Last Tuesday (26th February) was the second of our ensembles. Kieran and I were joined by Sam on the piano and Dean on the tuba.
We decided that Sam would take over the backing track chords for Tenor Madness and Dean would play a baseline on the tuba. We listened to the backing a track a few times to get a feel for the track again, the tempo and swing. We tried the alternative ending (including Cm and F) but the chords didn't seem to go with the backing track well. So we altered these and Sam found a line that fitted.
Dean also tried the tuba line. He needed to find the music online and transpose it.
We then ran it through several times with Kieran and I on the melody as before and improvisation. We certainly aren't a normal line up for a blues band but it came together OK.
We spent some time towards the end of the session trying to get the swing feel - concentrating on beats 2 and 4. Kieran and I were trying to improve our lines. He was trying to lay out a plan about what he was playing and where he would go. I have a looser approach. I try to play more by ear and instinct and keep the number of things i have to think about down to one or two - such as where to start the riff and what rhythm I might play.
I enjoyed the session. We all got along well and agreed things between us easily. We worked quite intensively but we all felt that we coped with our parts competently. i think we did quite well, especially since given two of us just joined the session today. We achieved a plan and were able to put it into action, within the timescale we had to develop a good piece. All the parts jelled reasonably (within the limitations of the instruments and the time that we had).
We now need to try to work out an intro and an outro before we perform it next week to the class. I have listened to a few guitar intros to get a few ideas.
There is nothing worse than when your violin has to go for repairs. Once you have stepped up to a better instrument, its very difficult to go back. I bought a new violin fairly recently. Its a nice violin but with no provenance at all. To cut a long story short, it cracked. After much discussion it went in to be fixed last week. I have been playing my B violin. Its quite different. Everything feels off and its hard to play it well. I think I can feel about 1 mm difference in the set up now.
Anyway I now have my new violin back. Its still sort of is my violin , but when the front comes off, it springs a little when it goes back on. Also the luthier decided to improve it a little (I had commented that the G string was not as good as the rest of it). So on getting it back, the bridge is different (higher) and the violin has been rethicknessed. It looks, feels and sounds slightly different as well. Its like starting the relationship again and takes some getting used to. To make matters worse it may settle over the next couple of weeks meaning the bridge has to be changed back - I do hope so.
I have been continuing to work on bowing, vibrato and intonation. Slow practice. As for the last piece I played there is a tricky bar with string crossing which means straddling with the third finger. I have been practising that a lot. I am also playing a lament. I have been trying to find lines and variations that I could improvise with and I have also been trying it an octave down. As I find these, I am enjoying the tune more. I am introducing trills and ornaments. I am much better at these but I am trying to strengthen my fingers to trill using a fourth finger - very difficult. I am doing some scales using vibrato. There are fingers and strings more difficult than others. The pieces are in A minor and A mixolydian. I am still trying to keep the pieces I played in January up to standard too (G minor,D etc)
We are also coming up to a number of performances. i am performing with the folk band in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday so I am looking at those pieces too. It means working up the pieces I played in December as well as the folk band tunes that we will playing on March 14.
We are playing ghosts of Brandenburg with Stings Group. Its a cool piece but its challenging. The last page involves bowing patterns that i find quite hard. i am trying to practice it too. Its coming.
There is improvisation on top, with Bb blues and pentatonic scales, Eb7 arpeggios, Cm7 and C Dorian, F. Cantalouple involves D7, Db7 and F7. We have been playing in ensembles which I've found easier.
Its hard to fit this all in and a lot to do with assignments and theory. I had developed a sort of repetitive strain injury but this seems to have gone now - thank goodness! I have been playing a little less this week as I have been really quite ill with a flu thing for over two weeks. Overall I can feel my playing lifting all the time and the violin is singing. Its a thrill when it goes right.