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Jun 9, 2024 - 9:24:40 AM
1713 posts since 1/21/2009

Don't get me wrong, I love my tunes but lately I'm wondering if they are the most direct way to improvement. I'm curious how others round out their practice time.

Jun 9, 2024 - 9:54:23 AM
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2623 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Peghead

Don't get me wrong, I love my tunes but lately I'm wondering if they are the most direct way to improvement. I'm curious how others round out their practice time.


Yes, I do think that, because the tune is the thing itself. If you're building a house you can practice nailing or practice sawing, but the real task is how those things make a building. Personally I don't practice scales or bowing patterns except in the context of a specific tune. When just starting out on an instrument working on the elements separately is important, then you can move on.

Jun 9, 2024 - 10:49:28 AM

2623 posts since 8/27/2008

BTW, not offering myself as an example of technical excellence.

Jun 9, 2024 - 11:10:02 AM

3365 posts since 10/22/2007

I was going to say a gage. Many a tune I can't play anymore.
But make no mistake, it's all about the tune/music. I also use some sort of rhythm section whenever I practice. Somebody that had an aversion to clicks and metronome, as I did, was told to think of it as the fifth man in the band. This shifted my paradigm. I don't like listening to bad timing. If there's one "excellence" I could and should cover, it should be my timing.

Jun 9, 2024 - 11:58:12 AM
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6479 posts since 9/26/2008

There are tunes by Ed Haley that require some degree of technical excellence, and to be honest, most versions of his tunes I hear played lack the details that require better technique (which might be as little as skipping a couple of notes here it there due to not being able to play them all or hear them all). Often times I hear people playing something based on the first time through the tune in the recordings where the skill comes later in the variation which can be hard to listen to on his recordings. Many just lack the ears needed to catch the bits that are being skipped.
Perhaps active listening skills are the first step towards excellence.

Jun 9, 2024 - 1:01:35 PM
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2495 posts since 12/11/2008

A metronome truly whips you into shape. Even if you're just doing scales in the common OT fiddle keys. For a challenge, set the thing 'way too slow. It'll reveal every shake in your bow arm. A metronome will also help you get past that accursed tendency to speed up the tempo.

Jun 9, 2024 - 2:14:55 PM
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6533 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
quote:
Originally posted by Peghead

Don't get me wrong, I love my tunes but lately I'm wondering if they are the most direct way to improvement. I'm curious how others round out their practice time.


Yes, I do think that, because the tune is the thing itself. If you're building a house you can practice nailing or practice sawing, but the real task is how those things make a building. Personally I don't practice scales or bowing patterns except in the context of a specific tune. When just starting out on an instrument working on the elements separately is important, then you can move on.


I would add that for me - a lot of times -  it's not the "tune" so much as a particular version of that tune played by a certain fiddler that motivates me to make the effort to learn it. And it might be just a phrase that that fiddler plays in that tune that inspires me.  ...the hook that make me think - "I gotta learn how to do that...." 

But I've never thought of that as a structured / disciplined "time of practice" with a particular goal in mind - to advance a specific technique or skill. Its usually for no other goal than to be able to play that interesting phrase that caught my ear.   -----  I just want to figure out how to do that - and make it sound convincing when I do it. 

...fun time that gets me down the road a little at a time. Maybe not a straight road, but it is the one I'm on.

Jun 9, 2024 - 3:05:03 PM
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4372 posts since 6/23/2007

I think exercises that address major problem(s) will provide quick results. But only work on a couple of major problems at one time. And remember, don't spend more time practicing than you do playing for your own enjoyment. I fell into the "trap" one time.

Jun 9, 2024 - 5:11:48 PM
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Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2654 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

There are tunes by Ed Haley that require some degree of technical excellence


Second that and add Clark Kessinger.

Jun 9, 2024 - 6:00:07 PM
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DougD

USA

11928 posts since 12/2/2007

Doc Roberts and Eck Robertson offer plenty of challenges too.

Jun 9, 2024 - 6:48:31 PM

889 posts since 6/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Peghead

Don't get me wrong, I love my tunes but lately I'm wondering if they are the most direct way to improvement. I'm curious how others round out their practice time.


5-10 min warm-up

15 minutes scales--M-W-F major, Tues-Thur minor, including arpeggio's and pentatonic runs--stessing whole bow, especially frog end to gain right-hand confidence and command...

