What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Hello session people!

I’m curious to know what the most difficult thing you have done to improve your playing has been? Hopefully this will prompt some discussion and give some inspiration to people who need it.

I recently received my full set of pipes after a fair bit of wait, and I’m having to go back to basics to improve. It’s rough, but I have to do it, which is what inspired me to ask.

Cheers everyone,

Wes Mann

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

As a fiddler, the most difficult thing (ongoing) is intonation. I can hit the correct note, and still have it sound "off". Slow practice of scales is the way to go. Also found I could adjust the "vibrating string length" such that it’s easier for my fingers to hit the notes on pitch. Now, on Highland pipes, the issues are many: squashed doublings, smashed grips, etc. Back to slow practice again.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

As a flute player: stubbornly practice just to get a good tone. Stand in a mirror, record the sound, get a lesson just for tone , watch videos. And try things that might not be typical . Still working on it , but it has improved.

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I suppose I forgot to say what mine was. At the Naval School of Music I was practicing for 8 or so hours a day and I had to change my embouchure, which upped the practice to about twelve hours, and forced me to play nothing but long tones and Taffanel and Gaubert exercises during that time. It sucked, but majorly improved me as a player. That’s kind of what I’m doing now on the pipes, and I’m sure it will have the same effect.

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It seems ironic to me, being an extremely lazy man, that in learning the fiddle it’s the difficult things that I most enjoy and even crave. For me its now mostly in the bowing. I will most likely (and hopefully) be spending the rest of my life trying to perfect bowed triplets, burls, hopping burls, half-hopping burls etc, etc. If these things weren’t difficult my life would be boring.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

For me, it’s been learning to relax my right hand in such a way that ornaments and speed are possible. I was a long time death grip picker on guitar….Paradoxically, the looser the grip the more accurate and controlled the attack can be. When a tutor first presented me with this paradox and I was briefly able to put it into practice, a light went on! Much hard (or shall I say soft) work has ensued, and continues, to put this into practice. That was on mandolin/bouzouki, and now I’m 3 weeks into learning fiddle and taking that same advice to heart on bowing. It’s so magical when it works! But I know it will take years to be able do it consistently and effectively…Gobby, I am dreaming of the day when I can be working up to those triplets and the other ornaments you named!

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

@jond, I had never heard of all those ‘burs, or burls’ until I listened to an old interview with Johny Doherty. I had previously focused on Sligo style, which emphasizes the left had fingering ornamentation more than bowing ornamentation. Johnny Doherty gives examples of the difference through the interview and I thought, well why not try both? I have listened dozens of times to that interview and I am getting there, but you have to listen INTENTLY. Bowed triplets, which I once thought I could never master, roll easily now, but those ‘burls’…. well they are bloody wonderful and as yet I still find them difficult. I will send you a link to the Doherty interview if I can find it again.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Please send it to me as well Gobby, I love Mr Doherty’s playing.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Will do. It may take me a couple of days. I’m only on dial-up at home. I’ll need to go into town. I’ts a great interview once you can tell what he’s saying.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Flutist here: tone. Spending 10 minutes or so 6, 8, 10 times a day for 6, 8, 10 months just trying to find embouchure did help, though the journey is well nigh endless.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Gobby, would you be willing to share that link with me as well, please — or maybe post it publicly, at this point, if enough people are interested? I’m very curious about it.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Thinking too much. When I think, I anticipate. When I anticipate, I make mistakes.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Breathing. For flute ..

Four years just thinking it was something you do when you need to. Then to discover how important it is to plan the right places to do so in a tune. Then I (re)read Conal O’Grada’s book. And a few others. Penny dropped, slowly.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Trying to hear when playing what I hear in a recording of myself.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

As a guitar player one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced has been in improving my fretting accuracy to facilitate the "harp" style of playing where you play each adjacent note on its own string and let them ring out as much as possible. It’s so easy to accidentally damp a string whilst fretting another one, unless your fingertips are coming down perfectly straight - especially when fretting a bass string with the pinky. Slowing myself right down to a crawl and concentrating on fretting those notes without disturbing anything else has been like working out in a guitar gym for me.

