right hand wasn't awful anymore, I could put more of my concentration into the left hand, which also improved. The only bit I didn't totally regain was the total ease of playing two strings on the Stockdale bridge (that fiddle needs work, so it's on the shelf for now.) So I may eventually try a bit of minor surgery to the bridge on the Schartel and see if I can improve it a bit, but I am already playing drones and double stops better, so maybe I'll just deal with it, and get used to the fact that they're two different violins.

And the Thumb Under Frog bow grip seems to be allowing me to relax into the grip, it feels natural to me, I have much better control over the balance through my use of the pinky and ring finger to "unweight" the bow when it needs it, but because I can let the natural weight of the bow do the work, I no longer have any reason to bear down (unless I WANT to bear down for effect, and there's more control of that, and I can do it with a more subtle touch.) And the bowhair tension can now be considerably lighter without creating any issues for me. Which has to be easier on the bow hair!

Though I still have a long way to go, I'm actually liking at least some of what I'm playing now. Bits and pieces sound like I'm really fiddling! And I'm not fighting my (decent quality) equipment. I'm enjoying the perlon strings too, now that they've settled in a bit, which seem more forgiving now that I'm playing them without all the tension in the bow, in my shoulders and arms, and in my brain. The perlons sound pretty on this fiddle, and mellow it out considerably, so I can live with it much easier until the work is done on my gorgeous old fiddle (which, I believe, has dominants on it, and WILL, when it's fixed, have the e string changed. Another bit of reading I did, which explained something else . . . wimpy, if clear, sound on only THAT string of that fiddle.)

So I'm glad I sounded off. I may not have made any breakthrough if I hadn't done so. Thank you all!

5 comments on “Epiphany and thanks!”

persian98_98 Says:
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 @10:20:07 AM

wow! so you're gonna make it, and you're gonna write posts of your success! we are all waiting!

bj Says:
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 @10:32:00 AM

Yes, persian98_98, I'm sticking with it. There was actually never any doubt of that, but geez, it took a lot of self control to keep from throwing the bow out the window, it was acting so contrary. And now it's not. How are you doing with your left handed fiddling? Is it coming along? And hopefully you're learning from my mistakes!

brya31 Says:
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 @12:57:46 PM

Ok bj  you are back on track so the next raging ramble will be probably be mine, LOL

bj Says:
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 @1:39:34 PM

LOL! I'll be looking forward to it, brya31!

And I wouldn't say I'm totally back on track, but at least one wheel is now on the rail. :)

persian98_98 Says:
Sunday, June 22, 2008 @3:09:50 PM

well, bj, i'm so drowned in the books now (exam time...) that i can hardly look at my violin! and i'm searching for a left-handed chin rest, and do not really hope to find any here!

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