Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

October 28, 2013

Dear Lou

Tonight at church I lit a candle for you
Or I guess I should say I'd intended to
But most were taken, the rest extinguished
"Hey, everyone lit a candle for Lou"
I said with a smirk that I borrowed from you
Holding the flame till it almost burned through
Petitioning softly for mercy for you

Tonight at home I played "Coney Island Baby"
Your paean to the glory of love
"Sorry it took a while, thank you"
Not at all, my dear Lou
It is I who thank you
Friend, it took no time at all

For Lou Reed, 1942-2013.

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October 27, 2013

Papa Vern Screech

And his not-so-funky fiddle. (With apologies to the esteemed Papa John Creach, fiddler extraordinaire with Jefferson Airplane/Starship. We are not worthy!)

Truth be told, I'm doing reasonably well for someone who's had about an hour of practice, but it's still sounding rather screechy. To move things along, I've invested in a few beginner's aids—a shoulder rest, high-quality rosin and fingerboard tape so I can at least screech in tune. The tape is to novice violinists what training wheels are to the budding cyclist. Eventually, when my fingers know where they're going, it can come off.

In the meantime, I could use a refresher on Lesson 1: How to Hold the Violin & Bow. Yes, like most online lessons, this is geared to young pups with conservatory ambitions. But I've come to learn that fiddlers and violinists alike find proper technique indispensable. Holding the thing correctly is a good start, yes?

The good news: I'm blessed with a keen ear, so I'm (painfully) aware when my intonation is out or my bow technique poor. The bad news: progress will likely be slow because I have little time to practice. My goal for now is major scales starting on the open strings (G, D and A)—fluidly, with correct intonation and, I hope, an ever-improving tone.

Having only played instruments that are fingered, plucked or picked, I must say the bow strikes me as pretty freaky. I'm unsure how tight it should be, the optimal pressure on the strings, the speed at which to bow and most crucially, the correct angles for each string. But all is not lost; these vexations and more are, I'm sure, covered on YouTube.

All that said, I sound better than I did when I first picked it up at the music store, and this after but one hour. Cool.

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