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I'm not always doing it, just used to refer to the 1700s calendar whenever it has to do with 1700s issues. And playing the violin definitely is one of those things in my life. I've been dating that way since 1699, so that was actually 1999. Which was sort of fun, but it became very serious and extremely in-depth.
My Pre-Violinistic History in Jazz
Musically, my journey started in 1975, when I bumped into a dixieland jazz program on the radio, which gave me the jazz bug. Two years later I started on piano in New Orleans style jazz bands and another two years later on trombone. Two more years later I had gigs and made some money. 1989 was probably the peak of my career, as singing and tap dancing swing trombonist. I remember weekends, when we perfromed Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We were semi-professionals, but I felt like I was going to be a professional. But in 1990 the band project ended and after that I was not so lucky anymore.
How I Found the Violin as My Personal Instrument
My high school gave me a letter, with offer to learn the violin for free, when I was 13, and my parents where like, "You're certainly gonna do that." I was a big Handel fan at that time and loved string sections, but solo violins kind of gave me a head-ache. That's why I ended up with trombone. When I started with improvising baroque in 1999 (1699), I used the alto recorder of my childhood before my trombone era. Edition Peters' MusicPartner play-along CDs are meant to play with Edition Peters' sheet music, but I was used to jazz play-alongs and improvising like Mr. Handel my goal. In jazz you have to listen in order to be able to improvise—listening experience is important for improvisation. So I bought a lot of CDs with solo sonatas, mostly for alto recorder, but also for oboe and violin. And here I also learned, that I loved violins, if not played classically, but in ancient style and with not so much vibrato. I never knew that I kinda had developed violin-vibratophobia in my childhood. To the infantile me it was total overdo and not to bear. Well, in ancient music I suddenly regretted not to have learned to play the violin. And when another jazz project didn't work out as I had hoped, I went to buy a violin on May 2nd 2015/1715.
How I Tried to Learn on the Violin What I had Taught Myself on Other Instruments Before
I knew exactly how to musically train myself. But I had to learn, violin is a very special instrument, with very special difficulties. Starting cold with riding on Handel-, Bach-, Telemann-, Corelli- and Mancini-play-alongs was impossible. Way too difficult. So I created my own very simple play-alongs with harpsichord sounds of my electronic keyboard since early May 2015. In July I was lucky enough to find an affordable used spinet on Ebay and bought it. I certainly had to requill it myself, but it was worth it, because this spinet sound pushed me ahead on recorder and a little already on the violin. Improvising over Pachelbel's Canon in D, transposed to C, worked better and better on the violin—La Folia, my favorite, was too difficult for months to come. Teaching myself how to improvise on trombone and recorder had been easy, now I got into serious self-doubts. After using a cheap student bow, I decided to make my own 1600s style clip-in bow. It is extremely light-weight and I'm still using it.
In late August I had my first performance in an open stage project. I'm a member of that club, so the people there know me very well. That evening I played, sang and danced (I choreograph my own baroque dance stuff) La Folia, Canon in C and a theme from Handel's H minor organ concerto. Alto recorder was the mainstay of course, on violin I improvised a little during the Canon. Finally I was not very happy with my violin results.
After my open stage debut, I tried to push my violin skills with very slow jazz play-alongs from Jamey Aebersold. It turned out to be a way to go, so I was profiting quite a bit until October. When it was time to prepare for the open stage in late October, I realized, riding over La Folia was now possible. I stole the Passacaille from Lully's Opera Armide, also a part of the attached tenor air, transposed it to mezzo soprano and added my own short choreography. Riding on Passacaille d'Armide worked like a dream. This pattern grooves a lot and makes it pure fun (my guitar player, I found months later, says so too). My October performance worked out pretty well, all my self-doubts were gone.
