Forget About Forgetting!

Forgetting is not quite what we think it is. Every time we remember something we re-mind ourselves, recreate it, collect all the clues and revisit it — contrary to the imagery about the brain that has dominated since the invention of the computer, our brain is not a computer. It does not process data like a computer. In fact, it doesn’t even contain data.

This ties directly into learning the fiddle. I’ve addressed a few connected ideas in earlier articles — Turning Music Learning On Its Head, and Reversing Old Presumptions. We don’t really know much about what we can do, nor about our limitations, and I often find that learners of the fiddle get in their own way by trying to memorize notes, techniques, and following methods that they believe to be their “learning style.” The more I learn about how we learn, the more I realize how little we know! Neuroscientist Eric Kandel, a Nobel prize winner, said it would take a hundred years before we understand how human memory works.

A fascinating article by the prominent research psychologist, Robert Epstein, totally debunks the notion Continue reading Forget About Forgetting!

Tricks & Tips: Personal Home Page

When you log in to fiddle-online.com, you are taken directly to your own personal home page. You’ll see your name listed, your current number of credits, and a number of other features:

    • Green box — shows links to the materials you are currently signed up for and their expiration dates.
    • Pink box — shows expired links — clicking on any of these will renew those materials at a 1/3 discount.
    • Chatbox* — chat with everyone or anyone and view messages from others. More details below!*
    • Pitchpipe — use it to tune your fiddle! Just click on the letter of the string to hear an endless loop of a fiddle playing that string until you click “stop”.
    • Supporter link — click this to donate $ or credits to help support the site, and receive occasional emails (2-3 per year) about what’s going on behind the scenes with an invitationto provide any feedback you may have.

Links in the Top area:

Continue reading Tricks & Tips: Personal Home Page

Changing Strings

Like tuning, changing strings is a necessary evil! Let’s talk about what to aim for and what to watch out for, as you change strings. We’ll start with the 7 Ideas to Keep in Mind, talk about How to Change Strings, and then go into the Whys & Wherefores for those interested.

7 Ideas to Keep in Mind

1. Change only one string at a time – the bridge can actually fall down if you take all the strings off at once*.  Of course, if you break a string, you may only need to replace that one.  Try not to let strings go longer than a year before changing them — you may not notice them losing their vigor but you certainly will notice how nice they sound when you change them!

2. Roll the strings neatly onto the correct pegs, with one layer of string**. The more neatly the string is rolled on, the more likely you’ll have enough space to Continue reading Changing Strings

Artist and Technician

A technician is someone who is driven to explore and master the familiar. An artist is one who is driven to explore and manage the unfamiliar.

Once an artist explores the unknown and corrals a piece of it into their work, it becomes familiar, and the artist becomes a technician seeking to master it.

Whether artist or technician or some combination of both (as most people are), everyone needs to learn the vocabulary of their art, the technique, in order to know the possibilities of expression within their field. The more vocabulary they have, the more they realize how much they have to say. Beginners too appreciate the possibilities of expression, even if they’re not ready to say very much yet. In fact, these possibilities are what generally make someone want to learn in the first place.

How do you feel when you see someone else perform something that’s amazing?  If you’re more of an artist, chances are you’ll be inspired by the work of others, and sense new ways of approaching your own work.  If you’re more of a technician, chances are you might feel challenged or disheartened by brilliant performances, because a technician’s first question tends to be “Can I do that?”

I know an artist who achieved a level of accomplishment that drew many students and apprentices to his studio. One of these learned so well that she produced work that confused people as to whether the teacher or she had made it. At first, this artist was annoyed that his student had taken on his techniques and not developed her own. But then, he realized that the reason he was annoyed was that he had become only a technician and forgotten to move ahead with his art. He needed to dig into the vein of his own creativity to explore new, unfamiliar territory, new ideas and techniques that he could develop and master. He actually felt grateful to that student for inadvertently alerting him to his own plateau, and he went on to produce a great deal of new and amazing work.

These definitions of artist and technician are not limited to any particular field. I think of Elon Musk, for example, as an artist driven to explore the unfamiliar, manage his ideas, and then master them with a blend of new and old techniques of design and manufacture. High-profile (and wealthy!) creators often delegate much of the technical part so they can move on to their next project.

However, the skills of the artist, Continue reading Artist and Technician

Stagefright

It’s normal to have some nerves about performing. Performing is live, and anything can happen. You need to be alert, so naturally your nerves need to be geared up to some extent. The only people who don’t get nervous at all are those who don’t care.

But to those who let the nerves get the best of them, I have a simple suggestion — make your performance be about the music, not about yourself.

I’ve seen lots of suggestions about combatting stagefright, ranging from mentally undressing the audience to taking drugs. Most of these bits of clever advice miss the point.

The point is that your music has something to say to your listener, even if you can’t verbalize what that is. What is your music saying? It’s certainly not about how many mistakes you might make, what you’re wearing, how many listeners there are, or whether somebody misspelled your name.

