Tab, Tab, Stop. . . What’s My Key?

Fiddle lessons are going unbelievably well. (Is that sentence even correct?)  Every week I come out with some new piece of knowledge that seems so obvious.  Yet, I’m fascinated every time.

For example, my teacher Steve has told me that an octave begins with an open fingering on one string & ends with three fingers on the next string over.  Being the music layperson that I am, I just accept it, think, “Ok.  Octave.  Sure.”

Well, later, I was looking through a violin exercise book, trying to reteach myself to read music.  I saw that a scale begins & ends with similarly named notes.  D scale starts with a low D & ends with a high D.  It clicked.  What Steve had said was suddenly clear.

It was one of those “Oh my stars, DUH!” moments; the kind that are so engrossing, you’re either really intensely focused on the object at hand or you’re really high.

With that waaaay existential realization (man!), the majority of songs I’ve been attempting are ones that move up & down the major scales.  “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Ode to Joy,” “Deck the Halls,” “Frere Jacques”: they’re all in my repertoire now.  (I’ll be playing at a preschool near you!)  Since Steve teaches mainly by ear (or by voice, as he likes to say), those types of songs are the easiest for a beginner to learn.

In our last lesson, he started teaching me the chromatics, the semitones.  While these are harder to grasp, I can recognize enough to tell the difference between a major scale & a chromatic one.  So just about every song I hear now, I try to see which type it falls under.  Which also is a test to see whether I can play it.

So, my next ambition (which is not secret since I’m posting it here) is to see whether or not I can figure out something like the Dead Kennedys “Moon Over Marin.”  Part of me thinks, “Hey, it can’t be that hard.  Punk was all about picking up a guitar & fucking with it to see what came out.”  Then, another part of me says, “Don’t get cocky, sport.”


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