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Playing Backup w Others
I was taught by 2 different teachers: classical by Sherman Pitluck then country by a backup player to George Jones (saw him on TV at the Grammy's when George won). Neither taught backup or playing along to an unfamiliar song.
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DanielB
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February 12, 2015 - 10:09 am
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@tesfalcon: I think I understand what you're looking for, basically an orderly and logical progressive education on the instrument that will get you going where you personally want to go as directly as possible.

The problem is, I'm not sure as what you are looking for actually exists.  If it does, I haven't found it.  That doesn't discount the possibility that it may not be out there somewhere, since I have only been playing this particular instrument for not even quite three years yet, so I am definitely no violin/fiddle expert.

I haven't taken formal lessons on this instrument, and dang few lessons on any instrument I play, for that matter.  When it comes to playing on any instrument (other than maybe piano) I am mostly self-taught.  That being said, I have made an effort to understand and learn the basics for violin.  I went so far as to take a course on how to *teach* beginner violin in an effort to make sure I wasn't missing anything important that the typical 8 yr old who has been taking lessons for a couple years would know.

I have looked over a fair number of the assorted "methods" and "schools".. And I would have to say that at least in my opinion, they would all fall short of the logical and progressive methodical approach you describe.  Not a one of them that I have seen is that "perfect".

Further, so far as your original post question, with wanting to know how to be able to play backup and come in on even unfamiliar tunes and sound like you maybe know what you are doing?   I have not seen where that is taught at all.  The teaching course I took covered techniques and material for probably what was intended to be the first four or five years of a student's lessons, and "How to play backup" was not addressed at all.  I don't recall seeing it in the ABRSM syllabus, either  ABRSM does the "exams" that violinists heading to a music college or conservatory have to pass through the levels of to even qualify to be allowed to audition, in some cases.  No class or course I took on music in college actually taught how to play backup for an unfamiliar piece of music either.  At most, they taught how to read along and try to play the right chords or notes at the right moment from the sheets.

Maybe some "method" or "school" out there does cover it, I don't know.  None that I have found did.  And while this community does have quite a lot of educational material, it really doesn't cover it either. 

Not saying it can't be done or that you can't do it.  I'm just saying that you seem to think there will be some simple and sensible course of lessons or info laid out that will enable you to learn it quickly and easily, and so far as I know, no such thing exists.  I agree that it seems that it *should*.  But I personally don't know of anything to direct you to for it.

All that being said, I could have "sessioned in" with a band in most genres I am at all familiar with within the first month of having my violin.  But that would be from having learned how to do it on other instruments, and how i would have done it probably wouldn't have been to your tastes or your idea of how a violin should be played.

I didn't find lessons on how to play back-up (on any instrument) really at any time.  Not for situations where it might be a totally unfamiliar song.  

How I did learn it years ago was from situations not much different than the one you described finding yourself in.  I can say that I am pretty sure that I knew *less* then than you do right now.  I only knew maybe 3 or 4 chords, could kind of stumble through one folk song and could sort of stumblingly play one scale.  That was "school of hard knocks" or "getting thrown into the deep water", though.  Not a nice sure "method".  I lucked out by getting tossed into a band where they were willing to take some time "breaking in a greenhorn" and I worked my butt off to learn a bunch of songs I didn't know or like and struggle with not only playing backup but being able to "take a lead" sometimes.  In a genre of music that I didn't know or like when I started.  The process was not as fast as I might have wished, it was some weeks before I actually felt I had some moments that maybe didn't suck.  A few months before there were actually some songs where I began to feel like I actually knew what to do.

But so far as explaining *how*?   Well, I tried that pretty early on in this convo and you seemed to find it less than useful.  I'm not always good at explaining things, especially not with music.  I know what I know, but I don't know how to put most of it into words.  I didn't much learn from words.

I think I understand what you say you're looking for, and I have to say it sounds mighty nice.  But I never found that myself, and so far as I have seen from personal experience, it isn't how it usually works.

dunno  

Who knows, though.. Maybe you'll have better luck than I did.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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MrYikes
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I bought online: Fiddle Jam Tracks.  10 tunes without fiddle.  They are very simple songs with chords written so you know when to change.  Two or three chords.  Listen, play, hit repeat.  I have played with one tune for four hours..learn by doing.

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tesfalcon
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Plucking the E string with the left pinkie was how I was taught to play the bell on Orange Blossom Special. I didn't know there was any other way to play it other than with the left hand.

Plucking it like a mandolin is one way to practice fingering with the left hand while being VERY quiet with instrument within the tight confines of most seating arrangements and not draw attention to yourself. Most background noise, esp other live music, will overpower the tiny plink-plink. Useful, but not a generally a concert-ready skill except as an accent like this tune.

