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Jul 12, 2020 - 11:28:45 AM
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5780 posts since 8/7/2009

I learn tunes by playing along with a recording that has a particular appeal to me. How is that process different from learning a tune while playing with others at a jam session? Or just doing your best to remember what you heard – somewhere… 

The only thing I can think of is that a recording will always play a tune the exact same way, a jam session or live performance will usually always have (at best) slight variations .

So, what is my goal with using the recording? …to be able to play the tune exactly as it was recorded? Yes and no.

Yes, in that the “thing” that attracted me to the recording of that tune is the focus of my learning attention. I will give my effort to that task. But…

No, in that I know that I will never be able to reproduce anything anyone plays exactly. I not only accept that truth, I embrace it. I would prefer to be able to play endless variations of what I am learning from a source – a source that will never play any variations from what is recorded. I am confident that – given time and effort – I can produce a sound that will be “musically acceptable” as an approximate expression that satisfies the desire I had for learning the tune I heard.

The benefit of learning from a recording?  The jam or live performances - most of the time - will not have the same kind of learning appeal as a favorite recording.  Or - at best - will not be available for study later.

What have I been missing by learning from recordings?

Jul 12, 2020 - 12:24:44 PM
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1742 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder

...What have I been missing by learning from recordings?


You're missing the personal interaction, but we don't do that anymore anyway.

Seriously, a lot of players do pride themselves on what they learn directly from other players. I have learned tunes that way. But if it's a tune I want to know well I'll later go through my recordings or online and find a version that I can work from to get the tune down. I just don't revisit the same players over and over often enough to get it all from playing in a jam. I am generally able to learn the basic shape of tunes quickly, so I can play along, but the details need more attention and practice.

Jul 12, 2020 - 1:21 PM
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1600 posts since 12/11/2008

As far as I'm concerned it's just fine to figure out a tune simply by listening to a recording. I do it all the time. If you end up making a few "mistakes," you are doing nothing more than carrying on the folk tradition. By the same token, if you somehow find yourself in a situation where you want to play the tune with others, just be loose enough to adapt to their version. How far from each other could the two versions truly be? The only sticking point is if you and the others play the tune in a different key. It's there where your playing chops truly come to the fore.

Jul 12, 2020 - 2:02:01 PM
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8405 posts since 3/19/2009

Good topic.. I've just spent my weekend listening to maybe ten youtube videos of different fiddlers playing the same tune.. Add to that TWO sheet music versions.. It All helps. In the end you can, should and will play how you like..
I also like learning in jams, BUT I object to people who hear a tune in a jam and Don't go home and learn it, but rather just use the jam session as a practice session and in the meantime, playing loudly and poorly on a tune they are struggling with  figuring that eventually they'll learn it... My rule is if you don't know a tune well, play QUIETLY  until you DO...

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 07/12/2020 14:03:49

Jul 12, 2020 - 2:12:04 PM

8405 posts since 3/19/2009

Also, I Blame poor hearing for not learning more from recordings.. Poor excuse..I'm just lazy and like sheet music.. One problem that arises is that when jam mates each learn a tune from different musicians, and come together, it is often challenging.. Over time, good musicians learn to work around each other's versions of a tune and then it is NO problem........Whenever someone insists that their version is the 'right' one...things get sticky..

Jul 12, 2020 - 2:17:19 PM
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8405 posts since 3/19/2009

Tony. WHat have you been missing from learning from recordings.. GENERALLY...NOTHING......................................but,  SPECIFICALLY.. "Details"..that sheet music can show..

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 07/12/2020 14:17:43

Jul 12, 2020 - 2:49:15 PM
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142 posts since 4/15/2019

I agree with you Tony. When I was first learning guitar tunes I had a book that showed me the chords and a record that had a couple of tunes on it to play along with and that was it. Little brother and I learned everything from recordings and once in a while from another player. It all depends on how much of a desire you have to play. You will only learn however much or little you care to. I can play enough to get by but little brother lives and breathes guitar even to this day. I rank him up there with Larry Sparks and Doc watson. If you don't know who Larry Sparks is, that's because you don't live and breathe bluegrass flat pickin! No offense intended.

