Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

September Fiddle Progress Report

Let me start this post by saying: September marks 8 full months of consistent practice!

What hasn’t been so consistent is remembering to write progress reports. Trying to do them in the middle of the month doesn’t seem to work out so well. So I’m trying to move them to the beginning on the month instead. I really do still want to keep up with practice reports.

So what’s been going on?

Well, I got a new shoulder rest. Yes, again. And I need to write a post about what I learned and why. This time, I picked up a Wolf Forte Secondo shoulder rest which was quite affordable at Shar and actually pretty comfortable. While I liked my Play on Air shoulder rest, I had reasons for making a change back to something a bit more traditional. I like the Wolf far more than the more rigid shoulder rests I was using before, and I’ve been experimenting with different height settings to find what makes playing easiest for me.

I also got a new set of strings! The Thomastik Alphayue with Magic Rosin bundle was on sale at Southwest Strings, so I picked that up. I’m still working on breaking in the new strings, and haven’t quite formed an opinion on how they sound or feel in relation to the last set of strings – they were Obligatos and cost more than twice what these did.

I figure it’s time to experiment a bit, trying different price ranges of strings. Not that my playing skill actually brings out anything in any of these brands, but you never know!

I am noticing this pinging sound when I move from an open string to a slur on my D string. I don’t know what causes it. At first, I thought changing my strings would fix it, but it didn’t. Then I picked up my old Bunnel and tried the same fingering – that fiddle makes the sound, too! So it’s not just something with my Master Fiddle. I tried resetting the bridge, changing the strings, resetting the chin rest and different shoulder rests. None of it changed it. I just wonder what it is.

I’m overall pleased with my progress through my EEI book. These are generally easier exercises, but I’m happy that I finally got back to where I was in the book when I was first working in it last year. I’ve now moved beyond that point, though not hugely much. I’m not trying to rush through it, and I do spend several weeks on each tune.

Thanks to these exercises and the scales exercises from the I Love My Scales book, I’m happy that my 4th finger reach and usage has improved quite a bit! This isn’t perfect, of course, but far better than where I was several months ago.

I continue to work on colle exercises, and am slowly trying to integrate the motion into actual tunes when I play them.

I’m also still working on the vibrato exercises, though this has taken me sooo long. I watched a different video about vibrato, and think that maybe I haven’t been doing the motion exactly right – so I’ve been fixing it. I’m still only to the point where I’m making warbling on a string with one finger. I still have issues trying to bow and roll at the same time – my bow keeps wanting to stop when I need it to keep going! More practice, I guess!

Something I don’t talk about very much is my sight reading exercises. I’m really glad that I chose to add these to my practice every day, as I’m seeing improvement in my sight reading after several months of working on these random tunes at Sight Reading Factory. Lately I’ve been thinking about increasing the difficulty of the exercises just a little — adding more strings, that kind of thing. We’ll see.

I think that’s really all I have for this progress report. There’s several topics here I’d like to touch on in posts on their own if I ever get the time to sit down and write about them!

Happy October!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

August Fiddle Progress Report

Progress report is back!

I know I missed last month’s progress report, and almost considered putting them away for good. But I’ve decided to actually write one this month, and a day early, to boot. This is mostly because I’ve been doing a number of new things lately, which I do want to document.

Looking back at my June report, I see that’s when I started going back through the EEI tunes. I’ve continued to do that, especially focusing on songs that challenge me to make use of 4th finger.

Some new things that I’ve picked up in the last few weeks…

Collé — working on flexibility of my bow hand. I began by practicing with a pencil. But starting this week, I’ve actually moved on to practicing collé using the bow on the strings. I find this easier than trying to do it in mid-air. I feel like this is a pretty important skill to work into my practice for sure.

Vibrato rolls — I’m continuing to build on the vibration training bit by bit. It’s taken me a long time, and I’m still working to understand the newest motion — rolls. I’m starting to get better with this, I think. The next step will be actually applying bow strokes to the finger motion. But I feel that’s a while away yet.

New scales book — I Love My Scales. I bought a new book of scales that has replaced the old scale practice I was doing. I like this far more and feel like it gives me much more practice than just going up and down a scale. Especially since there’s a focus on 4th finger here, too.

