Re-visit your fiddle playing

Heading into the fall is a good time to reevaluate your fiddle playing and to plan out
some activities that will help you move towards playing better. Self evaluation of your
playing is a bit difficult at first but with some practice it will be very rewarding since it
allows you to direct your own learning process.

For example, consider your bowing, Can you play jigs smoothly with a strong rhythm? The drive and power of the jig comes from the bow arm and getting the lift in your playing will make a big difference
in your sound. Practice playing the 6/8 rhythm of a jig paying attention to the first eight note of each triplet. Playing with as little muscular tension is key and transfer the accent gently through your bow hand. I find that most of the pressure is coming thru my index finger to the bow.

For any of the dance styles you can identify an area to work on. Strathspeys, the strong cuts for instance, the hornpipes, a lighter lift to the playing, airs, longer bows with more expression . Each player will have her own areas to work on . Don’t choose too many or that will be self defeating. Choose a few areas and work on them daily for a few months and I’m sure you will see improvements.

Some players just concentrate on learning new tunes but this can be problematic if that’s all you do. Often the tunes are not appropriate to your level of playing and you end up frustrated or worse: with a physical ailment from the stress . Having a good teacher to guide you can help ( check out the list of PEI fiddlers willing to teach) and I know of a few good books. Two that are more traditional are Fiddle Tunes by Robin
Williamson and Traditional Scottish fiddling , a players guide . Tools for musicianship by Matt Glazer covers rhythm, advanced ear training, harmony and melodic development and composition( three CD’s included).

This is one area where classical music has its’ advantages. The program of learning is structured to take you through a series of exercises and tunes that help to evolve your playing sequentially. If you know of some good books that take a developmental approach to traditional music please e-mail me and I will mention them in a future article.

Enjoy and till next time keep your bow rosined and the fiddle in tune.

copyright @ Roy Johnstone

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