December 5, 2017 at 8:10 AM #56018
Dear Folks on the Forum………………
Seems I have come to a “plateau” . Three years ago, I knew nothing about the violin……oops pardon me……………the Fiddle. Since that time I have come a long way. I have reached and surpassed some “milestones”, but being self taught for the most part I have searched out everything I can find on the internet. It seems I have come to a “plateau” and can’t decide what I should be doing now to keep making progress and improving.
If anyone is interested, can you tell me what you have used as resources and books, in addition to BluegrassDaddy, that have been helpful to you in accomplishing your fiddle playing goals. What has helped you develop your skills as a fiddle player. Such things as dexterity, intonation, bowing control, etc.
Thanks for any input you may have, Larry
December 5, 2017 at 8:47 AM #56020
- This topic was modified 3 months ago by ljrock.
I hear ya…I guess it’s landmarks along our paths. I’m not good enough to even pretend to give pointers, but I’ve tried various practicing techniques, all self thought-up…lol…during my 8 years playing, or trying to play the fiddle. I rarely have time to practice these days, but when I do, one thing that helps me at this point is to creep along ridiculously slow, trying to hear exactly how the notes go from one to the other, and the best way to get there, then, go through faster than I like, trying out best ways to get from one note to the other. For instance, I’ve “played” Fisher’s Hornpipe since about my first month playing the fiddle…now, at eight years, I haven’t ever played it in front of anybody because I don’t feel like I’ve got it going right. So, since I’d rather use something that sounds more like music than a metronome, I use a site ( free….lol…anything I use is free $$$$) I found a long time ago where you can go slow or fast…has a sliding button to choose any speed…so when I can practice, I’ll take something like that Fisher’s Hornpipe and go crazy slow, then shift up to a speed where I like it, then go insanely fast…faster than I can manage….do it like that for a while, then slow it back down and just watch interesting things happen. I’ll find that site and link in case it might be helpful…I need to learn more stuff, which I do by playing along with John’s lessons and then with his slow version…usually takes several times through, or more, more than several…lol. But until I get some time to play, I’m just focusing on improving stuff I already kinda know…long answer, skimpy on ideas, but I know we all go through that on any instrument…hang on…sparks will ignite again before long!December 5, 2017 at 8:49 AM #56021
Here’s that site where you can slow way down or speed up backing tracks…December 5, 2017 at 9:05 AM #56024
Some encouraging words……………for working on my “slow bow” is something I have started on for the past week now. Like you I know some good tunes, but just aren’t ready for “prime time”. I “ain’t ” no young feller, so I know that I may be limited in just how far I can go. Played piano all my life and always been a “perfectionist”. So, maybe sometimes too hard on myself. Much appreciation for your thoughts.December 5, 2017 at 10:02 AM #56025
Attentive repetition on most anything short can help.
Pick a song you want to improve…pay it a few times and figure out what is giving you the most trouble…then just work on that small part until it is easier & faster than the rest of the tune.
I just recently got a little book of exercises to do for just what you are writing about. The Fiddler’s Friend. 40 exercises for fingers & bow. I like it because the exercises are based on common patterns used in fiddling.
Learning music is like a stairway…sometimes you’re on the step and sometimes you jam your toe on the riser.December 5, 2017 at 10:07 AM #56026
Already have the book, but your right. Repetition on difficult sections does help. Thank you.December 5, 2017 at 1:45 PM #56028
My fiddle journey is like ‘ A Tale of Two Cities” – the best of times and the worst of times. I make improvements, then plateau and get frustrated, then move ahead again. What seems to help: always keep playing. When frustrated, I’ll practice some and then just have fun playing tunes I already know. The main thing that has helped me is playing with others in a friendly environment. It keeps me moving forward. If things aren’t working right, I can step back and play simpler. If things are working good, I’ll try new licks or ornamentations I have been practicing. The constant feedback and fun playing with others is a great motivator.
JoeDecember 5, 2017 at 1:51 PM #56029
Larry….sounds like good advice so far.
Two things that really helped me at some low points: Just working on bowing. I would stand in front of a mirror and draw long bows from tip to tip on each string. I concentrated on keeping the bow straight. It helps reprogram the muscle memory. I watched my wrist dip down while the bow was at the tip and made my wrist point up to almost bump my nose when the bow was at the frog. I did not a bunch…very monotonous to everybody!! Then, I went to Loooong, short, short; Looooong, short, short. Same purpose….keep bow straight and watch my wrist. Then I found the good balance spot….for me, it was toward the top of half way. And, I just played fast little short notes to watch my wrist.