Fiddle & Song book — Learning how to shuffle bow. This new book has really put shuffle bowing up first and foremost. I need to write a post about it eventually, but I’m having a great time with the technique!

Most of what I’ve been doing have been from various book/CD sets lately. I took a bit of a break from the AFM and other methods I’d been following. Also took a break from the Skye Boat Song, which I’d learned from my Celtic book all during last month.

All in all, I’m pleased with the variation I have in my practice and the different exercises I’ve picked up since my last progress report. I hope to see continued progress by this time next month!

Posted in Fiddle, Just Fiddling

6 Months of Consistent Practice!

As of yesterday, I have practiced consistently every day for 6 months!

I didn’t reward myself with anything last month for consistent practice, but I thought this milestone deserved something. So, seeing there were sales going on at Sharmusic, I decided to do a little shopping. I was totally taken aback at how quickly this all shipped as I only ordered this a few days ago, and it all came today. What great timing!

The first thing I picked up was a new kind of rosin. I’m doing okay with the rosin I have, but it doesn’t hurt to try and see if something might work better. This Jade rosin is a neat green color and it had really high ratings, so I’m going to give it a whirl!

While I know I already have a number of method books, lately I’ve felt like I wanted something to mix things up a little bit. So I browsed through and decided on these two:

I Love My Scales

I got the coolest version of the cover, IMHO!

So I’ve been practicing very basic scales for a while now. I looked at this book and thought that maybe this could help me expand on that. From a glance, I can see the exercises get quite involved. I’m very happy that it comes with a CD, though, as I’ve learned that I have a hard time with any book that doesn’t have audio with it.

Fiddle & Song – A Sequenced Guide to American Fiddling

While several of the songs in here overlap with tunes I’ve learned through AFM or my Irish book, the arrangements in this book seems far simpler than what I’ve already learned. This is not a bad thing. I’m going to try it out and see if maybe pulling back to something simpler and working back up again on several tunes is a good idea.

Not only does it have a backing track CD, but this is also one of those books that provides and advanced version of the song for later on. I love that!

These should be good fun and something to spice things up next week!

Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Resources and Tools

Collé – What I’ve Been Missing

For the past month and a half, I’ve been focusing on making a nice and consistent sound when I’m bowing. I mean, that’s something I’ve always tried to do. But lately, I’m trying to deduce why it’s not always happening.

I’ve known of collé for a couple months, but didn’t think it was so essential that I needed to start practicing it right away. I think I was wrong about that. In fact, I believe it may be what I’ve been missing and struggling without these past weeks.

The Violin Masterclass defines collé as:

Col-lé is French for ‘glued.’ It’s the essential exercise for ultimate bow control.

The collé allows you to calibrate the ‘click’ that starts the martelé stroke.

Your bow technique will gain a high degree of sophistication for clean and crisp articulation.

http://violinmasterclass.com/en/masterclasses/right-hand/colle

And they have a great video all about how to work up to collé.

But what really drove it home for me was the new Udemy course I picked up yesterday: 5 Power Moves for Better Violin Technique. The instructor’s first lesson was basically about collé, though he called it Pinkie Pushups.

However, the way he performed and explained the technique was what made me realize that this could be a big part of my tone issues. Not only did he show how to practice collé using a pencil and bow, but he also applied two exercises to scales which look super helpful.

I found this coupon which allowed me to pick this class up for free. I don’t know how long the coupon will be valid for, but if you’re interested in checking out the course, I’ve linked the coupon for you.

Anyhow, as soon as I was done with the first lesson, I added collé with a pencil to my practice. Even if you don’t pick up the lesson, the video above is still extremely helpful!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

June Fiddle Progress Report

Hey, look! I’m on time with this post for once!

Also, I’m happy to say that another month has gone by and I still have not missed a day of practice. It’s come close a few times, but I’ve been able to stick to it. I know there will come a day I will break the practice streak, but I’m trying to hold fast to it.

I’ve been pretty pleased with my progress and feel like going back and refining older, simple songs had been a good experience. I seem to spend about two weeks on each of the tunes before feeling like I can move on to the next. At this pace, I have a few more months of review before I think I’ll start pulling in a random tune again.

