Journal

 

The Basics of Learning By Ear COMMENT

Learning by ear can sound scary and intimidating if your not used to it. Whether you have never done it before, or you have very fuzzy memories of rote learning your early Suzuki books, you should not be afraid to trust your most musical muscle: your ear, and dive in to learning tunes.

I promise this will be rewarding and so much fun. Not to mention it is like HIT training for your musicality!

So let’s dive in. The three basic steps:

1) Establish a Key or Tonal Center – If you are great with finding key signatures, wonderful! You know exactly how to approach this. But this might just be a simple as listening carefully to the first note and the last note of the tune. Then finding where your “Do” is.  Try playing Do (or the I) as a drone.

2) Listen for patterns – So start playing, humming, plucking along and listening for really basic movement and patterns in the notes. Are they moving up or down? Do the notes move like a scale or do they skip between notes? What kind of rhythm do you hear? Are notes grouped  in 3’s or 4’s?

3) Break it in to Sections – Luckily fiddle tunes often follow a fairly predictable formula and  there are many sections of repetition. ( See the image above. ) This can be your guide. It’s not a fail safe, but at least it can be used as a good place to start.

Lastly, Just have fun! You are going to play lots of wrong notes, and make lots of mistakes but that is ok. Everybody does, and that is how we learn. Just keep trying, listening, signing it in your head and you will get there!

Best of Luck, and happy fiddling!

-K

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Kiana June Weber is an Irish-American fiddler in the internationally famous Celtic band Gaelic Storm. She has recorded 3 Billboard World No. 1 albums and toured the globe performing for millions of fans, student, and dignitaries. With an honors B.M. in Violin Performance from University of Michigan, and a specialization Social Media Marketing from Northwestern University  Kiana continues to perform, explore and expand Irish and Classical music. Reach out to her on twitter, and all other platforms @KianaJuneWeber  #IrishFiddle

For more detailed information, enthusiasts and students can follow Kiana’s new project, @IrishFiddle,  on Instagram.

Violinists: 3 ways to transform your sound from Violin to Fiddle today COMMENT

So you already play violin, but you want to FIDDLE. Weather it is because you are looking for something fun, looking to expand creatively, or looking for new employment opportunities these steps will help.

I am a classically trained violinist, with a raw and life-long passion for fiddle and I have made Fiddling my career, touring with an internationally famous Irish band.

Gordon Swift wrote a brilliant article titled “Learn the difference between violin and fiddle.” In 2006 (link) He states that out of the deceptive structural simplicity found in many fiddle tunes opens up room for variation and off the cuff embellishment that characterized the genre, which is where a fiddler’s artistry is found. Fiddling, as we think of it, also calls for great skill to actually produce the rhythmic and melodic lift that makes people want to get up and dance.

fiddolin_inset

So great? Now what do I actually do to sound like a “fiddler?”

While there are many different styles, and each has its unique differences in “inflection” lets say, some principles apply across the board. For example, the beat in classical music is often accented on the downbeat, while fiddling accents the upbeat for dances.  Fiddling also evolved as an oral tradition first, and as a result there are many stylistic elements that have not, and often cannot, be written down.  Donna Herbert listed many different ways (12 in fact in) violinists can approach this crazy world of fiddling that completely apply, but let me give you just three you can start with that will give your the best results right off the bat.

The top 3 things to change your sound from Violin to Fiddle:

1) Turn the Beat Around  – switch the emphasis in your playing from the 1 and 3 to the 2 and 4, and really focus on the rhythm being a driving factor because for this dance driven music, the beat comes first.

2) Listen – listen to two different versions of the tune you want to learn (even if you are reading sheet music). Youtube, spotify, and itunes make this so easy! Even just listening to somebody play it once will help your playing so much. Later as you get further into your study of fiddle playing you can take notes on your favorite versions, variations, and styles, but for now just start listening and let osmosis happen.

3) Stop thinking about your bow – Yes, this is what drives the rhythm and the heart of the tune, yes, bowing variations are important but classical players so often focus and obsess on this and end up sounding stiff and also using too much bow. (I did too!) Stop thinking “What bowing are you using? How you are doing that?” and  just listen and let changes naturally happen that are driven by the sound you want to create, or the speed you want to achieve.

Seriously, do this now with any fiddle tune or even any passage you are working on and instantly change your sound and open up your creativity!

PS: Want a tune to practice on?  I post new tunes to learn every Tuesday (or #TUNEsday).  Give it  a try.

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About_New

Kiana June Weber is an Irish-American fiddler in the internationally famous Celtic band Gaelic Storm. She has recorded 3 Billboard World No. 1 albums and toured the globe performing for millions of fans, student, and dignitaries. With an honors B.M. in Violin Performance from University of Michigan, and a specialization Social Media Marketing from Northwestern University  Kiana continues to perform, explore and expand Irish and Classical music. Reach out to her on twitter, and all other platforms @KianaJuneWeber  #IrishFiddle

For more detailed information, enthusiasts and students can follow Kiana’s new project, @IrishFiddle,  on Instagram.

