Fiddle practice log 11/3/2021

  • Time practiced: 10 minutes
  • Scales practiced:
    1. One octave G, D, A
    2. Two octave G
  • Arpeggios practiced:
    1. One octave G, D, A
    2. Two octave G
  • Techniques practiced:
    1. Trying to avoid having the neck of the instrument resting in the crotch of my hand, and instead supporting it about halfway along my thumb, to improve the reach of my fingers
    2. Double stops, all open string pairs, in the lower-upper-both pattern
    3. Double stops, all open string pairs, in the upper-lower-both pattern
    4. Whistling a tune phrase to get into my head where I want the slurs to fall, so that I can then specifically tell myself where to put the slurs when I’m actually playing the instrument
  • Tunes practiced: Feller from Fortune

Main interesting discovery for me in this practice ties back to a thing I discussed with Lisa on my last official lesson, when we played around with La fée des dents and discussed what it does to the tune stylistically, if you start on a down bow vs. an up bow.

I tried the same thing in this practice with the tune Feller from Fortune, focusing on the A part and seeing what it felt like to start on a down bow vs. an up bow. Here, as with La fée des dents, I was intrigued to find that starting on an up bow “felt” easier. More natural. I’m still working on trying to articulate why I get that feeling.

There are several interesting questions to consider here:

  1. If there are certain note patterns that are just objectively easier to play more smoothly if you bow them in a certain direction.
  2. What tune you’re playing, and what other ornamentations you want to do on it, I guess? Because if you’re doing slurs in certain places, how does that play into your bow direction choices?
  3. Is it a purely subjective thing where musician A might find a certain way of playing easier than musician B?
  4. What actually sounds better for the tune? How does it sound if you play it one way vs. another way?

Fiddle practice log 10/26/2021

In “Anna remembers she really needs to practice the instrument” news, here’s today’s fiddle practice report!

  • Time practiced: 10 minutes
  • Scales practiced: One octave G, one octave D, one octave A, two octave G, two octave A
  • Arpeggios practiced: One octave G, two octave G
  • Other techniques practiced:
    • Double stops, lower string, upper string, both strings, all three string pairs
    • Double stops, upper string, lower string, both strings, all three string pairs
    • Left hand rehearsal on B part of La fée des dents
    • Being mindful of left hand finger curve
    • Being mindful of elbow position to facilitate finger curve
  • Tunes practiced: La fée des dents, A part and B part

I haven’t tried to play André Brunet’s lovely La fée des dents in a while, so it was a pleasure to revisit it today.

This is one of the tunes that you definitely want to play in a nice flowing kind of way. Figuring out where to put some slurs seems like my primary tool for encouraging that… though I also need to keep in mind that there are questions here of just how smoothly I change fingerings and change bow direction, too.

But that said I did begin to identify some spots in both the A part and the B part where I could add some of that sense of flow, for lack of a better word. By which I mean, some spots where I could put in a few short slurs.

Mostly though I wanted to review the tune and remind myself of the fingerings necessary for it. And I’ll look forward to working with this one some more!

Fiddle practice log 10/11/2021

Time practiced

Ten minutes

Scales practiced

  • Two-octave G
  • Two-octave A

Arpeggios practiced

  • Two-octave G
  • Two-octave A

Techniques practiced

  • Singing my bow directions

Tune practiced

Ciel d’automne

Commentary

Decided to switch it up a bit today and jump over to one of my favorite Andre Brunet tunes, Ciel d’automne. Mostly I played with reviewing the A part, because it’d been a while since I last touched this tune.

But I also wanted to experiment with placing slurs in it, to build on what I’ve been learning playing around with Blarney Pilgrim and Feller from Fortune. Ciel d’automne is a very strong example of what I mean when I talk about needing to master how to make a tune just flow, this thing is gorgeous and it needs to have that liquid feel to it.

I didn’t work out slur patterns for all of the A part yet, but I did get a good way into that section of the tune for that!

I also have aspirations of figuring out where double stops could go in this thing. I tried a couple of places, but that didn’t work very well. I think I need to listen to the recording I have of the tune some more and see if I can figure out how Andre did it!

(Oh darn oh darn whatever shall I do, etc. :D)

Another long overdue ebook roundup log

This is another one of those days when I look at my overflowing inbox and go geez woman get caught up on your email, why don’t you?

So this is me reviewing my various backlogged ebook purchase receipts!