Another huge challenge has been trying to develop classical-tier "rest strokes" with the thumb, where the thumb comes to rest on the string below it after plucking. No problem to do on its own, of course, but when I try to pick melody notes at the same time, I find it hilariously awkward and have to concentrate 1000% to do it. For 30+ years my libertarian thumb has just done its own thing without me even really telling it to, and it’s developed its own quirky little technique in the process. Trying to undo decades long bad habits is HARD. But doable, and 100% worthwhile.

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My problem has always been timing.

My internal metronome just isn’t as good as it should be.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Building focused discipline. It’s hard to fight back the urge to knock out another tune when what really needs to be done is to build skills like embouchure, tone, rhythm, lift, precise ornamentation and articulation, breathing, and (in the case of string instruments) independent finger movement and placement, right hand technique … you know all the things that make the tune you’re knocking out worth hearing …actually, all the things everybody else has mentioned. I didn’t read a single response that mentioned learning a new tune as the most difficult. I’ll even throw out effective listening as a skill. Skills, I call them "chops", basic and advanced, are elusive things, but when mastered make everything better including making music. I’ll move away from my usual basketball metaphors and say that the really good golfers practice, in minutia, the skills that make them great separate from just knocking the ball around. At least that what I gather from watching them at the driving range and practice greens I could see out my window (at work) and near my home. Discipline is not easy. I still struggle with it daily even after being a musician (bassist) for 60+ years now … my bow is still weak. Not easy but in the end discipline has the biggest pay-off. So I’ll put personal discipline right there as the most basic and the hardest thing I had/have to learn.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

"Breathing. For flute .."

Same here. At the risk of offending the Embouchure God and being struck mute the next time I pick up my flute, I think my tone and intonation is now pretty solid in both octaves. But my breathing still sucks (and blows, not well).

My normally good timing is thrown off by stumbles caused by not taking a breath at the right point. It’s complicated by the fact that the "right point" in a tune shifts around depending on how fast the tempo is. If I find good places to breathe when first learning a tune at a slower tempo, I need to find other places to take a breath at a higher tempo. Anyway, it’s improving, just something I need to keep constantly working on.

On mandolin, the most difficult thing was hitting treble ornaments consistently. Sometimes they sounded great, other times flubbed. It got better over time. Still not perfectly consistent like you hear with a good tenor banjo player… it’s not as easy on double course strings. But I don’t have to think about it as much.

P.S. I realize these are just lower-level mechanics involving mastery of the instrument, and there are "higher level" issues that it takes a lifetime to improve in this music. Appreciating the more subtle differences in dance rhythms, knowing the best tempo a tune wants to be played, sync’ing in with other musicians and so on. It’s just that the mechanical blocks always feel more immediate and easier to deal with. The rest just comes with enough years playing the tunes.

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Anything from just taking the instrument out of the case to hit a few notes, and hitting the sweet spot between focused practice and making use of "dead time", to skills like tone/intonation/bowing/ornamentation/steady rhythm/appropriate pace/scales/exploration of other keys, and the list goes on….

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Gobby, I’d like the link to the John Doherty interview also. Earlier this morning I watched a YouTube video about the Donegal style and he was mentioned and played a little bit. I’m new to ITM and realize that I can’t yet tell the difference between Sligo, Donegal and Clare by ear. That’s my work in progress. As well as intonation and lilt

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Thanks for that GW. That’s the one I was talking about except that for some reason I only have about half of it all, and only on sound file. Sorry for the unintentional detour Wes. … Back to the topic!

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

That’s the one I watched this morning. Excellent. Makes me think I should investigate the Donegal style

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

That’s the one that converted me from a strict Sligo focus (on fiddle), and to stay relevant to the topic, it’s the bowing style that I have been working hard on (for some years now). I’ve found it challenging and rewarding. And (BTW) what a lovely, humble guy Johnny was!

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

When I first took up Anglo concertina about 15 years ago, I spent about a year learning based on John William’s approach and scale patterns because it was all I could find as far as instructional videos or books.

A friend and local concertina player when learningI had taken up the instrument told me at a event we were playing together "Michael if you want to play Anglo concertina, you have to go to Noel Hill’s intensive workshop, there’s one this summer in Oregon". He had gone the previous year.

