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Fiddle Lovers Online


Dec 5, 2021 - 9:44:49 AM
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jonno

USA

214 posts since 9/7/2007

I got bit by the fiddle bug at age 51. I spent many years since then wondering if I’d ever consider myself to be a musician. Now at age 66, I suppose I do.  My playing is nothing to brag about, but I’ve learned a lot and had so much fun along the way.

I thought I’d start this thread by sharing a few things that were key building blocks, and a couple things I wish I had known earlier.  

What has your journey been like? I’m all ears. 

John

Building Blocks 

Right from the beginning - learning tunes, finding a fun encouraging teacher, playing with others, lots of listening to and reading about musicians, attending workshops and festivals.

A few years later - a deep dive into technique with a classical teacher and working through several Suzuki books, learning to enjoy scale exercises. 

Soon after that, I began playing regularly with a couple good friends (we’re still at it). 

Essential milestones during these initial years included intonation, hand/finger placement, pinky strength, bowing mechanics, playing relaxed, developing a better ear and sense of rhythm. 

Things I wish I knew earlier in the journey

Chords - I never played anything with chords until I got a mandolin a few years back. As an aspiring fiddler, I was only aware of the line of notes that make up a melody or harmony and was oblivious of the underlying chords.  Songs make so much more sense when you know the chords that provide the tonal framework for the tune.  Chord awareness is really key to playing breaks. 

Slow Down - chew your food longer before swallowing.  I realize now that it was a waste of time and effort to push myself to play tunes and passages before I was ready.  

As soon as I could play a tune or a skill, I would go on to the next thing I wanted to learn.  My enthusiastic, but impatient, approach deprived me of so much that could be learned from the new tune or skill. As a result, the foundation I was trying to build was weak and wobbly.  I was rarely confident or consistent in my abilities. This was so frustrating because the music required mastery of skills not yet familiar to me - I wanted to play them so badly, but just couldn’t make it sound good. 

Only in recent years have I realized that the key to playing relaxed and having fun is to hang out with the new tune or skill until it is as familiar as a family member.  Don’t rush - enjoy the process of learning the tune or skill so well you can play it easily and without thought or effort. 

I'll close with a couple book recommendations. I have amassed a big library over the years, but these two recent additions are at the top. I wish I had read them both when I started out, but am grateful to have their guidance for my journey onward.  The Practice of Practice (Jonathan Harnum) - an easy and amusing read. Effortless Mastery (Kenny Werner) - chapter 13 says it all.

Dec 5, 2021 - 10:20:25 AM
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5879 posts since 9/26/2008

"Only in recent years have I realized that the key to playing relaxed and having fun is to hang out with the new tune or skill until it is as familiar as a family member. Don’t rush - enjoy the process of learning the tune or skill so well you can play it easily and without thought or effort."

You've boiled it down to the good stuff right here. As a lifelong musician (earliest memories are of harmonizing Everly Brothers songs with my parents) I have nothing to add. Well said.

Oh, wait, I can add this:
Play with others whenever possible, particularly those who are at least a little better than you.

Dec 5, 2021 - 10:54:47 AM
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2697 posts since 10/22/2007

Yep, I too enjoy Kenny Werner's book and video lectures.
I started banjer & guitar in1980. Fiddle & mandolin in 2003.
In the tens of thousands of hours of playing, I'm still learning. I don't think I'll ever be satisfied. But playing with other folks helps me forget how bad I am for the session. I feel blessed for finding such fine friends. Music is a wonderful thing.

Dec 5, 2021 - 12:07:56 PM
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2064 posts since 12/11/2008
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Get familiar with the various scales, intervals & rhythms you hear in your favorite tunes. The best way to start on this path is to sing them or hum them. Tap out the rhythms of the music you like with your finger, foot, la-la-la's or grunts. Get out your instrument and patiently set about how to get the thing to produce them. When things get a bit too tough, hire a teacher or obsessively watch vids on your favorite websites. Watch how your favorite players play. Do your best to copy them. Of course, you'll be doing the stuff slightly differently, but with luck this'll help you produce your distinct style.

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 12/05/2021 12:10:16

Dec 5, 2021 - 1:16:41 PM
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451 posts since 7/30/2021

My journey starts in fourth-grade...

I brought home a form where I had to pick an instrument for school music class: recorder/piano/violin. The piano kids only got fake keyboards to play on, and recorders seemed messy (all that spit!) so I checked the square for violin. Music class was fun, and in the spring my mom got a phone call from our music teacher, who told her that she thought I should have private lessons and gave her the number of a violin teacher.

The private teacher was a serious, terrifying lady who had taught at Juilliard before moving to our town. Looking back, I'm grateful for her excellent teaching but also felt a little soul-crushed. I have a sad memory of asking to play "Meditation from Thais" and her saying, "No. You are already expressive. What you need is to work on your technique." To me, playing violin consisted of teachers assigning the music, conductors choosing the music, auditions, competitions ...I enjoy almost all music, but never being able to choose what to play, kind of wore on me.

Meanwhile every summer, I went to the Philadelphia Folk Festival with friends and really enjoyed all of it! What drew me the most, was the Irish/Celtic style. But I never thought that I could ever "fiddle" myself! It seemed like a totally separate world. :-)

Then during the pandemic, classical music activities shut down. In the summer, feeling desperate to play music with other people, I ventured to an outdoor acoustic folk jam where people sat in a big circle singing and strumming. It seemed like a covid-safe environment. I felt like a total Fake and played super quietly with my mute on in the beginning...but eventually started to get the hang of the music and take breaks, intros, etc.

