The fiddler who fiddles with this blog

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Selinsgrove, PA, United States
Beverley Conrad is a writer and musician who has played the fiddle for most of her life and she's no spring chicken. She performs regularly in her home state and beyond and teaches others how to play. She lives in the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. She also likes to cook. For more about Beverley and the fiddle visit her website at Fiddlerwoman.com

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Learning how to Shuffle

     Learning how to shuffle without thinking about it can be daunting for the new fiddler.  Here are some pointers.  This is in response to a woman who wrote and asked for help.  She has a teacher, but wondered what advice I might offer.    
     90% of the music we produce from a violin (fiddle - same thing) is dependant on the bow and the use of it.  So many times people watch a fiddler's left hand thinking, "Wow!  Are they good!" because the fingers move so fast.  But it really is the right hand - the bow hand - that produces the music and the beat we respond to.
     I'm telling you this because chances are you have spent much time memorizing fingering patterns, which is good.  That is necessary as well.  But time must also be spent teaching your right hand (bow hand) the same motor memory.  In other words, start slowly, really slowly, and go through the bowing pattern, in this case the Georgia shuffle.  I suspect your teacher has taught you how to accent a note, how to play one note louder than the other.  If she hasn't, then ask her how one does this.  Accents must also be practiced with the bow hand because at some point you'll be going lickity split and that bow hand must learn how to play loud soft loud soft loud soft soft - whatever - at a fast pace.  Or slow, depending on the song.
     So to learn that shuffle, start slowly, but keep the notes even and to time.  Accent where you should, crossing the strings, changing the notes, going through the song or the exercise.  Only do this for about 10 minutes at a time.  Then take a break for an hour or two (day or two) before you go back to it.  Gradually pick up speed.  This is how to teach your hand to memorize.  Eventually, and this may seem light years away to you at this point, but trust me, eventually you'll learn to do this without thinking about it.  I actually remember where I was and when my bow hand started to shuffle automatically, just keeping up with the song but not thinking about my hand.  (I was jamming at the Jerseytown Tavern on the song Old Joe Clark)
     Just take it slow.  Keep it accurate and devote at least 10 minutes a day at a time to it.  You'll get it.