Fiddle practice, now with added winds

Just to check in on the whole fiddle practice thing, here, have a post about that, y’all!
Today my practice actually also involved winds, because I determined that I need to practice my arpeggios on my wind instruments as well as the fiddle. There are two goals here. One is to get better at recognizing those patterns in general, and the other is to get better at reproducing them quickly on my wind instruments, since those are the ones I’m most likely to be playing in session right now.
My main scales for fiddle practice, and their related arpeggios, are G, D, and A. These map easiest to fiddle strings tuning (G-D-A-E), and also, the vast majority of tunes at our session are in these keys. So they’re the ones I practice in the most.
Continue reading “Fiddle practice, now with added winds”

Fun with tunes and whistles

Dusty Strings is a dangerous place!
Any acoustically-oriented musician in the Seattle probably already knows this, of course–and I myself have mentioned this before. But it was driven home to me again this past weekend, when Dara and I went in to get her a proper shoulder strap for the Godin A5 fretless bass we finally got her as a late Solstice present!
This is a sexy, sexy bass, you guys. But also surprisingly heavy! So we wanted to make sure to get a strap that could support its weight and not kill Dara’s shoulder while she plays it. We fully expected Dusty Strings would provide, and they did indeed. We got her a nice leather strap with a padded section for her shoulder.
But what I did not expect was that a blackwood whistle made by Sweetheart would leap into my fingers and go “HI I’M COMING HOME WITH YOU.”
One of these, specifically. Dusty Strings had two of them, one in rosewood and one in blackwood, and since I’ve been more interested in whistles lately I started playing around with them while Dara experimented with straps.
The rosewood didn’t seize me. But the blackwood did, with some surprising clarity and power to its tone. And wow, it carried well in Dusty String’s instrument room. I could see this being an instrument I could use to make myself heard in a room full of fiddlers and accordion players. Maybe not a session cannon–I’m not that powerful a player–but perhaps a session pistol.
For shots of what the instrument looks like, side by side in a couple of them with my carbon fiber whistle for comparison, hop over to the Blackwood Whistle gallery on annathepiper.org!
And here’s what the instrument sounds like. I did a few snippets of recording with my phone last night, playing around with bits of “Ciel d’Automne”, one of my favorite tunes by André Brunet, who as I’ve said before writes lovely flute-friendly tunes.
First, this is me doing the tune on my small D carbon fiber flute. Because while I am having fun learning whistles, I’m still way more comfortable on a flute. And I wanted to show this for a comparison of tonality as well.

Second, this is my carbon fiber D whistle.

Last but not least, here’s the blackwood whistle! There’s better clarity here than on the carbon fiber whistle–possibly because this thing is a bit heavier as well as being wider in diameter. So the feel of it in my hands is closer to what I expect with a flute, and I don’t have to work as hard to figure out what amount of air to put through it.

So this is all fun and I’m going to greatly look forward to bringing this new whistle to a session!
And if you want to hear “Ciel d’Automne” in all its full La Bottine Souriante glory, go find their album Xième, which was also released in the States under the name Rock and Reel. This has the distinction of being the first André Brunet tune I ever fell in love with, so it’s got a special place in my heart!
EDITING TO ADD 12/27/2018: Since I had to remove the whistle pics from Flickr, I have edited this old post to point at the gallery of the same pics I made on annathepiper.org. Previous references to the Flickr versions of the pics have been removed.

I am a folk music resource!

Well, for a small number of bands, anyway! Because apparently this is the week for people to hit my site trying to find out about the instruments played by my favorite groups.

Yesterday somebody came by with the search term ‘what mouth instruments do le vent du nord play?’ Answer: just one! Réjean Brunet plays the mouth harp. You can hear it all over a lot of their songs and you can see it in various live videos. Like this one! The mouth harp shows up in the second song in this vid, “Au bord de la fontaine”, which kicks in around the 6:57 mark. Though I heartily endorse watching the first song, “Lanlaire”, too!

And today’s search term is ‘what flutes do great big sea use’. Answer: none! Séan McCann and Bob Hallett play whistles–Séan plays a small tin whistle but only on “Run Run Away”, and Bob breaks out the big low whistle for things like “Boston and St. John’s”. Behold the whistle in action!

To those of you who came by looking, in case you see this post, I hope this is helpful!