In this workshop we spent the day exploring how to shift from playing a series of notes, to making music.
There are several factors involved:
Relaxation, and getting ‘in the zone’
We learnt a simple round, and the tune ‘I See Mull’
We worked on shifting from a thinking way of playing to playing while really focusing on listening. We played the round, listening to our own sounds and those of the adjacent players, who were playing a different part. Doing this helps us to start to hear harmonies, and hear whether our own notes are in tune with those around us.
We worked on getting the bow to engage with the fiddle strings. We played percussive rhythmic open-string notes, lifting the bow, and using heel of the bow to make contact with the string. Our aim was to create very clear starts and finishes to the notes we played.
We spent some time listening closely to the notes in tunes, and how the dynamics played within individual notes can add to the expressiveness. For long notes, especially those that are at the highest pitches within the tune, we can build the volume throughout the length of the note, by speeding up the bow towards the tip.
Tonight we learnt the tune Miss Miffy Finlay, composed by Bryan Astor.
We spent some time working on ornamentation and grace notes in the tune. The we talked about the importance of adding dynamics into tunes to help bring them to life. We can add dynamics to particular phrases within a tune, and we can also add dynamics in individual notes.
We tried playing a D scale as quietly as possible, using our pinkies to take a little of the weight of the bow off the strings, and using a very short length of bow for each bow stroke. Then we played the same scale as loud as possible, using the full length of the bow for each note, and transferring some of the weight of the arm into the bow through the index finger. Then we tried playing a loud scale immediately followed by a quiet scale. We noticed that it was tricky to switch from very loud to very quiet. It made it easier if we ended our last loud note in the middle of the bow, rather than playing right down the length of it to the heel, so we were ready to play our quiet scale in the centre of the bow. When we did this, the switch from loud to quiet was much ‘cleaner’ and more distinct. After this, we tried playing up and down the scale with 4 loud notes followed by four quiet ones, then with the loud and quiet notes in pairs.
We tried out playing the pairs of loud and quiet notes while making some sort of connection with the person opposite us in the circle, rather than looking at our hands. This had an impact on what we played – it became more energetic and lively.
We went back to the tune, and tried playing it to the person opposite in the room – it was a bit tricky doing this with a tune we’d only just learnt.
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