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tesfalcon
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@DanielB 

Notice something interesting: I said that I have ~2 years of experience with the violin. It wasn't those who had 20 or 40 years experience who was able to say something helpful; it was you with 3 years experience. We know in our mind that we all started out the same as ignorant and unskilled, but not everyone has the ability to go back to those days in the past, remember, and communicate at the level when they were in their first 5 years. Maybe it's because they kept moving forward in their own education and are filled with the thought of how to progress themselves forward today and haven't changed gears in their mental transmission to think backward and ignore what they learned in the many years since then.

There was a guy who I used to work with in New Mexico who was having a hard time keeping up with the hounding and speed at which the rest of us were working and demanding that he keep up with. Finally, in frustration, he yelled, "Stop! I'm new!" He was still in his first month, but the way he said it in a plaintive, tremulo wail broke the rest of us up in laughter, and we "left him alone". It became the battle cry for the entire crew for months. Someone got stickers made to put on our hardhats. Whether we'd been working there 6 month or 20 years, we all got a kick out of the wail and remembered back to our first month when we were ignorant, weak, and confused all the time. Compassion began to reign and instead of "breaking in" the new guys, we actually taught them and encouraged them to push themselves. Oil field is 90% mental because no body is used to the constant lifting and carrying of heavy metal and extended hours (even days) without sleep or even food.

I understand that there are no "courses" that progress as you described because there are so many different paths to travel from "This is a violin" to Master Violinist. We can be Master in one style (classical vs Jazz) but grossly deficient and unskilled in a different style on the same instrument. Isn't that the role of the teacher to figure out what road you are on, where you want to end up, and how to get there from here?

Why is it that porch music by ignorant hillbillies requires explanations in advanced music theory that none of the players have ever heard of? My relatives can jump in with ANY instrument in their hands: banjo, guitar, lap harp, mandolin, piano, etc., and it doesn't matter what the song is or if they've ever heard it before or not, simply play along. They aren't a band or a regular jam session, but playing together at Grandma's birthday or other family reunions is a highlight of the night.

I accepted the violin because there were NONE there, and fiddle is such a delight to my ears in other groups. But it seemed that the more "educated" I got the less natural music I could play. I was stifled into thinking in terms of notes and sheet music. As I said before, I think it's because of the way we start teaching violin (notes and melody) vs the way other instruments are taught to beginners (chords and rhythm). This might be a hold over from the Middle Ages when the only places to learn were focused on classical orchestral music, and students were relegated to 5th chair in the orchestra and told what to play by the composer / director. The guitar doesn't have that same history but was more minstrel and common folk dating from much earlier. Homemade guitar instruments were more common while the violin was so exacting in its construction to make it the arena of craftsmen and professional luthier's only driving up the price for all but the "elite" of Renaissance Europe.

I think a properly structured, modern violin course can teach everything necessary for everyone in 2 years with the only thing left being specific teaching and skill practice.

Year 1 - Lead: 1st position notes and melody. 

Year 2 - Accompaniment: common chords and rhythms.

For a 4-year course, simply advance Year 1 in Year 3 such as using 2nd and 3rd position and Year 2 in Year 4 such as more chords and less common rhythms. Or for more simple instruction, split them up in semesters teaching Lead the first 3 months and Comp the 2nd. It's still 2 years worth in 4 but a player only needs one year to have an basic background in the instrument's range of usage.

Where's music theory? It's added as needed but not focused on. It explains the why the piece sounds that way and helps analyze the sheet music. A focus on music theory can be helpful for those writing and making a profession of music to communicate more complicated ideas to other musicians but unnecessary for less than professional players talking with amateurs.

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DanielB
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Well tesfalcon, I have to envy you on one point.  I didn't come from a musical family.  When I was growing up, the only blood relative I had who played anything was a grandma who had taught herself to play harmonica, and she died when I was fairly young. 

I didn't take an instrument in grade school or high school because I overheard my mother talking to a relative and worrying about how much it would cost to rent an instrument or get lessons.  So I sort of officially declared a lack of interest in such things.  Later, when I was about 15, I had friends that were getting in to bands and such, and a friend of a friend of a friend had a crappy electric guitar he was trying to sell.  I bought it with my own money and got a practice amp and started teaching myself how to play. 

But the kind of events you're talking about with family playing together and having relatives that could pick up instruments and just play?  Well, saw that sort of thing in movies, I think, but not in real life.  I can play several instruments, and fit in with most any sort of session, but it was something I had to learn from square one, and it took some years.

"Hillbillies"?  Welll.. I grew up on a broken down little dirt farm in the foothills of the northern slopes of the Appalachians.  If you ever happen to read my bio on the member biographies section of the forum, you may be entertained to notice that I also can claim the distinction of being raised in a barn for at least most of my first year of life.  My family happened to be living in a barn at the time.  So that's my excuse for my manners. LOL  We called it being a "hick" usually, though. 

But anyway, those are long stories, so let's get back to violins and etc.

