Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Hi There,

Great thread on dots and ears….I have a totally different question for all who are playing fiddle…in the learning period did you go through definite phases such as ‘I can jigs, but not reels’ or ‘I can bow properly’ or my phrasing is getting better.

If you learn a foreign language for example, then propositions are the last thing that you will really start understanding.

Is it the same with the Fiddle?

Regards

Shylock

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Yep, I think so. Fiddling is a whole other set of challenges, but I know as a kid learning the instrument itself (techniques, theories, etc.), everything came in phases. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

I can definitely see how jigs and reels can spin around inside the head. I dance also, and sometimes I’ll start dancing a jig and accidentally lapse into a reel… I don’t know why… Brain fart I suppose.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

It’s an advance on multiple fronts, two steps forward, one, or three, steps back, plateau plateau, good grief I thought that was hard but I can do it now! I used to think that was great so why does it sound so dreadful today?

"It" never ends and whatever one’s playing ability may be doing, one’s perception may well be changing in different ways.

Maybe "the day you’re satisfied with your own playing is the day to give up."

Except for two people in the whole world there’s always someone better, and someone worse.

Trite enough but it’s all about the journey. There is no arrival, just maybe a few landmarks along the way.

Cheers

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Absolutely.

I have times when my playing seems to flatten out for a while then suddnely I’m playing better than ever.
This theme has repeated time and time again and I suppose it always will. Even the best most experienced players have peaks and valleys. Just stay the course.

Mary

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

“Is it the same with the Fiddle?”

No. With the fiddle, it’s more the adverbs.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

I think the phases are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Usually I set my phaser to stun when I’m mad at my fiddle.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Hammurabi,
I’m sure you’ve missed some. Frustration and despair fit in there somewhere.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

While the five stages of dying do fit, as Hammurabi notes, I suspect the process is much worse for most of us fiddlers. Something along the lines of: joyful self-delusion, dream-like wakefulness, grim reality, determined perseverance, and utter madness. But then I’ve been at it for only 30 years, so maybe there’s something after utter madness….

Posted .

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

there are good days and there are bad days, but that’s about it for me.
And ofcourse the more you play the better you get, but you’ll always have bad days.
WF

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

No no Will, utter madness is good! I’ll take that, I’ll feel so much better about my own madness.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

I think I’m entering the Carboniferous phase, but I’m probably being optimistic

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Ian I can’t help but suspect there’s something beyond utter madness…chronic sheer, stark raving depravity. Yes, that’s it.

See, unlike the 5 stages of dying, the 6 stages of fiddling don’t end abruptly in death. They don’t end at all. Just years upon years of chronic, sheer, stark raving depravity. And *then* you die. If you’re lucky.

🙂

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Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

I think I’ve already gotten to utter madness. Since I’ve only been at this a few years, I take this to mean that I’m exceptionally precocious.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

"If you learn a foreign language for example, then propositions are the last thing that you will really start understanding."

Propositions? Damn - now I know why that Italian woman slapped my face last summer….

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

did you tell them you were a banjo player?

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

I’ve been propositioned in at least nine languages. Which is why it’s so important to learn how to say "yes" in as many tongues (ahem) as possible….

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Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Will, or would it be "yes?" 🙂

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Learning a skill like playing the fiddle is a fractal process.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Lol, maybe, "Why not?" 😉

Trev, that bit about fiddle being a fractal process is spot on. Here’s a visual representation of the phases of fiddling: http://www.mi.sanu.ac.yu/vismath/javier1/#f3

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Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

(P.S. Trevor, thanks for reminding me (on another thread) to go listen again to those Ben Lennon recordings. Good stuff.)

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Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

On previous threads people have pointed out how you have to listen
critically to yourself while you’re playing and adjust if you don’t like
what’s coming out. Therefore there should be no need to record
yourself. I think it was "Llig" but it’s not an original or
unique thought. Simon Fischer writes about this in "Basics".

The catch is that you have learn how to identify what’s bad at the time
you’re doing it and learn the right technique to fix it.

This ear training has levels and so does the related technique. The
technique has to get automatic enough so that you have enough brain
power available to observe what’s going on and fix it.

This is so much harder to do on the fiddle than on the woodwind
instruments. It’s all because of the bowing.

Recording myself and listening critically to the playback has helped
me learn how to listen and correct in real time. I have no teacher so
that’s my only option. Even if you can’t play a note, if you have some
knowledge about the Music, you can tell what ‘sucks’ and what
doesn’t on a recording. Now just transfer that criticism to yourself
while you’re playing 🙂

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

I don’t claim to have reached any kind of ‘level’ by the way - I’m just in the
process of getting better

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

OK, I’ll bite. Can someone explain the fractal thing as it models ITM so a non mathematician can understand it please.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Tone dumb harry, I’ll give it a try. Fractals have a property called "self-similarity" - that means, roughly, that no matter how closely you zoom in on them, they look exactly the same. I think that what will and lazyhound mean is that no matter how far you’ve gotten on the fiddle, you still have just as much to learn. Sure, you may be better at it than you were three months or three years or thirty years ago, but you’ve also learned so much more about the music and its potential that your goal, such as it is, is just as far away as it always was.

I started recording myself shortly after I started playing, for precisely this reason. When I first started, I felt that I was playing somewhat out of tune, and with imperfect rhythm, and my phrasing certainly wasn’t great. Today, I listen to myself and I feel…like I’m playing somewhat out of tune, and with imperfect rhythm, and my phrasing can certainly use some work. It’s not that I haven’t gotten better - it’s just that I’ve gotten pickier at the same rate that I’ve improved musically.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Yep, that, and the fact that the deeper you dig into fiddling, the more intricacies you find, curlicues upon curlicues of nuance and possibilities.