Acquired from Kobo:

  • The Infernal City and Lord of Souls, which are the two Elder Scrolls novels written by Greg Keyes, released back in 2009 and 2011. The events in them apparently take place between what happens in Oblivion, and what happens in Skyrim. For the interested, more info on the novels can be found on the wiki I follow for my Skyrim playthroughs, here.
  • Bombshell, by Sarah MacLean. Romance. Grabbed this one because I’ve read a different historical romance series by this author and enjoyed it! And also, this review on Smart Bitches, even though they gave it a B-, made it sound fun.
  • The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling. SF/Horror. Nabbed this because it went on sale for $1.99, and because I’ve seen good buzz about it. Taking a shot on it because it’s pitched as a gripping SF/horror story with a fairly fucked-up level of interaction between the two female protagonists.
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie. Mystery. This is the first Hercule Poirot novel, which I’ve never read. Nabbed it because it was a new edition of the book, on sale for $2.99, and because I really like the cover St. Martin’s Press put on it. (You can see that cover here on the Kobo page for the ebook.)

Pre-ordered from Kobo:

  • Noor, by Nnedi Okorafor. SF. Got this because I’ve definitely enjoyed work by this author before. And buzz going around about this book made it sound like something I want to pick up.
  • The Thousand Eyes, by A.K. Larkwood. Fantasy. This is book 2 of the author’s Serpent Gates series. I really liked Book 1, The Unspoken Name, for splendid worldbuilding, a compelling F/F romance, and an orc heroine! Very much looking forward to this one.

Acquired from Amazon:

  • Bacchanal, by Veronica G. Henry. Depression-era historical fantasy/horror mix, with a story about a demonic carnival. (If this sounds interesting to you, note that this was an Amazon-only release, in case this is a dealbreaker for you purchasing it.)
  • Easy Pickings, by C.E. Murphy and Faith Hunter. Urban fantasy. This is crossover fic for the Walker Papers and Jane Yellowrock series, written by the authors themselves, in which they set up a scenario where their heroines can actually meet. Awesome. Sign me up!

60 for the year.

Fiddle practice log 10/5/2021

Time practiced

10 minutes

Scales practiced

  • One octave G
  • One octave D
  • One octave A
  • Two octave G
  • Two octave A

Arpeggios practiced

  • One octave G
  • One octave D
  • One octave A
  • Two octave G

Techniques practiced

  • Paying attention to keeping my elbow moving when coming down on string crossings
  • Singing my bow directions to myself to underscore which way I want to be bowing in a passage
  • Working on where to put slurs in a passage
  • Working on possible double stops in a passage

Tune practiced

Blarney Pilgrim just by itself, this time.

Commentary

The most interesting thing about today’s practice was reviewing Blarney Pilgrim, and two overall things about that:

  1. Trying to figure out where to put the slurs I want in the B part
  2. Actually playing with double stops in the C part

And in regards to the second of these–the way the C part goes is that there’s this pair of triplets that starts off the phrase, A-D-D, B-D-D.

I often hear these triplets played as short, punchy notes, to give emphasis and drama to that part of the tune. And I thought: hey. Can I play double stops here? Because it’s mostly open strings, except for that B.

So I tried that, two different ways:

  1. Double stop landing on the A and B in both triplets
  2. Playing the A and B each as single strings, then doing double stops on the Ds

I think, but am not entirely sure, that I like the second way better. I gotta play with this more and see if I can do it reliably.

This is not the first time I’ve specifically figured out a place where I feel like I can do double stops in a tune–that actually goes back to me figuring out the tail end of how Bob Hallett in Great Big Sea comes out of Salmon Tails Up the Water, when they play that tune as a bridge for Jolly Butcher.

However, it feels notable here. Because this is part of regular practice and investigation of how to make a tune sound cooler, and I’m starting to feel like I’m beginning to get the tools and understanding necessary to actually do that.

Fiddle practice log 10/4/2021

Time practiced

10 minutes

Scales practiced

  • One octave A, without slurs
  • One octave D, without slurs
  • One octave G, without slurs
  • One octave A, with slurs
  • One octave D, with slurs
  • One octave G, with slurs

Arpeggios practiced

  • One octave A
  • One octave D
  • One octave G

Techniques practiced

  • Mindfulness of elbow position when doing string crossings
  • Mindfulness of finger positions, trying to keep a relaxed finger curve and not straightening up my fingers every time I change notes
  • Keeping my fingers in that relaxed curved position when changing strings
  • A little bit of left hand rehearsal when working with the B part of Feller from Fortune
  • More strategic placement of slurs to improve tune flow and ease the changing of bow directions

Tunes practiced

  • Blarney Pilgrim
  • Feller from Fortune

Commentary

Bit of a shaky practice, but I’m coming out of last week being stupid work-wise, and a weekend where I had to do additional day job work as well. So I wasn’t as on top of things in this practice as I’d like.

But this is a situation where it’s just helpful to take a step back and remind myself that it’s okay if I play something incorrectly, I just need to be a little more patient if I’m tired and/or stressed, and think my way carefully through what might have caused me to make a mistake. And at the same time, to not work the problem too hard. On the grounds that if I keep trying the same thing while I’m tired, if I keep playing it wrong that’d make me learn how to do it wrong rather than how to do it right.

In other words, don’t be too hard on myself if a practice goes badly. Don’t push it, me!

