Huzzah!

May. 19th, 2009 11:21 pm
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
At Irish session at the Shanachie tonight, I actually knew all but two of the tunes! Or, rather, I knew most of them, and managed to figure out all but two of the rest by the time we finished playing them.

AND I managed to get everyone playing Arthur Darley's Swedish Jig. Next step: crooked Canadian tunes.

Today gets counted as a success, despite the fact that I didn't accomplish much else.
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
But it's filled with lawn care equipment, so there's not a ton of space. And the kitchen has better acoustics.

So, in an effort to actually improve my playing, I bought a Griffin iTalk thingie that records stuff to my iPod. I can now tape myself practicing, then find all sorts of things I'm doing incorrectly. Discoveries so far:

1. I play way too fast. Like, 40+ BPM over what I hear on most recordings, to say nothing of dance tempos. This obviously causes all sorts of problems, but creates answers as well. For example, most of the times that I'm having difficulty playing something, and am feeling completely hopeless and incompetent, it's because I'm trying to play the damned tune at one-and-a-half times the speed it really needs to be played. I knew I had a tendency to speed up while playing, but I didn't realize it was this severe. The flip side of this, of course, is that if I learn everything really fast, I'll have all sorts of time to do weird stuff with tunes when actually playing for dancers, since I'll feel like I'm playing in molasses.

2. My ornamental triplets (or trebles, shivers, whatever the hell you call them) always occur at the same speed, regardless of how fast I'm actually playing the piece. I'm unsure whether this is supposed to be the case or not.

3. On a similar note (pun intended), I can't pick out bowed triplets I've played on the A or E strings. I'm not sure why -- I can hear those that I play on G or D strings. And I'm not doing anything differently when I play them. Two possibilities: one, the recorder is relatively crappy; it's entirely possible it just can't pick up the breaks if the note is above a certain pitch. Two, it's the strings; I'm trying out Evah Pirazzis with a Goldbrokat E, to see if they're as good as everyone raves about (conclusions so far: I really like their sound, but I'm torn between them and my usual beloved D'arddario Helicores, which have a lower tension and cost $40 less per set). I wonder if the Evah A simply produces fuzzier triplets than other strings.

4. I'm excessively fond of tunes in A minor or D minor. This isn't a bad thing, but I should try to expand my horizons a bit. Also, all of my current noodling seems to eventually turn into Paddy on the Turnpike. This isn't a bad thing, either.
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
If you are playing a fast, note-y reel set for a dance (in this case, General Stewart's Reel), and you know that the dancers are doing The Montgomerie's Rant next, do not, under any circumstances, proceed to annihilate the first set of tunes.

Because if you do, you will f-ing DIE during Montgomerie's.

Ow.

(this is obviously more relevant if you're the only melody player, but still...)

Dedication

Sep. 10th, 2008 02:10 pm
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
I don't think I've ever spent 2 hours solely dedicated to playing one tune over and over again. Until now.

But oh man, learning Jean's Reel solely from recordings was worth it. The largest issue was that nobody seems to play it quite the same way.

Grah

Jul. 18th, 2008 03:54 pm
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
*insert profanity here*

I swear, I'm going to get this damned saltando bowing in "The Banks", even if I have to sell my soul to do it. Or something.
sylvansafekeepe: (Default)
So, I had this dream that we (where "we" means all of the usual suspects) were having a random Scottish/Irish/Contra music jam. Also, it was being held in my parents' greenhouse, which makes no sense at all, but hey, it's a dream and my subconscious can do whatever it wants.

At some point, [profile] playfulfordian started into a tune that I'd never heard before. I thought it was really catchy and managed to pick it up fairly quickly, so once we were done playing, I asked her for its name. And I got a really weird/amused look in response, as she told me that I wrote it.

And then I woke up, which could've been annoying, except that my subconscious mind still retained the damned tune, along with fingerings. So I've spent the next hour or so frantically searching for paper and pen (and then, when the pen ran out of ink [dammit!!], a pencil [which was unsharpened, so I had to sharpen it with my pocketknife]) and then desperately writing down the whole tune while it simultaneously tried to flee from my mind.