In November 2015 I tried to profit more from jazz play-alongs, but didn't like it anymore. So I tried to start with Edition Peters MusicPartner play-alongs, which still was way too difficult. In the December open stage I played and sang old Advent and Christmas corals, with lots of improvisation, which went out so-so. My February open stage was a fiasco: I hated my improvisation over another ciacona, because there were phrases in it, which kinda sounded jazzy. In La Folia I messed up in the dance part and got so mad at myself, that to following recorder improvisation turned out to be kinda the best I had ever played on recorder. It had been the emotion of hating my own stupidity as a dancer, which had pushed me into that very special solo. After that I had to go on with a violin improvisation, but unfortunately was scared. I did not know what to play after the recorder solo. It was like another person had just blown me off the stage with a professional chorus to embarrass me. So, the way I finished La Folia on the violin was very-very depressing. It was all lame and dull. That was an all-black February open stage, I couldn't forget its disgrace and pain for weeks. Looking back, quite funny.
March turned out fairly lucky. I had met a guitar playing girl on the February open stage and now we met at times to jam with La Folia, Canon in C etc./etc. Also, it began to be possible to ride over MusicPartner CDs. From that day on, I was sort of personally pushed by the gentlemen Handel, Telemann, Bach and Mancini. These Edition Peters play-alongs pushed me into much faster progress. The following open stage was in May, which went out okay (I did Handel's famous Sarabande and my own Composition in which I sing about my relationship with Handel). There I was asked by board members of our club, to do a concert in December 2016. Currently I'm preparing a list with titles to play in December. Still I'm progressing much faster then last year. The MusicPartner CDs are still pushing me very fast. Yesterday I tried to play the melody of Handel's final Menuet of his Royal Fireworks Suite. I have lyrics for it, which I had written and performed in 2005, when I sang it in an old palace. It is very new now, that I'm able to play that Menuet theme—it's obvious, the improvisation routine gives me the fluency to play themes like that of the cuff by ear. Yesterday I cut the tip of my index finger with a box knife. First I thought it was my personal calamity, but it actually helps me! I had been pressing down the strings with too much force in 2015 and was able to reduce that. But know I'm forced to to it very gently, to not start another bleeding. I can still play and I learn to move my fingers in a much more relaxed way. Lucky accident.
Considering, how long I struggled, until it was possible to use baroque MusicPartner play-alongs, I still must say: violin is a very difficult instrument. I'm happy to share that experience here and stress, "It's worth to not give up that tough fight and if you feel like depressed it's probably normal!" It seems, the violin is a very jealous instrument and before she allows you to be happy with her, she wants proof that you really love her deep enough. In the coming days and weeks I will see, what sound and video examples to add after this way too long story. Shorter wasn't possible. Before I can post those examples, there must be the complete story, otherwise it's gonna be a mess.
The headline of this topic is obviously WRONG. I certainly started on the violin in early May 1715/2015.
The date reference is an ironic hint at the fact, that I'm deeper into that time than just playing the music. It would go to far to issue that here, because it really goes crazy deep. It simply is a spiritual home to me. Some people told me, it would seem creepy and sort of look like parapsychology, but it's really very far going into sources. So if I do a show, I'm supposed to let the audience experience a time travel. The violin will surely be my main instrument and the better I play, the more she will be central. Yes, I love very much to play ancient style violin. Right now I mainly listen to 1600s Italian sonatas for violin and basso continuo, which is within the musical direction, Handel, Bach and Telemann absorbed too at young age.
I just cover and arrange the pieces as I am used to from jazz, figuring out chords from CDs. Most of the work lies ahead, but I have lots of time to prepare my concert and test things in open stages in August and October. I have a binder full of chords of ancient pieces. If someone is interested, I can present some in another topic...
Pieces like La Folia show, that Baroque can't entirely be seen divided from Renaissance, sinces they have such a long history. In the French Movie about Marin Marais is a chanson (I think this also historically should be the fitting term) which indeed came from Renaissance but remained popular in the 1600s. I get goose pimples, not knowing whether to cry or laugh, whenever I hear those girls sing this "Une jeune fillette": This timeless beauty will most certainly be in my December concert.