Edited by - old cowboy on 07/12/2020 14:55:07

Jul 12, 2020 - 2:55:12 PM
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4724 posts since 9/26/2008

Nothing I “learn” while jamming sticks, at least not quite. I keep lists and asterisk the tunes I like and want to look up later. I usually remember the gist of two tunes after a few hundred played at Clifftop. I might note remember the name though laugh

I once sent Lee a recording I made of something that stuck in my brain. He replied, “It’s ‘Tipping Back the Corn’ only you’re playing in G and it is usually played in A.”  

I’ve learned a head full of music from recordings of all genres and on 4 instruments, nothing wrong with that in my world.  I’ve also has in person learning with early OT lessons and at a folk camp I went to a handful of years ago. Many if not most of the lesson tunes have been “relearned” from source recordings. I remember and play two tunes taught at the camp, even though I recorded everything, and picked up two previously unheard parts to Quince Dillion’s High D” from a jam session with Alan Jabbour, which I also recorded.  I didn’t learn the other tunes because they didn’t grab me, even though a few are frequently played when I chance to play with the far flung folks I know.

Jul 12, 2020 - 3:18:17 PM
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Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2233 posts since 2/2/2008

Personally, if I learn a tune at a jam, I will search to find the recording. The electronic age has allowed the "Pass it on" experience, long after the people are gone. I attempt to play so that whatever I come up with blends well with the original recording. Not that I get every note, but that I get the "sense of the tune". It's a fine lesson to learn. You own musical experiences will then color the tune, when you then play it with others, as they will have an effect on the tune, as well.

Jul 12, 2020 - 6:29:55 PM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

...What have I been missing by learning from recordings?

That would be difficult to state, it depends on what your goals, philosophy of music are... which likely might be different than mine or others.

I've learned most of all of what I play from just old informal listening and learning process. I guess bit old fashioned... that's just the background of how I learned, developed musically. It included a old cultural attitude toward about music, participating in music. I still find valid, and personally would feel would be missing.

The modern learning from specific recording ideology, seems generally a different learning process, and often has bit different attitude and/or goal about music.

The only thing I can think of is that a recording will always play a tune the exact same way, a jam session or live performance will usually always have (at best) slight variations .

For me, those slight variations, and even great variations; in hearing different possibilities... is part of what I attribute as helping me develop and shape my understanding of some aspects of music, musicality; separating the big picture, framework; from the role and effect of certain details has on feel, expression. Expands creative thought. Besides variation, I think I would attribute the old process as helped shape and develop some other aspects of my music understanding and skills... at least which worked for me, my goals.

I would add, that I think there was something about experiencing the music live in real time, in the moment, in context of the players and surroundings. Those experiences might involve comments about the music, advise, tips. But more tha that... not sure can describe, but included more stimuli; visuals, dancing, overall feel, expression, how it breathed, nuance... a bit of gestalt? which created powerful overall concrete experience to me. Probably helped grasp a tune, but more importantly I think helped me grasp some aspects of the music. IMO would be missing from just a recording.

Not that any of my experience, perspective is better than, or needs to be relevant to anyone else, and their goals.

Jul 12, 2020 - 7:56:30 PM

11038 posts since 9/23/2009
Online Now

There are different kinds of musicians of course...those who preserve the fiddling of great fiddlers who may or may not be with us any longer, and those who play stuff in their own way...at least as far as I can tell that's the categories of old time fiddlers.

I guess I have spent a few hours learning off of somebody's recorded music somewhere, proud I could pick up what parts and pieces I could. But if I wasn't careful, it usually came back to haunt me, because, I'm not really into preserving someone's style, plus, I'm not and never will be good enough to even pretend to go after someone's style. So, what I'm left with is a habitual way of playing some tune or other in the poorly imitated style of some great fiddler of the past...and never feel like it belongs to me or I can just play it.