30 minutes etudes, and then your chosen repertoire...

Whatever you're playing for performance, but the best challenge for technique--coordination and such--eliminating what I call "skitching" and generally trashy bowing is Scottish/Irish--string crossings galore, and clean playing required.  Master "Colonel MacBean/John Cheap the Chapman" and you can play any OT thing out there.

Edited by - Flat_the_3rd_n7th on 06/09/2024 19:04:31

Jun 9, 2024 - 7:11:28 PM
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2623 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

Doc Roberts and Eck Robertson offer plenty of challenges too.


Kenny Baker and plenty of others, too. But the question was how to best meet the challenges. I think it is by playing the tunes themselves.

Jun 9, 2024 - 7:58:44 PM
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Earworm

USA

542 posts since 1/30/2018

It has always been my belief that every tune has the key to unlock all of the other tunes. I don’t even think I’ve heard anyone say this, but the idea keeps me fascinated.

Jun 9, 2024 - 8:55:04 PM

1194 posts since 7/30/2021

I love playing tunes, but I do have some “technical” stuff that I work on…I spend some minutes doing rolls and triplets, and if I am sounding out of tune I’ll check my strings and play some slow scales. If it’s not sounding right, sometimes I’ll stop and try the bowing a few different ways to find a way I like. I will also sometimes practice the transitions from one tune into another over and over. Some time is spent intently listening, too….that’s sometimes the most useful part of “practice time” !!

Jun 9, 2024 - 9:18:16 PM

2495 posts since 12/11/2008

I'm certain I've mentioned this a couple times, already, but I've been working hard at getting truly fluent on the fiddle, in other words gaining the ability to quickly conquer pretty much any tune that comes into my head. The way I've done this is to get my fingers and ears comfortable as to how tunes are constructed. I do scales. I do scales that don't start at the familiar Do in Do-Re-Mi. I practice triads -- doing the first, third and then fifth note on a scale. I try to get comfortable with a tune's rhythmic makeup. I practice jazz and blues riffs. Just for kicks, I'll attempt something like the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony -- Duh duh duh DUMM.

In any event, yeah, it's made me a much better, more cognizant player.

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 06/09/2024 21:19:15

Jun 10, 2024 - 5:30:22 AM

274 posts since 11/26/2013

I'll set myself some silly little exercise initially, more to do intonational re-enforcement, then move on to just noodling and searching for interesting sounding riffs and licks. Something may catch and I'll work it up a bit more. Lastly, I'll work on tunes in progress or trying some new things in an established fiddle tune. SO tunes and songs in of themselves don't lead to technical prowess, unless that given tune has some challenging passages.

Jun 10, 2024 - 6:12:53 AM
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3365 posts since 10/22/2007

Take 2:
Take a tune and move it to another key. (By ear) Not D to G or vise versa. Back when there was radio, I would try to find the key to each song. Maybe try to play along a bit. It's the random aspect. One can't throw oneself a curveball.

Jun 10, 2024 - 7:50 AM
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2623 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones


Take a tune and move it to another key.


That's a good way to work on tunes without abandoning them to do exercises.

Jun 10, 2024 - 8:18:49 AM
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134 posts since 4/17/2023

I was watching a live stream by Michael Cleveland a few years back. He was sitting with just his fiddle playing all of his technical licks and bluesy scales. After a few minutes of that he said something like, "I don't know what else to play... I need to learn more tunes..."

It made me laugh because my approach to fiddling is the opposite, I can spend years on a tune while thinking "I really should learn some of those hot bluegrass licks..." but never seem to get around to it. And when I do, I find myself losing interest and back at a tune I'm working on.

Jun 10, 2024 - 2:37:16 PM

Fiddler

USA

4398 posts since 6/22/2007

Direct way to improvement? Record yourself playing a tune that you feel you are comfortable with. Then play it back. It is intensely painful! But, it will show your where you need to focus some attention.

My resolution for 2024 was to play/practice more and with intention focusing on intonation, bowing and phrasing, timing/tempo, sight-reading/ear-learning and paying more attention to proper posture while playing. I am using the Facebook Fiddle Tune Challenge as an incentive to work on these goals.

Intonation - I use a chromatic tuner to check myself. Open keys (D, G, and A) are not too big of a problem, but C has some issues for me. The flatted keys (F, Bb, Eb) are problematic for me. So, I spend time slowly playing scales while watching the tuner and finding where I have the fingering issues.

