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Fiddling for Older Folks
Am I too old to learn the fiddle?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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MoonShadows
Stroudsburg, PA
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January 31, 2019 - 11:39 am
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If you haven't read my New Member introduction, I am a complete newbie. In fact my first fiddle won't arrive from Fiddlerman until this coming Monday, January 3rd, but that doesn't mean I haven't wanted to play the fiddle for years like many of you; I just never acted upon it until recently.

I like creating websites. I help others and maintain one for my home business at https://moonshadowsfarm.com (pardon the blatant self promotion wink)

I just started a Blog entitled: Fiddling for Older Folks (https://fiddlingforolderfolks.com/).

My purpose is threefold:

  • To serve as a chronicle of my experience, chart my progress, and have a receptacle of knowledge that I can easily refer back to when needed.
  • To act as another source of motivation. If I am going to make this chronicle public, I can’t slack off in this venture.
  • To act as an inspiration and source of information for other “older folks” with the same dream…learning how to play the fiddle.

Hopefully, with work, both my fiddle experience and my blog will grow with time.

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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January 31, 2019 - 12:00 pm
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Nice looking blog, Jim @MoonShadows 

If you take to violin the way you've started your blogging adventure (in style) you're in for a good time! 🙂

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MoonShadows
Stroudsburg, PA
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January 31, 2019 - 4:21 pm
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Thanks @bocaholly. I appreciate the kind words.

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
February 1, 2019 - 1:19 am
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Great idea and good start there Jim @MoonShadows 

Looking forward to the story of your journey as it evolves 🙂

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

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

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MoonShadows
Stroudsburg, PA
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February 1, 2019 - 3:39 am
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Well, thank you very much @BillyG. I just posted a new entry about the two online courses I am looking at right now.

https://fiddlingforolderfolks......le-course/

(sorry...had an old link up there earlier before I changed the URL structure on the blog)

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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mookje
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February 1, 2019 - 9:13 am
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Nice blog and I’m looking forward to your journey! 

 Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain!!

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MoonShadows
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February 1, 2019 - 10:00 am
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Thanks for the kind words, @Mookie. 

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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MoonShadows
Stroudsburg, PA
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February 2, 2019 - 5:40 pm
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Two new entries in my blog since my last post here.

Old Time Fiddle - https://fiddlingforolderfolks......me-fiddle/

My Fiddlerman Fiddle Arrives - https://fiddlingforolderfolks......e-arrives/

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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mookje
The Netherlands
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February 3, 2019 - 2:06 am
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Nice items in your blog and great that your fiddle already arrived, looks beautiful. . Congrats and lots of fun 🎻

 Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain!!

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MoonShadows
Stroudsburg, PA
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February 3, 2019 - 7:55 am
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Thanks @mookje. So far, I've only been holding it and the bow to get used to the feel. I haven't even put the bow to the strings, yet.

I just put up a new post in my blog: Playing with Fat Fingers - https://fiddlingforolderfolks......t-fingers/

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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February 3, 2019 - 8:12 am
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ha, ha, nicely written "Fat Fingers" blog. You're in good company with Itzhak Perlman 🙂

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MoonShadows
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February 6, 2019 - 6:06 am
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Thanks @bocaholly I should have titled it "Fat Fingers Blues"!

I added a new blog post today about bowing mechanics. There is so much information about how to hold the bow, where to play the bow, bow pressure, bow sections, etc., but not a lot on good bowing mechanics...shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist movements, so I found some very good information and a video that are helping me.

Playing One String at a Time

Would appreciate feedback from anyone with thoughts about these mechanics if you have time. Thanks.

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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DennisS
Long Valley, NJ/Hobe Sound, FL
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The only comment that I would make is that while the upper arm may act as an "elevator" to change the bow angle, it is important not to actually raise/lift the shoulder joint up.  One (like me) has a tendency to do this.  Raising up the shoulder adds tension to the whole arm.  That tension is transferred down the arm to the bow, affecting the sound, sometimes causing the dreaded "bow bounce."  

My teacher encouraged me to do an exercise to relax the shoulder.  Drop the bow arm, with bow in hand, and swing it back and forth keeping the shoulder relaxed.  After doing this a bit, after a forward swing, just drop the bow onto the violin.  The whole idea is to put weight on the bow, without "pressure."  Weight results in gravity acting on your "relaxed" arm.  Pressure is a result of muscle contraction (tension).