Sadly, I hit a wall in my attempt to play the next song in the OAIM method. I’ve really, really enjoyed playing the first three songs, but then I hit Hole in the Hedge and realize that the difficulty leap is just too much for my skill level. This makes me sad because I really have had fun adding actual Irish tunes to my practice.

For now, I’ve had to put the OAIM sub on hold since I know it’s going to be a while before I have the skill to tackle that tune. I do still have the means to practice the songs I’ve already worked on as it’s encouraged that you download the sheet music and the play-along track. So, I’ll still work on reviewing what I have learned.

In the meantime, I’ve been picking at tunes in the Celtic Fiddle book I got for Christmas. I’ve only played through one of these so far – Rakes of Mallow – but hope to work on a few more soon.

I’ve also had fun going back and reviewing songs from the EEI book. Though these tunes are simpler in composition, they have returned to me my old nemesis – the 4th finger. I’m really struggling to get it to work correctly (though I could have sworn I had it working before!), so I’ve added some focus on my 4th finger along with continuing to work on slides in my vibrato practice. I’m not quite ready to move on from slides yet, though.

I have converted a few songs using Scan Score since the last progress report — this is one of those ongoing project/goals. But I still have a ton more left to do. I also haven’t checked out the Udemy courses on fiddle that I picked up last month.

All in all, I’m going to stay on course and continue to do as I’ve been doing for yet another month.

Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Progress Report

May Fiddle Progress Report

So May sped right by me and I completely missed the date on which I usually write a progress report.

I’d feel a little bad about this except for the fact that I know I missed the date due to being much more focused on doing daily practice. Plus, last week was the first week I added uke practice to the mix, and I’ve been diving into that world a bit — not to the point that I’m doing any less on fiddle, though!

Since April, I’ve once again changed things up in terms of what I’m doing with my practice. I continue to be consistent and haven’t missed a day of practice since the start of February! But I’m always refining and thinking about my next practice plan in terms of what I want to achieve.

This past month has really been about stopping and focusing. I haven’t moved forward with any new songs. Instead, I’ve gone back to the very beginning and started to refine the songs I’ve practiced since last year. The goal is to start with the easier ones and spend time, even slow practice, until I’m happy with how they sound.

I’ve been doing this with the AFM tunes to start with. So far, I’ve cleaned up Boil em Cabbage and Shortnin’ Bread in D and A. Each week, I’ve also reviewed one of the OAIM songs I’ve learned, and have done the best I could to play that song well, too.

Another thing I’ve done is gone back to working through the EEI book. This was actually more challenging than I expected it to be, because, again I’m working towards playing the songs well before I move on. Some of these tunes I haven’t played in a year (so weird to say that!), and it’s been a while since I’ve been forced to play with my 4th finger.

I eventually want to get back to the point I was at before I put the EEI book down last year, and then continue to work through it. I’d like to eventually finish it — because that would be one book I’ve actually completed out of the many I own! However, the rate I’m working through this, I don’t really see this happening anytime soon. I’d be lucky to get it under my belt by the end of this year if I continue with consistent practice.

I STILL need to go back and start converting tunes with ScanScore! That was something I noted in my last progress report, and I’m still dragging my heels. I don’t really have an excuse, especially since I’m going back and revisiting old tunes. I just need to get in there and do it.

I also haven’t picked up any new scales or technical things… aside from starting vibrato exercises. I think this has been an interesting little addition to practice — nothing too overwhelming. Just a daily hand and finger exercise to work up towards the motion of vibrato over time.

I did buy a couple of Udemy courses last week — one that seems to focus on a lot of technical playing topics — that I want to look into. I might start using that for things like scales and music theory.

Overall, things are going well, and there’s still lots to work on!

Posted in Fiddle

The WAVE Chinrest for Violin

As a reward to myself for consistent playing during the month of April, I ordered a WAVE Da Capo chinrest.

Because I struggle with a short neck, finding a low-fitting chinrest and shoulder rest combo has always been troublesome. While I liked my previous chinrest, on my Master fiddle, I had issues where this chinrest would slowly migrate towards the tailpiece. When it made connection with the tailpiece, I learned very quickly that it caused an awful buzzing in my D string.

