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Musical milestones
Reporting on progress made at a recent local bluegrass jam.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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KindaScratchy
Massachusetts
December 22, 2014 - 9:11 pm
Member Since: March 14, 2012
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I'm happy to report that I achieved two musical milestones at a bluegrass slow jam that I attended yesterday afternoon. I brought both my fiddle and mandolin, but ended up playing mandolin the whole time because I was the only one with a mandolin and there were two other fiddles. But it really doesn't matter which instrument I was playing...this is about jamming and playing by ear.

Milestone #1: I led a song for the first time. At a bluegrass jam, that entails picking the song, starting it off, singingfacepalm, picking people to take breaks/solos, and determining when the song will end. The song I led was Little Cabin Home on the Hill. At first, my mind went blank and I could not think of the lyrics, even though I've been playing the song -- and singing along -- non-stop in the car for months now. Thankfully, a little side conversation started, which gave me a moment to think, and by the time it was done the lyrics had come back to me.

Milestone #2: I played a break/solo on a song I had never played before: My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains. This was huge for me because I have been struggling to develop my skills at playing by ear. Sheet music is rarely, if ever, used at a bluegrass jam, so it's essential to be able to play by ear. I left last month's slow jam feeling down because it seemed like everyone except me could pick up songs on the fly. I was familiar with this song but had only ever played chords on the mando, never the melody. Somehow, though, yesterday I was able to pick it out when my chance came for a break, even adding a few rudimentary embellishments.

I've been working hard at learning some of the old bluegrass standards, most of which have been played at the jams I've attended thus far. I think it's paid off, not just in terms of being able to play those particular songs, but also in getting a feel for the bluegrass genre and typical structure of bluegrass songs.

I'd love to hear about other folk's musical milestones achieved recently or during the past year.

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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mischa91
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December 22, 2014 - 10:10 pm
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No mile stones for me, just wanted to say congrats, it sounds like you did well and had an awesome time!  

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Tyberius
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December 22, 2014 - 10:59 pm
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Very nice and congrats! Anytime you meet a goal or milestone, it shows that all the hard work and dedication have paid off. It also tells us we need to have confidence in ourselves and not continue to reinforce negativity about ourselves. We are our own worst critics. Other people just love to hear the noises, and squeaks and even the occasionally right note we play .   Much deserving of this stepping stone to a better you.  

pink-violin-girlcheers

"I find your lack of Fiddle, disturbing" - Darth Vader

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Schaick
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December 25, 2014 - 8:59 am
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@KindaScratchy  WOW  That is great!!

My milestones this year sound similar to yours minus the singing.  

I have yet to sing solo bt will sing chorus when everyone is singing. Not only do I not know lyrics completely, but when I was in 6th grade we had to audition to be in the school choir.  WHY make a child audition and then not allow them to be in the choir?  WHY have I let it affect me so?

Anyway, I am going to start singing lessons!!!  I have a neighbor who has been music director for her church.

Merry Christmas to all!! 

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

Fiddler start date - May 2014

FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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BillyG
Far North-west Scotland
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December 25, 2014 - 1:12 pm
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@KindaScratchy - well done Diane !  Good stuff !

Well, you asked - milestones achieved - well I don't tend to set specific goals in concrete largely because I see them as "long term objectives" rather than "short-term-goals" - which if I fail to achieve - then it's "not an issue" and I'm not beating myself over the head about failing - and can continue to work on the so-many-other-aspects of fiddle technique.  There is ALWAYS something to learn.

What I have achieved, amongst other things are - better bow control, I do the "30 second test" from time to time - bow, slow, light pressure, and draw a sustained and steady note from an open (or stopped) string in one bow stroke....  that's an exercise I like and gets me "homed in" to the "limits" of what can be done with the bow, strings and rosin I have at the time without the note being held break into scratching, squeaking or whistling.  

At the other extreme, I have "hammered" the strings to within an inch of their life, super, super forte - as ffff as can be possible, with really short, sometimes lifted bow (I don't know the proper term - marcato - hmm no more like martelé I guess - no matter )

Anyway - long story short - I've achieved a pretty reasonable control of dynamic expression.   What else - intonation - significantly improved over the 9 months I've been playing.  Scales - in first position I am pretty much happy in any key ( what - you mean to say there are other keys to play in besides D, A and G  !!! LOL )

Goals ( open, of course ) for next year - (1) get my "shifting" sorted (right now I just "wing-it" because I know where the note I want will be and kind of go for it with the most appropriate finger LMAO - so I'm not really shifting properly yet.   (2) not desperately important - but try to improve my limited vibrato - it will "just happen" - I know that.....  (3) tackle some much faster jigs and reels (4) improve my sight reading, and finally, (5) to put some of my own "inventions" which I play by ear into sheet form and feel justified in obtaining my "composer" badge ! LOL

I think you've started a good thread here Diane - let's see what other folks have achieved, and what they aspire to in the coming year - share it with us !

Bill

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.  