To complete this picture, the bow hold also needs to be relaxed, thumb curved inward, not outward (i.e., no "banana thumb").  When my teacher was finally happy with my bow hold, you could literally knock the bow from my hand with a light touch.

I nearly lost patience with my instructor over his focus on this, but Ido think that it really helped the sound coming from my violin.

Dennis

If I don't have time for a short post, I'll write a long post - (adapted from Mark Twain)

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MoonShadows
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February 6, 2019 - 8:16 am
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@DennisS  When you say, "it is important not to actually raise/lift the shoulder joint up", do you mean not to elevate the shoulder like the gesture someone would make when they say "I don't know" and their shoulder's rise up?

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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bocaholly
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February 6, 2019 - 8:27 am
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Hey, Jim, thanks for the Alison link... I especially like the reminders about "the elbow as an elevator" and not shoving the bow around from the shoulder/upper arm. 

She says "practice"... which reminds me she means "practice correctly". I think I'll offer myself a little session in front of a mirror today to see if my shoulder and upper arm are behaving 🙂

I'm not so crazy about two things in the video which occur around 11 minutes in where she says that the wrist should always be higher than the bow. When she shows the difference in bow hold between wrist above and wrist below what I see is:
- With wrist above (which she recommends) her pinky in straight and tense.
- With wrist below, her pinky is curved (which is my understanding of a generally desirable thing.)

Go figure. Maybe this is a debate about the pros and cons of Russian vs: Franco/German or Belgian bow holds? Smarter folks that me will hopefully be able to clarify. Obviously us beginners have bigger fish to fry... and we keep hearing on this forum that "if it works, do it"... especially with bow holds.

Still, I think that:
- a curved pinky offers potentially better bow balance control, especially at the frog.
- a constantly high wrist would inhibit (at least me) from trying to develop that coveted wrist flexibility à la "paintbrush" motion.

Here's Eddy Chen's (in serious mode) tutorial on bowing. I think his bowing is inspiring... and his wrist is definitely not always above the bow.
Eddy Chen on bowing technique

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DennisS
Long Valley, NJ/Hobe Sound, FL
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February 6, 2019 - 8:42 am
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MoonShadows said
@DennisS  When you say, "it is important not to actually raise/lift the shoulder joint up", do you mean not to elevate the shoulder like the gesture someone would make when they say "I don't know" and their shoulder's rise up?  

Jim - Yes, that's exactly what I mean.  I have a tendency to do that, with unpleasant results.  Keeping the tension out of the bowing arm, at least for me, takes some mental discipline, especially when trying to learn new pieces where my focus is on sight reading, or other distractions.  (My practice session while half listening to the State-of-the-Union speech last night is a good example).

Best to practice bowing mechanics with something that you have memorized and are comfortable with.

Dennis

If I don't have time for a short post, I'll write a long post - (adapted from Mark Twain)

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Gordon Shumway
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"Relax" is the most important word you will ever hear from a teacher.

To tense up is bad for your music and it's bad for your physiology.

It's the same whether it's the piano or it's the violin.

Both of your shoulders and your neck should be relaxed, otherwise you'll end up in physiotherapy. Right shoulder low and relaxed, right elbow and wrist a fluid system. 

Deliberate tension is a technique that is only used for short bursts of specific material. On the piano a sequence of rapid loud chords is only achieved by clenching all the muscles in your forearms and hands very tight. Then when it's over, you relax again.

So I am approaching so-called arm vibrato with great caution and cynicism - anything that causes a rigid arm and wrist for more than a short time is guaranteed to be bad for you. Left forearm and wrist are also a fluid system. That's my theory, but I'm only a beginner, so shoot me down if you like!

Andrew

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cid
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February 6, 2019 - 9:11 am
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Personally, in my lower than amateur status, from what I have noticed in myself and from the varying instructions for how you are absolutely positively to hold the bow, there is no absolutely positive way to hold a bow. Hands, arms, wrists, joints, and muscles and muscle control are different in everyone. Now, a purist classical violinist probably just had a heart attack, so call the medics! It was a joke, no insult meant. It was based on comments in other forums and videos. That precision would be so nice to have.

Seriously, I do believe that there is the typical hold you start with, that with the perfect body agility you can probably do, but beyond that, it is modified to suit your needs. I do some of what is preached, but I would have to give up my violin, viola, and probably cello, if I had to do it the perfect way. Would probably be in traction.