The second thing was for my left hand…strengthing it and playing in tune. I played double stops all the way up in 6ths. So started with open G and 1st finger on D, then first finger on G, second finger on D….etc. You can play both together, or you can play the bottom one alone, the top one alone, the two together….etc….
And I just thought of one more thing!! I worked on my 4th finger by holding 3 down on each string and alternating between the 3 and adding 4th finger while keeping the 3 down. It’s a killer but really helps build up that strength.
AND…since none of that is very fun…..find a super easy song on John’s list and learn it and play it with awesomeness!
Good luck…hang in there….don’t quit!! and as somebody said to me the other day, it doesn’t matter how good you get, there will always be something or someone better you will want to shoot for!December 5, 2017 at 4:22 PM #56030
Good tips on this thread!December 5, 2017 at 6:16 PM #56031
Ha , I’m still in kinder garden with the fiddle , no worries on not having something to learn . However I have know players that never do anything new, ever , Its like they have a maximum of 10 tunes and every time you see them you know exactly what they are going to play . They do their thing and go home . I love to mix it up with my guitar I like to flip through my binder pages and choose something that feels good at the time , However I do have some I keep in my rotation , I have about 600 tunes to choose from and add a new one ever so often , but its getting really hard to find a new tune that I like well enough to add . So I think I have hit a plateau with vocal songs that turn me on .December 5, 2017 at 6:38 PM #56032
Wow……….Thanks so very much for all of you and your great thoughts and ideas. This was what I was hoping to hear about. Some things I am already doing, others would be great to include in my practice sessions.
Two books I have that have helped for the last 2 years are Hokum: Theory and Scales, and Fiddlers Friend. If any of you have some good books that have been beneficial to you, let me know. I am always open to new material.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have played piano most of my life………60 years to be a bit more precise. I know chords and notes, and that is how I play the fiddle……..reading notes. I am discovering though, that I need to start trying to learn some tunes by ear, which is something different for me. Not sure how to go about it. But a great many tunes out there that a lot of “jammers” know just by memory, chords, or tabs. I hear a lot of old tunes I would love to play but they very hard to find with notation. So, learning by ear will be something new and different for me. Any tips about ear training appreciated. Thank you all.December 5, 2017 at 9:04 PM #56036
I couldn’t play by ear at first. I worked on Johns lessons only from his videos and tried not to use the notes. That was my first step. Then I slowed things down on YouTube and tried to learn them by ear. Eventually my ear started getting better. It took a couple years working pretty hard at it.December 5, 2017 at 10:16 PM #56049
I said something similar to Angeala, but forgot to hit submit when the phone rang…lol…but, yes…I learned by ear, and really, just since using this site, I started looking at the tabs, even printing some of them off to practice away from being online. Well, for me, when I’ve done that, it seems there is an extra step in my mind…translating…so, I have to memorize…memorize the tab, and then translate that memorized info to my fingers, then memorize what they do. That’s just me, maybe, but the best way I learn is either by hearing, or by watching a video of a lesson, not focusing on the tab except in some places where I’m kinda like, huh? Other than those places, seems I learn best watching the lesson…kinda like you’d learn at a jam when somebody shows you something. Of course everybody’s different, but listening, then trying to sing it on the fiddle, or watching somebody else play it is what has mostly worked for me. I have learned to use the tabs, but it seems to add steps in my learning process and takes me longer. Most of the instruments I play were learned by listening and watching people who I thought played good…for whatever that’s worth…lol…like I said, everybody’s different in their learning, though.December 6, 2017 at 5:00 AM #56054
For quite a few reasons, “Gardenia Waltz” was one of those tougher tunes to play. Mostly due to so many closely clustered double stops and relocating the left-hand fingers on every beat or even half-beat. I knew the first time I heard Bobby Hicks play it that I was going to be tested way more than usual. For all my years of playing, I really hadn’t spent a lot of time up-the-neck.
When I started, it really showed. It was excruciating! I chose times to practice when no one was around and I was sorry even that I was around to hear it!
I didn’t make any noticeable headway for months. I would leave the tune alone and dread going back to it.
(I remembered an old friend had developed a “condition” when he would play golf. Every time he would approach the 6th hole – the one with the pond right in front of the tee – inevitably he would top the ball on his drive and land that ball right in the pond. It got to be so bad of a “head game” that he would unzip his golf bag before driving and grab an old ball and literally throw it in the pond. Once he did this, he could stand there and make a beautiful drive coming no where near the pond).