So I did.

Now, I was already an experienced session player on other instruments (Uilleann pipes, flute, whistle), and was already doing well putting lots of my session tunes on the concertina, so on the first day auditions, Noel put me in his advanced class.

It was the most awful music-related week of my life. Probably the most transformational as well.

Noel has very specific fingerings for scales and ornamentation which are in many cases quite different from what John Williams teaches. So, it was constantly "no, use that finger, not that one" the whole week.

I had to not only learn the complex tunes he used for the advanced class, but also completely re-invent my entire way of playing at the same time.

It took me about another year of struggle to fully re-work my playing around Noel’s fingerings and style which I was committed to master.

Now that’s all in the distant past, but man it was just miserable at the time. 🙂

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

In retrospect do you think that Noel was right to do that Michael?

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Put me in the advanced class?

Absolutely.

I wasn’t paying him to coddle me, still it was difficult.

If you want to study with Noel to learn his method for the Anglo Concertina, you should know in advance that he’s going to insist you do things his way, not debate or negotiate with you about different approaches to technique that you might have learned from someone else. Anyone considering going to his workshops should absolutely expect this.

Definitely got my money’s worth. 🙂

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Went back three more times, both to Newberg, Oregon and his East Coast workshop in East Durham, New York. All very tough and wonderful. Noel, I’m told says I’m "intense". 🙂 Yeah, that’s about right.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

It’s good to be pushed now and again. It’s easy for some people to underestimate their abilities and it’s also easy to forget that when you learn your first instrument you are also learning about music which makes it much easier to learn other instruments.

I remember going to Colaisde na Gàidhlig at St Ann’s on Cape Breton Island and signing up for the beginners harp course. They took pity on me, as an adult (in age anyway), and put me in the slow intermediate group as the beginners class was all primary age children. But I still found myself waiting ages for the other students to pick up a five note phrase on the twelfth repetition that I had got first time.

I tend not to think of things I have to do to improve my playing as, at my age, I know my limitations and it doesn’t matter how hard I try I’m never going to be able to pick triplets at reel speed (I can do it with my left hand but not my right - go figure - but I am a lefty who play righty). But I suppose the most challenging music I’ve had to play was in a band where, for me, the playing was right at my limit (the band leader was the same - he liked a challenge). That meant I had to seriously practice. That was a good thing because it was something I hadn’t really done properly since I finally got free of acne. I like to think all that practice has improved my playing.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Re-training my muscle memory from guitar scales to GDAE banjo scales. The mechanics are all the same, but where the notes are takes some getting used to.

Honestly, I think GDAE tuning is a more natural feeling progression than standard guitar tuning. But after pentatonic and blues/rock scales for so long, it’s taking time to get used to them.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

For playing fiddle tunes, not unnaturally, GDAE tuning is much easier than EADGBE tuning.
I’m just afraid that after spending so much time playing fiddle tunes on mandolin, I might still remember the pentatonic and blues/rock scales on guitar.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Thanks for the Johnny Doherty info, Gobby and GW. I’ve seen a portion of that documentary and I’m keen to watch the rest. There were a couple episodes of the Blarney Pilgrims podcast concerning Johnny’s nephew Mick, also a Donegal fiddler, and Mick’s student Rob Zielinski.

https://www.blarneypilgrims.com/episodes/p8lj0ikmvvgtl4inxzoqtvgw7s0lb6

https://www.blarneypilgrims.com/episodes/rob-zielinski-interview-fiddle

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Michael said:

"on the first-day auditions, Noel put me in his advanced class.

It was the most awful music-related week of my life. Probably the most transformational as well."

I can fully relate!

My first time to piping school, the night before the classes began the teachers all sat behind a long table and the students were brought in one at a time. When my turn in front of this inquisition came they said only two words: "play something" and I played the 9/8 jig Donald Willie And His Dog.

The next morning the placements were posted and I was in the top class.

It was two grueling weeks, being the worst player in the best class! But I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I had to work the hardest I’ve ever worked just to tread water.

