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Thread: Is fiddle tunes the only way to learn?

  1. #26
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is fiddle tunes the only way to learn?

    I often play with a friend in his 80's whose family has been well known for three generations for its dedication to keeping the flame well lit for traditional music from many cultures. The one thing he taught me about fiddle tunes, is that when you sincerely focus on playing them well enough to share with others, you step into the flow of a historical continuum which goes back hundreds of years. This tradition of dipping into a very deep musical well makes me feel I'm doing something beyond myself. These days, I try to instill that same sense of continuum with the young people I play with.

    When i started playing fiddle tunes for contra dance, I knew immediately I had to reinvent my own commitment to mandolin. I learned how to play much more cleanly and at a sometimes incomprehensible speed I had formerly associated only with bluegrass. Today, I noticed on the Cafe an old post by John McGann about learning how to move your fingers (both left hand and right) to minimize energy depletion and play every note cleanly. This advice is critical if your bag is fiddle tunes.

    At any dance I perform, I'm playing in at least 4 different time signatures, using 5 different scales in several different keys. Perhaps the most challenging (and the most satisfying) aspect is playing melody and harmony at the same time, which is what double stops achieve. My point here is not that the necessary skill level surpasses jazz or blues or bluegrass, but that a mastery of fiddle tunes takes at least the same amount of mandolin savvy.

    Grub Springs, Fanny Powers Waltz, and Minnie Foster's Hornpipe couldn't be any more different in style, mood, and technique. Learning well, and playing creatively, just these three fiddle tunes out of thousands, necessitates mastering most every mandolin technique there is. Or listen to Swinging on a Gate (below) to comprehend that some of these songs are as strong on melody as any jazz standard, and are long overdue for creative playing as well as deconstruction.
    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Godin A8
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern

  2. #27
    Registered User doc holiday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is fiddle tunes the only way to learn?

    Just a few random & chaotic thoughts about learning the mandolin. My first instrument was the piano....taught to me formally. I played for years through exercises & scales & etudes & preludes & getting my knuckles rapped with a ruler. While learning, I never thought about playing with others. I endured both Montreal & Toronto conservatory exams. Hated it. But in retrospect, I learned so much about music & music theory. When I picked up the guitar at 15, I developed my ear playing along with rock & roll on the radio, then the blues, sneaking in to see Muddy Waters in the 'wrong side of town'.....both underage & the wrong skin color... When I came to bluegrass & then the mandolin all those lessons came to good use. I think, the mandolin like the fiddle is a melodic instrument. Sam Bush is the exceptional rhythm machine. But the mandolin sings playing melodies....not just chopping or strumming chords. Bill Monroe is a deep deep well. You need to commit to learning it all....single line melodies, double stops, Sam-like rhythms....it is a life long journey....
    Accept it

  3. #28
    Registered User Miss Grimke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is fiddle tunes the only way to learn?

    Sam Bush has a version of Old Joe Clark with great new words that tell an updated story.

  4. #29
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is fiddle tunes the only way to learn?

    Quote Originally Posted by doc holiday View Post
    You need to commit to learning it all....single line melodies, double stops, Sam-like rhythms....it is a life long journey....
    Accept it
    Doc you nailed it.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
    We cannot put off living until we are ready. -- Jose Ortega Y Gasset

    The entire staff
    funny....

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