January is a good time to reflect on the previous year, to take stock of life and plan for the coming year.
I can’t believe the change in my life over the last year. I left the Scottish Government, finished building a house, got into Stevenson College and became a full time musician and student again! That’s a big change I can tell you!
Easier life? Err no....
Life as a full time musician is as busy as I’ve ever been. There is no end to the learning. And the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know. Music is like that... Its a lifetime’s journey that you never finish. And we musicians are hard on ourselves - never quite happy - always trying to improve.
So what will 2012 bring?
Its time to think about what I want to achieve musically during the coming year. I have this fantastic opportuntiy and I want to get as much as humanly possible out of it.
I have thought quite hard about why I am doing this course and how to make the most of it. My key aim to to become a better player and to get through the Degree Foundation course - then set my sights on the next level.
So what have I done and how will I build on it.?
Thinking back to the start of the course I realise what a lot of ground I have already covered. I am doing a LOT of theory up to Grade 7 at the moment. This has been great in providing a deeper understanding. So one of my goals will be to pass Trinity Guildhall Grade 7 and Pop theory Grade 7 during 2012.
My aural and singing skills are improving. Oh yes - I can sing dominant sevenths, major sevenths and a lot more. In 2012 I want to build on this and consolidate sight singing, singing chords and scales.
I’ve discovered I love singing! We do a little in college. After the summer I plan to join a choir and do some individual singing lessons. I would like to try fiddle singing in 2012.
My fiddling is coming on too. I am pushing myself to play up the fingerboard, concentrating on the tone and trying to get the timing better. As a traditional musician I have relied on the aural tradition. Its difficult to go back to the page and play as precisely as you should. I have been my practising rythmn dictation to try to improve my rythmn site reading using www.teoria.com - which I highly recommend. I am not actually sure that I have noticed my improvement so much as other people. I think I will try keeping a practice log in 2012 to keep tabs on what I'm practising and also to keep recordings. I think it would be satisfying and more tangible to compare my playing from the start of the year to the end and hopefully note the improvement.
I also plan to take some classical lessons during 2012 to brush up on some of the technical gaps I feel that I have. Classical playing involves all sorts of techniques which aren;t used much in trad music. Classical players might wish they can play by ear as traditional musicians do but overall they have better technique. You can always tell a classical player. So with some lessons I could have the best of both worlds!
My playing challenges are to continue to develop intonation, and dynamics as well as improving technique. I am playing a lot of really difficult tunes in second and third position just now to develop fluency up the “dusty end of the fiddle” - which most trad players avoid like the plague.
I am expanding my music reading and learning about different musical styles and history so I plan to keep that going in 2012. If I make it to the Diploma course this will help.
I am listening to a LOT of music which has been a joy. We have been learning about the blues and jazz in 2011 and we have just moved onto country. In improvisation we have had a quick shot at funk. Listening is a big part of soaking in these different styles and its great to have a focus which makes me listen to musicians that I would not have otherwise come across. It is beginning to all make sense as the theory we do backs up the improvisation and research. It also spins off into ideas for composition.
I’d like to play some of these styles - particularly those that lend themselves well to the fiddle e.g bluegrass. I will search out a bluegrass session in 2012 and give it a go. I am even contemplating buying a tenor banjo which can use the same tuning as the fiddle.
Performing has been intense over the last couple of performance blocks and the standard is ramping up all the time. I am really looking forward to the opportunities to perfrom in 2012 and I am going to try to find more!. I have been so busy with keeping up with the demands of the course that the performing I used to do with Ceilidh Caleerie and at sessions has fallen by the wayside a bit. i play when I can. In 2012 I going to look for a way to reinvigorate this and get out to play again - outwith the course.
One of the things I have given priority to is my role as a Director for the Scots Music Group. This is a great organisation that has introduced so many people to traditional music, including me ten years or so ago. I have just been re-elected and so will keep this going. Its worthwhile and good for keeping my networking going.
I also go to workshops and build networks in relation to different styles and areas of the country, I have already been to Durham folkworks and the fiddle festival year. In 2012, I will take the opportunity to go to as many events as possible. I have already been down to the wonderful Sage - only just over an hour by train - to take part in fiddle singing with Bella Hardy and Border fiddling with Lori Watson. I also met the Breabach piper Malcolm McCrimmon there last month.
I have met lots of new and wonderful people in 2011- musicians, teachers. Who will come into my life in 2012 and what impact will they have on me? Social networking has a place too for keeping up with poeple.
I don’t know much about digital recording but I am determined to learn in 2012 to get my music up on the web.
Composition has been a revelation. I have composed onto the fiddle up until now but I can’t believe the power of Sibelius and Logic. 2012 will be the year that I master these and become a better and more inventive composer.
Did I manage my time well? Yes. I fit a LOT into my days and my life. I work as hard as I can and always like to push the boundaries as much as possible. I will enjoy looking back at the end of 2012 to see how I’ve measured up to these . Lets hope I achieve most of them. Its a tall order - as always.
So much to do - so little time!