It's been a cold spring up here in the PNW, but today was sunny and about 50 degrees, so four of us got together for an outside jam in the sun. All four of us were vaxxed, but not all four of us were two weeks past the shot, so we didn't want to play inside.
Guitar, banjo, dobro and me on the fiddle. Since I decided to learn the fiddle as a Covid project, I've had zero opportunity to play with others, so this was my first fiddle jam. It went much better than I had hoped. A few of the songs we played I knew and I had practiced playing. Most of the others I knew from playing banjo but had never played on the fiddle, and there was only one song I had never heard before, recently written by the guitar player, but it had a fairly standard i, iv, v with the relative minor progression, so not hard to anticipate.
I was able to play some melodies, chords, arpeggios, lots of blues riffs in G, and some run pony shuffles when I was stuck. I did a lot of chucking too, and then provided fills when I thought it was right. I didn't pass on any leads either! My biggest blunder came when the dobro player called for Ramshackle Shack in D. We had previously played about five songs in a row in G and couldn't get the G scale out of my head or my fingers! Imagine that...messing up on a D song!!!
One thing I realized was the when we're playing in G (which happens a lot in bluegrass) you can really fake it quite well hanging out only in first position on just the D and A string! Three notes and some slides and double stops, loud and proud, yeah man...I'm playing the fiddle!!! Ha!
I was a bit disappointed with my intonation compared to when I play alone, with a backing track, indoors. I attribute this to a lot of things...one, just being outdoors and distanced, it was hard for me to hear everything. Plus I had to play a lot louder than I normally do at home, so that confounded the problem. And just playing with others...that's just something that takes time.
The one thing I missed was singing. Normally, I play the banjo and I have my songs that I lead and sing. I have not mastered singing and playing the fiddle. I think next time I'll bring my banjo so that I can switch from time to time and sing. Otherwise, I must add singing and playing fiddle to my practice session.
Anyway, thanks for listening. I'm still buzzing from the experience and I wanted to write it down. You all have been a great resource for me during this year of isolation and fiddle playing. Thank you for your knowledge, advice and kindness.
Edited by - doryman on 04/04/2021 22:05:12
Sounds like you had a great time! I sometimes play in a BG band, sing lots of tenor and sing lead on some songs. I just stand there and sing while holding my fiddle. It's tricky to bust into a break properly with lead in notes, but there is never a need to sing and play at the same time.
Thanks for sharing!
I haven’t been with my local jam group in over a year now. I played mandolin with them, but started fiddle in December and am wondering how much fiddle I’ll be able to play vs mandolin. I’m thinking I’ll bring the fiddle along with me and maybe sneak in a song or two on fiddle, just for practice with real people! (I’ve gotten both shots, so will probably try to get back to the group later in April.)
Regarding playing and singing...I've been woodshedding that because I am bad at it and here's what I think (yeah, I know...)
It's easier to play and sing on a guitar, banjer, mando, because you're pretty much playing a rhythm at the same time, keeping you honest on the beat. Vamping, etc. Bet you don't play off-tempo filler on banjer when singing, cause much harder. Demands too much brain multi-tasking. Same with fiddle. Don't play long-bow, brain neuron-sucking chords while singing, just rhythm. But instead of 'chunking' at the frog (which fatigues your shoulder after awhile) do a short, strong up-bow on the backbeat (like you would vamp on banjer) at mid-bow, while letting the bow sneak back down for the next beat. Kind of reverse-chunking.
You would need to have the chord shapes memorized in your ear-subconcious (if that's even a term, but I believe you know what I mean). And even THAT doesn't really matter if you're more in rhythm mode. Look at the mandolins--several of them are just chunking some four-finger chord shape that would be nonsense if they actually fretted it. It's all about the rhythm when you're not playing a solo. There's no reason people should dismiss fiddler's from singing lead or harmony, just cause fiddle. "Oh, he's got the chin-rest preventing him..." that's BS. There's just a bow on/in your right hand instead of picks.
I'm glad to hear you had fun with others on fiddle...thanks for sharing
The REAL difficulty is intonation on the fiddle while singing, at least for me.
When I play mandolin, I can play fills while singing, when playing guitar, I can play just about anything while singing (many more years of guitar playing under my belt). The fiddle just demands a precision that requires more focus. Maybe if I had started fiddling when I was a kid...
There's just nothing better than playing with others. Even just a buddy is better.
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