Sunday, February 7th, 2010
This weekend I started working on a couple of new songs, some solo fiddle tunes and a blues tune I could play with John.
I thought I would explore the latter half of the alphabet in my music book a little; paging through the R's I found "The Road to Lisdoonvarna" -- well! I've been to Lisdoonvarna -- on a bike trip in western Ireland, with Ellen about 13 years ago -- and remember it fondly, and I have a shortage of jigs in my repertoire; so I thought I'd give it a try. Looked it up on YouTube to get an idea what it sounds like, and I found Ryan and Brennish Thompson playing it along with two other Dorian tunes:
I like all of these songs and have set myself the task of learning them -- they're coming along pretty well, I think. "Lisdoonvarna" and "Swallowtail" are jigs -- i.e. fast tunes in 6/8 time -- and "Drowsy Maggie" is a reel, in 4/4.
Another song I took a look at last night, which I think will be great to play with John, is "If the River Was Whiskey", Charlie Poole's version of "Hesitation Blues." Here are The Dough Rollers playing it:or you can listen to Poole at
lala.com. It's a great fiddle part, a lot of fun, and it'll sound great with John's guitar.
Monday, February 15th, 2010
Something I really enjoy with learning traditional fiddle tunes, is figuring out which ones of them go together and creating medleys. Usually the impetus for this to happen comes when I'm playing one song and accidentally fall into a different tune, then I work out how I can make that transition happen on purpose. Here are two medleys I've been working on a lot recently: "The Road to Lisdoonvarna"/"Drowsy Maggie" (a little interesting because the two songs, while in the same key, have markedly different rhythm), and "The Red-Haired Boy"/"Bill Cheetham" (which seem like they might as well be actually the same song, they have so much in common).
Thursday, March 4th, 2010
Mixed results at the open mic today -- I played two songs, first one was very successful, the second was a mess. I felt pretty upset and brought down about the second one and as I was mulling it over I came to realize that having a solid bowing pattern is a really important part of knowing a song...
The successful song, my "Road to Lisdoonvarna"/"Drowsy Maggie" medley, when I was practicing it this afternoon I hit on a bowing pattern that I could stick with and that really drives the song along -- the rhythmic motion of my arm complements the tapping of my foot. I have always had a pretty clear sense of where I'm going with this song but the bowing just wrapped everything up very nicely. With the other song contrariwise, "Irish Washerwoman"/"The Swallowtail Jig", while I know the song very well, I can never seem to decide just what I should be doing with my bow. And it shows -- sometimes I will practice the song and have it sound great, other times not so much.
While I was mulling I got a little distracted from listening to people's performances, and my eyes were wandering among the shop's wares -- I was really taken by the minor variations in shape between every pair of violins on the shelf there -- in length, width, depth of body, proportion of the length given over to the "C" in the middle of the body, how concave the "C" is and how prominently its top and bottom jut out... One violin there has completely smooth sides, an hourglass figure, which I've never seen before. I fantasized about playing some of the more unusual specimens, and my attention slowly came back to the music.
Saturday, March 6th, 2010
Here are some tapes from today's practice -- I'm trying to really hold my focus in the song and pay attention to what I'm doing, and I think it's coming through a bit. At the end of "Bill Cheetham" I lose it. "The Road to Lisdoonvarna" I think is currently my very favorite song.
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