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)

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!

Fiddle practice log 9/20/2021

Summary

  • Time practiced: 10 minutes
  • Scales practiced:
    1. One-octave G, D, A
    2. Two-octave G
  • Techniques practiced:
    1. Up-down-both double stops, all string pairs
    2. Down-up-both double stops, all string pairs
    3. Trying to be mindful of a steady bowing pace for purposes of keeping a scale flowing
    4. Trying to be mindful of keeping my elbow swinging smoothly when doing string crossings
    5. Trying to be mindful of finger placement and specifically consciously telling myself “I’m putting my finger right there next”
  • Tunes practiced: Fortune set by Great Big Sea, A part of the first tune

Commentary

Finding those angles on my double stops is still a damn problem. And it’s still entirely a matter of not being able to find the proper intermediate angle to hit both of those strings at the same time, at least in a timely fashion. If I do it slowly, and do the thing where you judge where the bow is resting so that you can actively tell “yes, I am on both strings”, i can do it.

But not if I try to do it quickly. Therefore, as with just about everything when it comes to the fiddle, more practice is required.

Today’s tune was the Fortune set from Great Big Sea just because I listened to that again recently, and it’s stuck in my head! Also because the A part of the first tune is pretty easy. I already knew I could kind of play it on the fiddle, but I also wanted to see what I could learn by dropping some slurs in it.

First immediate thing I learned: “do slurs on descending notes” is not quite enough for my satisfaction for this tune. It’s very obvious that if I want to try to emulate what Bob Hallett does on the recording, I need to slur the first few notes that start the A part of this thing.

After that, it becomes a question of where else to slur, and I think I did figure that out easily enough—there are parts with descending notes where yeah, I can slur those easily enough and make the A part come out… well, if not exactly rocking quite yet, then at least beginning to sound like I might actually know what I’m doing. Lol.

Also spent a little time trying to see if I could play the B part by memory, but I don’t have that bit of the tune as well engrained in my head quite yet. Clearly I’m going to have to listen to the recording a few more dozen times. Oh darn whatever shall I do.

Side note for the Great Big Sea fans who may be reading this: this A and B part I’m talking about is specifically for the first instrumental bit of the Fortune recording, which comes before the B’ys jump in with the vocals and start singing “There’s lots of fish in Bonavist Harbor!”

After that vocal bit there are two more tunes to round out the set and I do have eventual aspirations of getting to those, too. But for now I’m focused just on the first tune. :D

Fiddle practice log 9/7/2021

Time practiced

10 minutes

Scales practiced

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

Techniques practiced

  • Double stops on each string pair, lower-upper-both, then upper-lower-both
  • Trying to keep my torso still while bowing, which is hard

Tunes practiced

  • More Blarney Pilgrim, mostly the B part

Commentary

As per my last practice post I wanted to try the notion of doing slurs only on patterns of descending notes, to see what that told me about optimal bowing direction.

In the B part of Blarney Pilgrim, the note flow is a bit more complicated than in the A part, because it’s got this spike up onto the E string at the beginning of the first phrase, before swinging down onto the A and D strings and bouncing back and forth between them for a bit.

So there are bits of descending notes here. But the way they’re working, with the third note of a triplet actually being on the string crossing, this seems to play into what I saw the last practice with needing to put a slur only on the first two notes of any descending triplet.

If I try to play the whole descending triplet on a single stroke, this makes me run out of bow, and it also makes it more difficult to do the string crossing.

For example, the first phrase of the B part looks like this:

D-E-D D-B-G A-G-A B-G-E

The second triplet, D-B-G, and the fourth one, B-G-E, seem to be good places to drop slurs. So in theory the bowing might look like this if I do slurs on both of those triplets:

Down-Up-Down Dow-ow-own Up-Down-Up Dow-ow-own

But if I’m still bowing down when I try to go from the B down to the G in that second triplet, it seems like I run out of bow real quick. And the string crossing is more difficult.

That fourth triplet shakes things up a bit, though, because with that one, the string crossing is between the first and second notes, not the second and third.

So I need to experiment with this more. Possible optimal bow patterns here are:

Down-Up-Down Dow-own-Up Down-Up-Down Uh-Up-Down

Or:

Down-Up-Down Dow-own-Up Down-Up-Down Up-Dow-own

Fiddle practice log 9/3/2021

I’ve been doing these posts on my Facebook wall for a bit, but realized that they would probably work a lot better as posts on my own blog.

This solves a couple of problems:

  • People who aren’t on Facebook can see my logs
  • It puts the content on my server, so it doesn’t have to be just on Facebook, and that’s always a good idea

So, some context for those of you who haven’t been seeing me put this stuff on Facebook. I’ve been taking fiddle lessons for several years now and my progress has been excruciatingly slow. Nor has it been helped by the pandemic and the attendant stresses of that.

Details on this practice and background for this behind the fold!

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