So yeah...another thing Tony said is that he goes by memory...I prefer that, but I often get things kinda wrong here and there, because my memory doesn't always file it away accurately. But it's my preferred way of learning and/or playing tunes.

One thing I kinda regret...I learned guitar mainly on my own, with input from friends and neighbors who also played across the decades...but mainly just my own way. I learned banjo that way too. Some kid in college told me I played the banjo "wrong," and I was so insecure at the time that I quit playing banjo for about 20 years after that. Finally, I picked it up again and found Dwight Diller about the same time. I studied Dwight's style really hard...I mean listened, watched, practiced so much. Now, if I'm not careful, I can sound something like a cheap imitation of Dwight Diller on the banjo...lol. I mean, it's always a struggle to try not to now. I enjoy playing it so much, but I have to try really hard to think how I wanna play it, not how I wanna be a juke box of Dwight's playing, only corrupted quite a bit.

On the fiddle I never really started down that path too much...there just wasn't any famous fiddler I listened to...mainly it was just a desire to play from having heard fiddle playing around me by amateurs at various points in my life. But how do you learn from vague memories of people who are long gone? So...I have listened to recordings, watched a few lessons on Bluegrassdaddy, a site I paid for...just full of lessons...from him I came to know of famous fiddlers for the first time in my life...his lessons are usually based on a way that some famous fiddler played one tune or another...so it's really pretty educational about what fiddlers played what style...I never heard of any of them because I had only heard various amateurs...really... my life has been lived under a rock...lol. But anyway, as I've studied some of the lessons on BGD, I've also been careful to try to get the gist of the lesson, tune, style, or whatever, then apply something I've learned onto a different tune and make sure I'm not just going for my cheap imitation of one person or another. I haven't used the lessons for a few years now, but I did there for a while...it was helpful, but I didn't wanna get into trying to sound like somebody famous...I'll just never be good enough, plus I just don't wanna imitate, really.

Yet, I do admire some of the people who have studied someone's style and sort of just keep it alive for a while longer, to pass along to others who might learn it, learn something from it, or just enjoy and appreciate it.

Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 07/12/2020 20:01:22

Jul 13, 2020 - 1:09:22 AM
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217 posts since 6/21/2012

If you learn a tune from a recording you run the risk of the setting not being compatible with how the group plays it. The trick here is to realize this might be the case, and be prepared to pick up the local variations. The danger of picking up tunes only from sessions is not remembering the tune the next week and having to learn it all over again. You also need to be able to do this unobtrusively or you will be spoiling the jam, even if no one calls you on it. There is little I hate more at a session than trying to lead a tune while the person next to me is hunting around for notes. It's very hard for me to keep a tune together like that.

Jul 13, 2020 - 5:42:20 AM
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1996 posts since 10/22/2007

I dunno. There's a tune called 100 pipers, i only play it once a year, when i play with a certain friend. It took me years, and i still don't know it well, but he does and that's what counts.
OTOH i've learnt gobs of tunes from recordings. Most i just amuse myself with. Seems like jams play simple, jammable tunes understandably. Probably not a 100 in the list.
OT3rdH Learning Country or Pop stuff for a band, there's not much learning because it's just fills. Catching the key & chords is enough.

Jul 13, 2020 - 3:38:52 PM

5780 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder

...What have I been missing by learning from recordings?


You're missing the personal interaction, but we don't do that anymore anyway.

Seriously, a lot of players do pride themselves on what they learn directly from other players. I have learned tunes that way. But if it's a tune I want to know well I'll later go through my recordings or online and find a version that I can work from to get the tune down. I just don't revisit the same players over and over often enough to get it all from playing in a jam. I am generally able to learn the basic shape of tunes quickly, so I can play along, but the details need more attention and practice.


I understand your comments, but 2 things need to be considered...

Even if I prefer to learn from recordings, I can still interact with others at a jam and learn things from them - as you are suggesting. 

And... generally speaking - the quality of playing on recordings will usually be a little better than you would hear at most jam sessions (for obvious reasons).

