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In an effort to return this all to the "playing backup" core thread as started, I'd like to add some glue to these disparate threads.
A good backup fiddler (or musician) can be worth their weight in gold at the right time to the right band. The one-shot session in the studio can turn into a tour, even with someone else who happened to overhear. Instead of trying to merely promote yourself, being able to promote and support the headliner could be a ticket to fame and fortune that you get to ride. While we get taught LEAD violin in class, the prize offered to the fiddler by most bands is BACKUP with the occasional solo, intro, etc. in a wide variety of genres. The juxtaposition of metal and acoustic instruments can be very emotional.
A key phrase that's come up by several different people is, "I don't want to be limited". Until this conversation, I was aware of my limitations but ignorant of what to do and seeking to be released from them. Different techniques for rhythm, percussion, and harmony have been discussed which all could help round out the musician playing backup as the needs of the pieces change. There's a lot of room for interpretation of taste when it comes to music vs noise, but that's the same for a lot of clashed styles. We may not WANT to be limited, but the truth is we are our biggest limitation. The desire to be "artsy" can limit our income opportunities. The desire to be "modern" can limit our audience. The desire to play this or that style limits our maximum potential audience. While adding tools to the toolbox enhances our versatility which both add to our personal satisfaction and economic potential, we must continually trade one for the other.
The relationship between time and money still factor in. The path of personal satisfaction and economic gain may overlap for a time. The happiest overlap them more often than not. However, our search for satisfaction may run askew of profit. Likewise, our need for income may outpace our ability to earn from personal satisfaction.
In the end, if we don't have time to play, even for ourselves, because we're out working 90+ hrs/wk to keep a roof over our heads and keep our kids' bellies full, then even a profitable life may not be a good one. In the long run, it's better to have less money and be happier than to have more money and be miserable.
Lots of good advice here, but I this kind of thing can be "overthought." Before I picked up the fiddle, I played mandolin. I learned the scales in all the major keys, but what I really remember is the "patterns" as Fiddlerman was refering to. When I play in a key on the mandolin or the fiddle, I actually don't know at the moment of play just what note I am playing -- whether it is an F# or a Bb, etc. I know where the notes are in that key and those notes form a recognizable pattern. So tell me what key your tune or song is in, and I will use the notes in that pattern. Now, if the tune is completely unrecognizable to you, it is possible to use the pentatonic scale (pattern) for the key and practically every note in that scale will work in the tune. But to simplify things, learn the pattern for the key you are playing in. And don't worry about the name of the note you are going to play next. That's over thinking. I was at a workshop when someone who was learning from sheet music asked Michael Feagan (fantastic bluegrass fiddler) whether a note he played in a particular spot was an F#...I could tell Mike didn't know. His response was "This is the note I play there" and he demonstrated it -- showed us where it was. If you are going to learn to jam, play with understanding people who do slow jams, and, oh yes, leave your sheet music to home. And if you study song writing at all, you will quickly see that, in western music, there are only a basic handful of structures for songs and fairly established songwriting rules. This mean that a song is basically quite predictable after listening to it for 15 seconds or so. There are exceptions to these rules, but not many.