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Pauline Lerner

March 25, 2005 at 10:10 PM

I bought a new CD of Celtic music played by Alasdair Fraser on fiddle and Natalie Haas on cello. I know and love some of the tunes on it, so I played it and tried to play along. Oh, no. I wasn’t very good. I know why, too. In years past, I would play the radio or recordings and leave my fiddle or mandolin out so that I could grab an instrument and play along whenever the spirit moved me. This didn’t help me get my chores done, but it sure helped me learn how to play along by ear. I haven’t done this in a long time and I’m paying the price. I have to go back to doing it. This time I was compelled to look at sheet music, a terrible no-no. I hope Alasdair doesn’t find out. He plays a couple of Shetland tunes (Christmas Day ida Morning and Sleep Soond ida Morning) that I could play almost fast enough to keep up with him. At the beginning of this set and others, Alasdair and/or Natalie play some rhythm riffs that are fast and complex and are used again in the tunes. He certainly turned his violin into a rhythm instrument, just like he told us in his workshop. He played Crossing the Minch, a fun, fast piece with showoff techniques, and he played it really fast and showy. All I could do was sit back and listen and laugh in amazement. I could play along very well in the slow tunes, including some I know, like Da Slockit Light, also from Shetland, and some others that I don’t know. I also improvised harmony on the slow tunes, especially those I don’t know. Many times, in jam sessions, I have told people, “My creativity is at its best when unhampered by knowledge of the melody.” I’ll go back to playing along with recordings I like. It will be fun and good for improving my jamming skills.
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