Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm learning to play the fiddle

I've been trying to learn to play the fiddle. It's been a long, slow, sporadic adventure.

I bought a fiddle and starting attending the adult education fiddle class about 12-15 years ago, but I didn't keep up with it because I had to sneak out from work to attend the classes and then leave early from the class. Eventually, I didn't go back to the classes.

Not long ago, I was playing my flute in the Irish session when someone suggested I come to the old-time jam in the park. So I started attending that with a dulcimer. The dulcimer was too quiet. I could not hear if I was playing anything right, so I started bringing a mandolin. I remembered the fingering from trying to learn fiddle long ago and the mandolin has such a sweet sound even the wrong notes don't sound bad.

I wasn't particularly drawn to the music, but I liked it because it seemed easy to learn by ear. It turned out to be great ear training that has helped me be able to learn to play Irish flute by ear. Being freed from sheet music, whatever tenuous hold I ever had on it, is great. It makes music so much easier to learn and more fun.

In addition to finding the jam to be a great way to help me learn Irish music, it was simply a good time spent with really nice people. They have the jam every week, so I kept coming back. They also get hired to play paid and unpaid gigs once in a while, so I attend those when I can and sometimes earn my dinner or a little cash.

Attending the jam each week, I muddled along with the mandolin, learning the tunes on the fly by ear. I never could remember any of them when I got home, so I started taking the adult education fiddle class again so maybe I could learn the tunes. I had given up on the fiddle all those years ago. It's not easy to play, but I had to bring it to the class or look like a wuss even though all I really wanted was to hear the tunes slowed down enough to get all the notes.

Through the class, I learned a few of the tunes but the class was canceled this year. I have been bringing the fiddle to the old-time jam and trying not to play too loudly that I cause others pain. The teacher from the adult education fiddle class attends the jam and she tries to help me a little here and there, but it's hard to learn the tunes on the fly on such a relatively difficult instrument. I keep bringing the fiddle because the teacher is there at the jam and I don't want to disappoint her. But I also keep bringing the fiddle because it's starting to grow on me. I am starting to enjoy it more and dare I say it, sometimes I even think it's starting to sound a little like music.

One of my friends at the old-time jam pointed me to a great web site with lots of tunes called Mossy Roof. It's like having brought a recording device to the jam and bringing it home to practice and learn. I can play the tunes back as slow as I want with Quicktime and learn them. Today I learned Grasshopper Sitting on a Sweetpotato Vine.

My arm is killing me now. I have to put the fiddle down for a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment