Playing tunes in your own style

Playing tunes in your own style


Playing tunes in your own style

Tonight we spent time going over the last two tunes we’ve learnt in the class (Vals and Aird Ranters), and thinking about ways to begin to play tunes in our own individual style. We started off by consolidating the Vals, and then looking at what issues people were finding with playing the tune the way they want.

We did a quick recap of things we can do to help with tone, and played through the tune a couple of times while focusing on these.

Learning to play while hearing the tune in our head is a helpful way to start to play more from our subconscious mind, which helps with learning to play more fluidly. It’s common that when we’re first learning to play that we focus on looking at our fingers, as we learn to get familiar with where to position them for the different notes on each string. If this becomes a habit, we’re reinforcing using visual cues to inform our playing. As we progress through learning skills, it’s helpful to move away from being reliant on using these visual cues, and to begin to learn to rely more on listening to what we are playing. As we start to do this, we can also be thinking about hearing the tune in the style we want to play it.

Several people were struggling with adding dynamics into the tune. We started off working on this by talking about where in the tune we felt we wanted to build the volume up. There were a couple of obvious notes in the A part where we could hear a natural crescendo, and we felt we wanted the last phrase to be quieter. We tried out playing a long D on the A string, and building the note to a crescendo as we played it. The we tried playing the opening phrase of the tune, and building the long D in a similar way. We played round the A an B parts of the tune several times, thinking about the dynamics we wanted in the tune.

We also talked about phrasing in the tune. It’s useful to think about this as playing in a similar way to  the way we speak. It would be hard to follow someone who talked without breaking their sentences down into phrases. If all the words came out in a steady stream, with no obvious punctuation, or pauses, it would be difficult to make sense of what the person was saying. Music is another form of communication – it makes it much easier to listen to if it has some sort of structure to it. You can think of this in terms of musical phrases, or questions and answers throughout the tune.

Tuning was something that was mentioned by several people, particularly keeping the top A (4th finger) in tune . We’ll continue to work on this throughout the term.

Playing tunes in your own style
©Ros Gasson

After the break, we played through the three options we have for the Aird Ranters – playing it in the top octave, down an octave, and playing the accompanying bass line. The we split up so that a few people were playing each part. We tried that out again, and everyone sat in a different place, so we were playing alongside people who were playing a different part. We focused on listening to the people beside us, and trying to play together as a group.

Once we’d got really familiar with the different parts, a group of 3 people sat in the middle of the circle,  and played the tune through together, with one person playing each part. The first time through, the three were sitting with their backs to each other. The group realised that although it focused them on listening to each other, they really missed the visual cues from being able to see one another while they were playing. We also had some feedback from the rest of the class who had been listening and observing.

We finished the evening by playing through The Road to Banff, Fionn’s, and Midnight on the Water.

There will be no class next week. We agreed tonight to reschedule next week’s class to Tuesday 9th April, which is the 2nd Tuesday after the end of term.