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Jul 17, 2021 - 5:16:52 AM
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12314 posts since 9/23/2009

Hey, this is the "Advice" forum, and I don't give advice. But another thread got me to thinking about all of this that I'm gonna tell about here. I don't have a lot of experience on the fiddle yet, and being anxious to play, and probably too bold for my own good, my thoughts on "how to play" are actually to just stop watching/listening to everybody else and do your own thing. A good example of this in my limited and amateur, more like back porch, fiddling experience is with the tune Big Scioty. Everybody plays it in G...it's just a G tune...we all know that. Well I've tried many times and just can't play the doggone thing. So one day I had my fiddle in Cumberland Gap tuning...ADAD, and ran through it...and I thought, "Well gee whiz, I never could play it in G, but works out for me great in D, tuned ADAD. So I made a youtube while it was fresh on my mind that day. So what I'm saying is, for me at least...be bold enough to think outside the prescribed formulas for tunes, slow 'em down, cut out half the notes, change tunings and keys, and play the tune! Doesn't always work, I know, but sometimes when it does, it's well worth stepping out onto a limb for it. I know for me it only works because I have the recording machine and I can make my own backups...in a jam situation...I don't know. If you could find happy and kind guitarists who would be willing to back you up in an unauthorized key on a particular tune you wanted to try, you'd be in for some fun. Good luck with that though...some jammers would go for it but some would be ready to put you in jail...lol. So I realize this type of artistic freedom isn't easily accessible for a lot of us, outside of our own youtubes and recording machines and such...unless you have guitarist friends who are willing to go rogue with you. But besides slowing it down, cutting out half the flashy notes, getting to the basic notes of the tune, finding a bowing groove that'll work (I always start with Nashville Shuffle and spinoff from there if it works---whatever works will work for me---of course, having no audience or jamming pals...makes no difference anyway...lol), finding a key and tuning that'll work...get everybody else's prescribed rules out of your mind...then, blam! You have a playable and fun tune. Making all that work...I know everybody can't do it. If I woulda ever tried anything like this at the jams I've attended around here, I'd have left the place in handcuffs...lol...for sure. Anyway...here's two youtubes...one of my first good experience playing Big Scioty, once I discovered how easy it is in ADAD, played in D instead of G, and the other of me attempting to break that down...somebody must've requested that I do that or I would never otherwise "appear" in person on youtube...cameras give me a terrible phobia...lol. But I thought I'd like to start up a conversation here. How do you play a tune? Do you step in line with the parade who says you HAVE to do it in this key, at this speed, with these notes, in this tuning...blah blah blah (which often works out great), or do you stand up and say, "No...I have to find another way that works better for me?"

Here's my recording...Big Scioty in ADAD... youtu.be/Wx-w2kMQGyQ

Here's my little pathetic attempt to 'splain it on camera...lol... youtu.be/-VYyYD0UGE8

Ok, so now the question...what do you do?????

Jul 17, 2021 - 6:59:46 AM
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RichJ

USA

534 posts since 8/6/2013

“…be bold enough to think outside the prescribed formulas for tunes, slow 'em down, cut out half the notes, change tunings and keys, and play the tune!”

Well there ya’ have it, the Groundhog Manifesto, and about time too so we all can appreciate the message. I’ve been following Peggy and her YT vids now for a couple of years and really think she’s on to something. A similar idea came to me a few days ago while playing along with one of Peggy's recent uploads - Old Horse and Buggy in GD cross. Basically, the idea relates to how some people want to sound like a fiddler but never quite get there, and I'll use myself as an example. A big reason for this in my view is because they get a notion as they progress the more notes they can play, or the faster they play the more they'll get where they want to be. But, I now think those notey tunes could actually be what winds up holding them back. And, the reason for this is it forces one to concentrate on what the left hand is doing and lets the right hand stay undeveloped, truth be told - dull and boring. Fooling around with cross tuning this past year I’ve concluded it’s easier to play most fiddle tunes in cross compared to standard. I’ve also concluded playing simple tunes in cross, like a lot of those on Peggy’s YT uploads, makes you want too get that left hand working to put some feeling, groove, life, or whatever you what to call it into the tune. I guess this boils down to something like this: real fiddlin’ is mostly a left hand thing and the best way to learn this is by keeping right hand chores to a minimum.