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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KitsapFG
Poulsbo, Washington
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December 27, 2014 - 10:32 pm
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I am totally impressed @KindaScratchy !   That is a significant milestone and I would be popping some buttons/feeling pretty chuffed if I had done that.  :D

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
December 28, 2014 - 7:00 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

Schaick, that was super unfortunate. I never thought of that before. Hope you can get over it someday. :)
I'm also terrible at remembering lyrics.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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coolpinkone
California, the place of my heart
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December 29, 2014 - 3:53 pm
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@KindaScratchy wowsa..

I am so happy for your milestone!  It is good to see you doing this and just succeeding at every turn! Proud of you!!!! Congratulations.  "I knew her back when....." What a great way to end the year. MILESTONE INDEED!!!!!  

 

@Schaick  - We auditioned for Choir in elementary school one year but everyone made it in.  Our audition was with another person and it was basically to see if we were Alto or Soprano.  Stuff like that does stick with us for a long time.  I have a few little failures from childhood that haunt me as well.  Lucky for us we know have our violins and we are fierce!!! :) right.... "If I say it ... I will believe it..and I will be it.."  (I hope I hope I hope)

Happy New Year everyone... and a toast to all...
"Here is a wish that we all have milestones and much success musically and personally this year... "

Love Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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ptrckmcconn
Hillman, Michigan
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January 9, 2015 - 3:04 pm
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Glad to hear things have gone so well. I used to be afraid to sing in front of anyone -- it was years before my own family even heard me sing. I always sang by myself in the bedroom. I had not training and was too embarrassed. And I guess I believed I didn't sound all that good. Well, it's years later, and I still have not had formal training in anything but the cornet. I love bluegrass music, and when I retired at the age of 51, I met a guy who had lots of experience under his belt, particularly in bluegrass music. He introduced me to other musicians and we played a lot, public performances, fund raisers, etc. And of course, parking lot picking was a part of it. But in my case, most of my exposure ended up being on stage with a group of sympathetic, supportive musicians. I now think nothing of performing in front of others, whether it's for one other person, or on the radio or for a television broadcast. My point is, the more you expose yourself to the jams or playing on stage, the easier it gets.

I can sing bluegrass music, because you don't have to have formal training to do it. Oh, I'll never make it on American Idol, but then that's not my goal. My goal is to have a good time, and enjoy the music and the company of others who also love music. Be careful that your singing lessons don't leave you with the impression that there is some level of competency that you have to reach. Unless you are planning on being a professional, focus on enjoying what you do. Also, as for jamming, quite often players bring their song books. Nothing wrong with that if it can be done. I even have a little light with flexible ears (like two little bug LED lights), you can get them on eBay for 5 bucks, and they clip on to your song book or stand, so you can see the words at night. Play with others whenever you can, and enjoy the music.

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KindaScratchy
Massachusetts
January 12, 2015 - 9:09 pm
Member Since: March 14, 2012
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ptrckmcconn said
Glad to hear things have gone so well. I used to be afraid to sing in front of anyone -- it was years before my own family even heard me sing. I always sang by myself in the bedroom. I had not training and was too embarrassed. And I guess I believed I didn't sound all that good. Well, it's years later, and I still have not had formal training in anything but the cornet. I love bluegrass music, and when I retired at the age of 51, I met a guy who had lots of experience under his belt, particularly in bluegrass music. He introduced me to other musicians and we played a lot, public performances, fund raisers, etc. And of course, parking lot picking was a part of it. But in my case, most of my exposure ended up being on stage with a group of sympathetic, supportive musicians. I now think nothing of performing in front of others, whether it's for one other person, or on the radio or for a television broadcast. My point is, the more you expose yourself to the jams or playing on stage, the easier it gets.

I can sing bluegrass music, because you don't have to have formal training to do it. Oh, I'll never make it on American Idol, but then that's not my goal. My goal is to have a good time, and enjoy the music and the company of others who also love music. Be careful that your singing lessons don't leave you with the impression that there is some level of competency that you have to reach. Unless you are planning on being a professional, focus on enjoying what you do. Also, as for jamming, quite often players bring their song books. Nothing wrong with that if it can be done. I even have a little light with flexible ears (like two little bug LED lights), you can get them on eBay for 5 bucks, and they clip on to your song book or stand, so you can see the words at night. Play with others whenever you can, and enjoy the music.

I'm really enjoying learning bluegrass music. Before I started focusing on it, I didn't realize that most bluegrass music was sung; I always thought it was mostly instrumental.

Fortunately, bluegrass songs seem to be very forgiving for people (like me) who might not have a well-trained singing voice. Guess it's because of the genre's folk/country roots; it's OK if one is a little scratchy.

My singing is like my fiddle playing...I have good days and I have bad days. Nonetheless, I've always enjoyed singing and playing my guitar, mostly by myself, but when I was a kid I played and sang sitting around campfires with friends and in church.

The folks at the bluegrass slow jams that I've been attending are very supportive, so it's not too threatening to sing in front of them. It's a blast playing and singing with others...just wish it could be more often.

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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