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So far, so good...

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

It's been 4 months now since I started this journey on the violin/fiddle. Sept 25th to be exact. That's when I began to actually play my fiddle. I have been a fan of this instrument for a very long time. I guess the first fiddler I was aware of was Vassar Clements. That was about 25 years ago I guess...give or take. I guess by now though, you guys have read all my posts here on the FHO along with all of my other commentary. When I ran my own website, I used to write a daily blog and kept that up for years. Every show, every practice, almost every day I put a blog out there. I can say it reached a lot of faces at one point. So, I thought what the heck. Let's put one out here. In fact, I have been keeping a physical hand-written journal of my thoughts and progress on the violin so far. Lord knows I'm obsessed with this instrument. To the point I've considered quitting everything to devote all my energy to this one thing. I see why it's so special now and at the age of 45, I want to give what I have left to this 4 stringed device.

Being a rocker originally, I did not discover bluegrass until Old & In The Way. The way many others found bluegrass and string music. My first album that I owned though was a Blue Highway tape. Then a IIIrd time cassette. I was hooked. Mainly on the roll of the Banjo and Mandolin chop! At that time, I was a garage band drummer, shooting for the big time! This music was infectious though. I continued my journey with rock, blues, jam bands ect... but mainly listened to the Grateful Dead. I was gifted my first acoustic guitar in 95 or 96...too long ago to remember. Keeping that Old and In the Way album blasting, I wanted more bluegrass in my life.

In the late 90's, I lived above an old hardware store, Beck and Benedicts in Waynesboro and there they hosted a Bluegrass Jam every Friday night. Too scared to attend, I listened from above.

Let's fast forward to the year I met my wife. We met and only 4 months later we were married. At our wedding, we hired a local bluegrass band called "Nunnery Run" and this is where I heard my first true bluegrass harmonies live in person. My goodness! I knew at this point; bluegrass would always be a part of my life. So as the years went on, rock became less, and grass became more. Through bluegrass, my wife learned the upright bass along with me and we traveled from Maine to Florida. We met and played with so many great pickers along the way. Always fearful of the violin, I kept my distance. So, I furthered guitar, bass, mandolin, faked some banjo and now I sit here with a fiddle in my hand. How did this happen to me?

Just this past Sept we were browsing the local antique shop and discovered 2 violins for sale. I loved them. I was drawn to them. I wanted them both as a matter of fact. Not sure why, but I wanted them. One was $115 and one was $45. I took the cheaper one home with me and named it "Tudd Lewis" because there is a TL carved on the button. The case was old and so was Tudd. I had no idea if it would ever be playable but a guy that I had been jamming with reminded me that a mutual buddy had become a luthier over the past years. So, I looked up Dave Masland near Carlisle PA and said, “bring it up.” This thing was missing a string and the bow was toast. Besides, I'd have no idea what to do with it any ways. So, we took a beautiful drive to Carlisle through the mountains to drop this thing off. 2 weeks later I pick it up and I'm getting some sounds out of it. Needless to say, it was pretty rough. Thankful for the FHO, I have been sharing and asking all sorts of questions. All I watch now on YouTube is violin and fiddle videos. Making violins, fixing violins, violin reviews and so on. It's getting ouf of hand! I guess that's a good thing.

But where to begin? I need to do this right. I was able to find a local player to give me weekly lessons. His name is Chuck Krepely and he plays bluegrass, celtic, old time, classical and all the other styles you can throw at him. Most of all, he's a kind soul and very encouraging. Since I started playing music, this was the first lessons and theory I ever had. Exciting and strange. Everything to this point has been by ear or a buddy showing me something. Now I had to pay attention. Now I need to focus. Something I struggle everyday with on the violin. I'm ready to run and I know it's not time. I've spoken about this before in an earlier post. It's amazing to hear and see the progress. It's there. In little bits and pieces but it's there. So many things to focus on at once. Posture, grip, bow position, pressure on the bow, intonation, speed and's a workout for the mind when starting off.  This was why lessons are/were so important. I think I'll always want to go to lessons. In fact, I'm seeking camps and workshops as we speak. 