What I am saying is, sure watch the videos, read what people post about hold. Try it. Adjust it as needed to get the movements that are needed for your level now, and what you will need to do with advanced bowing. What works for you to be able to have smooth crossings, accurate placement, dynamics, etc. Pay attention to how your joints move compared to what is being mentioned as needed in the videos and PDF files you find. Work with what you have available within you. Why take a chance on injuring yourself to make a joint go in the purist violinist form? 

If there was only one exact way that you absolutely have to hold a bow and bow your instrument, why are there so many variations in these videos and PDF’s, be they slight variations or large variations? Why are some of those variations being used by top notch violinist? I watch and read about some, and read some of their remarks about the mechanics, but I do not remember their names or associate any one professional with any specific comment or form, so, unfortunately, I cannot give an example. But, many have adaptedd the perfect form to fit their physical needs or the type of performing they do, and for some reason, if they are the very successful classical violinists, it is accepted, but for the non-classical, not as well-known, etc, it is frowned upon. Don’t let that deter you from doing what you need to do. Enjoy your instrument and do what suits your needs physically and musically, to get the job done.

For my own sanity, I have had to stop watching videos on bowing and stop reading about bowing. That messed me up a little while ago and not going to happen again. Yesterday, that relaxing of bow attention (had some attention, but just to make sure what I was doing worked) helped and my playing was so much better. I believe it was my source of the awful grainy sound I was getting with a lot of the notes. Tenseness and stress.

I hope this makes sense. I am always told I have a different way of looking at things, and that is definitely true, and sometimes it makes it hard to explain what I am trying to say, hense the long posts. Life is interesting! 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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MoonShadows
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February 6, 2019 - 10:02 am
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Holly... I was also thinking of placing a mirror where I have started to practice to get visual feedback. I've read several times, that this is a good practice as a beginner if you don't have someone there to give you visual feedback. I actually found the high(er) wrist (not quite as high as hers) a bit easier to stay on track. My wrist was definitely too low and my should was moving around too much. Since I have been more conscious of both of these, I'm (getting) better at staying on the same string. I'm sure this will be difficult as I learn the "next step" until I can do both at the same time, and so on. Did someone say apply left hand?

Alison has a series of 20 lessons. I've watched a few so far, and I think she has a good way of getting things across. Here is her YouTube Channel with the lessons: https://www.youtube.com/channe.....9Vqvp99npQ

Dennis... Yes, I tried lifting my shoulder up, instead of using the shoulder joint, and immediately felt the tension transfer into my upper arm. Now, whether I can keep from doing that will be another story.

Gordon...At this early stage, I find I only stay relaxed for a short time, but I guess that will come with time if I keep practicing the proper moves, keep reminding myself to relax, and my muscles begin to learn these moves unconsciously.

Cid...I understand what you mean about "absolutely positively". There are the "ideals" and that would be fine if we all had the same bodies, but look at any professional. I think of baseball and all the batting and pitching styles of the greats. No two were alike. The used the basic moves, and adapted them. Also, I think when you are explaining something s-l-o-w-l-y, the motions tend to be exaggerated and a little too perfect. I was watching Allison play a piece, and Adam Hurt, after watching some of their lessons. I did not see either of them hold the form they were teaching for the entire piece.

Perhaps their is no ideal way, unless someone is a violin teacher or professional violinist, then their way is the right way. You made a lot of sense to me. I guess right now, I am trying to learn the "correct" mechanics, since I know ziltch, nada, nothing about mechanics, but I am sure I will adapt, both consciously and unconsciously, to what works for me and is comfortable for me as I move on.

Good conversation, folks!

Jim

Fiddling for Older Folks - Adventures in Learning to Play the Fiddle as an Adult

The Friends of the Sons of Liberty - Three Inspiring Young Men playing Early American Fiddle Music 

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cid
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@Moonshadd “At this early stage, I find I only stay relaxed for a short time, but I guess that will come with time if I keep practicing the proper moves, keep reminding myself to relax, and my muscles begin to learn these moves unconsciously.”

I remember my instructor telling to just practice for 5-15 minute intervals, with 15-20 minutes rests between at first because, unbeknownst to you, you don’t have the strength yet for holding, bowing, fingering. If you push it, you get bad habits. I followed her advice. The first few lessons were playing, discussion, playing. Now they are mostly playing and discussing where needed. It did not take long to be able go play upwards of an hour. Doesn’t matter how strong you naturally are, your muscles and joints are being used in an odd unkown fashion.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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