Fiddle lesson

For about nine months now Chris has been taking fiddle lessons from Art Mize in Lexington. We met Art through Jerome Lange, who occasionally arranges gigs for us all to play at. Chris really liked Art’s fiddling, and I was making weekly produce deliveries to Lexington at the time, so we arranged for Chris to have bi-weekly ninety minute lessons. Once the produce deliveries stopped we went to once a month, which still gave Chris plenty to work on between lessons—Art is a very good teacher, and spent a lot of time working with Chris on basic techniques, which are much more important with fiddle than guitar or banjo.

Last fall I heard that Pete Wernick was thinking of expanding jam camp by adding an “intermediate” component, taking the more experienced players and teaching them ensemble skills. It’s a great idea and something I thought we could help him with (and have a lot of fun doing) so I signed us up for camp. We decided it would be a good idea to have Chris play mostly fiddle at the camp, so since January we’ve gone back to bi-weekly lessons and Art has been giving Chris a crash course on the specifics of bluegrass fiddling—what to do in various keys, how to construct a break, etc.

One of Chris’s exercises is to record himself playing guitar and singing songs in various keys, then practice playing along with the recording. This time around the featured key was C, a key we don’t play many songs in. Except “Walls of Time.” When we went to yesterday’s lesson, Art asked Chris how it had gone, and Chris said he was having trouble getting a properly bluesy sound in C for “Walls of Time.” So he decided to have us play it while he showed Chris what he would do for such a song. Given that he’d never played the song before, his playing was remarkable.

We always record the lessons, and I don’t think he would mind me posting the recording so here it is. The sound is anything but pristine, but I kind of like it. The timing toward the end of the first chorus is miserable, but after that Chris and I got serious about our playing so things improve a bit. The rest of the lesson, about 75 minutes, was spent working out and practicing a real break for the song, which Chris will be studying closely over the next couple of weeks.

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