I think music theory gets discussed so much simply because it is a way that some things can be communicated in text.  We can say "play a 5th interval chord/part" easier than we can show "put your finger here on these two strings and play it like this", like we probably would if we were all in a big room somewhere in person.  A lot of it is just a way of discussing what we're doing when we play.

Sure, a person can play it without ever knowing what it might be called.  In fact, it is pretty certain that they did so for centuries before there were names for such things.  Music theory developed out of how people play, not the other way around. 

I think there's some basic problems with how music is usually taught.  There's either too much theory, as you suggest.. Or there isn't enough.

I'll give a quick example of how it could be taught, but usually isn't.

Say a beginner is going to learn a scale.  Ok, start them with something like "Put your first finger down on the lowest string.. " Play an A note for them to hear to get the intonation right against.  "Now put your second finger down.."  And the B note for them to hear and match.  and so on until their 4th finger is down. 

Wouldn't have teach them "intervals" later, because they'd already understand it.  1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th interval are right there.  1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger.  Well that was easy.  Then move the fingers over to the next string and do the same thing and you've got the 5th, 6th, 7th and octave (8th).. Well that wouldn't be hard to remember either.  Congratulations, they've just met their A major scale.  If they can sing "do re mi fa so la ti do", then they'll get it pretty close to dead on from the first few tries. 

So then if we want to go into arpeggios, we could show that a chord is the 1st, 3rd, and 5th intervals.  Well, if they practiced that scale even a bit, they'd know right where those are.  So you could tell them "Play me 1, 3, 5, 3..1, 3, 5, 3..over and over for a few times".  That'd have their first arpeggio down maybe even easier than than their first scale.

There wouldn't be a need to decide whether the theory or the playing are taught first.  The theory is just what we use to talk about the playing anyway, so I think it would make more sense to have them both from square one.  That way they don't get the idea that theory is anything "hard".  They'd know it is there to make things easier.

You've mentioned teaching people to drive truck.  You saying "turn right" should be understood from early on as being associated with turning the wheel that way.  If a person doesn't have that connection going on between the action and the words used to tell the action, teaching them is going to be a whole lot harder on both of you. 

Well anyway.. If you could make any sense of that example, it is some of where I think they way most places teach the violin just makes it a lot harder than it would have to be.  It would also make it considerably easier to teach someone how to read music for violin, but I've been long-winded enough already.

So the only other thing I'll mention is that if I were just starting out on violin, knowing what I know now.. I wouldn't even mess with "1st position" at first.  It actually just makes simple concepts more confusing and harder to remember.  It also can lead to the bad habit of avoiding using the 4th (pinky) finger right when the person should be working on making that finger stronger.  Other than some exercises in open string bowing that are good because they can work with focus on bowing skills without needing any left hand thinking, I'd leave the open strings alone until I'd worked scales and arpeggios through all the keys.  That could easily take less than the first year.  One would also work on some easy songs in that time, but both melody and chords.  Fact is, a lot of the melody notes usually come from the chords.  There's a connection, a relationship there. Separating them in thought or practice doesn't really make sense.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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MrYikes
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Great conversation, guys.  Just remember to stress that we PLAY the violin, we do not WORK the violin.

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tesfalcon
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My parents were both born and raised in Stonega, VA near Big Stone Gap northeast of the Cumberland Gap where VA, TN, and KY all meet. Dad moved to IN, where I was born and raised, in the mid-50s looking for work after the Korean War.

As soon as you mention A, B, C, # or b, you're talking theory. Do, re, mi is a modal harmonic that's used as the notes in singing. They aren't notes per se but vocal changes in pitch. Do low is a harmonic of Do middle and Do high. Thus when the Bass sings Do, Tenor sings Do, Alto sings Do, and Soprano sings Do, it's like they're all singing 1 note, not 4 because of harmonic resonance: sound waves of different wavelength in numeric sync build each other as 1 wave. (My music training was focused in vocal, not instrumental. I can read shaped notes because it's related to the Do, Re, Mi scale. The church I grew up in was strictly acapella.)

The staff and clefs and all that is Western classical music theory dating from the 16th century (or before) as mandated by the Church as opposed to modal harmonics which influenced music among the common people and thus was viewed negatively by the powers on high. That's also ignoring Eastern, Middle Eastern, Indian, and African music theory which view music and harmonies in different ways altogether. The guitar moving West went from 4 to 12 to our modern 6-stringed wonder (acoustically unchanged since 1850) but moving East it became the 24-string sitar: different notes, chording structures and harmonies. It's 'translatable' to Western notation, but so is English to Hindi.

Obviously, music theory at a basic level must be taught to be able to communicate musically at some level. The advanced / extreme music theory I was reading earlier named every note in every scale, named every chord relationship in all the scales and came up with elaborate naming and shorthand notation for describing these relationships. Such nomenclature isn't communicative but a hinderance to communication.

