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Leftwich Lessons: Rocky Road to 3Q

Today marks nine months of working with Brad Leftwich's two-disc Homespun DVD series Learn to Play Old-Time Fiddle. At last report, I had switched over to Lesson 2, which where the "down-bow" style gets much more complex.

Leftwich teaches a series of patterns named after the greats he learned from, such as "Tommy's Lick," named after Tommy Jarrell, and "Melvin's Lick." named after Melvin Wine, and others. These short patterns have some variations and can be slotted into various tunes to help drive the rhythm by keeping the beginning of phrases as a powerful downward bow stroke.

This past weekend, I started working on "Rocky Road to Dublin," from West Virginia fiddler Burl Hammons. So far, it's been very rocky road indeed.



This is the second tune that Leftwich teaches using "Melvin's Lick," which is basically a shuffle and a pulsed up-bow. As the lessons have gone on, I've had a harder time picking up the tune from the video alone. I've resorted to using the notation provided in the booklet, which is frustrating.

One of my goals was to develop better skills at picking up tunes on the fly, but that has proven much more difficult as the tunes become more complex. Perhaps I'm relying too much on my eyes instead of my ears, as I'm trying to watch the video for where Leftwich's fingers fall, rather than listening to what the notes are.

The other problem with this is that I don't actually read standard notation, though I can figure it out. The time it takes me to write my own notes about what the notation says is time that would be better spent working with the bow.

At any rate, I still rate these DVDs highly. The tunes have all been fun. Some are fairly common, while others are a bit more obscure. It's a good mix. The teaching style is pretty straightforward. However, I find it difficult to play along with the video. I wish there were audio files of the tunes to supplement the DVDs.

There are still five more tunes to learn. I better pick up the pace if I'm going to get through these lessons by the end of the year.

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