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.