At the lowest level of violin playing, there's no notes at all. We could represent the notes as colored dots on the fingerboard w 7 colors of the rainbow representing a lettered note in order: Red = A, Orange = B, etc. Even as we can see a blend of colors and shades between colors we can hear a blend of sounds and shades between notes.

At an even more basic level, we can give the aspiring student less help than Prof Harold Hill from "The Music Man" with his "Think System". No instruction on holding it, on fingering it, on bowing it, or anything. "Figure it out yourself, kid. I did. Self-taught students are always best. Play with it. Education will stunt your growth."

In some respects, those statements are true, but as a whole these are all lies.

1) No one is truly "self-taught". They learned from others, from listening to music, from books, from other instruments, etc. With no music education at all, they couldn't understand what other musicians are talking about or be able to ask a question.

2) Play comes from a basic understanding of something. Every child asks fundamental questions of even simple objects in order to figure out what it is and how it works. Boys often ask Daddy what a new toy does. How Dad plays with it is how they continue to play with it. Daddy uses a plastic hammer to hit his head; he hits his sister on the head. Dad runs the car along the floor and makes motor noises; he runs the car along the floor and makes motor noises. If you give a violin and bow to a monkey, would they "play" with it by bowing and fingering the strings? Or would they play with it by using both as clubs to whack each other over the head? Play comes from a basis in acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior which restricts use as well as promotes understanding in the full range of uses. A Ferrari is a fast car, so long as it confines itself to paved roads, on its side of the dividing line and finds empty, legal areas to reach its full potential. The Autobahn and Montana are great places to hit 150+ mph, downtown NYC or a dirt road are not.

3) Limited education is what stunts growth. I knew that my former education stunted my growth because I had a stunted education. In the end, the responsibility of learning is on the student. A student seeking answers will find them. A student not seeking answers will be forever ignorant. As I often say to my kids, "If you want to learn, I can't stop you. If you don't want to learn, I can't make you."

BTW, turning the wheel right to go right only works while going forward. When going in reverse with a trailer, you have to turn the wheel left to get the trailer to go right. After a while, it becomes 2nd nature, but that's why I teach and they practice. It's all arcs and angles when in Reverse. A few basic rules of thumb, and they learn it quickly enough. A confused teacher makes a confused student.

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DanielB
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Ok, so if you know all that, then you aren't quite a "babe in the woods".  LOL

So I guess the question would be "What do you feel you are still missing at this time?"

Or if you are already working on it, "How's it coming along?"

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Schaick
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@DanielB  You sound like me.  No musical family members except for my Grandmother.  She played the piano then way moved south and changed that into organ playing.  She tied to teach me music but we would only visit every year or so and we did not have a piano.

Money was tight for us too but parents did buy me a flute and I played in the JR High Band - self taught.

Mom was encouraging Dad not at all.  He was into sports!

Yes, if only I had leaned this way back in the day - "Fact is, a lot of the melody notes usually come from the chords.  There's a connection, a relationship there. Separating them in thought or practice doesn't really make sense."

As a flute player I knew nothing about chords and keys!!!!  I never practiced any kind of scales until the end of my flute playing career.  One thing I have noticed - it is easier for me to memorize the music on a violin then flute.  I believe it is because the tones of the scale all line up right after another.  No goofy fingering needed to get to the next note.

@tesfalcon  I also can sight read sheet music like reading a book and I too was lost without my music.  THAT is changing!  I have been memorizing my songs.  

I believe that and consistently attending Jam is helping me the hear the chord changes.  I have not made an attempt to learn the chords of any specific songs because I am trying to keep the melody of the songs I start in Jam straight in my head.  I can only memorize so much at any given time!!

YEAH!!  This last Jam I was able to anticipate the change.  What a cool feeling!!  Now I understand what those at the Jam told me the first few visits - feel the music.

@fiddlinsteudel When I read back in this thread I see you were asking what kind of music was being played.  I am not sure who the question was intended for but the Jam I attend is old time, bluegrass, gospel, folk and just recently BLUES!!  Basically anything but Irish - LOL!!  because the leader is in an Irish band and he does not want to play it.

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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DanielB
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I didn't learn to actually sight-read for any instrument until I'd already been playing by ear and memorization for years.  I was about 15 yrs in to playing and had played in bands most of that time before actually buckling down and learning things like reading music and some theory.  So it is not like I would imply it can't be done. 

But if I was doing it over again, would I do it that way?  Probably not.  Sight reading is a useful enough tool that it would be good to get it down at least in the first few years.  Theory, at least some theory, is helpful as well.  Knowing the basic patterns you are likely to encounter can definitely make it easier to understand a piece of music you are hearing and know where it is likely to go next.  Axis of Awesome's "Four Chords" is an example of a piece of essential theory broken down to where it is easy to see/hear.  It isn't an "instead of theory" sort of thing, it is an example of applying it.