Thanks for the links. I like church music too, but people think too much of church music when it comes to baroque music. Most hymns from the 1500s and 1600s are hard to notate in modern chord symbols and if one tries it, it's not really helpful, because the old system with figures would be clearer. But many pieces of secular baroque music can very well be written by naming the chords like in jazz--Heinichen partly did it too in his 1711 book about learning General bass. I strongly feel like sharing that, because it empowers guitar players etc. to try that repertoire. This especially goes for the Chaconne/Ciacona/Passacaille type of tunes, which can be seen as ancient groovy chord loops. It happens too often, that people are kind of frightened if I talk about my music: "Oh, that must bee extremely difficult--you're kind of a Bach!" I then explain, what we call baroque music today, was actually folk music for educated townspeople and courtiers--folk music in a neater style. They had a good time and relaxed with that kind of music.
So here comes the chronological history of me trying Cavalli's ciacona (chaconne) for the dancing bear in his opera LA CALISTO. It begins in early May 2015, the day after starting on the violin. First I played the background via harpsichord sound of an electronic keyboard, then in late July I bought a used spinet which sounds much better. The Cavalli series ends with a recording I made with a guitar player in early April 2016. Finally I added my violin solo from Lully's Passacaille d'Armide. It is all improvisation.
After that I was advanced enough to manage improvising with Edition Peters' MusicPartner play-alongs. There's some library in the Netherlands where they have them on their website: https://www.muziekweb.nl/Link/ELX0779/Edition-Peters-Corelli-Violinsonaten-Bd-1
The MusicPartner play-alongs pushed me into a much faster progress, but I never present the results online because of the copyright risk. Soon I will have to work with own play-alongs I make with my spinet, to prepare for the open stage in late August. I will load the results up here then--there should be quite a difference compared to what I posted now....
So, that's how I train myself on the violin, by improvising almost only. In the 1600s and early 1700s they improvised a lot and when I read about it, I wanted to try it. Which I did on recorder before beginning to play the violin last May.
The chords I played and gave to the guitar player are:
| C | G | a |G4/G|
Thanks, I find my first steps quite cute now. But I forgot the chords for Passacaille d'Armide:
| d | C | B♭| A |
I'm preparing a special on this Passacaille and a Ciacona of the Austrian composer Biber, who used the same chord pattern 6 years before Lully. I will make a new recording with my violin and compare that to professional interprets on YouTube. For that I will go to the baroque thread Fidderman has presented. That's gonna be very interesting to me as well....
This morning I was reviewing my chronology and wondering. It says in my above video I was using my real spinet, but in fact it's still the harpsichord sound of my electronical keyboard. So I was obviously using the old keyboard recording because I hadn't recorded Cavalli's ciacona on my spinet yet which was very new in early August 2015.
So I was searching the desktop of my labtop and found the recording I played on my spinet. I made it in February 2016.
Here are the chords again:
| C | G | Am|G4/G|
(You can certainly skip the G4 chord on keyboard, guitar or whatever, which is the quart instead of the third within the normal G major chord. It just sounds better to me if there's some more variation. But the fourth bar could as well be just G major.)
Maybe someone on the www wants to use this as play-along. Everybody is invited, just have fun. 😉
Text on YouTube und this video: Just a play-along I played on my spinet to play violin or recorder with it, now shared with the public. Spinet is not my main instrument but I like to play it a lot since I have the real one and not have to use harpsichord sounds of electronic keyboards. Sounds better and feels much better and actually improved my keyboard style.
I just found a 'mistake' in my above writing of chords. It's not wrong, but there are several ways to write down chord symbols. One of them is to write minor chords just lower case, which is what I always do.
a = Am = A minor chord
Actually, I was planing to NOT write "a", because you have to explain to people, it means A minor. But I'm copying these things from the binder on my spinet and there it's always "a". It makes the whole chord sheet clearer. But here I want to write Am because most people are used to it.
I just corrected this in my Cavalli chords and now I add Lully's Passacaille d'Armide:
| Dm| C | B♭| A |
So "d" meant just Dm, which is a D minor chord. Normally I even don't write B♭, because in Germany it's just B and the English B is H in Germany. So in case I will make a mistake someday and write H, it means B in England and US. But I will probably see the mistake and correct it right away. 😉
I am impressed!
