Covid Meets Online Fiddling

For years, we have been meeting online at www.fiddle-online.com to bring together learners from all over, people who have no teacher, or who like what we do, or who need to or prefer to stay home, or who want to meet and learn from great players from afar. Now the Covid virus is forcing us to stay home and do just that.  We’re responding by offering a new feature:  live concerts!

Fiddle-online.com is a great resource for those who need to be home, those who play or want to play fiddle music. Over 100 blog articles about a huge variety of topics to do with learning the fiddle, over 100 tunes to learn, over 60 technique videos, over 100 workshops with Ed Pearlman, some 20 guest fiddlers presenting concert/workshops — and all of these events have materials that are available to everyone — performance and teaching videos, audio, and fiddle-online’s unique interactive sheet music.

Of course we also feature unique live workshops, where learners can meet each other and the instructor, play with and for the instructor, and earn lots of points (you’ll have to attend one to understand about these!). There are also weekly online classes progressing from fiddle basics to intermediate level. If you would enjoy such a class, get in touch with me to learn about what’s available. If enough are interested in a beginner class, we’ll start one!

Now we offer a new resource — live concerts. In response to the Covid19 virus, and the cancelling of all gigs and income for so many musicians, we’re trying a series of concerts featuring many of our guest instructors. They’re free, and yet they allow those who can to donate to the musicians who are so hurting for income in these strange times of a pandemic. As I write this, the Covid Concerts begin tomorrow, with a daily fiddle concert online and free to all, from March 23 to April 4, 2020.

I hope you’ll listen to some or all of these concerts, and let them lift your spirits! If you can, please support the musicians who are donating their time to play for us.

If you would like to hear about future live concerts on fiddle-online, join our special concert email list, and feel free to pass the word to friends who might not be learners but enjoy hearing the music!  Just use or pass along this URL — http://eepurl.com/bifEmD — to subscribe to this special list, which will be used only for concert announcements.

We’re here 24/7 with lots of resources for you to enjoy, as well as fun live workshops where you can meet and get to know other learners from near and far.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep up your music!

©2020 Ed Pearlman

5 Most Popular fiddle-online posts!

Launched in February 2015, fiddle-online explores ways that the internet can best help learners, players and teachers of the fiddle.  About two articles per month have been posted to this blog since then, adding up to over 100!

Here are five of the most popular articles over the past five years.

1.  “A Treasury of Techniques, in short video form” —  click here
This article outlines the five different Technique Video Groups available on fiddle-online and describes how you can make use of these 62 short videos (about 10 in each group), plus the sampler that allows you to try one video from each of the five groups. These cover physical and ergonomic warmups, games to improve efficiency, expression and control, bowing techniques to bring your tunes to life, finger patterns, and ornamentation.

2. “When Push Comes to Pull … a New Year’s Resolution” — click here
Starting from the research that New Year’s resolutions don’t work unless they remove obstacles to your goals rather than impose wishful demands on yourself, this article focuses primarily on how to remove obstacles from good bowing technique by visualizing properly how your bow arm actually works. Did you know the downbow is a push, and the upbow a pull? Read this one to get a grasp on a way to improve your bowing instantly.

3. “Auld Lang Syne, the song and tune” — click here
Learn a bit of the history of this very popular song written by Robert Burns, who chose a different melody than the one popularly used every New Year’s Eve. To see both melodies, check out the link above, and to see the melody the popular version appears to be based on, read this one!

4. “Medleys 2: Compatible Tunes” — click here
This article gives you six approaches to finding tunes that are compatible with each other in a medley, and then tells you how to break the rules!

5. “Finding Your Style among over 150 tunes!” — click here
Here at fiddle-online there are well over 150 tunes available with videos, interactive sheet music, and more learning materials that were offered in past live online workshops. You have access to them all, and this article allows you to find tunes based on the styles you’re interested in exploring. One article gives an intro to these offerings and gives you links to the Scottish tunes and guests; the next article provides links to tunes of many other styles: Irish, Old-timey, American, Jazz, Scandie, Quebecois, Cape Breton, Klezmer.

Enjoy exploring these articles and the links they provide!

©2020 Ed Pearlman

 

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.

A fascinating article by the prominent research psychologist, Robert Epstein, totally debunks the notion that our brains function like a computer, although this has been the mainstream image among scientists and the public since the 1940s when computers were invented.

Epstein speaks of performing music or reciting a poem. “When called on to perform, neither the song nor the poem is in any sense ‘retrieved’ from anywhere in the brain, any more than my finger movements are ‘retrieved’ when I tap my finger on my desk. We simply sing or recite – no retrieval necessary.”

What happens to all that mental effort to memorize a tune? Continue reading Forget About Forgetting!

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

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!

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!

Don’t forget that the guest workshops include a concert video as well.

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

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!)

Medleys: the fiddler’s canvas

There is creativity lurking everywhere in music, and one of the most creative parts of fiddling is the building of medleys. A big part of the fun of learning to play fiddle is that it can be as simple or as complicated as we want to make it.

As you get to know a tune you can make it your own, whether on purpose or subsconsciously. I learned one tune from an old book only to discover years later when I looked at the book again that I had unknowingly developed my own version — and I liked mine better! In some styles of fiddling such as jazz or Irish, people improvise new notes to dress up the tune or express their view of it. But improvisation of some kind goes on all the time even if more subtle than actually inventing notes. It is improvisatory to play a tune differently one time than another, inventing bowings, ornaments, and rhythms to suit the mood.

Making medleys is not improvisation but it is certainly creative. Once we know some tunes, we can find ways to put them together in interesting or exciting ways. The tunes may be given to us by tradition, but we can use them to create a bigger picture. They can be the colors of our canvas.
Probably the simplest reason to make medleys is because it allows us to play longer. Old-timey fiddlers like to play one tune for a very long time, but in most types of fiddling, the player moves on after two or three times through a tune.

How do we make medleys? In this article we’ll look at the basics and some suggestions for fun ways to do it. In the next article we’ll discuss how to find tunes that are compatible with each other, based on key and style. Continue reading Medleys: the fiddler’s canvas