Bali 2 COMMENTS

It has been a while since I posted on this online journal, but time just flies away.  I have been very busy with some things in my personal life, as many of you know, and now it is time to take a minute and reflect.  Specifically, I wanted to share with you my reflections from my trip to Bali.

Martin and I went to Bali last month for three weeks and I have to say I really didn’t want to leave! It was absolutely amazing.  I was completely struck by the kindness and hospitality we were shown, and of course the amazing natural beauty.  We broke our trip into three different spots, one for each week.

Week one was in South Kuta on Binging Beach.  All of South Kuta is known for its waves, and has seen a particular growth in tourism due to surfers in the last ten years.  We tried to choose a beach that had great waves but was a little more out of the way. Binging gets a reputation on the island as a very fit and chill beach because to access the sand you have to climb down hundreds of steps down a cliff face.  Our accommodation was on top of the cliff side, looking over Impossibles wave. We had a great time here filled with lots of yoga, surfing, and beachside barbecues at sundown.  We did have a terrible run in with monkeys who ransacked out room though which really freaked us out.  (I mean TOTAL monkey destruction – suitcases ruined, clothing thrown down the side of the cliff, all of our medication and contacts lenses eaten) It was a lot to deal with, but we came through it together.

Week two was our favorite, as we traveled inland to Ubud, the cultural and artistic center of Bali.  Ubud is a beautiful city nestled where two very spiritual rivers meet up in the mountains between fields of rice paddies.  It has been a center for musicians and artists for many years being home of the Gamelan and retreats for famous painters and writers, and recently due to attention from Eat, Pray, Love it has unfortunately becomes a tourist mecca.  (*More about this later) There was a lot of dodging around mopeds and tying to escape the many pop-up vendors. However, with a little effort there are so many gems off the main road to be found!  In Ubud we lived like a king and queen in a private villa overlooking the jungle. I also had two of the best meals of my life.  Because of the climate for growing produce, and the cheap cost of production this city has also become a mecca for chefs to set up experimental restaurants and passion projects.  Locavore was arguably to best example of culinary art I have every experienced.  We also ate a Pica, a south american restaurant, twice! It was that good.  The rest of our time we spent doing lots of R&R.  It really was a magical and spiritual place to re-charge. I also did some yoga at the famous Yoga Barn – best yoga classes of my life.  I did things I didn’t know I could do.  And we also scheduled a few fun day trips – a cycling trip through rice paddies and local villages and a sunrise hike of Mount Agung.

Week three, we hopped over to Gili Meno – a very small neighboring island off the coast of Lombok.  I say hopped, but really actually getting to that island was by far the strangest commute I have every had:  bus to speed boat to local fishing boat to horse cart. This tiny island has only recently been discovered by tourists. It takes about and hour to walk all the way around the island, so we got to know all of the spots rather quickly.  There was a small warring (kitchen) on the north side of the island that we went to a few times that did fresh caught squid grilled in front of you on the beach. Amazing.  The highlight of this week by far was time in the water.  We went snorkeling and scuba diving and saw the most amazing marine life.  This was really important to me because I wanted to make sure I saw a vibrant and untouched coral reef while it still exists.  The colors and the diversity of life we absolutely stunning. We also saw a bunch of giant sea turtles! I had so ideal how big they could get, but while swimming along the side of the wall we saw an absolutely huge fella grazing along by the bottom.  I mean huge! Bigger than me for sure (maybe four ft wide by six feet long?) Absolutely speechless.

The whole trip was a lesson in zen, peace, happiness and contentment.  Being a largely Hindu population, I found the people extremely welcoming and I was constantly surprised by their genuine happiness and contentment in life. It is really hard to describe. We were so thrilled to be asked to join in a few religious celebrations, of which there are many, and even shown around a family temple in a local’s home.  A culture with emphasis on community and celebration of each day, thanks for the joys of each morning giving.  You see this represented not just in the people and their attitude but in the beautiful and ephemeral offerings of flowers, rice, and incense put out on their front steps every morning. My worry for Bali, and Lombok is that its culture and its natural beauty will be completely ruined by tourism. We saw so many signs of this already and I found it incredibly sad.  Tourist discarding thousands of plastic water bottles every day in a place that until the ten years ago used only wooden cups and banana leaf bowls. The country has no system in place for recycling or waste management.  And so much natural beauty is already being ruined by pollution and capitalist exploitation. As Martin so aptly said “It is a remote island paradise that is being completely ruined by the exactly people who seek out remote island paradises.”   I am not exactly sure what to do about it, but it makes me want to be a better person. The whole trip did.  To be a more conscientious person, left wasteful and more grateful.  To be a happier and kinder person.  To be more at peace in life and celebrate the little things. Zen, Peace, Happiness, Contentment, Health for myself and the planet), Celebration.  These are the things I want to take with me, and carry all the way from those beautiful waves to the crazy and hectic life of summer festival tour.

dance and play 1 COMMENTS

Have you ever set a really outlandish goal for yourself?  Well I did. I decided this January that this would be the spring that I would learn to step dance and play fiddle at the same time! Specifically my goal was that by March, I would be able to play a tune and dance to it on stage, with dancers, for St. Patrick’s Day.

