Friday, August 22, 2003


Marching up and down the Square?

Last night, I attended my first full practice with the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums. Practice chanter for 50 minutes, short break, 2 hours of piping while drilling. It was totally exhausting (best workout I've had in years), but I think I'm picking up the drill quickly. Now to perfect my attack and cut-offs. Two beats isn't much time to strike in, throw the bag under the arm, and finger E. I need a lot of practice there.

I still haven't recorded my fiddle tracks, hopefully this weekend will be the charm. I'll probably add a hornpipe (Crossing the Minch) and a march/jig set that starts with Wee Michael's March and goes from there...

I did get an interesting idea when I was switching from my regular bridge to the one with the pick-up. While gradually tuning the fiddle back up, I set it to tune at DAEB, a fourth lower than the usual tuning. And while it barely made a sound acoustically, it sounded wonderful amplified, all the richness of a cello. So I'm thinking of getting an inexpensive viola, get the heaviest gauge C and lightest gauge C, G, and D strings I can find, and tune it an octave lower than the fiddle. An "octave violin", as analogue to the "octave mandolin". I think it'll sound great.

Friday, August 15, 2003



When I'm lax on my pipe practice, it always catches up with me when I get back into it: exhaustion, sore forearm muscles from squeezing the bag, a blown lip. But I encountered a new hazard - playing outdoors. Yesterday I went to Lee District Park for only the second time in a month or so, and tried to play. It was in the upper 90s, 100% humidity. After 45 minutes, I was literally drenched in sweat. And when I say "literally", I mean it. I could have wrung out my shirt.

How do bandsmen perform in the summer? And what madman made the summer the competition season? Hopefully as I get back into shape, it'll be less of an issue. But I couldn't finish my practice session, I just had to go home and shower.

My first mandolin lesson is scheduled for August 25. I'm excited, and I'm going to spend my last pre-lesson week warming up.

Also, this weekend, I hope to re-record all my fiddle tracks. This time, I'll use the pick-up and my 15 watt amp; hopefully that'll allow the laptop microphone to pick up the sound a little bit better, as it did with the bagpipes. I might add a few more tracks on both instruments, and record Castle of Dromore on flute as well.

The webpage has reached version 1.0; I'm very proud of how it looks. Aside from the occasional tweak, it's all about building content now.

Monday, August 11, 2003


Stuck in an Airport, Fiddling Away

My third "performance", at Jay Ford's wedding, went well. The flute solo for the processional was very successful. I didn't have enough time to come up with melodic variations on the tune, but I only had to play it twice through, so it sounded okay. I didn't mess up the embrochure on the low D, that was my greatest fear. The recessional march on fiddle was wonderful, I played that two and a half times through. Similarly, the reception was fun, I fiddled for an hour or so there, including breaks, and though no one danced, they had a good time.

While trapped at Philadelphia airport waiting to change planes for four hours, I got tired of waiting and opened my fiddle case, put the mute on, and started playing. Including breaks, I went at it for an hour and a half, and the other passengers would wander near to listen. Apparently, I made a lot of people's wait less miserable, and that was nice to hear. It's becoming increasingly comfortable playing fiddle in public, and soon my piping will be there too.

I've been very lax in my practice this summer, and am forcing myself to get back into it, as new fiddle lessons loom close. Today, I call Philippe Varlet about mandolin lessons, starting hopefully next week.

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