BTW - I haven’t mentioned how all this relates to the jammin’/play with others thing. Prefer keeping that one on the back burner for now.

Jul 17, 2021 - 9:20:28 AM

12314 posts since 9/23/2009

Rich, did you mean right when you said left, or left when you said right or t'other way around??

Jul 17, 2021 - 9:24:59 AM
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2392 posts since 10/22/2007

I don't get to mentor many, as I'm young for my circle of friends. Some by 20-25 years. But occasionally I get a newbie asking for tidbits of knowledge. Typically their enthusiasm has them wound up. That's kind of a good thing, but also builds tension in their body and mind. I've often recommended turning down their give-a-rip level. Forty years ago it worked for me. Sometimes going as far as taking time to enjoy what you already know. Yes, it's a journey, but one day you'll be dead and never enjoyed any fruits of your labor/pursuit.

Jul 17, 2021 - 10:26:15 AM
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12314 posts since 9/23/2009

Yes, exactly. I guess I'm a firm believer in "folk music," i.e., music for everyday folks, not necessarily for professionals who have years, days, and hours with nothing much more than music to worry about fitting into their lives. I do miss the old days when everybody just played...however possible. I even remember hearing Chet Atkins in an interview explaining how he simplified stuff he was gonna play so he could play it better...lol...I thought, back then, if that's good 'nuff for Chet then it's certainly good 'nuff for me.

Jul 17, 2021 - 10:32:14 AM
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RichJ

USA

534 posts since 8/6/2013

Hey Peggy, Wooops - had it right the first time, then got kinda' twisted. So I'll boil it down one more time:

Fiddlin’ is mostly a right hand thing and the best way to learn this is by keeping left hand chores to a minimum.
 

Jul 17, 2021 - 10:51:13 AM
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505 posts since 3/1/2020

I think it’s good to learn a tune as closely as possible to the way it’s handed down to you. That way you have a better chance of picking up some of the subtle nuances that make the piece interesting. Once you’ve absorbed the tune, you can start to make your own version.

Learning doesn’t necessarily have to follow this route, but I think it helps to preserve the traditions. Old Time is a genre that often doesn't seem to transcribe well, so learning by imitation is critical.

Jul 17, 2021 - 12:32:19 PM
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Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2348 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by groundhogpeggy

Here's my recording...Big Scioty in ADAD... youtu.be/Wx-w2kMQGyQ

Here's my little pathetic attempt to 'splain it on camera...lol... youtu.be/-VYyYD0UGE8

Ok, so now the question...what do you do?????


I try to play the version Burl Hammon's played, though I often play it without the extra measure, which he does sometimes. In other words, in a jam I would play it square if I were leading Big Scioty (in G in GDae).

https://www.slippery-hill.com/content/big-scioty

Jul 17, 2021 - 12:45:33 PM
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12314 posts since 9/23/2009

I just say, feel free to play it like you want it. And I will again quote Dwight Diller...well, not an exact quote, but the gist of which is that you need to eat a peck of salt with a person to really know that person. He said he believed it was the same with tunes. Now, I don't know if you have to PLAY the tune as long as it takes to eat a peck of salt, though for sure it wouldn't hurt, but to my thinking, you have to THINK the tune that long in your mind. Think it while you're mowing or weed eating, picking beans, sweepin' up, or trying to sleep at night or whatever...washing dishes, cooking, whatever...think the tune...think how you'd like to play it. That's your peck of salt...sit down and work it out later...at least that's what I love to do. I feel imprisoned by a tune if I'm trying to match up note for note or bowing with somebody else...I can't do that and I don't enjoy trying. I won't say I haven't done it or tried it...but when I have, it's caused me to not really know that tune, peck of salt knowing, for longer than it should have taken me. That's just me...ain't the same for everybody, of course, which is exactly my point.

