Monday, April 9, 2007

Fiddling goals

I have been attending fiddle sessions sporadically for the past three years, and not making much progress. I became discouraged because I couldn't play fast enough, and my memory of the tunes faded in a group setting, largely because I don't practice fiddle consistently enough.

I recently switched to cello in the fiddle group. As the only cellist, I add something more to the group than being the worst violinist. I have learned a handful of tunes on the cello, but it is even harder to play them fast enough on the cello. I bought several books on playing cello accompaniment for fiddle, but have really not had time to study them.

My strategy at the moment is to play the tunes I know, when they come around (at Friday night's session, the ones I knew on cello were Angelina Baker, Mari's Wedding, and Ashokan Farewell), and just play "notes that sound good" (hopefully in the proper key), until I can learn proper accompaniment methods. I play pizzicato for variety, and when I am really not sure what I am doing. The other players are wonderfully supportive.

The group includes fiddle, mandolin, guitar, tin whistle, dobro, washtub bass, bodhran, and, of course, cello. The bass player and I talked. He is self-taught, and also trying to figure out how to accompany, so my plunge-right-in method is not crazy, or at least not unique.

I love the idea of fiddling, the spontaneity, the lack of sheet music, the shared common knowledge of the music. I also like that the fiddlers perform frequently. I love performing (why, I don't know, as I am not the world's greatest musician), especially outside, and the fiddlers have numerous outdoor performances planned for the summer. Sometimes I play the concerts with them, but more often not. I decided to join them for a bluegrass festival on June 9. That gives me two months to learn a few more tunes and get a better handle on the theory of accompaniment and try to hear chord changes.

So, my cello fiddling goals for the next 2 months:
  • Go to at least 2 fiddle sessions a month (I have been attending only one).
  • Practice fiddle tunes as part of regular practice (not just the day before fiddle session).
  • Practice reading from treble clef and transposing an octave down mentally, to avoid having to transpose tunes on paper, just to memorize them. I can read treble clef because I play the flute, but I have to really concentrate in order read treble clef while playing cello an octave lower. I want the low sound, not the thumb position sound.
  • Study the cello fiddle accompaniment books that I have (the best one, I think, is by Renata Bratt).
  • Learn a few more tunes in Abby Newton's book, Crossing to Scotland, even if they are not in the fiddlers' current repertoire. I love this book, and the group is usually happy to learn new tunes.

2 comments:

Gottagopractice said...

That sounds like fun. And learning "trouble" clef well will also bear fruit in all of that lovely Dvorak chamber music.

Maricello said...

Thanks for mentioning that! I hadn't thought of that. It will give me more motivation to work on this, knowing I can use this skill with Dvorak.