November 2020 Fiddle Progress Report
Posted on December 1, 2020
I really, really wanted to write an October Progress Report, and just failed to do so.
I was disappointed in that because October marked the one year anniversary of the arrival of my Fiddlerman Master. I’m happy to report that I did not go out fiddle shopping with any great need or intention since it has arrived. I’m still pleased with it and enjoy playing it very much! I don’t foresee me needing a different fiddle anytime soon.
Now, on to consistency. On Thanksgiving, I finally broke my practice record of playing every day. I’m a little sad about it, but at the same time, I think I can grant myself a holiday considering I’ve practiced every day since February. The important thing is that I don’t let a day off effect consistency going forward. I actually think it’s a good test to see if I can allow myself a break here or there and still continue to be consistent otherwise.
Back in my September progress report, I’d just gotten a new Wolf Forte Secondo shoulder rest. I really like this shoulder rest, though I’ve been spending time adjusting it in order to play more comfortably.
At first, I kept all of the height settings to a minimum, still thinking I really needed a short shoulder rest for a short neck. But then I found my fiddle sorta… drooping… which makes playing on the E string challenging. So I started to adjust the side of the chinrest closest to my chest higher to prop the fiddle up more under the E string. Then I started to wonder if I’ve been slouching too much overall, and adjusted the other side of the chin rest higher as well. I’m still getting used to it and trying to find a good balance for comfortable playing – I have learned that the lowest setting is not good, though!
Back in September, I also put on a new set of strings – Thomastik Alphayue. Overall, I don’t feel like these have produced the best sound I’ve heard on my fiddle. I don’t know how to explain it — they’re more prone to be scratchy (to my ear) for some reason. I considered buying new strings during the Black Friday sales, but it seems a real waste to replace them so soon – though I have considered putting these on my Bunnel since I think I see some corrosion on the strings there.
In the end, I didn’t pick anything up for Black Friday. But I might look into it for Christmas sales. I’m not sure what to try next – I’ve heard D’Addario Zyex are nice. I also have a set of D’Addario Helicore on my Bunnel which sounded fairly good – but again, I don’t know how it will stack up for my Master.
Let’s see… I’ve added string-crossing exercises in conjunction with my long-bowing exercises this month. I feel like this is really something I need. It came to my attention that perhaps it’s playing on a 7/8 size fiddle that makes it easier to accidentally hit strings I don’t mean to, so putting time into mindful string crossings can help.
I’ve even rotated the bows I’m using again. I was playing with the Holstein sandalwood bow since about a year ago, but I wonder if it’s been causing me more bouncing and scratching issues than it should. I switched back to my original Fiddlerman carbon fiber bow and it feels lighter and a bit less scratchy. It could be player error, so who knows. I’ll keep experimenting.
I’ve got a much better grasp on 4th finger now – much thanks to the scales exercises and EEI tunes that have pushed me to incorporate 4th finger into things. I’m not perfectly great, but I’m doing a whole lot better than I was a few months ago.
I’m still working on colle, and improving on that. But vibrato has been a long, slow progress for me. I’ve even watched additional videos and implemented some tips from those. They helped, but I still see this as a long road to making anything close to a good sound with this technique. I just can’t seem to rock my hand fast enough at this point. Not going to stop practicing it, of course!
Other than that, I’ve been focused on moving very slowly through tunes now days. Much, much more slowly than I did last year. I’ve even been practicing Silent Night since last month – some days it sounds better than others.
That’s really all I’ve got for this update. I feel like I forgot a few things since this covers October as well as November. I’m just going to continue to focus on my practice and look forward to holidays in December!