Jul 17, 2021 - 2:47:51 PM
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505 posts since 3/1/2020

Sounds like Harold Hill’s “Think System.”

Jul 17, 2021 - 3:06:12 PM

DougD

USA

10258 posts since 12/2/2007

Rich - As someone who played piano for a high school production of "The Music Man" many years ago, that gave me a chuckle!

Jul 17, 2021 - 8:22:14 PM
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doryman

USA

190 posts since 2/10/2020

That sounds wonderful, GHPeggy. I've been working on Big Sciota too, but it sounds very mechanical compared to your soulful version. I've been playing along to your video today, not ADAD, but just in the key of D, regular tuning (GDAE). It actually works pretty well that way on the fiddle. My jam group will kill me if I tried to play in D!

Jul 18, 2021 - 3:36:50 AM
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12314 posts since 9/23/2009

Glad it's working out for you, John. Yeah, gotta be careful about changing keys in a jam situation. Maybe one time find a friendly guitar player and see if they could play it in D for you while the others take a cookie break or something...lol.

Jul 18, 2021 - 5:09:16 AM
Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2348 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by RichJ

Hey Peggy, Wooops - had it right the first time, then got kinda' twisted. So I'll boil it down one more time:

Fiddlin’ is mostly a right hand thing and the best way to learn this is by keeping left hand chores to a minimum.
 


As I left handed person who has played right handed instruments since he was 5, I use both hands the best I can. There are things with the right hand that are still very awkward for me. I use the dexterity of my left hand to, sometimes, create rhythm.

Jul 18, 2021 - 5:09:32 AM
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2392 posts since 10/22/2007

IMHO, Music is ephemeral art. Sometimes it's finger-painting, sometimes it's a master-work. Usually my stuff is closer to Dogs Playing Pool.

Jul 18, 2021 - 7:02:32 AM

DougD

USA

10258 posts since 12/2/2007

If you are going to abandon your moorings and models and just "Do what feels good" (as the hippies used to say) then old time fiddling becomes more like modern painting and modern freeform jazz, where the results will largely depend on the skills and inclinations of the player, which of course will be variable.
Music, both in its creation and appreciation depends a lot on personal taste, so what someone else loves may not interest me at all, but might appeal to others.
Same is true for visual art. I really can't stand "Dogs Playing Pool" but I love this classic example of German realism.


Jul 18, 2021 - 7:46:33 AM

RichJ

USA

534 posts since 8/6/2013

quote:
Originally posted by carlb
quote:
Originally posted by RichJ

Hey Peggy, Wooops - had it right the first time, then got kinda' twisted. So I'll boil it down one more time:

Fiddlin’ is mostly a right hand thing and the best way to learn this is by keeping left hand chores to a minimum.
 


As I left handed person who has played right handed instruments since he was 5, I use both hands the best I can. There are things with the right hand that are still very awkward for me. I use the dexterity of my left hand to, sometimes, create rhythm.


Hey Carl - Thanks for the input. Perhaps a final re-boil of that cabbage (no pun intended) should be:

Fiddlin in mostly a rhythm hand thing and the best way to learn this is by keeping the fingering hand chores to a minimum. 

And, of course there's gonna' be exceptions to every rule.

Edited by - RichJ on 07/18/2021 07:48:53

Jul 18, 2021 - 8:06:18 AM
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12314 posts since 9/23/2009

I think what Rich meant about the hands (hate speaking for somebody else, so forgive me and correct me if necessary, Rich!) was that focus tends to be emphasized on the noting hand, which distracts from the groove and feel that makes tunes "Old Timey" sounding...so...maybe we are better off if we put less focus on the notes and more focus on the rhythm side of the equation...something to that effect.

