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

Strategizing for Performance

Performing does not just mean playing while a bunch of people watch. You’re performing a tune any time you try to play all the way through it. But this is nothing to shy away from or build up as bigger than it really is — a performance could be for your teacher, or in a session, or even playing along with a recording on fiddle-online.com.

Perfection is not an issue when performing; in fact, “perfection” should be off the table. The goal in performing a tune is to get through it in time. How well you actually play it is for you to judge afterwards. Once you know you can finish what you start, whether a tune, a part or even a phrase, you can practice, polish, hone, develop your musical ideas. If you know you can get through the tune in time, you can play it with and for others, enjoying their company, enjoying the music, and learning what you need to work on in order to play it better.

A big part of practicing is strategizing for how you plan to play through, or perform, a tune — regardless of how well you know the tune. Don’t wait for that elusive moment when you think you know it “well enough to perform,” that future time when you plan to have all the notes nailed down. You wouldn’t want to nail a bunch of wooden boards securely in place without an overall plan for where they actually fit.

To strategize for performance, start at the beginning. Continue reading Strategizing for Performance

Links to Learning Tunes – part 2

Last time we talked about finding the support materials you’re looking for to learn different styles of tunes on fiddle-online.com with a bunch of links to the Scottish tunes you can find here.

This time we’ll provide easy links to find lots of other styles of tunes.  When you look at the Past Workshops, you can also check out tunes based on the types and purpose of tunes, such as tunes to help you learn by ear, tunes to help learn ornamentation, a set of tunes teaching higher finger positions, and a group of tunes focused on syncopation.

Below are links for audio and info about learning Irish, Old-timey & other American trad tunes, jazz fiddle, Scandie, Quebecois, Cape Breton, and klezmer tunes!

Looking for Irish tunes?  Check out the following: Continue reading Links to Learning Tunes – part 2

Finding your style among over 150 choice tunes!

The support materials from our live workshops are extensive — performance and teaching videos, interactive sheet music with self-repeating audio for each phrase, a listening track, a playalong track, and often, additional information, audio and links. All of this is always available, whether you were there for the workshop or not.

Our summer break from live online workshops is the perfect time to explore these materials from past events. There are 32 past monthly workshop topics, each presenting 3-6 tunes and techniques for learning and playing them. There are also 24 past guest workshops presented by 15 different instructors.

We’ve covered many different kinds of tunes — slow airs, marches, strathspeys, reels, jigs, waltzes, mazurkas, jazz standards, klezmer ballads, hornpipes, polskas, and polkas.

Fiddling is fascinating because it is local music from around the world, and our workshops have addressed a variety of styles, often presented by guest experts — including Scottish, Irish, old-timey, Cape Breton, Shetland, Québécois, jazz, klezmer, contradance, Swedish, Danish, plus original contemporary tunes taught by the composers.

Below are some links to help you get more info and audio samples about these offerings.  Continue reading Finding your style among over 150 choice tunes!

Music is risky (but the stakes are low!)

If you don’t like taking risks, this article is for you. Maybe you are shy and worried about embarrassment, or you are competitive and afraid to look like you don’t know what you are doing. Perhaps you are risk-averse professionally, as a lawyer or accountant, for example.

There’s good and bad news for you. First, the bad news: Learning and playing music is risky! Not only is it likely that you’ll make bad sounds, hit wrong notes, and forget something you thought you learned — all in front of other people — but these “mistakes” are the only pathway to learning an instrument.

Now here’s the good news: Playing music is a very low-stakes gamble. Hitting a wrong note or a bad sound is not life-threatening, nor (contrary to some people’s fears) will it wreck your reputation.

Too often, learners derail themselves, and slow down or even prevent learning, by taking out precious time to berate themselves or apologize for making a “mistake”. I put “mistake” in quotes because Continue reading Music is risky (but the stakes are low!)