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Karen Allendoerfer

Learning to Rock?

July 9, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Reading about the Rockin' Fiddlers' Challenge on got me interested.  I've tried a little bit of fiddling on my own, especially with my daughter, who seems to respond well to that type of music.  I also enjoy listening to fiddle music:  Darrol Anger, Natalie MacMaster, Celtic Woman, Childsplay, have recorded some of my favorite CDs.

But I've never spent any serious study or performance effort on fiddle music for myself.  It doesn't come naturally to me to play without sheet music or to play by ear, yet when I watched Adam DeGraff's amazing YouTube performance, it seemed that both of those are essential to getting the desired effect, to "rock."

So, I am going to try the "Rockin' Fiddler's Challenge."  I submitted my measures 1-8 this morning:

The limitations of my camera are pretty obvious.  There is a big crescendo at the end, which I tried to make but is hard to hear on the recording.  On the other hand, recording myself still taught me a few things.  One is that I tend to rush.  I needed a couple of tries before I got a recording where the rushing wasn't too obvious.  The other is that your facial expression, and manner, matter.  In some of my recordings I look kind of scared.  For this one that I posted, I was really trying to get rid of that "deer in the headlights" look, and I'm not sure that I entirely succeeded.

There are a lot of good recordings up on the challenge's Facebook page.  This is one of my favorites:

In addition to being technically very good, when she plays she really looks like she is having fun, smiling and getting into it.  It's fun to watch her.  (It's also fun to watch Adam.  That's an art in itself).  

Adam DeGraff generously posted a nice comment to my video on the FB page.  He is great, he really cares about everyone who posts and gives everyone a personal comment.  One thing he wants me to do is "be a little less careful and it all hang out."  He's right, but the next 8 measures are tough.  I am probably not going to be able to do that for another few days, if ever, especially with that "grab."  But I appreciate the challenge, and I appreciate his encouraging words.  It's going to make my summer more interesting!



From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 12:28 PM

 I'm having a hard time with the second 8 measures.  I've watched the instructional video.  But I can't seem to memorize it.  Something about the repetition.  I get caught in a loop and I can't remember what comes next.  I go back to something in the first section and get stuck.

It's only 8 measures--why is that so hard?

From Neil Nelson
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 5:56 PM

Unfortunately I cannot load videos where I am at the moment but from some of the comments I have read this looks really interesting, can;t wait to check it out monday :)

From Tom Bop
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 6:56 PM

You're doing great- especially if you've never played rock before. You've got the notes down and have a good feel for where the accents fall. Lexy (?) in the other clip you posted has a little more efficient right arm, doing a lot of her string crossings with wrist/fingers without moving upper arm as much. That's probably you're next step in bowing- cuts down the motion so things get quicker and smoother with same effort (after you learn to do it! haha).

I've played electric guitar, and am curious you or anyone else in the contest has listened to Slash play it. There's a good link of him live at Glastonbury that comes up in youtube on the other version you posted (Lexy's). He plays the first note as if it were D, and with guitar tuning, it's a real simple box and very easy to finger. Many rock guitarists tune down 1/2 step, so it sounds closer to C#.

If I were going to play this on violin,I'd probably tune down the same way and start with the open "D" string to get more ringing and make the fingering a lot easier. On the video of Slash, you can see how neat and simple this is on guitar. Has anyone just tuned the violin like the 4 high strings of a guitar to play this? I just get my Strat (with the T!) out if I want to play this stuff...

I've always liked Slash's playing. It's fairly simple musically, but always real clean and lyrical. His solo in November Rain would probably also sound very good on violin. He's also an avid guitar collector and supposedly spends most of his money on vintage Les Pauls, so he'd fit in the violin world.

Keep rockin!



From Janis Cortese
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 8:04 PM

Mmm, rock.  :-)  There are a couple of Neal Schon's solos that I'm already gunning for, and I'm in Suzuki v1!

Here's a magnificent EVH solo from YouTube on an acoustic violin; I hope this is legit, because it's brilliant:

From Tom Holzman
Posted on July 10, 2010 at 9:42 PM

Keep up the good work and have fun.  It's time to let out your inner rocker!

From Reynard Hilman
Posted on July 11, 2010 at 3:52 AM

Good job Karen! the next 8 measures are supposed to be the hardest (I hope so) but if you just play it slowly and a little bit everyday you'll memorize it. I think it's a good method to learn 8 measures at a time :) 

From Tom Bop
Posted on July 11, 2010 at 6:43 AM
I just tried it by ear doing what Slash does- fingering it in D (altho tuned down 1/2 step), and it's quite ez to play- only one double string crossing and lots of openD's and A's (nominally, altho I didn't tune down). I haven't tried the fingering on the contest video, but it looks brutal. Kudos to Karen for doing it that way! I wonder if the contest requires his fingering....hmmm...
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM

 He sends you the music both as a whole clean copy without markings, and 8 measures at a time with his fingerings.  I don't know if his fingering is required, but I need it, I don't think I'd be able to make up my own.  

However, the idea to tune it down is really interesting . . . there is another clip on YouTube somewhere of the original and I thought it sounded like it was in a different key, maybe tuned down just as you said.

Reynard, I agree the next 8 measures are a lot harder than these measures.  I got started with the contest a little late so I would like to get  measures 9-16 posted also (especially because measures 17-24 are waiting in my inbox), but I still can't play them through. I get stuck, I can't stay in rhythm, and I play wrong notes.  

Last night I was having better luck just looking at the notes and not the fingerings, and parts of this piece are carrying on in the back of my head even when I'm not practicing with the instrument, so that's probably a good sign, some sort of learning is taking place.


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 11, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Just for fun, trying practicing this, followed by the Franck Sonata.  (That is the other piece that I am working on).  Talk about a study in contrasts!  

From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 11, 2010 at 10:02 PM

 Am I the only one who sees "Franck Sonata" written and thinks "Frank Sinatra"? Actually, not anywhere else, but since we're talking a different kind of stringed music here, that must have thrown me. 

Good for you on this, Karen! I get a little fiddle music assigned from time to time, mixed in with my other pieces, and just yesterday I was playing a fiddle tune of a couple weeks now, and realizing I will never sound like a fiddler in the least. (Not that I sound like a classical musician right now, tho...) But I did have that same entertaining feeling of shifting gears midway during my practice, back into some Schubert, a little round. I think I do the Schubert better justice.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 11, 2010 at 10:25 PM

 Terez, you are not the only one.  Anne Horvath told me "good luck with the Frank Sinatra" back when I first started working on it ;)

But I have to say, the piece itself doesn't remind me of Sinatra at all . . . unless you count "doing it my way!"

From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 12, 2010 at 1:40 PM

 >But I have to say, the piece itself doesn't remind me of Sinatra at all . . . unless you count "doing it my way!"

LOL!  : )

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 14, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Next 8 measures.  

It still doesn't rock, but I think I need to put these measures into a bigger musical context. Just playing them by themselves I don't really hear how they fit into the whole. I hope I can look back on this a few months from now as the "before" recording and be psyched at how much better the "after" recording is.



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