I do understand the "pride" - I have a silly point of pride that I like to make on occasion: With the exception of one slip up - I have not even picked up an electric guitar in almost 40 years.  What does that mean?  Doesn't make me any better at playing guitar.  But it is bragging rights - I guess. 

Jul 13, 2020 - 3:52:34 PM

5780 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Tony. WHat have you been missing from learning from recordings.. GENERALLY...NOTHING......................................but,  SPECIFICALLY.. "Details"..that sheet music can show..


There are a lot of things that have dissuaded me from really making a serious effort at getting good at reading notation.  You really can't pickup style from simple notation, or phrasing. And the simple melody is not always the same as  most common or popular versions. I don't know that I would trust notation any more than a recording. At least with a recording - I can hear all of what I am trying to learn. 

Is there something else I'm overlooking?

Jul 13, 2020 - 3:58:07 PM

5780 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by old cowboy

I agree with you Tony. When I was first learning guitar tunes I had a book that showed me the chords and a record that had a couple of tunes on it to play along with and that was it. Little brother and I learned everything from recordings and once in a while from another player. It all depends on how much of a desire you have to play. You will only learn however much or little you care to. I can play enough to get by but little brother lives and breathes guitar even to this day. I rank him up there with Larry Sparks and Doc watson. If you don't know who Larry Sparks is, that's because you don't live and breathe bluegrass flat pickin! No offense intended.


Yeap. I know bluegrass. Played in bands for a little over 10 years.  And that makes me think about something I'll probably bring up in a little while - about traditions.  Thanks.

Sounds like your brother is a fine picker.

Jul 13, 2020 - 4:10:07 PM

1268 posts since 7/26/2015

In my opinion, with a video recording, you're seeing the performance, but with notation, you're seeing a map of the performance influenced by the transcriber's opinions of which things were intentional and which things were mistakes. Some of them include the perceived mistakes in a relatively unaltered form. Some of them attempt to correct the perceived mistakes, and some of them omit them entirely. Check out this midi version of Allen Sisson's "Katy Hill" for an example of how performance and transcription can differ. 
 
Performance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryVv-88BEYE
Midi Transcription
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvzR1Vhjnds
 
quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder
quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Tony. WHat have you been missing from learning from recordings.. GENERALLY...NOTHING......................................but,  SPECIFICALLY.. "Details"..that sheet music can show..


There are a lot of things that have dissuaded me from really making a serious effort at getting good at reading notation.  You really can't pickup style from simple notation, or phrasing. And the simple melody is not always the same as  most common or popular versions. I don't know that I would trust notation any more than a recording. At least with a recording - I can hear all of what I am trying to learn. 

Is there something else I'm overlooking?


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 07/13/2020 16:11:32

Jul 13, 2020 - 4:11:04 PM

5780 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by snakefinger

If you learn a tune from a recording you run the risk of the setting not being compatible with how the group plays it. The trick here is to realize this might be the case, and be prepared to pick up the local variations. The danger of picking up tunes only from sessions is not remembering the tune the next week and having to learn it all over again. You also need to be able to do this unobtrusively or you will be spoiling the jam, even if no one calls you on it. There is little I hate more at a session than trying to lead a tune while the person next to me is hunting around for notes. It's very hard for me to keep a tune together like that.


LOL... yeap.  I moved back to TN after living in Alaska for a number of years - and brought back a lot of tunes with me. One of the tunes I learned up north was Alan Jabbour's recorded version of "John Brown's March".  When I played it at our local jam here, folks looked at me strange when I finished and asked what was that again? I later found out that the more traditional version they play is "a bit slower". And - you know - I like it slower - and now I play it slower.  

Jul 13, 2020 - 4:39:04 PM
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8405 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by tonyelder
quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Tony. WHat have you been missing from learning from recordings.. GENERALLY...NOTHING......................................but,  SPECIFICALLY.. "Details"..that sheet music can show..


