Thursday, July 10, 2008

You Learn Something New Every Day...

... or at least, you should, in my opinion. :)

I love to learn. I constantly have new "projects" going, new things I want to learn about, new skills I want to master.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those perpetual school-going types. I know there are some people that love going to school so much they pretty much make it a living, going first for this degree, and then that one, and then this specialization, and that certification. That's not me. I do my required "continuing ed" hours each year to maintain my licensure, and that's more than enough "school" for me.

No, I like to learn things on my own, with an instructional book or video or website to guide me as needed.

But one thing that I have wanted to learn for many many years now, I simply have been unable to accomplish. And that one thing is playing the fiddle.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books have long been a great source of pleasure for me, and a key part of those books is the music that Pa makes for the family with his fiddle. I've learned most of the songs. I buy any Little House songbook or CD that comes out. I can play many "Little House" songs on the piano. But it's never been enough for me. I have so longed to learn to play Pa's songs on the fiddle myself.

So about 10-12 years ago, I decided to make it happen. I bought a fiddle on ebay, having no idea what I was doing. When I got it, I played with it a bit, but having had no experience whatsoever with any instrument other than the piano, I was just clueless and eventually gave up in frustration. The fiddle sat in a dark corner in my closet for years and years.

Every couple of years, I would notice it there and think that this time I would figure it out. But I never did. I didn't know how to hold it. I didn't know how to tune it. I didn't know where to put my fingers. And I had no idea how the strings coordinated with the various notes. And again and again, I became frustrated and sadly put the fiddle away for another time.

And so the fiddle has sat, silent, all these years, just waiting to make music with its incompetent owner. I would take lessons, but all efforts to find a teacher came up dry. There seemed to be nobody who taught fiddle, or even violin, in the area.

Last week, as chance would have it, I was visiting a friend, and in the course of conversation, she happened to mention that she had discovered that her vet plays the violin, and her children were now taking lessons from her. How my ears perked up at that information!! To make a long story short, my friend put me in contact with this violinist veterinarian and I went over yesterday morning for an informal lesson, just to get me started.

She showed me how to hold it. How to tune it. Advised me of some accessories I should purchase that would greatly enhance my ability to do both. Marked off finger positions and gave a simple explanation of what notes they represented. Then sent me on my way to see what I could do, having this new information at my fingertips... literally. :)

I came home, and hesitantly attempted a scale. Wow. I did it. I played up and down the scale a few times. Then I thought, well now I know where the notes are, I should be able to play some simple tunes.

And I did. I played Doe, A Deer. Mary Had a Little Lamb. Old Dan Tucker. Amazing Grace. Song after song just came to me and I was amazed to discover that I could play them all! All I needed was that little bit of help getting started, and a whole new world is opened up to me now.

I'm not saying I'm playing them beautifully or perfectly by any means. I know it will take time and practice to really get a feel for the instrument and be able to play smoothly and screech-free.

But finally, after all these years, I'm well on my way to being "
the fiddlin’est fool" that you ever see. :)

And that makes me really happy. :)

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