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Fiddle Lessons: A Great Left Hand Exercise

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Yes, I do this every chance I get.
Play the slow scales.
It really it's, just you never get away
from this stuff.
It's I thought it was just me for awhile.
But then I was at a festival with the
great fiddle player Gabe Witcher.
And I'm sure we'll be able to visit with
Gabe at some point on this site and
get some of his insights.
But one of those young really hot shot
great players I was
lucky to have him play in my group, the
Republic of Strings for about two months.
And of course, now he's with the Punch
Brothers the most amazing band ever.
And just always had a lot of admiration
for him.
Just a super nice person and always
ready to fit whatever he could do into
what was happening musically.
You know, he knew that he could always,
you know, he could play fireworks or
play whatever, but sometimes he would just
choose to play what was needed, you know.
So, just a great player and I walked in on
him in the back stage area
one of the stages at a festival in
Florida, and
he was sitting there doing [SOUND] I'm
going, Gabe what?
Did you have a stroke, what?
And he says, no, no, I do this every day,
he said, you have to find them every day.
Of course, he was talking about the notes.
And that's what they are,
the notes always seems like they're in a
different place.
Well, the notes are in a, the place where
they are.
The notes are always the same.
But your hand is different.
The instrument is different.
The temperature, air pressure is
There are so many things that change all
the time.
And you do.
You have to find them every day.
So that's how it goes.
But maybe sometimes we don't have that
kind of time to play through every scale,
every arpeggio everyday.
I'm, I'm sure you don't.
I know I don't.
So I've evolved a couple of shortcuts just
to get my fingers set
for first position usually that really
It kinda gets you focused and gets you set
without having to play every scale.
It's a little trick which I start with, it
it kinda puts your fingers in every major
position that you can do.
So I will start with my first finger on
the D string that's playing an E note,
And then I go up and play just the first
half of an E major scale.
And then back down.
Now if that sounds out of tune,
I'm gonna go back and really find it.
Make sure that note is right.
And then if it felt weird, I'll stay on
I'm gonna take that time to give my hand
time to acclimate to that position.
notice I'm holding all my fingers down as
I go up.
that all the fingers are spending their
time in their optimum, in tune position,
even if I'm using another finger to make
the note.
Those other fingers are still at work.
And I'm, again, wrist, elbow relaxing,
relaxing the arm, okay, I've done this
little bit.
now I'm going to go to a different
I'm going to go to-
So that's like a D major scale, right?
So we got a D, an E, and an F-sharp.
the only difference is that we've brought
our third finger down from the G sharp-
To the natural position.
But of course, just moving that one finger
is not the story.
Your whole hand is affected.
We have this stretch.
So again,
if there's any odd stretches or something
that feels stiff-
I'll stay there.
Just making sure that the hand,
like an animal, is comfortable in its
right, proper place.
Okay, and then the next version of this is
where I'm gonna drop the second
finger from the F-sharp position to the
F-natural so what we get is-
we get this stretch between these three
That's gonna feel very different.
A little bit more of a strain,
depending on the size of your hand.
If you've got a big hand, then it might
feel physically easy, but you're still
gonna have to go for precision.
then the last version of this, we're gonna
drop the first finger.
So we've got four wide places.
We've got the, the four whole steps,
So we got, so the whole thing.
That's the whole thing right there.
So we go.
So, and we're not gonna, we did,
there's no point in making this, I played
it fast, relatively fast for
just to get the point across, but we are
gonna take time if we need to.
set that if there's a problem with the
And then set it, get comfortable.
Take the hand off the fingerboard if we're
tensing up.
And set.
that's a great little setting exercise
just to get your hands,
your finger's used to going into the right
place in the first position.
You can go to any of the strings, but the
D string is kind of a nice compromise,
because it's, it's a little bit more of a
Gets your arm around but it's not so
Ideally, if you got the time, you do it on
every string, but, like I'm saying,
this is kind of a thing where we're trying
to just get the maximum amount of pitch
accuracy going with your hand in the
shortest amount of time if we have a,
if we have to get somewhere or the car
insurance guy is coming or something.