Sour Notes

Since I wouldn’t be able to get the fabric I needed two weeks ago, I thought I would spend more time focusing on my fiddle before the mad sewing rush started back up.  I thought I was doing well enough — I was enjoying messing around with tunes and trying to remember songs I used to have memorized.  I even tried playing around a little:  the odd double-stop or droning here and there if I felt comfortable enough (which isn’t that often, sadly).  It certainly wasn’t excellent or even great playing, mind you (maybe not even good to some people’s standards, which I can definitely understand).  I realize I have a long way to go and I still struggle with a lot of things even after the past several years, but I do try to have fun.  I’m still trying to learn and memorize melodies while adjusting my playing to sound better.  Still, I felt a little guilty having a whole week to focus on the fiddle and not push myself more to take advantage of the extra time to learn some new things.  So I pulled out two DVDs I bought last year that also came with sheet music.

There are two or three songs I especially have wanted to learn for a while, and since the first DVD had enabled me to learn a few tunes and tricks, I thought there would be no harm to move on to the next DVD to try a couple of those songs.  What a mistake.  The second DVD proved to be a very bad choice, especially since I have only skimmed the first DVD.  I can be a little lazy with reading music, and I’m not very good at learning songs by ear.  I wanted to get the basic melody down — to get a feel for the song — so I would be more comfortable playing and learning it before I added ornamentation and variation to it.  I thought having the DVD would help.  It only confused me more.  The fiddler played too fast for me — even on the “slow spots” — and he had too many variations and ornamentation thrown in before I’d figured out the first batch he’d used.  Half the time, I couldn’t even figure out exactly where he was starting and stopping in the music.  I had a hard time figuring out the basic melody and what he played didn’t seem like what I was reading on the music or playing in my own clumsy attempts.  I got frustrated.

The next day, I barely touched the fiddle, and although I did try to look at the music to figure it out, I had no luck.  I continued to get frustrated.  I then remembered that I had also purchased a small tunebook that came with a CD from the same fiddler.  I had never even listened to it!  I realized that it had the “slow” and “at speed” setup I like for learning songs and got hopeful.  I played it and put it on my iPhone for easier access.  As I listened and read along with the sheet music (without my fiddle), the first song seemed like it might be easy enough to figure out.  After that song, the same thing started happening to me that had hit me with the DVDs.  I felt overwhelmed, confused, and just as frustrated as ever.  Once I hit that point, it becomes difficult for me to pull out of that down feeling and make any progress.  I probably should have just put the fiddle away and not touched it for a few days, but I was still determined to keep practicing since I didn’t have any sewing I could do.

Practices after that felt like a struggle.  Bow issues like scratching, tensing up, even hitting the wrong strings, etc. plagued me constantly.  My confidence had been shattered and instead of just playing and having fun with the fiddle that week, I constantly questioned if I even had any business doing this.  So many years of hard work and I just feel like I keep hitting too many walls and fighting too many losing or struggling battles for so little progress.  I realize that the 5 (or how ever many years I’ve been at this since I can’t remember) is very little time to really be playing an instrument, but remember I had to actually cut down how often I was playing to prevent injuries and burn out.  I went from practicing off and on all day every day to trying to limit myself to a few hours a day.  In recent years, I have had to put the fiddle aside for a few days, weeks — even months — at a time for various reasons.  I’ve also had to back up and relearn some things when I realize that I taught myself the wrong technique, or found a more comfortable way to do this or that.

I definitely need to find my happy place with the fiddle again, but at the same time I need to focus back on sewing.  I have a deadline I’m nervous I won’t make, and a lot of new things I will have to learn in order to finish this project.  I don’t want yet another hobby leaving me feeling disappointed.  The fiddle will have to get out of the spotlight for a little while again while I try to push through the sewing projects.  The whole situation isn’t for lack of trying, really, I just don’t know what I’m doing and I’m tired of feeling frustrated and defeated.  Things like sewing — even when I make glaring mistakes (which are sometimes easier to hide with sewing than they are with music) — don’t seem to leave a sour taste for me like fiddle playing has been doing.  I know I won’t give up, but I need to figure something out and fix this situation fast.

One lesson I did learn that week:  Don’t push yourself too much, too soon.  Sometimes it’s okay to just do what you’re comfortable doing, even if you feel like you’re taking forever to get where you and everyone else thinks you should be.