Like Michael I had to re-learn much of my technique, because while my classmates had received top-notch instruction from a young age I had grown up in the sticks with no pipers around and was entirely self-taught.

Those two weeks were transformational!

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

For me on banjo, the most difficult period came about 3-4 years into playing, where I had already developed habits that I decided I needed to change. The first, and most painful change was to start picking jigs with a strict DUD DUD picking pattern. That one felt like it ruined my jig playing completely for a few months. But I couldn’t get away with just working on that during practice, and then playing jigs using my muscle memory when I was playing with other people, because the change never would have stuck. So I had to force myself to pick that way when I was playing. And having to consciously think about one aspect of your playing makes it feel like starting all over again. But eventually, it became natural to me, and then I never had to think about it again. And my jig playing got MUCH better when I went to that pattern.

A similar scenario happened about a year after that, when I decided to change my right hand. I used to play with my fingers splayed out, and rubbing on the banjo head. But I was working on making my motions more compact, and after looking at a lot of great banjo players, I decided that my fingers needed to be curled up into my palm. That change wasn’t nearly as disruptive as changing my picking pattern on jigs, but it was way more disruptive than it seems like it should have been! The good news is that it also helped my playing quite a bit, especially since I was working on upping my tempos at that point. With my fingers spread out, they would create momentum that I was constantly fighting against. Having them curled up made things more compact, and gave me some more ability to control the dynamics of my playing.

And finally, injury forced me to change my left hand positioning on the instrument (for the better) a few years after that. I used to have the neck firmly planted on the base knuckle of my left index finger. And I would pivot on that knuckle to reach up to the high B. But I ended up developing a painful bone spur on that knuckle from doing that. For almost a year, I played in a fingerless bicycle glove because it was so painful. But that ultimately helped be develop a much better left hand technique, which gave me more freedom of movement and allowed me to play better and faster without hurting myself…

So I think this is a great thread, and I hope people who are just starting out read it, because I could have saved myself some hassle by starting to play with those things in mind, instead of having to fight years of habit to change them!

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Similarly to the Reverend, my biggest proplem is to do with alternate picking. Specifically, having to play an up stroke on a lower string when my instinct is to hop over the course and play a downstroke. Does that make sense?
I am also forcing myself to play in higher positions, so as to try and avoid the daft slide/ jump thing to reach high ‘B’.
I’m too idle to practice these things properly though.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

On my first workshop for the box all the reels were in C or Dminor to accomodate B/C, G/C and C/F players. Just beginning on a C#/D box that was kind of mind boggling…

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

On flute, embouchure development and achieving good tone take forever. That’s just the way it is. Long, slow, intensive practice, but you can practice daily and put it on the back burner while learning tunes and articulation skills.

Somewhat disruptive were (1) changing flute hold to enable the Bb key, and (2) changing a couple of note fingerings. Both of these were like starting over, but I have to say that they were relatively easy because they are simply technical skills that improve with repetition.

The hardest thing? Octave jumps (down) and finding where to breathe - which was already mentioned.

I guess what I’ve noticed is technical skills are just time and materials. Tone quality and fine motor control in the lips are subtle, and they require specific attention and concentration.

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On banjo it’s been learning to use what guitarists call ‘economy picking’ to play in both directions e.g. not just DUDU but UDUD (e.g. after crossing to a lower string on a downbeat, to avoid a string hop) - this was a departure from what Enda Scahill’s books teach, but it is how Theresa O’Grady and many others play (and maybe Enda too at speed). Been well worth it though, a lot more relaxed on the right hand, less use of fingers and as a result much more consistency with triplets etc.

On fiddle every improvement feels difficult! Most productive though has been phases of being very strict about improving intonation, and getting a clean sound, with exercises, scales, routine etc.

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Concertina, converting to using the d, a, b, d’ and e’ on the g row left hand when I’m used to using them in middle c row on right hand.

Then trying to decide when it is actually better to use the way I’m used to. Nightmare!

