Well, I guess bj was right, playing by ear isn’t so terribly hard after all. I was somewhat intimidated by playing any real tune, so I took someone’s advice and tried for a nursery rhyme, and in ten minutes I figured out Mary Had a Little Lamb on the A string. Big deal, says all you fancy fiddlers, but it IS a big deal for someone who has learned every song ever from those damn dots.
I was so pleased with myself that I promptly went and announced it to my whole household. Thankfully, I have a family that’s actually interested in such things and showed appropriate delight. There is hope for me after all! I think I’ll stick to really simple nursery rhyme type songs for a little while, and then move up to songs that are a bit more complex but that I still know and can sing reasonably well, and then I’ll be able to work on new tunes.
My eight year old daughter, upon hearing me play a scratchy, squeaky rendition of House of the Rising Sun (two days after getting the fiddle) told me I played so beautifully that I brought tears to her eyes (I’m afraid it might have been the squeaks though LOL). A day or two later when I was learning Cold Rain & Snow she told me that the Faery Queen herself would dance to my music. High praise from someone as critical as my little girl, of course she is a bit delusionally fond of me.…
I’m teaching her to play the mandolin (and myself in the process), so far I’ve mostly been transferring my fiddle tunes to the mandolin just so she can get the hang of moving around the neck and so on. She catches on quick, and learns by ear already (I won’t even let her look at the book that came with the mandolin, she can learn the dots later if she wants, for now I want her to develop her ear), and figured out that she could play twinkle, twinkle on any string of the mandolin by herself. She’s never played any instrument before and she’s very excited about the mandolin, although she has her sights set on a fiddle as well (and a pennywhistle) and she likes to mess around the guitar and transfer her mandolin tunes to it. Wish I would have got her started a bit earlier but I couldn’t afford instuments or time until just two years ago.
I asked around the village yet again about fiddle players/teachers (I’m slowly tracking down every musician in the county to ask them) but still no go. They don’t even have band at the local school. Sheesh.… I can’t really afford to drive two hours to Silver City to take lessons. And I don’t have the bandwidth to do many of the online lessons, sooooo here I am with my Darol Anger and Mark O’Connor videos and my favorite fiddle forums. So far, I actually think I’m doing ok.
I got my Paganini rosin the other day, and like many other people I was surprised by the effect it has on the tone. I’d only used Oliv rosin up until now and it was really interesting to hear how the Paganini rosin made the fiddle sound a little brighter but with a clearer tone. Actually, I guess I wasn’t really surprised that the rosin effected the tone, I was surprised I could hear the change LOL. I think it suits my fiddle better though, I thought I wanted to do anything I could to darken up the sound but I think it’s better to work with the nature of the instrument rather than fighting it. My fiddle’s not even that bright, I just had thought that I wanted a super dark fiddle and am pleased to hear how lovely my instrument is even though it’s not exactly what I imagined I wanted originally.
Have I mentioned how much I don’t like scales? It must be the years of classical playing, but every time I even hear the word scale I wince. And yet, I know I probably need them to play really well, especially on a fretless instrument. So I’m going to try to incorporate them more, at least in the most common fiddle keys. I think the fiddle can make nearly anything fun, so it shouldn’t be that bad.
But back to the original point, which is that I can play by ear just a tiny bit, but it's a step.... maybe tomorrow I'll be able to play another song.4 comments
Experience Level: Novice
Ma Zhibin Fiddle, Guarneri model with full setup by a local luthier... it's a very lovely thing indeed. You wouldn't expect it from a Chinese model perhaps, but even my luthier (who makes amazing violins) had to admit that it's a very nice violin - rich, responsive and somewhat bright with great projection, and even nicer when warmed up with some good strings.
Outlaw Social, Crooked Still, 16 Horsepower, Be Good Tanyas, Darol Anger, Brittany Haas, John Hartford
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Last Visit 10/27/2008
Professional herbalist, teacher, author and river restorationist living in the Gila Wilderness on a an 80 acre botanical sanctuary seven jeep-sinking river crossings from the nearest paved road.
'Squeaks and scratches' 17 hrs
'Pre WW2 Fiddle' 23 hrs
'Flash jams?' 1 day
'Strad Copy' 2 days