There are a lot of things that have dissuaded me from really making a serious effort at getting good at reading notation.  You really can't pickup style from simple notation, or phrasing. And the simple melody is not always the same as  most common or popular versions. I don't know that I would trust notation any more than a recording. At least with a recording - I can hear all of what I am trying to learn. 

Is there something else I'm overlooking?


Tony, it is not a case of one or the other.. Both have benefits..Also, experienced OT musicians who read music can hear phrasing on an audio an translate that to the sheet music..so that is not a problem . It all depends on the musician.........

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 07/13/2020 16:48:13

Jul 13, 2020 - 4:53:42 PM
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1742 posts since 8/27/2008

There are a lot of things that have dissuaded me from really making a serious effort at getting good at reading notation.  You really can't pickup style from simple notation, or phrasing. And the simple melody is not always the same as  most common or popular versions.


I disagree. It's not hard to get style and phrasing from sheet music unless it's in a style entirely foreign to you. If you have a feel for old time tunes then seeing one in sheet music shouldn't be a mystery. Or Irish or anything. It's not a good excuse for not learning how to read. But if you just don't want to bother with it, well, that's your excuse.

Jul 13, 2020 - 5:30:57 PM
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1600 posts since 12/11/2008

I took lessons from David Bragger for close to a zillion years, and his insistence on not using standard or any other notation with Old Time has permanently bent my brain in that direction when it comes to that genre. I agree with Bragger that OT is a folk craft. It's meant to be absorbed by listening and, hopefully, watching. Yes, when I have the opportunity to watch a performance, I do observe how the tune is bowed, but I've discovered that bowing can almost always be sussed out simply by listening to somebody like John Salyer do the tune. Just don't forget to start with a down bow! (For his part, Bragger always calls out the bowing when he teaches a tune.)

All this, though, doesn't mean I reject standard notation out of hand. I just love cruising through my McNeill's 1001 Irish Tune book. If a tune catches my eye (usually because I like a phrase or riff), I'll do my best to get it under my bow & fingers. At the piano, I've become a veritable slave to the printed manuscript. I mean, how else can I do justice to Freddy Chopin or Scotty Joplin?

Jul 13, 2020 - 7:27:41 PM
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5780 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Tony, it is not a case of one or the other.. Both have benefits..Also, experienced OT musicians who read music can hear phrasing on an audio an translate that to the sheet music..so that is not a problem . It all depends on the musician.........


I don't totally disagree with you - but... let me press you a bit on this my friend... Concerning sheet music commercially available - would you say "that" represents the exception - or the rule?

What I have seen in most collections have been fairly straight forward simple scores that cover the melody. And I heard more than one person say - the notation is not the same as they know it.

And I'll add Brian's comments in here - because I sense that they are pointed in the same direction.

Brian Wood - Jul 13, 2020 - 6:53 PM

There are a lot of things that have dissuaded me from really making a serious effort at getting good at reading notation.  You really can't pickup style from simple notation, or phrasing. And the simple melody is not always the same as  most common or popular versions.


I disagree. It's not hard to get style and phrasing from sheet music unless it's in a style entirely foreign to you. If you have a feel for old time tunes then seeing one in sheet music shouldn't be a mystery. Or Irish or anything. It's not a good excuse for not learning how to read. But if you just don't want to bother with it, well, that's your excuse.

---------------------------

I'm not sure I disagree with you Brian.  I understand that a person who is fluent in a particular style or genre - can add all the appropriate interpretation that might be missing from a sheet of music. But there have been discussions here about the methods that might be needed to capture the required elements on sheet music that would reveal the style and accent that defines - not only the genre, but the specifics of a particular tune, or a fiddler.        I understand (agree) that it could be done...      I also understand the layers of complexity that get added, the more information you decide is needed in the score to reach a goal

Let me ask - who would you expect to recognize a musical score written in "the style of Tommy Jarrell" as Tommy Jarrell? And - conversely -how many would recognize Tommy Jarrell's playing if they heard one of his recordings?

In my experience, I am much more proficient at learning what I am working on from listening - much better than I am from reading. Its not that I couldn't eventually master the skills of reading notation with enough effort.  The fact that I don't bother with it is a choice, not an excuse.