You and I have been in a sort of discord, and you are terribly : terribly musically gifted.
"Cute" is the word to describe your playing right now. I mean you are certainly new to the violin but with that said, your confidence and conpetence in creating music is off the charts. What I heard in the video is a cohesive tale in marcatto.
Anybody with even the slightest bit of musical passion would know that you are a trained musician even when you're playing the violin. And that is a solid foundation!
Call it life experience. I got the jazz bug in the 70s, when I was 15 and felt just as I feel today: I wanted to understand jazz completely. In those early days I went to libraries to read as many books about jazz as possible. In those books it said again and again like: "A jazz musician needs listening experience and it's important to listen to as many records and concerts as possible, for our style is the sum and result of what we have listened to in our lives." Once a week there was a NDR Radio Program, called Classic Jazz Museum and the host was Hans Herder. Every week he featured just one giant of the 20s, 30s, or 40s for one hour. After a couple years I had hundreds of Music Cassetts full with the music he played in that show, which was what I studied by listening over and over again.
In the neigborhood of our German town were U.S. Armed Forces, so we also had an A.F.N. station and every Sunday after church there was the Big Band Coundown. This progam taught me a lot about the 30s, 40s, and 50s—jazz, but also commercial sweet and dance music. The great ballads of jazz came from that commercial music and voices like Frank Sinatra started in Sweet Music. I studied the difficult chords of those great ballads already as a teenager—what was not to find among notes in the music library I figured out at the piano while listening to my cassetts. It was not so much notes I was after, I wanted the chords! There are more than one ways to harmonize a melody at the piano and what I figured out wasn't necessarily the best way. So it's always advisable to study sheets and learn more interesting ways to harmonize tunes.
We had probably more American soldiers than German citizens in our town. And we had several American jazz clubs. Those clubs later gave me a lot of gigs with my jazz bands. I slowly grew into the part of a performer, also singer and tap dancer and finally our swing combo was also requested by public radio and private parties of their show stars.
In the late 90s I came back home to my childhood love Handel. Again I read as many books as possible about "Barockmusik", as Germans say. One day I found an author who truly went in-depth, who stated: "Baroque Music" has also been improvised music and they improvised a lot in the 1600s and early 1700s. From that day on in 1999 I was ready, willing and able to go the same exciting way like 25 years ago in jazz. I bought hundreds of CDs with authentically, historically performed recordings from the global ancient music community. I even read composing Authors like Johann Mattheson, who was born 1681 and Handels friend in Hamburg, via reprint books. And again I was figuring things out—this time at keyboards with harpichords sounds.
The small sonata session, with just solo instrument plus basso continuo, is the jazz combo of the years when Handel was young and learning music. I had to make the same experience as Handel went through. That means, not just listening to Bach, Handel and Telemann, but mainly to those Italian giants they had listened too. Some of them performed in the Holy Roman Empire, but most was sold as sheets and then performed by German bands. But sheets were not just musical notes. They pretty much had the same roles as modern CDs. And playing those media was like playing from the Real Books of those days. Notes were mostly lead melody plus bass line and above the bass line were chords. A lot was left to the ability of musicians to improvise. In our days they make full scores out of that, like in 'classical music', and there's not much left to variation. So how can I learn the 'jazz' of those days? Very easy: I listen to soloistic sonatas like to jazz improvisation—I consider each phrase a suggestion how to improve my personal style.
The cuteness of my first trials on the violin probably is like listening to a musically experimenting child which must be incredibly talented. But after all this child is way over 50 and it's all musical life experience. And I always hope, young folks also use the potentials of having lots of time to learn and make as many experiences as possible. Music will never be born out of ourselves, it comes from our fellow human. If we grew up in China, we would make Chines music for that's what you hear there. But of course you can always drive and control that learning process by choosing the media. It has also to do with trust. If I trust the intelectual power of humanity, I know that the global community of ancient music has the potential to find the original style. They are all making experiences together and study sources, constantly influencing each other, so after all it's like countless little creeks joining together in a big stream. And I have the incredible chance to unchain myself from the music stand for sheet slaves and dive into that stream to go back to the time of even the decades before Bach, Handel and Telemann.