Bowing - bow control is a challenge for me at times. Bowing patterns - when to up-bow vs downbow. How do you make the tune dance? Bowing jigs (6/8s) and waltzes (3/4) that give the tune lift and drive. How does this translate to 3/2 tunes? Trying to figure out how to play a phrase so that the bow direction is proper for the subsequent phrase is a challenge.

Timing - a metronome is a noise-making device to be ignored while playing. I HATED them when I was taking piano! My relationship with the metronome is complicated! I am learning to get alone with it now. There are some great metronome apps out there. Strum Machine is a great tool that has a robust library of tunes with chords and you can also add your own tunes or edits tunes in the library. There's a free version and a subscription version. I know that there are other tools out there!

Sight-reading - I'm a crappy sight-reader. At the start of the year, I was probably at 2nd grade level. I feel that I am almost at 4th grade level now. Sight-reading is a good skill to have! Coupled with ear-learning, picking up new tunes happens quicker for me.

Posture - stuff is not supposed to hurt! I was noticing because of bad posture while playing, my back and shoulders and neck were hurting after sessions. Looking at photos, I saw that I would play hunched over with the scroll pointed at the ground. Not good!! A classical violinist friend also noticed this and suggested that I sit up straight and feel the back of the chair against my back. Get the instrument more parallel to the ground. She suggested that a shoulder rest might help. She pointed out that changing my posture would have two benefits - one, it should alleviate some of the joint pain I was having. Second, improved posture would greatly benefit my bowing. It would allow the bow to do the work as opposed to increasing the bow pressure. Not only would this reduce the stress on the bow hand, it would also allow for increased expressiveness. (FWIW: I use a "Thumb Under Frog" or French bow-hold.) The bottom line: If it hurts to play after 30 min to hour of practice, I am not doing something right related to posture.

So, look to our classically trained violinists, especially those who make a living playing music. They have to pay as much attention to their physical well-being as any high-performing athlete! In fact, many orchestras hire physical therapists to work with their musicians to reduced injuries. This should tell something!

Jun 10, 2024 - 5:17:45 PM

1504 posts since 3/1/2020

I think that the answer is that certain repertoire contains the technical material to give one a good foundation, but one must be aware of it and must focus on the right things in order to learn anything useful. One of the biggest issues self-taught players struggle with is a lack of perspective that can inhibit growth in technicality and musicality. Having a knowledgeable teacher makes a gigantic difference.

This is not to say that etudes and scales are unimportant. On the contrary, they are tools that can really help a player to isolate specific techniques to hone without distractions. For example, if you’re trying to work on flying staccato, exercises that are built for this technique can be very useful. Playing pieces that employ it can also be helpful, but one should take care not to lose sight of the goal to attain proficiency in the technique. Isolated passage work can be effective. I think people sometimes get a little too carried away with the idea that playing should always be exciting and that tunes are the only thing worth playing because of this. However, I would argue that playing the violin well requires steadfast devotion to improvement in its early stages, and that can involve countless hours of “wood shedding” to make improvements in seemingly small areas.

This may come as a surprise to some, but I was never required to play scales while I was learning. My father, although being taught using them extensively himself, always said that the scales were in the music and that if you could play the pieces in tune, you could play good scales well automatically. So I spent 20 years never playing them while practicing except when preparing for orchestra auditions the day before. However, we did go through all the major books of etudes in addition to playing great literature. When I started playing Paganini, though, rather than picking the various techniques in the caprices and working on them through other etudes, we went through a different Paganini composition that my father considered a stepping stone from Dont Opus 35 to the Caprices. I found it to be a wonderful experience and it gave me a greater appreciation for Paganini’s ingenuity than I expect I may have gotten had I taken a different route.

There are some players who swear by etudes and consider them never really finished because they can be referred to throughout a career for polishing. On the other hand, once some other players reach a certain level of proficiency, they find they can maintain it without cracking the books open again. That is a fairly personal matter. I think that in any case, the success of either type of player lies in a solid technical foundation.