Doug, I'm not saying abandon everything to do with a tune...I'm just saying...well if a person is dead-set on imitating somebody, Tommy Jarrell or Burl Hammons or somebody who played the daylights out of fiddle that we are lucky enough in our day and age to still be able to hear...if people focus so much on imitating them, well...where did THEY learn? Did Tommy J learn note-for-note from his uncle or whoever he did learn from? Did he analyze that person's bowing? Or, I think more likely, did he like what he heard and then did what he could with it his own way, keeping a thread that runs true, although going by memory and just adding his own twist. Or even maybe more important...are we tempted to listen to big stars who have a lot of time and decades to practice, play gigs all the time and just get an amount of admirable athleticism into their playing because of all that time put into it, and I guess we could also add "talent," even though I'm not much of a believer in talent as I am in blood, sweat, tears, and motivation...but anyhow...do we focus on what they do and then think we can't play unless we spend hours imitating what we hear from them? Or do we, more like Burl Hammons (most likely...I have no way of knowing of course)...as I hear from Dwight himself, who spent a lot of time with the Hammons family, walked away with a good sense of Old Time music, yet he plays/sounds DIFFERENT than they do...anyway, as Dwight told me himself, the Hammons had migrated out of Whitley Co., KY (our old place we still think of as home) to Pokahontus or however ya spell it County, WV...carrying memories of music they heard and how they heard it...which of course by necessity of our minds and perceptions, morph into what they actually played. I'm not saying do whatever...I'm saying...take the melodic contour...strip away unnecessary notes, only if you want to, keep the thread running true to the melodic contour of tunes...keep the thread running true to how you perceive the rhythmic elements to affect that melody...and play it, so it's recognizable, but so it's your way. That way...music belongs to us, us amateurs...just like Burl Hammons or so many "greats" from the old days...music belongs to us. That doesn't mean go nuts and make the tune some unrecognizable piece of garbage...that means play it in a key you can deal with, without added stuff somebody else put in, in a rhythm that seems fitting...like in the old days...I remember back in Whitley Co so many things were played in C on the dulcimer...well...somehow that all morphed to D...I can guess because dulcimer is now played more with other instruments where D is friendlier than C...still...these changes happen...then today we look at how it's done and figure it HAS to be that way...there's some RULE that whatever mode you tune your dulcimer in, you have to be in D...you have to play Big Scioty in G...like...these things came about in various hollers, or over the plains or along the rivers or in wagon trains...for whatever reasons affected those who protected and guarded the tunes so that we have them today...but for our own reasons, we can play them the way it works for us today. That's all I'm saying. I would make a terrible politician...because I don't like 'splaining myself that much...lol...but I hope I clarified my point here so people know I'm not talking avant garde or however ya spell it (obvious this ain't a good spelling day for me)...but of course that'd be ok too, except you might not wanna call your avant garde stuff Old Time, maybe just inspired by Old Time...but I'm not talking about doing that...I'm talking about taking folk music back...feeling free to be as innovative as the people who brought it to our generation.

Jul 18, 2021 - 8:06:52 AM

12314 posts since 9/23/2009

oops...I think I was posting as Rich was...yeah...I agree with Rich on that.

Jul 18, 2021 - 1:23:07 PM
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1852 posts since 12/11/2008

Peggy finds the bullseye in her post above when she tells us to "Take folk music back," and to "Feel free to be as innovative as the people who brought it to our generation." Play with passion. Allow the art to evolve. Let the scholars deal with the minutiae.

Jul 19, 2021 - 12:32:35 AM
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1602 posts since 4/6/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Peggy finds the bullseye in her post above when she tells us to "Take folk music back," and to "Feel free to be as innovative as the people who brought it to our generation." Play with passion. Allow the art to evolve. Let the scholars deal with the minutiae.


I do enjoy the minutiae as well though..

Research sparks my imagination, and influences my practice and playing. Musical imagination is a much under-rated part of folks playing IMO. Even if i was directly instructed how to do something, i could only research, speculate and/or imagine where they got it from. And my own limitations, skills, and thinking  would determine  how,why and if i execute their instructions.

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