Learning tunes is the easy part. Giving them life is the challenge.
We’ve all gone to dances and heard that one tune that just gets in your soul and forces you to get up and dance. You just can’t help it, it sounds so good. Yet when I sit down to play, sometimes even that same tune, I can’t say the music I’m making inspires that same feeling. Why is that?
I am guilty of getting so wrapped up in learning the notes and melody of a tune, that I ignore the true essence of the music. Sometimes what gets lost in my playing is the very core of the music’s intent – to inspire people to dance.
I think part of my problem is what fiddler, Alistair Fraser calls “boring bowing.” I spend way too much time trying to remember the notes on my left hand that I forget that on my right, my bow hand is the core of what makes people move. It’s the rhythm.
Yesterday, I took a workshop from Old Town School of Folk, called Finding Your Inner Drummer, hosted by fiddler, Alistair Fraser and cellist, Natalie Haas. And what I learned was, as a fiddle player, I’m always so focused on learning the melody of the tune that I am guilty of not paying much attention to the rhythm. And even more guilty of not paying attention to my own rhythm.
Alistair said to “find ways to be rhythmically potent,” and challenged us to get in touch with our “inner rhythm.” That doesn’t necessarily mean to change the rhythm of the tune. A reel is always going to be in 4/4 but where you put the accent and where you give it a lift, can create a whole new version of the same tune that you never new existed. Sometimes just listening to your inner rhythm and letting it flow through your bow can make a world of difference.
I’m inspired now to practice playing around with my bowing to find my own version of the music. Ultimately my goal is make music that is so inspiring it makes the dancers want to dance. I challenge you to do the same.