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

As a pupil fiddler, the hardest thing is putting my fingers in the right place on my bow. I got into bad habits…

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

The most difficult thing for me was not quitting. I’m plagued by crushing self doubt, tend to become very frustrated too quickly and find it best to quit. I did not do this quickly with the GHB. I struggled a great deal at first as it was my first musical undertaking*. With persistence I was finally able to play in public without embarrassing myself or my bandmates. I played for perhaps 10 years. After considerable time off after heart surgery I found I just did not have the enthusiasm any more. I’m now dabbling with the whistle so still involved with Celtic music. The pipes were six years ago and at times I think I regret my decision to stop. It was one of the very few things I was marginally good at in a generally wasted life.

*There was a very miserable year with a trombone in 6th grade. After 45 years I’d still spit in the face of the music teacher. He turned me away form any musical pursuit for decades.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Sorry to hear about the bad 6th grade music teacher!

That’s a critical, formative period in young people’s lives and one bad teacher can do untold damage.

My son too began trombone in 6th grade, and continued to play until he went off to university. His teacher was super.

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Recognising that the music (or at least my own playing) doesn’t make me happy any more, and deciding as of now to knock it on the head.

Recorded ~1 hour per day since september last year, in the hope of making a CD for somebody. Nothing fancy - the benchmark was just a dozen sets with decent rhythm and feel.

Result: I almost succeeded in nailing a set once or twice only to bollix them up. I can play individual phrases with rhythm & maybe get thro a tune once or twice before i glitch, and the gaps between phrases just end up vanishing. I can hear myself doing it - the same thing over and again, with different sets of tunes - and it drives me mad.

Not a decent return for 20 years+ playing. I just don’t have a good ear.

I think i ought to have formally learned to ‘count’ the music, back when i was younger and starting out - been more methodical generally. i’ve ingrained doing it wrong, esp jigs, and i can’t stop now. I can be playing naturally and seeming well, then it’ll glitch.

Playing with other people, i am usually OK - protective camouflage. But i contribute nothing rhythmically. If there’s eg an ace guitarist or a strong fiddle player etc, i’ll lock into that, and play adequately (i guess?) But despite having the tune in my head, myself, i can’t do it.

(i don’t know why this happens: i don’t care any more. I’ve spent a vast amount of time learning an instrument learning a load of technique only to fail at the most fundamental hurdle of all that most players get past in the first couple of years.)

On the bright side, i’m going to be less skint, once i stop buying instruments, and when i sell my instruments.

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@ Richard Cook - At the time I was listening to a lot of Tull and the instrument I really wanted was a flute. Of course only sissies play the flute and as I was not athletic adding playing a flute was too much. The trombone was loud and aggressive like boys should be. The other part of this miserable musical experience was the abysmal failure of the father I had. I was forced to practice, often in tears, as kitchen timer ticked off a half hour.
This is not what making music should be like. 6th grade is what, 11 years old? I did not make another musical attempt till my early 30’s.

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I’ve been tormenting a fiddle for a few years, as a retirement activity, and although I have listened to Irish trad music on and off for more years, I am no musician. In fact I find editing ABC very easy compared to playing fiddle as an old guy.

Recently one trick I’ve told myself to do in pandemic lockdown mode is to chain a few jigs, or polkas, into ‘sets’ in easyABC with suitable attention to the pick-up notes, link bars, and keys. Then I play along with these in easyABC, sometimes in TradMusician and sometimes using headphones around my head roughly where my ears are located. This appears to me to improve my tempo and rhythm, sometimes easing the learning of fiddle techniques as a result, and by swapping the tunes about in the editor it seems to help me learn them on fiddle. I am not at all worried about being perfect but I’d like to be in tempo to play with already skilled family members.

There is probably a thread here discussing clever things about this rather basic idea of learning tunes by joining then playing along with sets of looped ABC tunes, but I haven’t found it.

Usually when I am doing something very obvious in life, other persons have done it better! So I wonder where I could read up more on this. Any suggestions?

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

@RJH: If you have even a minimal level of competence on fiddle, I’d recommend ditching the idea of playing along with EasyABC playback, and instead playing along with recordings of Irish traditional music played by live humans instead of robotic Midi playback. It’s easy to slow recorded tunes down to whatever level you’re at as a learner with various software programs. I use the free Audacity program, or you can slow YouTube videos down with the settings. You’ll get a better feel for the rhythms of the dance tunes that way.

