Wednesday, January 5th, 2005
I am taking up the violin again, after about 20 years of not playing at all. I had been thinking about it for a while; while we were in California at Thanksgiving I asked my mother how much she thought a lower-end playable violin would cost. Turns out, free! Mom replied that my sister Blythe had my grandfather's violin (the one I played as a kid) but was not playing it; and Blythe agreed to pass it on to me. A few months gone by, and now I have it! (Miriam brought it with her when she came back from visiting the family for Christmas.) The bows need new hair -- I am giving them tonight to John Aniano (friend from CJWA and from the Woodcentral message boards) to be repaired. But even in the current state, I played it some last night and the tone was very nice indeed -- and my fingers seem to remember their positions pretty well, 20 years later.
(By a funny coincidence, Bob got loaned a violin a few weeks ago and he is trying to learn to play too. This should open up some nice new territory for jamming.)
Friday, January 7th, 2005
John finished repairing the bows and I picked them up from him at lunchtime. Very nice -- but unfortunately the man he works for, Yung Chin, took one look at the crack in the violin's body and said I should not be playing it -- that tension from being in tune will destroy the instrument. So... I gave a call to Richard Gagliardi to find out how much it would cost to fix such a crack. His low-end estimate was $2000, which is not going to happen.
A bit dejected, I surfed over to E-Bay to find out how much entry-level violins are running -- turns out they are quite cheap. So, I bought a new instrument for $51. This should keep me happy for a while.
Sunday, January 9th, 2005
Jammed with Bob today while a sick Janis moaned in the next room. My fiddle is still in the shop but I was playing Bob's violin on a lot of songs, and switching off with him between violin and guitar, a lot of fun -- I'm definitely picking it back up very quickly, I was getting how to do double-stops and open string drones, even very haltingly up in second position on the E string. This is going to be a great thing. I ordered Alan Kaufman's Beginning Old-Time Fiddle from ALibris for book-learning, and John Salyers' "Home Recordings 1941-42" from The Appalachian Center, for ear training.
Wednesday, January 12th, 2005
My last two posts don't really make sense together, I just realized, without a key bit of information which I omitted -- on Saturday I took the cracked violin to Millburn Music Center, where the repairman quoted me a considerably lower price, $75, for a simple glue-up -- Gagliardi's estimate was for a full repair which would involve taking the violin apart and putting a patch on the inside. So that is what I meant by "my fiddle is still in the shop"; I did not go crazy and send it out for the full repair.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2006
I have been playing my fiddle increasingly often over the past year, hardly playing guitar at all any more. Today I am going to take my first ever lesson in traditional fiddle playing from Kenny Kosek. Looking forward to it.
Friday, January 27th, 2006
Last night I read music! I bought a book of tunes from Amazon, and when I sat down and looked at it, I surprised myself greatly by being able to translate the notes on the page into sounds. The tune was a simple jig called "Bundle and Go" -- it helped greatly that almost every note in the song had the same time value, and that most of the intervals were thirds.
More music reading tonight -- I learned the A part of "A Wink of Her Eye" and all of "The Cork Road". Both songs are very slightly more complex than "Bundle and Go" (Which I played for Ellen and Sylvia to dance to before dinner). Learning jigs is bringing back a bunch of musical memories -- "A Wink of Her Eye" brought to mind a similar tune (which I don't know the name of), which I was able to play straight off note for note.
Also I found the Fiddler's Companion, which has many traditional tunes written out in ABC notation, which I can download shareware to convert to musical notation and to audio files.
Saturday, January 28th, 2006
Pressing ahead with the music-reading -- today I played a couple of the jigs I had been playing yesterday, and learned two new reels -- "Judy's Reel" and "Paddy Handley's Goose". The latter is the first song I have been able to play from memory after reading from sheet music.
Monday, January 30th, 2006
ABC Notation is described over here, it's an ASCII system of musical notation. Shareware products are available for translating ABC to standard musical notation and to audio files; of these I have tried abc2ps, abc2win, and ABCEdit. I couldn't get the first two to work properly but ABCEdit is awesome. Very basic user interface but powerful enough to do everything I want it to; I can cut-and-paste from ABC notation on the web and see and hear the music right away.
Thursday, February second, 2006
Last night I had a second fiddle lesson, this one was with Lisa Gutkin. Good time -- Lisa is very free and easy with the positive reinforcement which I sse as a critical element of lessons that I am taking. We worked on "May the Circle be Unbroken" primarily, and she showed me how I can work on my hand and wrist position holding the bow in order to sweeten my tone. I will be back for more.
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