About Cynthia Griffith

I have way too many interests and hobbies, and continually cycle through them -- paying attention to some, while others wait for when I can get around to them again. My main interests are sewing and costuming (I enjoy historical clothing, such as 18th and 19th century, as well as fantasy costumes like elves and hopefully someday even dwarves), as well as getting back to art by drawing fan art of Thorin Oakenshield and Company. My husband Christopher and I spend a lot of time together, enjoying the outdoors and shared hobbies such as juggling. This blog and website is my way to share what I'm up to with friends and family.
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5 Responses to Sour Notes

  1. I apologize if some of the writing on this entry seemed a bit off. I had written it earlier, and then got busy with sewing and forgot to post it. I had to go through and try to change the timing of it (it had said “last week” but it’s been longer than that now). I also wasn’t really sure I wanted to post it, but it is an update and a record of my struggles with the fiddle… so there we go. A fiddle update.

  2. I think the important thing is exactly what you said at the end of this post: “Don’t push yourself too much, too soon.”

    The novel I just finished…I wrote two novels in the time I started and finished it because I wasn’t ready to write it when I first thought about it. Some people thought I should have charged ahead with the novel I just finished, but I wasn’t good enough at the time to pull it off. I had to work and get better.

    There’s a lot to be said for practicing and getting better; even more to be said for knowing your strengths and weaknesses and not rushing in too soon.

    You’re good–you know that. It would be easy for me to say, “Just go to sessions!” but I understand your fears. When I started juggling, I went to a juggling club where there were people who all juggled alike. And I looked at it differently. When I found the right club,I got sooooooooooooooo much better.

    You have a great session with people you know, but I understand your apprehension. You don’t know everybody, and you want to be at a certain level before jumping in. I’ve been like that with juggling and writing. We know artists and other creative people who worked to a certain level of skill they wanted to achieve before jumping in “too soon.”

    You can always get together with friends who go to our favorite session and practice more with them. Maybe before you jump into that session, you’ll find a slow session. The good thing is you have options, and you’ll get there!

    I look forward to that day.

    On the nights you’ve really been on it, playing tunes I love in the apartment, fewer things in life sound better and make me as happy when you’re playing with confidence.

    I can’t wait to see you playing with confidence at a session one day 🙂

  3. Thanks Christopher! Yeah, I have to think about what makes me happy. I have no desire to join a band or play publicly. This is for my own enjoyment, first and foremost. If I end up eventually joining a small session for fun, then yay! If not, then I have other things I’m stronger with. I’ve seen people scrunch their face up when I hit a sour note in my struggle to even hit a note on time (a lot of these tunes go FAST) or if my hand is tense and “off” with finger placement… I don’t want to do that at sessions and have people wish I’d never show up. If I *do* join any sessions, I think it would be best to stick with friends and keep it small. Where, if I need… they won’t mind starting over or talking about things with me.

    For the moment, I’m too busy anyway. Working on the stays is proving to be a very long and tedious project, and my hands are going to be complaining. I’m just going to enjoy my fiddle when I have the time, play what songs I want to, and just focus on improving my skill without pushing myself too hard. Also, while I appreciate that people think highly of me, they don’t really know what my skill levels are and I do think I’m given a little too much credit at times. I’m still struggling with the basics, or at best, there are holes in what I should know or be able to do. I can’t suddenly expect myself to make tons of progress and shake off my nervousness to play in front of others (especially if I don’t know them very well). Heck, I’ve still rarely had the chance to play the fiddle in front of anyone enough — that includes you!

    Even still… nothing more frustrating than feeling incredibly clumsy, unskilled, and stupid when you do try improve your skills 🙁 (in reference to how struggling with the DVD and CD made me feel, I mean)

  4. Mary says:

    Yep, Chris beat me to it…..”Sometimes it’s okay to just do what you’re comfortable doing, even if you feel like you’re taking forever to get where you and everyone else thinks you should be.”

    The enjoyment of doing it for yourself hopefully will keep you from stressing and on the track to enjoyment.

    I think it’s awesome that you keep at it even when you feel “incredibly clumsy”.

  5. Pingback: » Blog Archive » On a Better Note…

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