You make me want to buy a recorder [dieses instrument] ... Something to practice on while I am at home.
The one I posted yesterday was a tenor recorder. I started on soprano recorder when I was a small child, like many kids. Later I got an alto recorder for Christmas. Fortunately, my father was pretty conservative in things recorders and insisted on the ancient (also called baroque) French fingering system and not the younger German system. By the way, people back then considered the recorder the instrument of LOVE—kind of like we listen to a smooth, sexy saxophone. Who would see a recorder in the category of sexy instruments these days? But I do consider it while playing even soprano recorder. People today find its sound terribly piecing, but if you play it right it can sound like the sweetest love—like elves bathing in honey and singing stuff that bewitches the innocent ancient hunter. LOL
When I started my experimenting with improvised baroque music, I first used the trombone, my former jazz instrument. But I was not happy with that choice, because it was not a typical Handel instrument. I knew, the trombone was very common in early baroque in the 1600s, but that was not what I aimed at. But as I bought more and more CDs with authentic baroque music, I learned that recorders were very popular in the early 1700s. I just paid my parental home a visit and found my childhood alto recorder. I put my "Handel - Concerti Grossi" CDs into my CD player and tried to improvise. Which kinda became an addiction at that time, because it was listening to my favorite music and playing along—so actually greater fun than just listening.
If somebody would ask me to teach, I would always confront the beginner with recorder and chords on a keyboard. Recorders have very low technical barriers when you do the first steps in C major. If you play recorder at advanced level, it certainly becomes technically tricky, but this level is increasing slowly and fluently. If I listen to the final phrase of yesterday's recording, it is to hear, it was the first day I involved the high D on the E string. Until that day the high C had been my limit. Sliding up to the D should be no bending over backwards, but in fact it confused and spoiled the last few bars completely. Violin is a very difficult instrument and I'm glad I started on recorder. Of course I will completely learn to manage the violin, it just takes more time. But confronting a complete beginner in things making music with improvisation on a difficult instrument like violin? No way.
Humph, fairly long opus again. Very difficult to me to write short texts.
Yesterday somebody said, my 'musical science' would seem sort of difficult. I have been pondering that question for hours.
Let's say, I want to learn rock music:
- I would go to Wikipedia and study the history of rock music.
- Then I would go to a library to get books on rock, books with notes and CDs.
- I would understand, there's mainly American and British rock music, read books about the giants of rock etc. ...
Let's say, I want to start with baroque music at this moment:
- I would go to Wikipedia and study the history of baroque music.
- Then I would go to a library to get books on baroque, books with notes and CDs.
- I would understand, there's mainly Italian and French baroque music, read books about the giants of baroque (Handel, Bach, Telemann, Corelli, Lully.....) etc. ...
There is no difference. In Germany it's even crazier, because the German vocabulary for baroque is Barock. So I can even involve the little pun (BA)ROCK music. But if I went into the matter of rock music, I would go just as in-depth as I did here. I have to go deep, otherwise wouldn't be satisfied. If there wasn't the option to deeply study things in life, I'd be absolutely miserable.
Today I rehearsed a new tune the first time. I'm not done with it, still have to add in some variation to the melody of the vocal part. .......
Right before I start the recorder solo I end my vocal part with a word that sounds like 'by' (which is the German "bei" with about same meaning). On that little word I end with a vibrato, which is stylistically very WRONG. I've been singing stuff like Gershwin, Porter, Kern etc. for a long time and habits from those years easily come back. If I would just sing and somebody else play the recorder solo, there would be no vibrato, because I would carefully watch and control my final note. But while reaching for the recorder, old singing habits tend to instinctively come back. Someday I will start to practice that strictly keeping the vocal style while changing instruments, but right now I still have to focus on violin. I'm also watching my recorder vibrato while playing, because CDs with recorder sonatas I bought in the very first years where not ones with historical performance practice.
Fairly practical that I cannot do vibrato on the violin yet. 😉
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