My lessons began with Soldiers Joy and Old Joe Clark. Neither are up to par but, we’ve moved on. Now I'm on to Ashokan’s Farewell. I love this song but it's trying on me. Because it's so direct and beautiful, there is no room for error. Vibrato is not my friend yet either. We’re about to talk about it though. Being an experienced teacher, he explained that most beginners wouldn’t begin this until way later but because I’ve kind of taken off, I’ll be ready soon. Some things seem impossible or overwhelming but when you break it down in chunks, it becomes easier. I have trouble practicing one thing. I seem to jump all around. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not? I have C, D, G and A major scales down for the most part. I split my time with scales and whatever song I’m to be learning. I do try to touch the violin once a day, sometimes more. If I miss a day, it makes me sad. Of course, I’m learning double stops and using the drones. It’s so addictive and fun now that I’m going. Then I find myself needing some bowing patterns. That’s where the internet comes in. There is so much material out there to consume, you really could do it that way and succeed for the most part. It’s fun having that feedback, especially live and in person. I could see Skype working for those who choose so, but I definitely prefer in person lessons. Plus, it’s nice to hear someone playing a beautiful line in front of your ears. Half hour lessons go by pretty fast I must admit. We normally stretch it to 45 mins. In the room we are playing, there are also 5 banjos, 5 guitars, Cellos, Violins and Mandolins hanging everywhere. It’s a great room to be in. Chuck is also a reenactor which is cool and he’s near Gettysburg so that whole civil war/old time vibe is there. I am hopeful to play some duets with Chuck one day. We did play Angeline together once and that feeling of twin fiddles is hard to describe. More of that in my future please!

I’m starting to get it. I know a little bit more each day. The internet is such a resourceful too. Especially the Fiddle Hang Out! One of my favorite things is opening the case. The anticipation of seeing the fiddle. It never gets old. Many times, I start playing before checking the tuning, which is wrong, I know. Must have it in tune for everything to make sense. I’m like a little kid at Christmas. I am not regretful of the time I’ve missed with the fiddle. Everything happens for a reason. I used to think that way. Like, “why didn’t I do this sooner?” Welp, it’s not helpful to think that way. It’s better to just get on YouTube and explore! I’ve learned of so many awesome bands and songs. Way too many to even start listing. There is a larger fiddle scene out there that most don’t know until you’re in it. I’ve created a running list of songs I’d love to start learning on my own. Some I can fake at this point but that’s what I’ve always done. This is different. This is more challenging. I know if I stay the course, great things will come. I’ve always respected fiddle players and violinist but it’s at a whole new level now. Insane amount of respect. The time and effort put in is immeasurable when listening to a good fiddle player. Now I put on YouTube and jam away. Recently, I’ve went down the rabbit whole of fiddle makers. My goodness! It’s crossed my mind. It’s so fascinating to watch a luthier build one. There were a couple local apprentice programs around, but they are gone now. If that were the case, I’d probably really drop it all and go right into it. The gentleman I take lessons from built his own and it’s amazing. I was like, “how cool is that?” Build it and then play it! The one thing I hope to get better at is, learning to read easy fiddle tab and then play the songs from that tab. It’s slow, but it’s there.

Are you ever really satisfied with your instrument? I love my antique find but as we all know, there many out there just dying to be played. So, I can see how acquiring a collection could be easy if you have a little bit of money. I’m on Ebay, Music Shops, Craigslist, you name it, I’m looking! I have no need but all the needs. I found a guy in Frederick MD who apparently works and sells on them so let’s just say I’m pumped to there. I was recently in Richmond VA and they have a few shops and unfortunately, they were all closed for the holiday. I even brought my bow with me in case. Look at me, being all professional. Ha! Not really. I did purchase a Fiddlerman carbon fiber bow that made a world of difference. It does depend on the musician in the end, but good gear does make it better. I came across a Scott Cao violin and I can’t stop looking at them. It would be nice to find unbiased reviews on them though. I can’t find any negative feedback on them. Beautiful instruments for sure. Some day. One day. But for now, ole Tudd will do the job! Eventually, I’d like to share/post some recordings, but I can’t seem to get through a take without it sounding like cats fighting over a meal. Until then, I’ll keep on playing make believe.

Thanks for reading…


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Experience Level: Just Startin'

Erockin has made 68 recent additions to Fiddle Hangout 

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Occupation: Shipping

Gender: Male
My Instruments:
Guitar, Drums, Bass, Piano, Mandolin and one day, the Violin!

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Bill Monroe, Del, Dusters, Yonder, Dead, Phish, Foghorn String Band, Ryan Adams, Billy Strings, Watchhouse, Marley, Bill Emerson, Scruggs, Bluegrass, Country, Blues, and everything else you can throw in the pot!

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Created 9/3/2022
Last Visit 6/20/2024

I am first a song writer, a father, a husband, a friend, nature lover, festival lover, VWs, Camping, Hiking, writer, and Human Being.

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