I didn't do myself any favors in the long run or the middle game by not learning such things early in the game.  It seemed like a shortcut at the time, and that it was more direct to just bang away at learning songs without any of that stuff.  But it would have saved me some time in some situations and some doors would have been open sooner.

 

@Schaick: I don't want to give the impression that my parents weren't supportive, they were.  So far as they could figure out how to be supportive they did their very best.  But they could only believe in something like music as possibly an interesting hobby, not something that one spent a lot of time and resources on or with an eye towards ever making a living.  Their belief (shared by many to this day) was that you had to be born with a huge amount of talent and have advantages of early education and a family that could afford to get you the best instruments to even have the barest hope of "doing anything" with something like music or art.  But it was something they did not feel it was good to encourage me to hang much hope on.

Now with that thing of the notes of the melody often being notes of the chord(s), yeah that's one of those things that would have been real handy to learn early.  As it was, I didn't run into that concept being explained with examples I could hear and such until I'd taken 2 semesters of theory and was taking music composition.  LOL

I can already hear people thinking "Oh, but I'd never want to compose anything.."  But if you take a turn at playing the solo/lead in a jam session, unless you are *strictly* just running through the melody, then you are composing.  Any little touches or passing tones or trills or etc that you add are parts you composed, whether you like to think of it that way or not.

 

@tesfalcon:  I do have to respond to this one bit of what you have said...

"Obviously, music theory at a basic level must be taught to be able to communicate musically at some level. The advanced / extreme music theory I was reading earlier named every note in every scale, named every chord relationship in all the scales and came up with elaborate naming and shorthand notation for describing these relationships. Such nomenclature isn't communicative but a hinderance to communication."

You've obviously given some thought to historical perspectives and how things happened in music.  Back when that elaborate naming and shorthand notation was invented, written score was the only way we had of recording music.  Without tape recorders or record players or mp3 players, the only way a generation could hear the music of composers of previous generations was to have people that could play it.  You call that nomenclature a "shorthand" and that is a very good word for it.  It was a shorter way to indicate to a relatively experienced player exactly what notes they should use for a chord and it took less writing and was faster/simpler to read when playing (for some instruments anyway) than writing in all the dots.

It wasn't really meant for a beginner to tangle with in their first year or two, and so they didn't worry about making it simple for a beginner to understand.  They did it the way they did it for their needs of the time.

Now, some folks do argue that we don't need that sort of thing anymore.  With video and etc we could learn how to play without such things and even without written score at all.  And some folks do.  Always have, except in older times you had to be lucky enough to know someone who could play a song and was maybe willing to show you how.  Which is of course also a perfectly valid way of doing things.

But there are still folks who like being able to write down a musical idea with pencil and paper instead of only being able to do it when they have a video recorder or maybe music software handy.  Myself, I like using technology, it can a wonderful thing.  But I don't like to *have* to rely on it. 

What you do, is of course up to you.  Your choices.  But that complex chord naming and shorthand you mentioned probably isn't something you need to focus on right now, not for the type of jam sessions you are describing.  It will be easier to learn later, if you ever even need it. 

I fact, you don't ever need to learn it.  You can live and play plenty of music perfectly fine without it.. If you are willing to accept that as a limitation.  I hit a point in life where I wasn't willing to accept that limitation or the limitation of not being able to read music and etc, so as an adult I went back to college to take music.

But for right now, I doubt you need to worry about the complicated nomenclatures and etc at all.  Basics will get you quite a ways before you run into needing more complex stuff.  So basics come first in priorities.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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tesfalcon
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@DanielB 

"What do you feel you are still missing at this time?" - The only thing I'm missing is my instrument to practice and 'play' with as well as practice time. Just waiting on UPS to deliver it. In a few months, I may feel that I'm missing something else, but that's it for now.

It's like I was saying: Theory, at some level, is essential to playing, but beyond that level, it's not helpful. Where you're at in your music education & skill will determine what level is helpful or not. Elementary theory is essential for ALL music (staffs, clefs, notes, etc.). High school level theory is the common 25% that will help everyone and is essential for well-rounded playing (chords, major, minor, starts, endings, etc.). College level theory is the uncommon 25% that can get added as we progress to advanced levels of specific styles (classical chords, Irish chords, country chords, metal chords, etc.), but the remaining 50% of the chords and relationships probably won't be needed by any except the Doctorate level music majors especially since I have no intention of playing (or even listening to) Jazz.

I would agree with your parents as far as a music CAREER is concerned. When starting at age 3-6, a child is obviously doing what they were made to do, and they have plenty of time to "waste" practicing. Having 15 years of experience under their belt by the time they turn 18 makes them highly skilled as they begin their music career which can be poor paying at the first while they feel invulnerable but can grow as they have 20 - 40 years to devote to it and be more lucrative as they reach their 50s and need the money. Thus semi-retirement as a classic from age 60-80 moves them from the spotlight as an influential player (aka Earl Scruggs).