So even though my practice today was a bit of a mess, I got in my ten minutes. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Fiddle practice log 10/1/2021

Time practiced

10 minutes

Scales practiced

  • One octave G
  • One octave D
  • One octave A
  • Two octave G
  • Two octave A

Arpeggios practiced

  • One octave G
  • One octave D
  • One octave A
  • Two octave G

Techniques practiced

  • Being mindful of where I’m going to put my fingers before they land
  • Left hand rehearsal of tune fragments
  • Double stops, using “upper, lower, both” pattern of strings
  • Placing slurs in appropriate parts of tune fragments

Tunes practiced

  • A part of Blarney Pilgrim
  • A and B part of Feller from Fortune

Commentary

I’ve reminded myself of this before and I need to do so again: when doing double-stops, the angle changes necessary to hit both strings at once are smaller than I think they should be.

And with both the tunes I played around with today, I feel like I’m getting more of a handle on strategic placing of slurs. Which also helps me make a tune just flow better in general.

With Feller from Fortune, I was able to more or less stagger my way through both the A and B part. But not all the way smoothly. More practice!

Fiddle practice log 9/28/2021

Time practiced

10 minutes

Scales and arpeggios practiced

  • Scales: one octave G, D, A
  • Arpeggios: lower octave G, upper octave G, also D and upper octave A

Techniques practiced

  • Placing multiple fingers down to hit the G and B on the upper G arpeggio, then placing multiple fingers down to hit the D and high G
  • Same thing in reverse coming back down the arpeggio
  • “Left hand rehearsal” where I just step through the fingering patterns of a thing, to train my fingers what they need to be doing

Tune practiced

More Feller from Fortune. Mostly focusing on the B part and trying to make sure I have the fingering down.

However, I also experimented a little bit with where the slurs might be interesting. Can’t really commit to that quite yet just because I am not comfortable playing the full A and B part of this tune all the way through yet. And I feel like I need to get that down before I can start thinking about how to dress up the tune and take it out for dinner.

Fiddle practice log 9/27/2021

This is going up on the 28th, but it’s actually for the practice I did on the 27th.

Scales practiced

  • One octave G
  • One octave D
  • One octave A
  • One octave C

Techniques practiced

  • Double stops on open strings, playing lower string, then upper, then both
  • Also working on trying to sense when the bow is properly parked on both strings to do that double stop
  • (Reminder to self: that angle change to hit both strings at once is not as big as you think it is)

Tunes practiced

Worked more on Feller from Fortune, and specifically the B part. Tried to work on learning it from memory, because I can hear it in my head, and I wanted to see if I could work on training my ear and my ability to reproduce notes.

But apparently this is a three stop process for me:

  1. Can I reproduce the tune I hear in my head? Can I whistle it, hum it, or otherwise vocalize it from memory?
  2. Can I parse what notes I’m hearing? Do I know, say, a B when I hear one?
  3. Can I take each note out of memory and find it on the instrument? Particularly if they are tricky intervals between notes?

There’s a particular bit of the B part of this tune that dips pretty low on the melody, and it took me quite a bit of mental work to realize it was going all the way down to open D. And a lot of work in general just trying to pull up the memory of the Great Big Sea recording in my head, then whistling it slowly, and then trying to reproduce the same notes on the fiddle.

I do more or less understand how the A part works, but the B part still needs some work. And I want to get to the point of playing both of them in a nice flow together before I start trying to dress it up and make it sound cooler.

Fiddle practice log 9/22/2021

Summary

  • Scales practiced: One-octave G, D, A; two-octave G
  • Techniques practiced: Being mindful of the position of my elbow while doing string crossings
  • Tune practiced: Feller from Fortune

Commentary

This practice was pretty much all about me trying to remind myself that hey, playing tunes is fun!

And even more fun when I’m playing with a tune recorded by a band I love, like Great Big Sea.

So, this was more about the Feller from Fortune tune, which is the first of the three tunes in GBS’ Fortune Set. I do all have dots written up ages ago by fans of all three of the tunes, and I had to refer to the dots for the B part of this tune. I could kind of reproduce it in my head, but I was having issues actually bridging the gap between that and what my fingers needed to be doing.

Once I consulted the dots, I was better able to then try to reproduce on my instrument what I hear Bob Hallett playing in the GBS studio recording (as well as multiple concert recordings of the same set).

Mostly, I focused on the B part of the tune since I have a pretty good idea of how to do the A part now, including where I need to put slurs in it. With the B part, I mostly wanted to think about “okay, what’s the basic fingering pattern for this thing?” Once I have that down, I will be able to then refine it with questions like, where do the slurs go, and what my thoughts are on bowing directions.

I DID note that the opening few notes of the B part seem to actually work better if I start on a down bow on the pickup note on B, and then do an up bow for the E that comes next. But this was also playing the B part by itself, as opposed to starting it when coming out of the A part.

I will need to experiment with this!