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I've had a pretty complex relationship with music over the years... ought to write about that sometime. Anyways: I listen to a lot of it, in genres like "rock" and "pop" and "folk", and play some of it, primarily in the genres "old-time" and "classical".
The unfamiliar world instruments story continues... For my birthday last week, Ellen and Sylvia gave me a dilruba, northern Indian fiddle with a neck similar to a sitar's neck (although the sound is pretty different from a sitar's).
An unusual thing about this instrument: Its bowl body is carved from a block of wood, not separate ribs bent and glued together. It is pretty heavy, but easy to hold since it rests on the floor. The bow ("gaz") is horsehair strung on bamboo, much tighter than the hair on a violin bow and without the mechanics -- the frog is just a piece of wood attached to the bow with twine, and does not tighten/loosen. The gaz is light as a feather and balanced perfectly. Bowing technique is very key; it is easy to just produce a dissonant scratching/buzzing tone if you are not holding the gaz just right. (Holding it right so the note rings, there is still a scratch/buzz element to the sound, but it does not overwhelm.)
The dilruba ("दिलरुबा" in Hindi means "heart-stealer") has in common with the erhu, that there is no fingerboard; strings are stopped with just the finger rather than pressed between the finger and something solid. Although the frets are exactly like a sitar's frets, you don't press the string against the fret. I've found the clearest and truest tone comes from fingering the side of the string -- this way you can touch the fret to keep your finger accurately positioned, and can stop the string without bending it.
Check it out. Here are a couple of recordings I've done in the past few weeks, 3 songs and a couple of Hobo Nickel plugs -- Electric Ragtime!
Syncopations are no indication of
light or trashy music, and to shy
bricks at "hateful ragtime" no longer
passes for musical culture. To
assist amateurs in in giving the
"Joplin Rags" that weird and
intoxicating effect intended by the
composer is the object of this
It is a mistake when finger picking to hold your right wrist in place relative to the strings. When you do that -- I have even gone as far as to hold my forearm against the face of the guitar to anchor my wrist -- all of the force for your fingers and thumb striking the strings will come from the muscles of your palm and fingers. If instead you incorporate motion of your wrist and forearm, you will bring the muscles of your arm into play -- and simultaneously bring into play the mass of your hand and wrist, increasing the momentum of the picking digit. All this translates into speed and power. The trade-off at first is your playing can get sloppy, you will need time to adjust and relearn the muscle memory of the strings' positions. But that does come with time.