Compare that to me, 2 years of violin under my belt and picking it back up at 40. If I had the time to practice for 15 years, that'll begin my career at 55. 20 years for a mediocre career leaves me an "also ran" at 75. Is it reasonable to assume that I can make music a career? Not really. Can it still be a beneficial hobby and journey of personal exploration? Absolutely! Can I then use my musical hobby to encourage my children and start them early? Possibly. I won't spend the time or money to encourage what I see no value in. Here in West Texas, there are a lot of parents who push their boys to play football and strive for going pro. ("Friday Night Lights" was set in Odessa/Midland for a reason.) I have also seen the results of failure from the MANY kids who didn't make it. Joint injuries leaving them a cripple for life. 1:100 will go pro; 99:100 will get hurt along the way. I don't like those odds. My boys aren't playing football. 1:1000 musicians make any real money in music. 0:1000 get scarred for life by their instrument. I like those odds, even if they don't succeed.

My mother wrote an acapella gospel song we sang as a duet with good response. I'm currently imagining a mashup between metalized "Orange Blossom Special" and "Long, Black Train". Music begins in the imagination and ends when it hits your ear. Composition is merely the process of making imagined music audible. I'm not talking about becoming Andrew Lloyd Webber or anything. I like composing, even if I don't want a career as a composer.

Written score is precise while chord notation is imprecise. Listening to the music is very imprecise since it depends on the ear and the feeling that was conveyed and is returned. In verbal communication, 2 people rarely use the exact same words to express the exact same feeling or thought. That's why it's ESSENTIAL to write it down. We can argue what Jesus said based on a sermon we both HEARD, but the argument ceases as soon as we look up the verse and read the exact words that were used. (A new argument can then begin on what He meant. ;) Even in the 21st century or beyond, we aren't going to "outgrow" music notation and written score. All we've done with computers is be able to print more paper faster. PDFs are awesome since I can download what someone else wrote and print it myself as opposed to waiting until it hits my local music store and spending money to buy it.

In truth, recorded music has had the biggest impact on home musicians since professionals can be heard repetitively at home vs the need to learn an instrument and play at home. Why learn to play piano when you can have a private concert by Liberace every night if you want? The desire to hear music can overpower any fear of inability to perform when given the right motivation.

Any language or sub-language has the ability to exclude as well as include. Renaissance musicians were often in an elite club which sought to exclude those not in that club. By writing shorthand that you had to go to school to learn, you raise a wall to the common folk who can't read it or write it. Even particular conservatories could write their own style of music for just themselves. Since reality required all schools to work together after school, a compromise notation was accepted and taught. At some point, the shorthand was less short and more confusing than simply spelling it all out in notes.

@Schaick 

I played Fife in the Keesler AFB Fife & Drum Corps, so I understand what you're saying with your flute comments. Not all instruments are designed to chord since they're incapable of playing more than one note at a time. My violin experience translated well to it. All the music was sheet and only used for practice since we had to memorize all the pieces for marching. We did "Yankee Doodle", "British Grenadiers" and another one which marching in several Mardi Gras parades in Southern Mississippi and Louisiana throughout Feb 1995. The last parade I was in was on the Monday before Fat Tuesday through downtown N'Orleans (pre-Katrina). Beautiful city and fun parade, but I had to throw the pants and socks away from all the beer soaked into them.

If the Jam leader who is in an Irish band doesn't want to play Irish music at the jam, then I don't have high hopes that his band will survive or go very far.

"Fact is, a lot of the melody notes usually come from the chords.  There's a connection, a relationship there. Separating them in thought or practice doesn't really make sense." - I disagree with this statement. I believe it is the other way around. When writing a song, you sing it, peck out the individual notes that you're singing to get the single note melody line, then enrich the tune by adding chords, harmonies, additional parts, etc. as is fitting with the emotion or message that you're trying to convey. Once it's fully written, the core of the song is the simple single-note melody that must be extracted to be understood or re-interpreted. A 300-page novel can be distilled to a 10 words summary or a 10 page children's book. If you can't distill the complicated down to its essence, it'll remain complicated.

"Geniuses make the complicated simple, and make the simple look complicated."

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Schaick
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@tesfalcon I think it is more that the jam leader wants to play more then just Irish music.  He plays many gigs at a local Irish pubs and all the local Irish events.  He also teaches flute and bagpipes at our local Irish Academy.

Don't get me wrong the leader might not want to play it but if it is only Irish tunes that a jam member knows he does let them play!!

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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Fiddlerman
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February 17, 2015 - 10:45 am
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Am I the only one who thinks that those samples of Casey are outstanding?
Especially that example of him Fiddling & Singing on a Gondola.
To be able to sing and play is a challenge in itself. :)

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

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@Fiddlerman No!!  I agree!! Awesome -

I refuse to twiddle my thumbs at jam!!  I want to do something, anything during every song to contribute.

