Falling in Love <3

I admit it, I can think of several musicians that I have fallen in love with, though it’s not quite as you might imagine. More than just enjoying their music, I felt all the symptoms of being in love. It was thrilling to be near them when they were playing. I felt the warmth of their music long after hearing it. The odd part is, these particular people were pretty much just acquaintances or casual friends; we didn’t know much about each other outside of the music. Is there such a thing as falling in love with someone’s musical soul?

Has this happened to you? Not just liking a musician or a band or meaningful lyrics, but feeling deeply moved by what you hear? If not, keeping listening, it will come your way if you keep your ears, and your own musical soul, open!

I can only offer a few clues about this phenomenon. One of them comes from a moment that astonished me. Continue reading Falling in Love <3

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

 

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!

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

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 2: Compatible Tunes

In the last article we talked about why putting tunes together into medleys is so important to fiddlers. Now let’s take a look at how to put medleys together. What types of tunes go together? Which keys are compatible? What if you want two tunes to go together but they break all the rules?

Which types of tunes go together?

For faster tunes it’s easiest to play two of the same type — jigs with jigs, reels with reels. Jigs and reels both have two beats per measure, so if you want to combine them, keep that beat at the same tempo, and listeners can continue tapping their feet or dancing to the same beat. It’s just that you’ll be playing 3 eighths per beat if a jig, and 4 per beat if a reel. If the new type of tune starts with a simple rhythm, it can be easier to make the transition. For example, if going from reel into a jig, a jig that starts with one or two dotted quarters can simplify the transition. If going from jig to reel, a reel with quarter notes or even a half note in the first measure can help you and listeners get a clear handle on the beats before you draw them into the reel.

Slower tunes are a little different.

Continue reading Medleys 2: Compatible Tunes

Pickup Notes: don’t play without ’em

What are “pickup notes”? They are notes that lead us into a beat note. They are easy to notice at the beginning of tunes, where there might be one or two notes before the first beat or bar line, but as we’ll see, they really can be found everywhere, and our awareness of them determines how musical our playing is.

The colored boxes marking phrases in the interactive sheet music on www.fiddle-online.com serve several purpose — first, they allow us to learn manageable building blocks of a tune and understand how the tune is put together, and second, they include pickup notes as part of the phrases. Written music shows us where the beats are, but not where the phrases are.

We can quickly understand pickup notes if we remember that the language of music matches up with spoken (or sung) language. The two beats in the proclamation, “Let’s go to the store” are “go” and “store”. These tell us the main idea, while the other words add nuance. The syllables before those two beats are pickup notes leading to the beats — “Let’s” belongs to “go”, and “to the” belongs to “store”. In music this sentence might be written in jig time:

If we split up the words by beat (which is what the written music shows us), we’d say “Lets. Go to the. Store.” It doesn’t make immediate sense in words or music that way. In order to play naturally, the way we talk, we need to be aware of the pickup notes, so we can say/play “Let’s go” followed by “to the store”, or “Let’s GO to the STORE.”

Pickups at the beginning of a tune lead us into the tune. They prepare us for the tempo and beat of the tune. But they’re not essential to Continue reading Pickup Notes: don’t play without ’em

Why Finger Spacing is > Intonation

Finger spacing on the fiddle is about more than playing in tune.  It’s about physical relationships and muscle memory. It’s also about using your ears to know a tune rather than memorizing notes.  In a moment, I’ll tell you a story about how different this can be.

You can temporarily play in tune by monitoring every note with an electronic tuner, or by using the little tapes that tell your fingers where to come down, but those learning aids are a lot like driving somewhere in a strange city relying totally on GPS.  Chances are, you won’t remember a thing about how you got there!  Learning the finger relationships, rather than relying only on tapes or tuners, is like that old story about the difference between teaching someone to fish rather than giving them a fish.

Left-hand technique is not about knowing where each finger is supposed to land, but about knowing how the fingertips relate to each other on the fingerboard: Which ones are physically touching? Which ones are a finger’s-width apart from each other? 

Keep on reading!

Turkey In the Straw

Here’s a tune you’ll want to play round the Thanksgiving table!  An American classic fiddle tune,  “Turkey in the Straw” sounds to me like it came from a type of old Scottish tune called the Scots Measure.

In that spirit, here’s a very simple version of the tune, but if you replace the numbered measures with the variations marked below the tune, you’ll see how this simple version might have developed into the tune we usually hear today.

The Scots Measure was a type of dance; there are many old tunes of that type but nowadays we have folded the Scots Measures into other forms such as hornpipes and reels. Below is a typical example of a Scots Measure Continue reading Turkey In the Straw