If you are interested in learning to play the fiddle yourself, you might want to go back and read my earlier posts on this – the Fiddle FAQ and The Lighter Side of Learning to Play the Fiddle – #2. They explain some of the stuff I wish I’d known before I embarrassed myself…
Well folks – it’s now been almost 9 months since I started to learn to play the fiddle, so if you’ve been following this thread you must be wondering how it’s coming. Have I rosined the bow again yet? Can I find F# on the D string yet? Did I give it up and use the fiddle for firewood?
Well – I must admit I’m a bit embarrassed. That’s nothing new, everything about learning to play the fiddle has been somewhat humiliating. But I’ve been kind of discouraged at times, too. You see, I really thought I’d be a bit further along by now. I kind of expected I’d be playing Turkey in the Straw and Orange Blossom Special by now. I mean really – how hard can it be? This guy hasn’t even learned to hold the bow properly yet and he’s doing it! This gal can even dance around the stage while she plays the Orange Blossom Special!
I thought that, by now, I would be wowing my friends and family with jeels and rigs – oh wait, isn’t that reels and jigs? Anyway, whatever. I knew it would be slow going, but heck, this has been unfolding on geological times scales. I am sure the continents drifted faster than I’m learning here.
Now to be fair, I have come a long way since my last post. Holding the bow? Not a problem. Piece of cake – well at least that’s what I thought until I saw Danny Boy, the grand champion there – wow! If I had seen THAT last summer I wouldn’t have had quite so many sleepless nights worrying about it! Tightening the bow? Not a problem. The tip about the pencil turns out to be right on – another good one I heard recently was to never have more space between the hair and the stick than the diameter of the stick itself – which incidentally is about the diameter of a pencil! I just love that kind of conceptual symmetry.
And what about rosin – did my gummed up bow indeed last until Christmas? Oh ya, in fact it made it through January and most of February, too! I did add a bit occasionally and, as before, hated myself for it. I only just realized – duh – that I am wearing it out more quickly near the centre of the bow compared to the ends (should I be admitting that?) So lately, I’ve just been adding a bit in the middle 1/3 or so and that seems to be working well.
I have managed to learn a few dozen simple songs, and I do know my notes – mostly. At least I can tell when I am ‘off’ – that’s encouraging – and I am getting pretty good at reading music, as long as I don’t have to go too fast. But, until yesterday, I have to admit, I was really feeling a bit defeated by the whole project. After all, I am in my 50’s – I would like to be able to play it – for real, I mean – before I die of old age. But yesterday, everything changed. Yesterday my fiddle instructor started teaching me to play by ear. Wow – I learned a new song in 20 minutes. It was probably the most exciting part of the whole learning process so far. So maybe I have progressed more than I realize. Maybe it’s just such a gradual evolution that I don’t realize I am actually progressing. All I know is that I can’t wait to pick up the fiddle and play again – it’s renewed my interest and enthusiasm. In fact, I am actually starting to believe that I might be good enough to go to fiddle camp this summer as a ‘beginner’!
If you’re learning the fiddle as a child, young adult or middle-ager, I’d be interested to hear about your experiences – please use the comment feature to let me know. After all –
misery does love company it would be nice to compare notes. In the meantime – if you are looking for some good resource material – check out these web sites – they have some great sheet music and CDs for beginners – I have found them a huge help and a lot of fun!
Prairie Mountain Fiddlers – free sheet music for beginners – lots of great tunes!
The Fiddle Club Collections (beginner, intermediate and advanced books and accompanying CDs)
Cross Canada Fiddle tunes (beginner, intermediate and advanced books and accompanying CDs)