Slow Down Series: Volume #3May 04, 2023
'Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.'
- E.F. Schumacher -
via Bruce Gandy's book 'Performance: Delivering Your Own Awesome'
Our friend and bagpiper, Bruce Gandy, stays with us when he comes to Scotland so we were fortunate to be one of the first people to get his book, Performance.
There is so much great advice inside and one of the gems he suggests is, 'learn to love the discipline of practice'.
Isn't that a great way to think?
After posting last week's blog I was inspired to get my fiddle out for the first time in a while and truly embrace that idea with my fiddle practice.
Do you know what tool I immediately went to?
The Amazing Slow Downer!
The first track I dug out was Buddy MacMaster playing King George The Fourth strathspey from his album, Judique On The Floor.
When I was home in Cape Breton last summer I caught up with legendary songwriter, Allister MacGillivray, who is most widely recognised for writing Song For The Mira.
Allister shared some fascinating behind-the-scenes tales of when he was producing that very album of Buddy's, featuring John Morris Rankin on piano. Buddy wanted himself and John Morris to be in the room together, recording both instruments at the same time.
We also caught up on how our kids were doing, bonded over our mutual love of tracks with irregular time signatures and he had me completely engrossed as he described the long, pain-staking process of getting his first music books typeset and published compared to how easy it is nowadays.
Our son, Cameron Stewart, and Allister MacGillivray at his shop,
Apple On The Wharf, on the Sydney waterfront. (July 2022)
I found an old piping book in Allister's shop, Apple On The Wharf, that made my jaw drop.
It's an entire 'you'll never believe it' story in itself and will have to be shared in its own blog post another time.
As I cracked my fiddle case open that image of Buddy and John Morris in the studio, with Allister on the other side of the glass ready to press record, flashed in my mind.
I have fond memories of teaching with Buddy at the Gaelic College and John Morris playing piano with us in our Halifax Police Pipe Band concerts in the early 90's.
It is not lost on me how fortunate I was to grow up around such musical Greats.
After tuning my fiddle and digging out my sheet music I realised I didn't have the King George track on my phone so below I'll show you exactly how I got it from my laptop into the ASD app on my phone.
YOU'LL DEFINITELY WANT TO TRY THE LOOP TOOL
The Amazing Slow Downer is best known for its speed and pitch-adjusting abilities, but the LOOP TOOL is one of my other favourite features.
You see, I get you because I am just like you.
When I'm learning a tune on the fiddle, I get the same irrational thoughts:
. . . the ones where common sense has left the building
. . . when you get so excited and into the music that after only two tries through a part your heart says 'Let's go faster!'
. . . even though you haven't managed to play that part without error even ONCE yet that voice still says 'OK. let's try it faster now.'
. . . that voice that says, 'I want to be awesome. . . . yesterday!'
I know and love this classic tune, King George IV, so much that I hear that little voice in my head that says, 'Ooh, this is so fun - let's go faster so we can sound like and feel like Buddy'.
But even at 45% tempo, my crunchy little fingers can't quite move at the same faster speed as my bow when I hit those 16th notes in the last bar of Part 1.
And I admit . . . a small piece of me wants to play the first three bars faster and just fluff through the hard part at the end. AND I KNOW BETTER!!! I teach NOT to do that. Can you relate?
THAT is how I know how you feel and what support you need for your music journey because I am just like you.
Although I am a music teacher, I have a very strong 'student' brain.
Sharing Music From Computer to Mobile to Use ASD App
Last week my iMac bit the dust so I've been working mostly from my very old laptop and mobile phone until my new computer arrives.
I don't have the Amazing Slow Downer software on my laptop so I'm going to show to exactly how I got the track from there onto my ASD phone app.
This week I really felt the benefit of using the LOOP TOOL to focus on Part 1 of King George so I thought I'd share how I did that with you.
When I start talking about the Amazing Slow Downer I sound like an evangelist because I just love it, especially how it helps me meet my students where they are at. It will do the same for you.
Many others must agree with me because the ASD YouTube video I made fourteen years ago is among the top 12 most viewed ASD videos on YouTube.
Years ago I would ask my husband, Mark, to record a set of tunes for me at five or six different tempos so I could use them for teaching.
The introduction of the Amazing Slow Downer allowed me to record him once, with a metronome, and then adjust the original audio to however many different track tempos I wanted.
I can't stress enough how important it is for novice players, of accompanying instruments in particular, to be able to hear the melody as they're learning a new score so they can truly understand how it goes along with the melody maker.
Playing along with a backing track also makes you feel like you're getting somewhere and is much more encouraging and interesting to practice with.
There is nothing quite like seeing one of your seven-year-old drum kit students performing at a music workshop in front of their classmates and parents playing Uptown Funk - even if it is at 67% tempo -at that moment they feel like a ROCK STAR!
You can also change the pitch if you want. The very juvenile part of me loves putting the Barra MacNeils Christmas albums on and cranking the pitch up. Seriously, if they put their Xmas albums into the ASD and resold them as the Barra MacChipmunks versions I would totally buy those too.
Amazing Slow Downer by Roni Music: The full version is £14.99 on the UK app store and £12.40 for Androids in the Google Play store.
It’s also available for computers, but the software is more expensive so I’d recommend the app for most users.
I am not an affiliate, just a happy customer.