I think I succeeded in getting most of it down the way it was in the dream. Now I just need to wait until actual morning to try playing it, since I don't think my housemates/neighbors would be appreciative of my getting out the violin at 5:30 AM. Preliminary plucking of strings seems positive, though. My greatest fear at this point is that I've managed to remember some tune that I heard once a while back, instead of coming up with something of my own. The B part of what I've written, in particular, sounds sort of like something Hanneke Cassel/Halali would play.

The whole experience has been rather surreal. Now I'm going back to sleep for another 2 hours, until I actually have to wake up.

Ear Bugs

Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:06 am
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
Dammit. Donnelly's Reel is fiendishly catchy, especially the first 8 bars of the B part. Now it's going to be stuck in my head all day until I get home and have the chance to actually play it.

Why yes, I recently purchased a new CD. How'd you guess? In this case, Liz Doherty's Last Orders. (I really should have bought it ages ago, but I never got around to it, especially since I already owned a couple of the tracks. This tune happened to be on one of the tracks I didn't have.)

This would be substantially easier to deal with if I had started listening at, say, 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and not when I came in to work. Or if I had brought my violin with me (and found a quiet spot somewhere during lunch break or something).

Argh. Why is it that the times I want to play music the most are the ones when I don't have my violin with me?

*grumble, grumble*
sylvansafekeepe: (Marcus)
...could you possibly find a way that isn't quite so uncomfortable? (yes, I'm reverting to B5 quotes for some of my post titles)

BiCo Scottish class tonight was...interesting. We didn't have a teacher, so it was decided that class would consist of students nominating the dances they wanted to do, as long as they could remind everyone of how it went. This was a fine theory in practice, but then they all started choosing reels. Fast, driving reels. We managed to do Montgomerie's Rant, De'il Among the Tailors, Reel of the 51st Division, Highlandman Kissed His Mother, and Flowers of Edinburgh, plus a bunch that I don't remember right offhand. With a constant 10x through, due to number of couples.

Aside from one lonely strathspey, we played nothing but reels for two hours. I played melody for every single iteration, and I felt sort of obligated to play louder than Andy in an effort to ensure that the melody would be in tune (or, by the end of the night, at least closer to in tune). I also developed a tendency to be way too gung-ho about playing stuff at the edge of what I was capable of. Also, choosing tunes I'd never played before. And starting tunes faster than was wise.

This whole thing might have been a grevious mistake, but I at least learned something from the experience. I now have a much better idea of exactly where my limits are in terms of endurance. By the end of the last dance (De'il Among the Tailors, featuring a set of De'il/The Scholar/The Ale is Dear/High Road to Linton), I could actually physically tell that I wouldn't be capable of playing another dance without a substantial break. Not only was my form shot to hell, but I was actually at the point where I wasn't capable of bowing in anything resembling a recognizable pattern, probably because I could barely grip the bow. My entire right forearm was rather displeased with me.

So yeah, interesting and informative experience, and was probably something that I needed to do some day, but I'm probably not trying it again.
sylvansafekeepe: (EvilFrog)
So, there's this random set of French Canadian tunes that I have a couple different versions of at this point. The set consists of La Belle Catherine/Step a-Ti Phonse/Reel a Toto.

I have randomly stumbled across a recording from Alasdair Fraser's 2005 Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle School. Of a couple dozen fiddlers doing this set at once. It's a concert rehearsal before the final day or something.

http://www.valleyofthemoon.org/tunes_2005/rehearsal/14%20La%20Belle%20Catherine%20set.MP3

I can't put my finger on why I find this so funny, but I think it's hilarious. Maybe I've just gotten so used to Scottish fiddle (or any other variety, really) being something that's played in small groups, not on the concert stage. Maybe it's that they're being forced to use a friggin' bass drum or something for rhythm to be loud enough. Maybe it's because this recording somehow bridges the gap between my former life as a classical orchestral musician and my new life as a fiddler and I'm forced to laugh at the uncomfortableness.

Regardless, I am very amused. Even if no one else likely will be.

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