Fiddle practice needs to be fun and interesting for me. If it isn’t, I find it difficult put my heart, soul and concentration into it, and that means a disappointing or poor practice session.
Yesterday, I decided to practice earlier in the afternoon so I’d be sure to get my full practice time in. I just seem to have too many days where my practice seems to get pushed to the end of the daily list. I know you know what that is like!
As is my usual routine, I started off making sure my fiddle was in tune…just a few minor adjustments. I started my scales. I always like to play scales because each day I change things around using a lot of different rhythms, patterns and variations, so my scale practice is different everyday. Even something as simple as practicing my scales with drones adds interest.
After scales, I moved onto playing a few of the simple tunes I have already learned. I also like doing this because I see the progress in playing these whether I am just remembering them better or they are sounding better week by week.
When the time came to work on the tune I am currently learning, I felt resistance within myself. I have to say, beginner tunes like When the Saints Go Marching In, Freres Jacques, Camptown Races, London Bridge, Row Row Row Your Boat, and I can go on if you’d like, just aren’t keeping my interest anymore, and it is with this portion of my practice that I am getting board.
If you’ve been following my blog, you have noticed I haven’t posted a new tune in My Progress in a while. It’s not because I am not learning new tunes. It may be that I feel funny as a 63 year old posting childrens’ nursery rhyme tunes, or maybe because I’m really beginning to find them boring. At least Ode to Joy (with my awful attempt at the G#), while a beginner’s song, wasn’t a nursery rhyme!
So, I put my fiddle down, sat back, and started to think of what do I want to do now? I remembered a few days ago, I had printed some patriotic tunes from String Club. I went through them, and decided I wanted to learn the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Once again, if you have been following my blog, you know I like Old Time, but I am beginning to like early American fiddle tunes even more. Just look at some of my Fiddle Music Reviews, and that will tell you the avenue I am going down. Could I do it? Was I up to it? What the heck!
I took the sheet music and slowly began figuring out the notes, since I don’t read music, and transcribed them into tab notation. Since like everyone else, I already know the tune by heart, I relied more on my fiddle to sound out each note and phrase of the tune. It took me quite a while, over an hour, but when I was finished, I had the entire song written out in tab notation, maybe not what would be considered proper tab notation, but one that worked for me. I also was quite surprised, despite mistakes, at how well I was playing the song. I think really concentrating and sounding out each note, then phrase helped the learning curve.
An aside…My office is my practice room, and since I use Fiddlehed so much for my lessons, I use my pc during my practice sessions. I don’t like using my iPhone or tablet since the screens are smaller and the volumes not loud enough.
I got the idea to scan the tab notation I just wrote out. This way when I am practicing the song, instead of a piece of paper on my desk, forcing me to look down (I don’t have a music stand), I can look up at the screen in a more fitting violin-playing posture.
I played through the song several times and was quite pleased. Before I knew it, it was time to start fixing dinner. Where did the afternoon go!
No, this is not me. It is the Ken Burns arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic that was used for his mini-series, The Civil War. This stirring anthem was written during the American Civil War by Julia Ward Howe, a leader in women’s rights and an ardent foe of slavery. Julia toured a Union Army Camp in Virginia and heard soldiers singing this tune. The music was rousing, but the words needed improvement. Julia’s pastor, who accompanied her, asked her to consider writing new and better verses. That night, after the Howes retired to their room at the Willard Hotel, the words came to her, and that’s the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say!.
I will need to work on the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but this will be a song I’ll be happy to record and post when I feel comfortable playing it. I may even use my Zoom Q2N Video Recorder that I bought a month ago and haven’t even tried yet. We’ll see; that will be another hurdle to get over – video recording myself and posting it.
My whole point to this post is if we want to learn how to play the fiddle, it has to be fun and interesting. If it isn’t, practice will suffer in quality, duration and frequency until we find ourselves not playing the fiddle, for most of us adult learners, a dream we have long harbored.
Find yourself less than enthusiastic with your fiddle practices? Come up with your own ways to keep them fresh, interesting and fun!
How do you do this? I’d love to hear your ideas. Thanks!