I currently use a Kun shoulder rest. I have been playing a lot and have developed a stiff shoulder. I have been looking at whether I need a higher should rest. Wolf shoulder rests are the highest and come with plenty of scope for shaping and adapting. Time t tried one, although I do love the Kun rests too. They are light and comfortable and I've used one for years up until now without problems.
There is a lot of playing to do just now. We have started Dido and Aeneas (Purcell) and will be performing this in June, with a choir. In complete, contrast we are also doing a piece called Fiddle Faddle.
There is also the work for my solo recital. I had a rehearsal for that yesterday to begin to work out the accompaniment and to hear it with a harmony I am performing.
We have also started some new pieces for a folk group and finally I am working at improvisation. Four of us had a session yesterday. Simple is best.
Our group was performing this week. I had practiced the awkward corners of the heads (definitely not fiddle friendly) during the week. There is a section that jumps across two strings and doesn't lie under the fingers well at all. But by the performance I had it OK.
We spent the first half hour running the Bb blues a few times and working out an intro and outdo. Getting in and out is as important as the rest. We decided that Sam would play us in with four bars. Then Keiran and I would play the heads. We were then going to do question and answer improvisation all the way through and then back to the heads to finish. It went fine in rehearsal.
Keiran and I were soloing with Sam on piano chords and Dean on bass notes.
How did the performance feel? Given we had only been playing as an ensemble for a few hours it went OK. Rehearsal felt relaxed and everyone worked as a team. We felt we had a soild plan.
The actual performance felt OK from the perspective of soloing. The bass seemed to go a bit out of synch with the chords. Its probably quite difficult to hear from one side of the stage to the other (where they both sat). Kieran and I were in the middle. We kept soloing to the correct chords - it was quite difficult though with different chords going at the same time.
We ran through the soloing one more time than we had originally planned - really because to took a while for the band to tighten up. Then Kieran and I were on the heads again together. I was reasonably pleased with my soloing although I will keep working to improve riffs and fluency. I did manage to avoid landing on the root most of the time.
I quite enjoyed it. But it wasn't as good as rehearsals. Ah well - things happen live on stage and you just have to improvise - literally! I think if we were to play again I would arrange for the bass and piano players to be closer to each other. perhaps that would have helped.
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.
We played as ensembles last week (19th Feb).
We had a free choice what we would do and we discussed this and went for Bb blues. I was playing alongside Kieran who is brilliant on the clarinet. It was interesting. We both play melody instruments and so we had backing tracks. We tried playing the tune a few times and then followed with question and answer taking four bars each at a time. Finally we did a longer duet.
I found it really helpful to play with someone else. You can't help but bounce off their riffs and rhythms.
Kieran is very comfortable with the clarinet and blues and tends to play quite fast riifs . This is great as I try to answer with something similar (and probably faster than I would play).
All this playing the blues means I have been trying to listen more to it again. What a guy Muddy Water is. And American blueswoman Bonnie Raitt is one of my long time favourites.
Anyway our tune is based on Tenor Madness so I have been listening to that too. Most of the recordings are faster than I have been playing them. I have been practising the tune. There is a tricky section that doesn't go on the fiddle well. I am also concentrating on trying not to start on the root and I feel I have the hang of this now It is quite tantalising as i get more comfortable.
We have two more weeks to go and will be performing to each other.
Practising scales as usual for the Bb blues as well as those for Cantaloupe Island and Watermelon man.
Practising targeting thirds. I have been playing the mandolin a bit. I am getting the hang of not playing the root all the time - I find landing on the seventh sounds quite cool. I have been playing over the backing track quite a lot. I have spent a bit of time transcribing this and that. But much of this seems to start on the root - which we are to avoid.
I have been looking at the circle of fifths arpeggios we were given. I am not sure this is much help when actually improvising though. To go from the chord IV to V or vice versa obviously isn't actually a step of fifth.
The Young Trad musician of the year was announced on 3 Feb. All the finalists were great. It was won by Paddy Callaghan - a melodeon player. Hannah Fisher, a fiddler was also among the finalists. Here she is below.
Improvisation class again. This week has involved transcribing. In class last week we all played a bit by ear and so transcribing is the next step in the process. I find it very time consuming. Is this improvisation or copying? Anyway there is some merit in trying to get the the right rhythms and sequences.
Still on F dorian, Db mixolydian and D Dorian scales. I have been trying the major triads too. But I cannot easily switch between these and on the second degree of the scale on the fiddle by ear.
These is more about Cantaloupe Island my HND1 private blog.
Improvisation tomorrow. I have been listening to Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock this week. I tried picking the first part up by ear - and then comparing to the notation, Seemed OK. Playing the blues scales F and Db and D Dorian. I am playing with a metronome and trying to get the speed up.
I feel that I am making progress with Improvisation this week. I have managed to go beyond the pentatonic scale and change scales according to the chords. I composed a blues line to go over the chords and found this helped to understand the chord changes. I practiced this against the backing track (Bb blues) and used a number of rythmns. I am also playing some Scottish tunes on G minor so hopefully this will well help - same flats.
I have also been listening to some of the blues standards again. I have been tracking down the recordings that are in the Abersold book. I like Cantaloupe Island. Downloaded it so its on my MP3.
I can hear the chord changes better and follow the ii, V, ! progression. I can understand the raised third can be used rather than pentatonic scales.
Practicing scales and melody. Having played the melody the feel of it seems to stick better and then its more possible to improvise.