Find out as much as you can about your music before you perform it. It’s impossible to find out everything, whatever everything might even mean, so when it’s time to play, go with whatever preparation you had time for, and convey the feel of that music to your listeners.

Who wrote the tune? When? Why? How has the tune been used? How did you find it? What did it mean to you when you heard the tune, or played it? One of the reasons I like to talk to an audience is

Continue reading Stagefright

Live Workshops — what to expect!

Fiddle-online.com has pioneered a mix of live online workshops with interactive sheet music — if you haven’t tried a live event, here’s what to expect.

We use Zoom to connect; you can learn more about it at this link. It’s high quality and easy to use. Once you sign up for an event, you’ll have access to a link, as well as learning materials. At class time, you’ll simply click to join the group.

Types of Live Events

There are several kinds of live events on fiddle-online.com — the monthly Sunday guest concert/workshop featuring top players from around the world, the Thursday tunelearning workshops with Ed Pearlman, which are centered around a monthly topic (see the past workshops page for a list of monthly topics), and the Wednesday classes which are 8-week sessions aimed at particular levels (starting with beginners in Sept and progressing to Intermediate level 2 in the spring).  When a new session is available for signup, there is an info button on the Current Workshops page.

Live Event vs Materials-Only

Learning materials for workshops are available 24/7 online, starting from the moment you sign up and lasting until at least 30 days after the live event. After a live workshop is over, a teaching video is posted for review, and for those who missed the live event. A performance video is also available from the concert/workshop. In addition to these videos, of course, you have access to

Continue reading Live Workshops — what to expect!

Musical Memory — more to it than you might think!

There is a kind of musical memory that everyone can learn and improve, and it’s not about how many tunes you know.

A good musician, while teaching a lesson or engaged in a rehearsal, can listen to an entire set of tunes, and yet keep in mind which parts were solid and where improvements can be made, noting ideas to heighten the impact of a phrase, smooth out a transition, fix a note mistake, change a bowing to bolster sound or timing, adjust a distracting ornament, and so on. A good lesson or rehearsal will include the chance to outline and work on all these points of improvement. And it’s only possible with a good musical memory.

Challenge yourself to not only play a tune or part of a tune, Continue reading Musical Memory — more to it than you might think!

Please let me know what you think!

Now that there are about 100 articles available to you here, I’d love to hear from you about the fiddle-online blog.  I tried that “surveymonkey” thing, which theoretically is great because it’s easy for people to submit answers to me — but nobody (not one person!) actually tried it!  (If you want to try it, here’s the link.)

So just email me!  Please take a moment to let me know your thoughts.

–How often do you read these articles?

–What topics have you found most helpful or thought-provoking?

–Have you used the Search box or the Archives to find past articles?  Or the recent links in the column at the left?

–Any suggestions for topics you’d like to read about or other ideas about the blog?

Many thanks!

–Ed

Guest Treasures

Without much fanfare, fiddle-online makes available performances and teaching 24/7 of some of the top contemporary fiddlers. As with everything at the site, it’s available a-la-carte and at a very low cost (80% of which goes to the guest artist, so an excellent cause!). See below for info about cost and logging in, etc.*

Below are some descriptions and links to more info about guest workshops by great players with varying styles of expertise: Scottish, Cape Breton, Irish, Quebecois, Old-timey, gypsy jazz and klezmer.

For the list and links, click Continue! —

Continue reading Guest Treasures

Shoulder Rests

Most fiddlers and violinists use a shoulder rest, but some struggle with finding the right one or adjusting it to their needs.

There are players who prefer not to use one, usually for reasons to do with convenience or authenticity: Old-style fiddlers didn’t use them, poor players couldn’t afford them, it’s more natural to just pick up the fiddle and play than to stop and attach an accessory first, and some say they feel the vibrations better without a rest.  Sometimes I go without it myself, if I need to quickly pick up the fiddle and play, but it doesn’t feel good to do it for long, or I have to keep adjusting my position so I don’t overuse certain muscles and get a cramp or strain.

I recommend that students use shoulder rests for two main reasons:  better physical health, and to allow the left hand to do its job.

Health-wise, it’s better for your body to play with both shoulders kept down in a natural position, and for the chin to stay back in its normal position rather than jut forward to accommodate the chinrest. Neither shoulder nor chin should apply pressure to squeeze the fiddle in place; that’s a recipe for muscle strain and misalignment.

As to allowing the left hand to do its job, take a look at the article about the joints of the left hand and arm, called “Controllers of the Left.”  Without a shoulder rest, the left hand tends to feel it needs to help hold the fiddle up, and this usually involves collapsing the wrist to use the palm as a support. Some traditional players do this, though one constantly touring fiddler told me she taught herself to straighten her left hand because her hand was getting numb — the collapsed wrist was cutting down on circulation. There’s an interesting theory that before the chinrest was invented (1820), players kept their left hand in one place, with the thumb halfway up the neck, allowing them to move up or down the fingerboard using the thumb as anchor, but that is a whole other technique of playing.

With a shoulder rest, Continue reading Shoulder Rests