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I’ll echo what jond said two days ago: relaxing the right hand. Initially it felt completely out of control but eventually resulted in better control, speed, and stamina.

The second thing was learning to relax every other muscle that was not needed for playing: shoulder muscles, biceps, triceps, first joint of the right thumb, diaphragm, lower jaw, forehead, gaze, etc. That took years. No way to get to that out-of-body stage with a body that’s wound up like a spring.

Finally, the hardest thing I NEVER did: I never learned to play left-handed. That is not meant as a joke: I’m left handed but I learned to play on borrowed and hand-me-down instruments, and all the other musical souls in my family were right handed.

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@RJH, I strongly agree with Conical Bore’s advice. I believe that playing along with midi’s could do you more harm than good. Midi’s only give a very robotic, rigid skeleton of the tune. Okay for reference maybe, but you don’t want to learn to fiddle like a robot. Do LOTS (and lots, - ad-nausium…) of listening to human recordings, and get the true music into your head.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I agree about MIDI files being not the best source for something to play along with. They tend to reinforce the idea that playing the right pitch at the right time is all that comprises music, which is an appealing arrangement of things for new players trying to fast track themselves into sessions.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

I do play with slowed down CDs, and YouTube. I play polkas and jigs now at normal ‘speeds’, but the steady even pace had still been a bit difficult for me long after I otherwise got to normal ‘speed’ with the fingers and bow.

Curiously it wasn’t helping very much to play ABC along with reels and so I don’t. I think your suggestions would go some way to explaining this lack of effect. I had found recording myself especially reels confirmed my kids’ advice - ‘dad you are slowing down or skimming over when you reach a hard part for you’.

But - it seems to help me overcome this erratic tempo/hesitancy quite a bit for jigs and polkas to ‘jiggle’ my small repertoire of memorized jigs and polkas around in ABC. I wonder if its just facilitating, excusing me to vary fingering, ornaments, articulations esp. across tunes, add lilt, crunchier rolls, sort of encouraging a continuous fresh sprinkling of sometimes wild attempts. And I can bully the ABC player, not like my kids, play on and still recover tempo, and now I have three or four ways to play it, and to carry on, somewhat regardless, some righter some wronger.

It feels it has helped my even-ness of pace in sets of those two tune types.

I was hoping there was a way to move this to other tune types! But I have learned here it is rather limited, alas. Possibly even OCD. And anything that makes me more stubborn is bad. I will go back to whisky.

Thanks for the advice. You wouldn’t want the likes of me in your sessions. Especially in a bar.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

By no means my man, I’ll play with anyone. The easiest thing to do to fix erratic temp is to play with a metronome. It’s painful, but we’ve all been there.

Best of luck to you,

Wes

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Recording myself playing and listening to it. Took me years to pluck up the courage do this as I usually play with others.

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I did the same Minji, and still do. It can be tough but it’s a great way to determine if you are sounding the way you want to. Keep it up.

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"the idea that playing the right pitch at the right time is all that comprises music…"

Sounds like my couple years doing LA session work fulltime.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

minijackpot: ‘Recording myself playing and listening to it. Took me years to pluck up the courage do this as I usually play with others.’

That was the other way around for me 🙂 Still, the hard part is knowing what to listen for in what you recorded, and even harder to listen for it while playing.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

For me, staying with a given genre. Far and away my biggest obstacle is having too many irons in the fire. Having gotten into trad Nor/Hardanger fiddle - I haven’t played standard fiddle in a year. And I’ve got this thing about jazz, flamenco, Brazilian, middle eastern maqam, balkan/gypsy, TCM, …

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

record myself, listen critically, and try to incorporate the necessary changes

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

From minijackpot: ‘Recording myself playing and listening to it. Took me years to pluck up the courage do this as I usually play with others.’
Then from shaketree: "That was the other way around for me"…..
This has made me remember something that I have recently found really difficult, i.e., playing with other people whatsoever! I don’t attend sessions and only ever play solo. Although I hate hearing recordings of my playing I force myself to endure them, and to be honest, I can tell enough from them to know that I can play pretty well and up to speed. My ornaments are good, as is my bowing, and I have played a few solo gigs in pubs etc. But recently I visited a fellow Session.org member who also plays fiddle (very well), and I just couldn’t even play properly. I became totally frozen. I knew the tunes and all, and could murder them back home, but I discovered that I couldn’t listen to his playing while I played myself. I was useless and highly embarrassed. I have since decided to stay in the security of my own space and not think of this as a problem I need to fix.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