As TDM suggests, the more you learn, the more you have to learn about what you just learned.

For example, I remember being challenged by the timing and phrasing of this music when I first started, 30 years ago. Today, timing and phrasing still absorb most of my waking moments, and they still challenge me. Maybe in a more positive way. But The deeper I drill into timing and phrasing, the more possibilities I find, and yet they all resemble each other.

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Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

It’s funny - a few months ago I noticed that I was no longer able to gauge my improvement in terms of easily-identifiable milestones ("That roll sounded clean", "I can play that high B reasonably in tune", "I can get through that reel at session speed") - but that was also around the time I started to really enjoy the sounds that were coming out of my fiddle. And that was around the time that the folks I played with started telling me as much as well.

My teacher and I have been working almost exclusively on bowing lately, and at the end of a lesson the other week, he said, "So we’re going to be working on bowing every week now."

"I figured as much," I said.

And my teacher, who’s been playing longer than I’ve been alive, said, "Listen, *I’m* still working on *my* bowing, so you’re going to be working on yours, too, goddammit."

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Well, this has got to be the best thread ever for me. Not only is it encouraging to hear others who have both good, bad, worse and frustrating days on the fiddle, but I’m glad to know that others find recording themselves useful, as depressing as it may be…but my teacher says I have to…sigh.

Good thread, Shylock. Will, I’m hoping that my current phase, grim reality, doesn’t last too long. I liked joyful self-delusion a whole lot better, dammit.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Yes, I did say you shouldn’t have the need to record yourself. But I’ve altered that edict in the light of what many people have said here. I think that there is a need to record yourself if, and this "if" is vital, that listening back to your recording gives you surprises. If your ability to hear yourself in real time is so poor that you, for example, only hear that bum note, or realise you’ve over-swung it, on the playback … then you should record yourself as often as you can until the recording gives you no surprises. Remember though, that the exercise is not about making a good recording, just to improve your ear to the extent that you are hearing everything you are playing. This is a vital phase to get through. Now ditch recording yourself, it is no longer of benefit, and improve as you play.

The next important phase to get through is confidence. And this is primarily to do with tone. Tone is 99% confidence. If you are confident you will get a good tone, you will.

Posted .

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

I don’t record myself for the purpose of analysing what I need to change; on rare occasions my recordings help me figure that out, but that’s not why I do it. I record myself because I like to keep an account of how my playing has evolved from month to month. It’s like keeping a journal. As I said upthread, I’ve gotten pickier about my playing as I’ve improved, and having a few dozen recordings of the same tune, taking over a period of several years, reassures me that yes, I have been getting better, even though I’m still unhappy with my tone/rhythm/intonation/phrasing. When I’m particularly frustrated, it helps to dig up the really old files, which are nigh unlistenable. 😉

Last month, I made a CD of me playing the Swallowtail Jig 22 times, recorded over a period of two and a half years. I presented it, with the necessary apologies, to my teacher as a birthday gift. He claims to have enjoyed it, though I don’t expect him to listen to it more than once.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Yes, llig, and then there are those who, with recording themselves or not, hear only what they want to hear…

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

On a recent thread, silver bow posted a recording of himself and myself recklessly chancing a few reels after a long night at the pub. It was good to hear that it sounded about like I remember—some good parts, some dicey parts, and then some good playing again, even though the tune was being pulled out of a repressed memory.

So I’m inclined to agree with Michael’s notion that you’re mind’s ear is properly attuned when there are no surprises in a recording of yourself.

Posted .

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Thus the grim reality phase for me…although I will keep recording myself, as I am not to the point yet where I can hear it all while concentrating so damn hard on what it is I’m supposed to be doing.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Grim reality…there are worse places to be.

One of the more important things to listen for in your own playing is how you start and end each note. The idea is to vary this, the way you would with inflecting syllables when you talk.

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Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Will, do you mean like the different words in different verses of a song, or something more random?

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Quoting llig: "Tone is 99% confidence. If you are confident you will get a good tone, you will."

I was trying to get this across to a student recently. I was using phrases such as:

"Play each note like you mean it",
"Play the note with purpose", and
"Show the fiddle who’s boss i.e. make it clear to the fiddle that it’s playing that note whether it likes it or not."

We were having a laugh about it (I try to make lessons informal and fun), and in trying it out, the student did start getting a much clearer, stronger tone. I must stress though, not to confuse strong tone with loudness. You can play with good tone without having to be loud.

I think llig summed up what I was getting at better than I did. I’m gonna use that line in future lessons (if you don’t mind llig?)

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Sure, glad to be of some use (for a change).

Though this won’t work for the deluded, of course. But as I said, the deluded should still be on the "record yourself" phase.

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Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

the stage where’s your stuck is the worst to break out from, been stuck in the same rutt for 5months now, seem to have reached a certain speed and thats it, we’re just not managing to get any faster.

Need to get a session of proper lessons in but thats easier said than done where i live. Frustrated to the point of giving it up.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

trying to make yourself play faster is like trying to make water boil by staring at it - focus on some other things for awhile, and as long as you can keep yourself playing you’ll just naturally get faster

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

I like that analogy. With any instrument, if you’re already playing at the far edge of your comfort zone, pushing for more speed will just degrade your playing. When your current speed feels comfortable and you’re able to make the music sing and enjoy what you’re doing with the tone, etc., then the next increment of speed, if you really need it, will not be a strain.

Re: Are there phases in Fiddle Learning?

Wabbitt, you’ve only been playing a year or 2 . IMO dont pressure yourself, take your time, be patient.. concentrate on relaxing and getting a nice tone and playing your tunes slowly and easily. Try to sing your tunes so they have lilt and swing… then try and play them like that.