And now here I am!
I still feel funny calling this thing a "fiddle"...but I am really enjoying playing/learning tunes! Still, if somebody says "the fiddler" I will definitely turn and look around the room, ha ha.

Edited by - NCnotes on 12/05/2021 13:24:33

Dec 5, 2021 - 1:45:26 PM
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DougD

USA

10648 posts since 12/2/2007

NCnotes - not meaning for you to reveal your age, (I think I might be about 35 or 36) but I'm curious what years you attended the Philly Folk Festival (Its been going on for many years, and you could have 11 or 25 when you went). I went as a spectator a couple times, and then several times as a performer, which was quite a different experience. I have quite a few memories, but here's kind of a funny one. In those days the hotel was some distance from the festival site, and one year as we were leaving they asked if we could give Professor Longhair a ride back to the hotel. We had room so we did, but we were so awed to have "Fess" in our van (I think we'd already seen him play at Tipitina's) that I don't think anyone said a word during the whole trip!

Dec 5, 2021 - 6:56:58 PM
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doryman

USA

328 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes


The private teacher was a serious, terrifying lady...


I think they teach this in violin teacher school...

Dec 5, 2021 - 7:39:05 PM
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451 posts since 7/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

NCnotes - not meaning for you to reveal your age, (I think I might be about 35 or 36) but I'm curious what years you attended the Philly Folk Festival (Its been going on for many years, and you could have 11 or 25 when you went). I went as a spectator a couple times, and then several times as a performer, which was quite a different experience. I have quite a few memories, but here's kind of a funny one. In those days the hotel was some distance from the festival site, and one year as we were leaving they asked if we could give Professor Longhair a ride back to the hotel. We had room so we did, but we were so awed to have "Fess" in our van (I think we'd already seen him play at Tipitina's) that I don't think anyone said a word during the whole trip!


Let me think, I went to Philly Folk Festival almost every year from late 1970s to mid 1980s. (I'm currently in my 50s). I stopped going when I left for college, then moved for work. Those were some great memories...something to look forward to every August...isn't the Philly Folk Festival AMAZING??!! I remember standing with friends eating funnelcake, and having three guys strolling by, grinnin' and pickin'..I didn't know what that great music  was at the time, but now I think it was bluegrass. I'm so impressed that you were there as a performer! 

Professor Longhair!! Whooey! Both my husband and I are fans. We used to play his CD over and over in our college days. 

Edited by - NCnotes on 12/05/2021 19:39:32

Dec 6, 2021 - 10:15:48 AM
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1917 posts since 4/6/2014

My story is pretty much the complete opposite of NCnotes, I learned in pubs from players, blagged my way through a few bands, played a lot of sessions/Jams festivals from a few Genre's, etc. Enjoying every step of the way (i still am).

Tip of the hat to you NCnotes. I am in awe of the work and discipline that goes into a classical background in music, and always have been. And i am grateful for the encouragement and tips i have received from such players over the years. Hope that "Trad Fiddlers" will do the same for you on your "Fiddlequest" :0)

Dec 6, 2021 - 12:27:11 PM
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carlb

USA

2437 posts since 2/2/2008

It's summarized in the "About" on my home page.

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Dec 6, 2021 - 12:36:19 PM
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2440 posts since 10/1/2008

What I wish I knew and did not was that playing a fiddle poorly set up was fighting an uphill battle. When I finally got one taken care of by a pro it was like .... WOW...... R/

Dec 6, 2021 - 12:39:28 PM

451 posts since 7/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by pete_fiddle

Tip of the hat to you NCnotes. I am in awe of the work and discipline that goes into a classical background in music, and always have been. And i am grateful for the encouragement and tips i have received from such players over the years. Hope that "Trad Fiddlers" will do the same for you on your "Fiddlequest" :0)


Thank you so much, pete fiddle! Although I will say, at the time, I think the "discipline" came a lot from fear of getting the ice-cold stare at my lesson...
Anyway I hope to "fiddle" someday. I gave up on having that scratchy, true or "pure drop" sound but am aiming for something more reasonable for myself - how about, not sticking out as a classical player at the first note! :-) 

Dec 6, 2021 - 12:41:31 PM

451 posts since 7/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by carlb

It's summarized in the "About" on my home page.


Carl, you have been busy! You're about 6 to 7 instruments ahead of me LOL.

Dec 7, 2021 - 7:26:37 AM
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RobBob

USA

2832 posts since 6/26/2007

The journey of being a musician has been rather long starting in 1950's I am still learning and thrilled to be doing just that. Like Pablo Casals said when asked why he practiced everyday when in his 90's. "I think I am making some progress."

Dec 30, 2021 - 6:42:27 PM
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175 posts since 1/31/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Get familiar with the various scales, intervals & rhythms you hear in your favorite tunes. The best way to start on this path is to sing them or hum them. Tap out the rhythms of the music you like with your finger, foot, la-la-la's or grunts. Get out your instrument and patiently set about how to get the thing to produce them. When things get a bit too tough, hire a teacher or obsessively watch vids on your favorite websites. Watch how your favorite players play. Do your best to copy them. Of course, you'll be doing the stuff slightly differently, but with luck this'll help you produce your distinct style.


Totally agree.  For me the path to becoming a musician started first by playing the banjo in the 70's,  which led me to Tommy J and the Highwoods  (thank you DougD !).  Consequently, I approach the fiddle as a rhythm instrument.  The bowing is the thing - if it's not right it won't sound right.  Shut your eyes, turn the bow over and rest it in the crook of your other arm and play the instrument in your head to a slowed down version of the person you most want to play like.  From there you can work it all out.  Let your bow play the music.

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