Monday, January 17, 2011

Old time jammer's manifesto

There is ample proof that there are many ways of learning to fiddle, not just one.

There are many people who develop the skill of being able to play tunes without the benefit of notation.

There are an infinite number of ways to drag a bow across some strings.

There are an infinite number of ways to express the basics of a tune.

Perfect intonation and accuracy are overrated. Many of the old time masters had neither.

Freezing traditional music in print is not the only way to preserve traditional tunes, and it is not the best for a goodly number of players.

Much of traditional music is social music that can be learned informally in gatherings as an alternative to a more classical approach.

Playing by ear is not a special talent. It is a skill that can only be learned by trying to play by ear.

There are those of us who take poorly to learning a tune phrase by phrase.

There are those of us who take poorly to playing in parallel with folks who play a tune the same way each time by rote.

There are those of us who relish puzzling out tunes that we don't know and being a part of something that is bigger than the sum of all the pieces.

Therefore, I call on all organizers of traditional music events to include at least one structured jam component, if not many, opportunities for students to learn by ear, to play with supportive jam leaders who can foster efforts to play by ear, to actually be a part of building communal tunes in a jam circle. Between those lines, read: not just to sit next to greatness and watch experts jam, thinking 'I could never do that'.

All the better, if you would hire me.


bj said...

Agree with all points (especially with the not learning phrase by phrase bit, which we've talked about!) I blogged on Fiddle Hangout recently about some similar thoughts, and cover one issue you might want to broaden-- learning tunes by rote and how folks who play this way can kill, or at least threaten, a jam. There is more than one way to freeze traditional music.

Ter said...

"Freezing traditional music in print is not the only way to preserve traditional tunes..."

You're absolutely correct.

On the other hand, this might be a time that we stretch and do what we can with them. Boost up our repertoire, listen to how their version compares, try something new of our own.

Because, what else can be done? Sometimes you meet people where they are.

Ter said...

Great discussion on the Fiddle Hangout... Learning tunes on the fly

Fiddlin' Bill said...

The thing about fiddling (in my opinion, obviously) is that it is a dynamic activity, not a method for recording history. That means that each time a tune is played it can change. And the art of fiddling is in not changing it too much. My favorite tune these days is Major Franklin's "Tom and Jerry," off the County record. Apropos of that, are there any programs that work like the Amazing Slow Downer, but can be purchased in the US and at somewhat less of a price than ASD? Just wondering? --Bill Hicks

Ter said...

Yes, Bill. How's 'free'? Audacity has a function to change tempo, but not pitch. It doesn't sound entirely smooth, but it's good enough for trying to pick the 'right-est' notes out.

Here's the menu path for slowing down an mp3 file.

Drag an mp3 file into the opened Audacity application screen.


Change Tempo

-50.00% Note the minus sign.

I saved the project which suffixed it as .aup.

Then, exported it into an .mp3 format.

Note that the Effect menu is not available (light grey text) if the tune is playing.

Good luck with it and thanks for stopping by.

Ter said... I'm using the beta version, fyi.