For those folks who learn tunes from sheet music... my hat's off to you. You do have a much larger body of work to choose from than I do. I'll never play the tunes that aren't being played by someone else.  My loss. 

I agree with Lee, "It all depends on the musician..."  There isn't a right or wrong here. Just choices.

Jul 13, 2020 - 7:29:22 PM
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5780 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

I took lessons from David Bragger for close to a zillion years, and his insistence on not using standard or any other notation with Old Time has permanently bent my brain in that direction when it comes to that genre. I agree with Bragger that OT is a folk craft. It's meant to be absorbed by listening and, hopefully, watching. Yes, when I have the opportunity to watch a performance, I do observe how the tune is bowed, but I've discovered that bowing can almost always be sussed out simply by listening to somebody like John Salyer do the tune. Just don't forget to start with a down bow! (For his part, Bragger always calls out the bowing when he teaches a tune.)

All this, though, doesn't mean I reject standard notation out of hand. I just love cruising through my McNeill's 1001 Irish Tune book. If a tune catches my eye (usually because I like a phrase or riff), I'll do my best to get it under my bow & fingers. At the piano, I've become a veritable slave to the printed manuscript. I mean, how else can I do justice to Freddy Chopin or Scotty Joplin?


David Bragger is an amazing fiddler and teacher.

Jul 14, 2020 - 9:56:12 AM
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69 posts since 9/17/2017

I have been trying to learn a tune from David Bragger from an online video called Old Time Christmas. I appreciate him calling out the bowing direction but it I also found it distracting and difficult but I'm determined. Question; are there any exceptions to starting on a down bow? Is that intended for start of tune or every phrase?

Jul 14, 2020 - 10:12:36 AM

11038 posts since 9/23/2009
Online Now

David Bragger is great...and so generous to have free lessons on youtube. I learned a few things from watching his videos. However...lol...when somebody's hollering out bow direction I get really confused to the point where I can't tell which way is up or down...so I just can't learn that way.

I think the downbowing idea, in my thinking anyway, got so popular because of Round Peak area fiddlers...if you go toward Eastern KY...the northern river region, they seem to be more concerned with doing things on the upbow...parts of WV seem to do that too, just my own opinion from what I've seen and conversation with various individuals. But I think there upbow people too. Downbow, in my thinking...does seem more intutive than upbow...and Pogo, the directional bowing proponent that used to be here on FHO, used to always say it was so intuitive because of the subtle effects of gravity on our playing. Maybe...don't know...but I think there used to be more people who could go either way, or proponents of either way...but today downbowing is the thing that's really the big thing for fiddlers.

I think, just my humble and maybe totally insignificant opinion, bow direction is a thing everybody approaches in however it works for them. To quote Pogo further...you don't wanna get into "anywhichway" bowing, but you do want to have a sense of direction that is some consistent thing for you that gives you the kind of rhythmic fiddling you want to do. Could be upbowing, could be downbowing, could be following what somebody hollers out, all the ups and downs, one at a time, or could be just learning N. Shuffle and going from there. I don't know...I've gone from one side of the fence to the other since I started fiddling...but I'm at the point now where I think if a person learns N. Shuffle...the long short short, long short short...changing direction with each long stroke and also short strokes...then learns to fit notes into that pattern, then gradually learns to stay true to their rhythm and move away from the monotony of N. Shuffle...although not necessarily abandoning it, just easing off...or even possibly ditching it once you learn how to fit notes into it...because even then I think you'd have developed a sense of direction in handling the bow...I think if person starts there, they find their own way with bowing. Just my opinion...I ain't nobody so take it or leave it...lol...probably much better opinons floating all around us that might be more helpful.

Jul 14, 2020 - 10:27:58 AM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007

Peggy, you've mentioned upbowing in NE KY many times here. Could you name some players like that? I'd like to hear them if possible. Also, on one of his CDs Roger Cooper plays tunes he learned from specific people and I 'd like to see if you'd consider any of them "upbowers."

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