So, in essence I think etudes and scales are not the only route to technical mastery, but I do consider them extremely helpful, and I would strongly recommend their use in early stages of learning to focus on specific aspects so that musicality can be the focus later on. I don’t think the tunes-only method is necessarily wrong, but it does offer a player much less guidance and risk of wasted time without adequate instruction. There is an endless supply of players who can learn hundreds of tunes without ever improving their playing abilities.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 06/10/2024 17:20:44

Jun 10, 2024 - 6:17:43 PM
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2521 posts since 8/23/2008

I'm a believer in the 'wood shedding' also, because I want to play more than just tunes, improvising and accompanying singers, etc. Lately I've been practicing many bowing patterns over scales and while noodling recently I found myself executing the elusive 'chain bowing' pattern quite spontaneously.

Jun 11, 2024 - 5:33:05 PM
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1504 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry

I'm a believer in the 'wood shedding' also, because I want to play more than just tunes, improvising and accompanying singers, etc. Lately I've been practicing many bowing patterns over scales and while noodling recently I found myself executing the elusive 'chain bowing' pattern quite spontaneously.


This is making me think about the famous Bruce Lee quote:

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Jun 11, 2024 - 5:43:31 PM

2623 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry

I'm a believer in the 'wood shedding' also, because I want to play more than just tunes, improvising and accompanying singers, etc. Lately I've been practicing many bowing patterns over scales and while noodling recently I found myself executing the elusive 'chain bowing' pattern quite spontaneously.


what's "'chain bowing"?

Jun 11, 2024 - 6:29:29 PM
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3637 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Peghead

Don't get me wrong, I love my tunes but lately I'm wondering if they are the most direct way to improvement. I'm curious how others round out their practice time.


Technical excellence, to me is a rather generic ambiguous abstract concept... that doesn't necessarily directly define, nor address goals/metrics.

For me, the most direct way I find is mostly utilitarian; within direct musical context and application.  As self-directed learning model... rather than being told "do this" - it involves problem solving process that importantly is asking and explores more specifically "what, why and how".

As far as using fiddle tunes... it depends on what one's approach to playing is in general.

For me, like most others of the musical tradition I came from; goals were fairly direct; so we mostly just used/worked on actual music; tunes/songs. They provide motivation, focus, and importantly models within holistic perspective of the musical context; includes musicality, phrases and rhythmic grooves; so provide more direct concrete application toward understanding of concepts and technical. As song/tune performance is more than just "do this" rote instruction sequence/timing of notes; but incorporates overall, including finer detail/nuances of articulation and expression. Reminded of the saying "acquire technique you need, and no more"; that is not technique just for technique sake; rather utilitarian arising out of identifying, addressing understanding the actual musicality need; then explore technique(s) to serve can that. Goal of playing as tune/song, to sound way imagined, defines specific need and application, and also gives fairly direct concrete context to evaluation metrics. Listen to if works achieving, expressing your desired musical goal; or not, and point to what is missing/need to work on and hone. Seems generally more hand-on, concrete (rather than abstract) and pretty direct efficient way to address and answer the what, why and how.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 06/11/2024 18:31:01

Jun 12, 2024 - 7:12:32 AM
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6533 posts since 8/7/2009

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

There are tunes by Ed Haley that require some degree of technical excellence, and to be honest, most versions of his tunes I hear played lack the details that require better technique (which might be as little as skipping a couple of notes here it there due to not being able to play them all or hear them all). Often times I hear people playing something based on the first time through the tune in the recordings where the skill comes later in the variation which can be hard to listen to on his recordings. Many just lack the ears needed to catch the bits that are being skipped.
Perhaps active listening skills are the first step towards excellence.


Great reminder ...worth reading again. I need to remember to exercise that skill every time I listen to a tune, no matter how many times I've heard it before or how well I think I know it. 

Several times. I have caught myself either adding to or leaving out some really good phrasing - because I didn't hear it earlier. NOW, understand, that's not to say that I was playing the tune "wrong". But just me becoming more aware of the interesting things they had to say - that I could be adding to what I am doing. 

There's a lot of reasons for that... It's not easy to catch everything a fiddler does with a tune at first. I can hear it, and I'll work on learning it because I like the interesting phrasing they used. But that doesn't mean all of it will get deposited in my memory bank in one setting. Like the difference between learning something you want to know, then reviewing what you learned to see how well you understand what you know, so you can use wisdom by applying what you know and understand.

And the more often I do that, my  journey just keeps getting more "excellent".  At my age / with my goals - I'm not too concerned about the technical aspects of all that.  

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