I think in many ways, I had developed a “condition” with Gardenia Waltz.
I had to figure a way to sacrifice a “ball”, but how? I tried slowing the tune way down and trying to play along, but even that was painful. Finally, I hit upon a way to learn the tune: 1 beat at a time! I had already committed the 1st part (the part in the key of G) to my memory. For days I would play 3 or 4 beats of the tune and stop, pick it apart, analyze it, go back, work on it. It was like learning French or Spanish, only it was learning music so difficult I had to dissect every note. Every little minute part was open for criticism, no holes barred.
Finally, after having learned roughly 100 individual “words”, I could form a “sentence” followed by a few more sentences until I had a couple of paragraphs ready to go. This took months. And I was only able to play the 1st part of the tune!
One evening at a jam session I was attending, a mandolin player chose this tune as his contribution as we passed around a circle. He started the tune way too fast, in an abbreviated way of playing it, and when it came to me, I was so disappointed that I wasn’t prepared to play it at the increased speed. But I reasoned that he didn’t know how to play the tune either and just skipped over the beautiful parts and made the overall tune simply recognizable, that’s all.
Nowadays, I play the first part along with recordings of Bobby Hicks and Johnny Gimble, proudly smiling and stop when the 2nd part begins to play, reach in my bag, find an old ball and heave it in the proverbial pond and struggle, trudging in to the “D” part, knowing full well there’s trouble ahead and more importantly, that I know how to fix it with a lot of hard work.
Best of luck to you in your journey.December 6, 2017 at 8:07 AM #56055
Cool Gardenia Waltz story! I struggled through that one too…no way could I use the tabs on that one…lol…I needed to just see John’s fingers. And, the rough thing is if you try to slow that down to learn it, it’s a lot harder than up to speed, which of course cannot be done until ya suffer through it slow to learn it…whew…that is a tough one! Glad you found your way through it at the jam. I fumbled my way through it at a jam once and it seemed to put everybody into a state of shock…lol.December 6, 2017 at 8:49 AM #56057
As “fiddliferous” made reference to…..a lot of accomplished players do leave out notes on more difficult tunes. I have heard that in several jam sessions I have attended. I have worked hard on some tunes that I play as written, but when I play that tune in a jam session I also notice that the more experienced players leave out many notes that I learned to play. The speed at which they play may be the reason. But, just the same, I don’t feel as though I am way behind the other fiddle players. Everyone has there own style that makes them most comfortable. I do think that even though I know a tune and play it well enough at home, playing in a group requires a lot more confidence, and you only get that by continuing to play in a group. Lot’s of good thoughts and ideas. So appreciative of all.December 6, 2017 at 2:59 PM #56063
Larry I think you’re going to climb right out of the plateau. There is a lot of great advice here!
I’ll add to what has already been said:
1) Work carefully on form. Try to make the bowing smooth and even, and work on getting the fingers in just the right place. You want to do this with easy songs..
2) Pick a harder song that you are interested in and really put some time into it. Learning hard songs will make your easier songs seem even easier!December 9, 2017 at 3:11 AM #56129December 9, 2017 at 2:55 PM #56131
Larry, I have nothing earth shaking to add, but you hit the nail on the head here. You can be a star playing at home, then get in public and totally humiliate yourself. Then you get depressed and feel like throwing in the towel.
So how do you motivate yourself to keep paying the price of discipline & time to keep going in hopes that you can work through this weakness, when you have limited opportunities to develop public experience?
I don’t have the magic bullet here, but can make a suggestion. Getting stuck in a rut sometimes has something to do with playing the same thing everyday. Most people actually really like more than one style of music, so spend some time with other types of tunes. For myself I found some Gypsy fiddling I love, and some Argentine/Spanish fiddling that moves me a lot also. By mixing it up it keeps the motivation fires burning and really helps to advance in skills also. The key for me is to get music that has audio in either cd’s or mp3 online audio to really hear & learn the soul of the music. Of course this site has a mix of Gospel, Irish, etc. etc. available also. We don’t eat the same bowl of beans everyday, so we should vary our music also.
Nancy, that was great …very good….so he’s saying..”Keep Playing”.December 9, 2017 at 6:57 PM #56137
Keep on practicin and accept the plateaus. Start listening. Then applaud the breakthroughs.December 10, 2017 at 9:13 AM #56160
Good advice, Nancy…as long as you don’t give up and stop playing, things will change on their own sooner or later…hang on!!!🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻
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