I like this comment of yours-As a "musician" you have a choice. Either you stand on stage or in a group and don't do anything until it's your turn to play the melody (solo) or you learn to blend in and add to the accompaniment. You may have listened to the wrong Casey Driessen videos. One of the things that I love so much with the violin is it's versatility. I don't like to feel limited.

Hey, did you see my question about holding the bow upside down and drawing the metal wrappings of the bow over the strings?  I feel as though I have asked before but cant remember the answer.   Does it hurt the strings?

I did it once at jam when a steel guitar was being played and it sounded really cool.  I was worried though that it was damaging my strings.

Another cool violin percussion is someone tapping on the strings while another is playing notes.

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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fiddlinsteudel
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I agree too, Casey is an amazing fiddler and I love his chop technique. My favorite is when he plays with someone like Darol Anger, or other string players, and you really get to some creativity in backup. Darol and Casey are some of my heroes in fiddling.

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DanielB
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tesfalcon said

I would agree with your parents as far as a music CAREER is concerned.

Well, then I'm glad you weren't around when I was in my teens.  I might have listened to you and missed out on being in bands and playing a lot of gigs and etc.  LOL

I never made big money at it or got famous.  But it was at least part of how I paid the bills for most of my adult life and sometimes it was how my wife and I made enough of a living to feed the kids and etc.  There were some years when it was the only money coming into the house.

Now, some folks.. If they can't be rich and/or famous before they die, they'll consider this life to have been a failure. 

I'm not one of those people. 

I play because I love to play.  When I can get paid for it too, well that's cool, of course.  But it's not like I won't still be playing.  

If the only thing we consider to be a career has to qualify by being rich or famous, then 99.9% of the people in the world will never have one.   

In music, like anything else, there is always the "middle money".  Paid gigs, albums or singles that are never hits but make some money, and a lot of other ways music can make at least as much money as some regular jobs.  A good bit of that middle money will be collected by people who didn't start playing at age 3 and were not a "sensation" by 18.  Some of them may not even have started playing until well into adulthood.

I think our society has some ridiculous ideas about music(and the arts in general) as a career choice.  It would be like if a kid gets asked what they're thinking of as a career and they say "computers" and they got told "Well, you'll probably never be a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs, so why bother?"  "Get a computer for hobby use, but you will never be world-renowned, so you better focus on the possibilities for flipping burgers at Mickey Dees'."

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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tesfalcon
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I didn't say that you can't make any money by starting older. All I said is that it's harder to have a long career and make a name for yourself the older you start.

Some career fields reward age while others reward youth. Pro sports rewards youth. Professional music is another that is EASIER when you're younger. The Rolling Stones might be planning their Geriatric Tour in 2016, but I don't see too many 70 year olds trying to tour their way to the top of the charts. The entire business feeds on youth and energy since most money for records and concerts come from the same youth market.

I'm NOT saying that there's NO money to be made starting older, just less. I'm glad to hear that you've been able to support yourself with your music. It's a rare treat for someone to get paid to do what they enjoy. I'm sorry that it wasn't able to be a full-time profession all the time, instead of just part of the time.

There are 4 factors that mark the difference between SOME money and LOTS of money.

Factor #1: Time and Timing. Young musicians are often more cutting edge or bleeding edge than older folks who tend to follow or jump off the trendwagon. Thus a younger musician tends to have an easier time finding the trend in music and riding the wave. The front of the wave = lots of money. Middle of the wave = some money. Back of the wave = no money. Gates and Jobs were at the front of the computer wave. Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney were at the front of the British rock'n'roll wave. What wave is starting now or about to start that you can get in front of? 

Factor #2: Options. When you put yourself out there, you have options. Some options fall in your lap; some you have to pursue. Either way, by pursuing music, you opened doors. That's why young musicians tend to run off to Nashville or LA, to open more doors. Sweetwater, TX isn't a music hotspot that calls to producers or musical talent scouts. Abilene? Maybe. Dallas or Austin? More likely. YouTube, on the other hand, opened doors for both Adele and Justin Beiber. Who knows, it might have opened the door for a fiddler or two that I've not heard of. 

Factor #3: Service. How many people are you able to serve at the same time. A sellout concert of 1 million serves a lot which translates into a lot of money. A Gold Album serves a lot of people for less time and translates into money. A tutor with one student this hour, only serves 1. At an income / hour basis, he might make $20 or $100 that hour, but how many students are paying that today, tonight, every week? If you could make $5/hr but serve an increasing number of people with the same hour of work, you've multiplied your income each time. Thus the hour of work to make a video tutorial can translate exponentially rather than directly. I think FiddlerMan has it right by going online. The limitation on a tutor's income is time. By going online, he is able to "tutor" more people at the same time and add multiple streams of income to his portfolio that, if done correctly, will grow over time without requiring continuing and additional time commitment.