I hate to state the obvious, Gobby, but surely one gets better at playing with other people by playing with other people.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Depends who the "people" are. Very much.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

True, Kenny, but I don’t think you can expect to play well with other musicians, of whatever standard, if you’ve never played with other people before.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Donald, Firstly, I suspect that my inability is only when I play a fellow fiddler, because I not long ago played with an accordion player and whistle player that I had never previously met, and I had no problems at all. It all flowed as if we had practiced together for ages and we pulled in an audience off the street. That last time, with a fellow fiddler, I couldn’t stop listening to what he was doing while I tried to play what would normally come almost automatically to me. I guess you are right that one would get better at playing with other people if one kept doing it, but as a recluse, that would be too big a step out of my comfort zone. This seemed like a problem to me when it happened, but now it’s not. As long as I have my fiddle and bow I’m happy.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

That’s probably the case. There may be more difficulty when two of the same instruments are playing together, occupying the same tonal ground - which is your instrument and which is not? There’s also perhaps more of a temptation to listen to the other player more than is necessary or desirable for playing along.

Anyway, very few of use have been able to play face to face, with the ability to hear each other simultaneously, recently, so it will be interesting (and, I hope, refreshing) when we’re able to get back to that.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

I’ve played with many musicians before Donald, but that was in a previous life in a rock band. I think the relevant thing to me, is that Welesy’s question was about difficult things we have had to do to improve our playing. My own conclusion is that this difficulty I recently became aware of WILL NOT improve my playing. As yet I have never played in an Irish session. I will keep my mind open and if I go to one I’ll take my fiddle. IT may well be the case that I just need other instrument types playing to distract me from other fiddles. Whatever… I love the music.

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Yes, I was aware of your musical background, Gobby, so knew that you would be no slouch.

Keep loving the music.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

"Anyway, very few of use have been able to play face to face, with the ability to hear each other simultaneously"…. Huh! That seems so obvious, yet SERIOUSLY, I hadn’t thought about it. Maybe as a long term recluse I’ve become a bit too self conscious. I was thinking it was just me!

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Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

"Anyway, very few if us have been able to play face to face, with the ability to hear each other simultaneously"…
14 years ago a friend invited me to join a choir, so I did. Amateur, but pretty good - soprano alto tenor bass, a good professional director. About 20 - 24 members. Some pieces easy enough, some quite difficult. I had a good classical piano education growing up, so I can sight read and I have a good ear, so I thought it would be pretty easy. In a choir it’s essential to "blend", to try so sing together as one unit. It took a couple of seasons before I could even hear past the guys on either side of me. It took about four years before I could hear the other sections of the choir and try to blend properly. It’s an acquired skill. You have to have enough confidence in your own abilities to relax and exist in the immediate moment. It feels wonderful when it’s happening. Giant endorphin release. Good musicians who play in good groups will tell you that when the audience is along for the ride, it’s the best feeling that there is.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

@Stephen Pierrot…this would earn a hearty thumbs up were such a button available. As it is, it has a hearty booknote!
This post summarizes what I lust after in a session.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

Many years ago, when women wore granny dresses and went barefoot and men wore bell bottom trousers and high heeled boots, I saw Stephan Grappelli and David Grisman when they were on tour together. The band laughed after every tune, like they were sharing a joke. Laughter is a release - they were having so much fun it was just spontaneous. I play mandolin and cittern in a quartet, mostly Celtic, and I truly hope that I can one day become that relaxed when performing.

Re: What’s the most difficult thing you have had to do to improve your playing?

"I saw Stephan Grappelli and David Grisman when they were on tour together. The band laughed after every tune." After seeing this comment about Grappelli & Grisman my mind instantly went to a bit by Jimmy Kimmel. It’s ^highly^ possible…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JhVvlQaG8c

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