Pickup Notes

Pickup Notes Video

This morning I presented on Zoom a short program on pick up notes. No one showed up. I made a serious flub with my email service. I sent myself a test email. It was good. So, I was done, right? Not so fast. How about sending to your readers.

First I acknowledge the blog post by Ed Pearlman titled, “Pickup notes: Don’t Play without’em.” It’s a good blog post and has this quote, which I read to my future audience:  “Bottom line: it’s unreliable to memorize a tune starting with the pickup notes at the beginning. The first real note of a tune is the first note of the first full measure. We could recreate, change or eliminate the pickup notes and we’d still be playing the right tune.”

Red Wing Introduces the Pickup Note

I’ve taught students about pick up notes, especially in Red Wing. Students who have gotten past the earliest of beginner lessons tend to default to down bow for anything. So It’s a case of teaching sometimes you begin with an up bow and Redwing is an example. 

Even in tab charts you have a bar line and a first note after the bar line. So, I can say if the note is just one note before the bar line use up bow so that you land on the first note after the bar line with a down-bow. If there are two notes before the bar line you can play down up, landing on the note past the bar line with a down-bow. Or, you can slur the two notes up-bow and go down bow next. 

Some tunes that can have two notes before the bar line are: Soldier’s Joy, with D and B on the A string starting the tune, and St Anne’s Reel, with A and D on the A string as the pick up notes. Along with this move you can add the eight potatoes barn dance kick off and play the pick up notes instead of the last two quick notes of the potatoes. That has a polished sound to it.

Three Pickup Notes

Sometimes you have three notes before the tune starts. Roxanne Waltz is an example. For that you can play up-down-up before the bar line to start. For a waltz you might choose to play with a slight swing to start.

Then there are country ballads like Faded Love that start with two chunks. In this case you play two down bows for the chunks, and a down bow for the first note of the tune. To play the chunk and recover the starting bow position quickly, so that you can play the next chunk in rhythm, requires practice to master this skill.

Planning Your Phrases Musically

Ed Pearlman takes the concept further. He goes on to describe how the pick up note principle applies to phrases in the tune also. He describes the last note of the measure, at the end of a phrase, as belonging to the next phrase. “The mind shift that switches those eighth notes’ allegiance from the quarter note before them to the beat note after them may seem subtle but it makes all the difference in the feel of the tune, the logic of the boing, the lift of the playing.” 

It’s a good point. I have taught students about phrasing and asked them to find the phrases in a piece, but I haven’t taken it this far, up till now. 

Ed Pearman’s blog is the url of the article discussed. He posts two articles every month. I just visited the site and found two new ones since the last time I was there about a month ago.

Fiddle Coach Gets Reset

I confess I was a little discouraged after the total no show for my presentation. Then, I realized it was my mistake. For now, I’m just going to keep on keeping on. One good thing happened: a nice blog post on pick up notes with my video along with it. I’m hoping it works well. It’s only about ten minutes long.

The next one is scheduled to be Soldier’s Joy. I’ll start with the simple way that’s in 43 Fiddle Tunes. That’s still out of print. If you need a tab chart email me elan@fiddlecoach.com

Then I’ll show the way most fiddlers play the beginning bars. Next go on to the scale like pattern that I’ve also heard. Similarly with the B part. Start easy and go into more notes.  At the end I may go totally backwards and show how it can be played very simply to match the song.

If you like that plan be sure to sign up for the newsletter, if you have not. I mostly do not make the same mistake over and over again. I creatively find new mistakes to make!

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