Factor #4: The BIG thing is always the act itself. Original compositions delivered with a memorable performance attracts viewers online, gets fans, sells tickets and records. Producers want an artist who can draw a crowd. Crowds buy stuff. If you can get views, then you have an audience who can be sold. Some musicians are Internet only with CDs and T-shirts for sale online and avoiding the whole Major Record labels altogether.

Some of this might go back to training. Traditional training makes you trudge through a lot of old muck that no one wants to hear before you are given permission to get creative and do your own thing. That might take a long time. An abridged or thoughtful person can trudge through (or skip over) a lot of that muck faster. Prodigies tend to skip a LOT of muck. 

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Traditional training, where you trudged through a lot of old muck before being given permission to get creative is usually only going to be a great advantage if you've already done it.  It would be the very long way around, for someone who wanted to play say, pop, country or rock.  I don't know about prodigies, since I don't reckon I am one.. But smart money will be working on music that is at least in the direction of what they want to play or the genres they want to create in rather than any huge list of "old muck".  That being said, I would have to also say that a person could probably get enough of the bare basics to get going with a teacher from almost any style.  Just don't want to follow it further than is helpful for what you actually want to do. 

SOME money, LOTS of money.. Well, points of view may vary on that, but I think that how much a particular person would be willing to be happy with for doing work they love is the key thing.  I've known people with considerably more money than I've had who were less pleased with their lives than I have been.  There's a personal balance an individual needs to find there, I think. 

Age, well that's against you in most lines of work.  Few places will hire older workers by preference.  Even if all other factors are equal, they can get more years of productivity out of younger folks because on the average they will simply live longer.  Marketing in our society does favor the youth market.  But if you're going to let that stop you, you may as well just lie down and start pushing up the daisies when you see your first grey hair.  LOL

Your "Factors" list, well, I will be mostly agreeing with.  

Factor #1: Time and Timing.  Yeah, finding a "wave" that you can actually "ride" is important.  If you're hanging on a genre that already had it's day, hoping for maybe a nostalgia surge, you may wait a long time.  You have to be listening for what is out there and upcoming and be looking for something that is close enough to your style to be able to validly cut yourself a piece of.  If you can.  And then hope that gamble pays off.  Life is always a gamble, every day.

Factor #2: Options.  Yeah, location will be important if you are relying on playing locally as a large part of your strategy.  But as you mentioned, the world has been changing and there are other possibilities these days than gigging in local bars and hoping to somehow "get noticed". 

Factor #3: Service.  Well, again, it kind of hinges on how much would be "enough" to an individual.  But there are more potential open than there were years ago for finding listeners/market, and considering trends we've seen over the years, that is more likely to increase the available options than decrease them. 

Factor #4: The Act.  Well, yeah.  The only thing I would add is a thing I learned years ago.  If you want there to be people in the world that have your CD in their collection and/or may be walking around wearing t-shirts with your name on them.. Then put out CDs and T-shirts so they can.  Those items don't just magically appear, but they can be a part of your income and a source of some personal satisfaction.  They also can generate more listeners.

I'm not an artist that has ever been keen on running after the major labels.  My tastes run more to indie music.  Haven't ever yet heard a good enough pitch on why I should let someone refashion my art into their product.  That is their business.  Marketing product.  It works by taking a raw material that we can call "your songs" and "your sound" and turning them into something they think they will be able to market.  The problem with that is that the process may result in the end product resembling what you thought of as "your music" no more than a fast-food joint's "burger" resembles that steak that at some point was (theoretically) an ingredient.  LOL

Well anyway, we're wandering quite a ways from "how to survive a jam session".  LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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@DanielB Wandering but still interesting.  

I have had many hobbies, few that earn money, well except from my knitting and felting. That earns me about $1,000/year.  I could take orders and make much more money, but I keep it at that mainly because I don't want it to become a "burger flipping"  enterprise.  It is an artistic expression!  

Gardening another hobby  I have created many gardens for free.  So it has earned not so much and afterwards I am POOPED!!

Now fiddlin?  It would be fun to earn just enough money to sustain my fiddle hobby. Someday I will be brave enough - I will go into town open my violin case and see what happens.

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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Fiddlerman
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February 18, 2015 - 10:48 am
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Schaick said

Hey, did you see my question about holding the bow upside down and drawing the metal wrappings of the bow over the strings?  I feel as though I have asked before but cant remember the answer.   Does it hurt the strings?

It will damage the strings but that could be OK. The more you do it the worse it is for your strings. It's a little like taking a metal file and lightly filing your strings. Use more affordable strings and change them when they are at the point where they start unwinding. :) I've seen some performers loose enough hair off a bow on one performance that they needed a new bow or re-hair.

The real question is how much of this abuse can the strings tolerate before they start unwinding? You can be our guinea pig. :)

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

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