A brilliant example of fantastic harmony singing.
A brilliant example of fantastic harmony singing.
After I met the man who later became my husband, I had someone to jam with in real life quite often and regularly. He played the fiddle and some guitar, and wanted to learn to play bluegrass, and it turned out he had also lived in Ireland and knew some Irish tunes so we played some Irish music too. I learned a lot during this time, and we played sort of in a band kind of way, setting up harmonies and arrangements of some bluegrass songs.
It was because of my husband that I went on to play the fiddle. I had tried it some year earlier but hadn’t really come anywhere. He gave me some good advice and I learned some nice Swedish trad tunes together with him. He also sort of introduced me to the squeezebox world.
We went to an accordion festival, and I decided i wanted to play some kind of bellows instrument. After trying to play Daniel’s chubby Hohner box, I decided I’d prefer the concertina, not knowing you have to be rich to do that. I was lucky though to find a used Wheatstone English concertina for sale in a shop where noone knew about what it was or what it was worth. It gave me a start with concertinas, although later I ended up playing the anglo instead.
We also came across a player who is also a dealer of Castagnari melodeons, and I realized that there are small, handy and nice melodeons. So now I play them both.
During all this time, I’ve played the guitar now and then, but have always told myself that I do it just to back myself when I sing, when Daniel can’t be there with me. But eventually, in 2013, I realized that I play VERY MUCH guitar. And I went to get myself a good guitar. Since I invested some in a good guitar, I also wanted to learn to play it better. I planned to learn some Carter style playing, but while doing that, I actually ended up learning some simple flatpicking, and loved it so much that I wanted to continue with it.
Obviously I won’t be great at any of my instruments, since I don’t want to give up any of them. But I love them all and I really enjoy playing them, and learning new tunes and new skills. I have periods with my instruments, and it’s good, playing another instrument is good for you. Playing the guitar helps you improve your mandolin playing, and vice versa.
My playing really took off during the year that we lived in Ireland, especially after I bought my new mandolin. After we moved back home I’ve been very busy most of the time, either with studies, or work, but I always want to try to get back to playing regularly again. At least now I have a good base to (re)start from.
Disclaimer: If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may have read this already. Now that I’ve revived it, I want to put back this post as well.
I don’t know why I became so passionate about music. I wasn’t born in a particularly musical family really, and I definitely didn’t grow up in one. My grandfather was a fiddler, and my dad liked to play around with the guitar, but the music stops there, more or less.
However, I’ve always had a special interest in music. In Sweden, in the third grade, they introduce musical instruments, and you can choose if you want to learn to play one. This kind of music school is free in Sweden. I suppose it’s a good thing because you don’t have to be rich to be able to try a musical instrument while you’re in school, but it all depends on what they teach where you live. I grew up in an area where the trad music is very strong, so if you decide to learn to play the fiddle there, they’ll teach traditional tunes and I suppose they teach playing by ear, but if you grow up in the area where I live now, you’ll only learn classical pieces and playing from dots. I’ve played with several people I’ve known from church and who are brilliant instrumentalists but who have a hard time playing with other people because they’ve never been taught to play by ear, which I think is sad.
I remember that at 9, I was interested in playing the fiddle but I didn’t have the courage. So I chose the recorder because that seemed like the easiest instrument. My self confidence was, well, almost zero.
I played the recorder for two years but then I quit, fed up with those boring Swedish children’s songs (now I know lots of music styles that could have been cool to play on the recorder but they never introduced them to me).
Later, when I was about 17-ish years old, I started becoming interested in country music. I listened to Buck Owens, Tanya Tucker, and it all took off after the release of the CD “Absolute Country”. After that I found lots of new favourites. After a while, I started looking for more traditional stuff, with less electrical instruments, less pianos, less drums. I ended up with The Cox family and Alison Krauss, and I had a new passion. Bluegrass was sort of the answer to everything I had been looking for music-wise.
I started playing the guitar I had kept after my father died, and later went on to the mandolin instead. Really, I wanted to play the fiddle, but (still) didn’t have the courage. There is this myth surrounding the fiddle, that it’s OMG so special and only especially talented super humans can learn to play it. In my opinion, all instruments are special and unique and they all have their difficulties and twiddly bits you need to get over. I’m beginning to believe that there is no such thing as talent, because it’s mostly about what people you have to help and inspire you, and how much time you dedicate to your instrument.
I started playing the mandolin and had a rough start, not knowing anyone who played the mandolin, and there wasn’t the internet back then (at least not in my world) to find tutorials, forums and all that. I started with a book that came with a CD, and I learned my first tunes. In 1998 I went to work as an au-pair in Italy, and there I just happened to find myself a mandolin teacher. So I got going and I learned some music theory there too, the most important part was how to form major chords, something that has been incredibly useful. But that’s about where my music theory skills end these days.
After I started studying to be a nurse, I got to know some bluegrass players, learned a lot from them, and it was also then that I found some online communities that were very helpful, especially the old part of Mandolin Cafe where people learned a tune and then made a recording of their version and posted it on the forum. It was very inspiring and helped me practice more consistently and in a more organized way.
After that, I found a Yahoo group where some players had what they called an “online jam”. It wasn’t really a jam session since you couldn’t play together for real, but each person played a tune and the others gave feedback. It was all for encouragement, no critique, because that wasn’t the point. I remember some lovely people from there that I’ve lost contact with, sadly. It was in that group I realized that I wasn’t so bad at playing, and that my singing was ok too.
Later, a similar group formed with players from Europe, and there a name showed up that seemed very Swedish to me. When I asked it turned out that he lived about an hour and a half from me. We met at the bluegrass festival in Gränna that summer, and we got married two years later.
So I signed up for our friend A’s tune workshop! It’s mainly fiddle tunes and the majority of the students are fiddlers, but all instruments are welcome as far as I know.
I used to be a part of the class a couple of years ago, so I know most of them, and can’t wait to see them again.
I won’t be able to be there a lot, because of my work schedule, but I signed up to meet some music people who will inspire me, and to get to play with other people at a reasonable level. I want to start playing the fiddle again, but won’t be able to do that if I just do it at home.
I don’t get inspired by hearing pro musicians play. Well, to a certain extent I do, of course, like at concerts, CDs and the likes. I get tons of guitar inspiration by seeing some Norman Blake videos on You Tube, for example. I guess it has to do with what I expect in that particular situation. At festivals and such, I want to attend jams, and then I get more inspiration by meeting other musicians and see that I have opportunities to play with other people, than to watch a brilliant musician play their brilliancy tunes. I’m not interested in the pros who show off their stuff at a campsite, but I love seeing the intermediate or almost intermediate players gather for a jam, and see that hey, I can join in there.
Because then I see that I’m not alone. That there are more people out there who aren’t pros. And that there are people I can jam with, without feeling that I don’t fit in.
So I expect plenty of new inspiration this spring! Now I just have to get going and practice some fiddle before the course starts so it won’t be a total shock for my poor inactive wrist.