Old Is The New New

Sometimes at fiddle jams I hear people say things like “I’m so sick of Kesh Jig. It’s totally been played out.” Maybe they just need a break from hearing and playing a particular melody. But tunes like Kesh Jig or Old Joe Clarke have been played a lot for a reason: they are great tunes.

I’ve been teaching violin and fiddle for over twenty years and have taught some tunes hundreds of times and played them probably a thousand times. You’d think I would be tired of these tunes, that it would be torture to hear another beginning student scratch through Oh Susannah.

But when a student starts to get the song and make music with it, it stills sounds and feels great. It’s amazing to me that this person didn’t know the tune when they walked in the door and now they do. It’s also amazing when someone takes the courageous step* to learn an instrument, and then a few months later they’re just doing it.

If I’m practicing with a G drone and I play Kesh Jig, I’m going to try something new with this tune that I’ve been playing since I was a kid. This is where creativity comes into play. Can I practice some technique I’ve recently learned with this old tune?

I’m currently learning new ways to slide and shift up the neck as part of my study of Indian music. How do I practice it? With tunes like Kesh Jig. I know the melody at an unconscious level, so I can use it to play around with moving my fingers up and down.

These tunes are like old friends. They are there as an anchor for you as you go through changes, deal with new problems and learn new things.

8 responses to “Old Is The New New

  1. Well said!!! I have been at jams, where there was a hierarchy of tunes, and the “old” ones were treated as boring and beginner….I myself have heard some amazing versions of Angelina Baker. The old, familiar tunes I love for their communal nature, bringing people together. Amy

  2. Well, I am finding the old fiddle tunes to be wonderful. They are mostly new to me. Like a whole new world. I find them fun to play. Plus you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement if you want to post a video online. Most are probably way beyond worrying about.

  3. Last night i tried playing old susanah to every different beat on the beat central. It was fun and a great way for beginners to get used to new rythyms. I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up using an unfamiliar song.

  4. I love the title and the message of this article. The more familiar, the slower and the simpler the song, the more I have to practice to achieve the sound, I wish to be heard. I simply love the selection you have for your students to learn. Thank you, I am having so much fun learning something old, yet new, each day!

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