I’d heard about the WAVE Da Capo a while back – probably from searching forums for another type of low chinrest. But it wasn’t until last month that I finally placed my order for one. You can see from the webpage that these aren’t cheap chinrests, and come with many options that alter the price. In my experience, they are pretty equivalent to what I paid for my chinrest on Amazon. I believe these are hand-made in the USA, to boot, and have an interesting story.

So what’s different about the WAVE? If you look at the picture below, you’ll notice that instead of following the couture of the bottom of the violin, this chinrest extends beyond it. The idea is that the chinrest comes to meet the chin, rather than forcing the player to reach to meet the chinrest.

Though I only ordered the WAVE 1 Da Capo, when the maker got in touch with me to fill my order, he offered to send both WAVE 1 and WAVE 2 for me to try. He noted that they had a slightly different shape, based on feedback he’d received.

There’s a 30 day trial period with the promise of a refund if the WAVE did not work for me. I could try both types, and keep the one I liked best.

I’ve been using the WAVE Da Capo for a week. It did take a little getting used to at first. But now, I really love it – especially in conjunction with my new shoulder rest (will write about that later, too).

I did feel a difference between WAVE I and WAVE II. I believe my Master ended up with the WAVE II. But I really liked them both quite a bit. Since I didn’t have a good chinrest on my Bunnel, which I still keep as my backup fiddle, I decided to spoil myself and I bought the second to keep, as well.

Bunnel and Fiddlerman Master – Both sporting WAVEs

Now, what I’d love is a tailpiece that matches the color of the chinrests. But I’m too much a scardy-cat to change out the tailpiece on my Master! My luck, I’d drop the soundpost.

So, for now, I can live with the differences in color. And I do want to note, whatever oils he used to make that WAVE, it smells really nice every time I play violin! 🙂

Want some more info on this? Here’s a video from the maker with further details:

Posted in Fiddle Resources and Tools

Video: Vibrato Exercises

So, every now and then, I starting thinking about vibrato.

When should I start it? I don’t feel anywhere near ready for it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start planning ahead.

I saw a question come across one of the adult beginner groups on Facebook about vibrato, and this video popped up in the suggestions. I took a look at it, and really, I like what I see — short exercises that I can add to my practice routine that will slowly build up to the motions of doing vibrato.

The teacher notes that some of these exercises need to be repeated for weeks, if not months. I figure… hey… getting started with the motions is better than not doing anything towards this at all.

They seem simple enough, but putting them into practice is a bit harder, especially since it relies on you to balance your fiddle between your shoulder and chin alone. Of course, this should already be a thing, but reality is, I often use my thumb as a balance point, too, and I know this.

So, overall, a great place to start, and I wanted to share and mark this resource for future use.

Posted in Fiddle

3 Months of Consistent Practice

As of yesterday, I have been consistently practicing my fiddle every day for the past 3 months. I started to challenge myself to be more consistent at the end of January, and now moving into May, I haven’t missed a day of practice yet.

I pick up fiddle-related rewards to myself for meeting the goal each month. This month, I did a bit of a double reward. I bought a Play on Air shoulder rest in anticipation of buying a new WAVE Da Capo chin rest. I feel like between the two, I can achieve a more comfortable position for my shoulder and chin.

So far, the Play on Air took a little getting used to, but certainly does lower the violin while still providing the grip of a shoulder rest. Because you inflate it, you have a good deal of customization on how inflated/thick the shoulder rest is and how high it sits.

Sadly, I can’t say anything for the new chin rest as it has not arrived yet. I did jump the gun, because I had a feeling it would take some time to arrive, and ordered it five days ago. I got a confirmation from the store, but I have not seen a shipping confirmation. So, I’m uncertain as to the status of my order. I do hope that I hear something soon because five days is a lot not to see some kind of shipping notification, even if it is one that says it might ship later than expected.

I’m not quite sure where to go from here when it comes to figuring out rewards for future consistency. I feel like I have almost everything I want/need in relation to my fiddle right now. Sometimes I get the itch to check out the idea of an electric violin (especially with the stimulus check we just got) – and I even have an idea which one I would probably buy if given a chance. But I tend to back out of that when I realize this requires an investment in an amp setup, which I have no idea about at all.

So it just seems better to stick with the violin I have. I still do like my Master a lot!

-Photo Credit-