I knew it was possible. I knew it was something I was capable of doing, although it was was for sure a big stretch. The questions was, where to start?  I had no idea how to get there: no guide, no teacher, no handy instructional booklet. So, I just decided to go for it.  I thought by just trying it I would see where I was at.  It was a complete train wreck.  Feet and steps all over the place, my bow bouncing off the string and I found it incredibly hard to separate the actions.  So I broke everything down and started practicing both the steps and the tune separately until each was second nature, and then slowly, very very slowly putting bits of them together – piece by piece, measure by measure. My first breakthrough was when I started hearing and thinking of the steps as part of the music – as if my feet where playing a percussion part along with the tune. I am much more of a musician than a dancer so this made a big difference for me. Perhaps as I become more confident and natural with Irish dance I will be able to work it out the other way where the movement of my arms and fingers feels like a part of the dance.

 

I gradually built the two of them up together slowly, finding confidence very gradually, until it came time that I just had to try it on stage.  Doing something new on stage for the first time takes a lot of guts.  I say this not to praise my own moxie, but to answer all of those people who ask if I still get nervous on stage.  The answer is yes.  All the time.  But you learn to use your nerves as energy and focus instead of letting them boil over and consume you.  Nerves are a good thing and any performer will tell you that that hit of adrenaline is what keeps you pushing your show to new places. When you try something new, it never feels like you have prepared enough, you just have to go out there and hope and try. The first time I tried this over our St. Patrick’s Day tour, my stomach was all in knots, my palms were so sweaty I was afraid I might drop my violin. “Just don’t stop whatever happens,” I kept telling myself…and.. I did it. Not perfectly, but each time since I have performed it it continues to improve. It gets a little easier and I continue to get more comfortable.

I know I have a long way to go yet, and a lot more to work on.  But I am excited!  Excited to have something to work on and strive for even though it wrecks my head. Maybe someday it will feel easy! …maybe…haha

#Karma #PayItForward COMMENT

I have a great story to share with you today that starts with me loosing my wallet and ends with it being shipped to me through the kindness of a complete stranger.

We are so lucky sometimes to be in the hands of humanity and and today I am feeling so thankful for all the wonderful people there are out there in the world. Two days ago, I while in the middle of a long drive from Ithaca, NY to Cincinnati, OH I received a phone call from my mother with some very bad news. My dad was in the hospital. Frazzled, I completely forgot that I had brought my wallet in to the Starbucks with me at the rest stop and while dealing with this family emergency I didn’t realized I had left it there until we arrived at our destination that night. I completely freaked out. Not only was my dad in the hospital but I had no money or credit cards to book transportation to see him if I needed to.

Enter Kassandra Adams from Jamestown, NY – employee at Starbucks coffee. She finds my wallet and holds on to it, waiting for me to call or comeback to collect it. After not hearing from me for a few hours, she opens the wallet (beautiful, new wallet that I got for christmas from Ted Baker I might add. lol) finds my name, looks me up online and sends me a private message on Instagram! She Informs me she has the wallet and sends a number to contact her.

I stumble upon this, completely amazed, and call her. Not only does Kassandra offer to ship my wallet next day air to wherever I am but she won’t take any money out of it to pay for it! So I got my lovely wallet back and I am scheduled to visit my dad next weekend.

We travel so much that is really easy to become jaded, and ungrateful even. But I just want to share this story. It is the kindest and sweetest thing. The best example of #payitforward I have personally encountered and I feel so extremely thankful. Kassandra you can never know how much that meant to me. I hope to repay you someday. Concert tickets? For now I am just reveling in the kindness of humanity and I hope to repay some of that karma in the coming days.

on finding the balance COMMENT

One more month of tour to go!

What I need to be doing is writing a proper journal post but all the distractions and new projects keep me very busy. I have been writing a bunch of grant proposals which eats up extraordinary amounts of time. It is such a difficult task to distill down what is a very creative idea at heart into quantifiable bullet points and business blurbs.

I want to make my own album. But what makes is a viable business venture?  The number of followers I have on Instagram? or the likes on my Facebook page? The number of people who attend Gaelic Storm concerts and the percentage that purchase albums? What kind of profit, if any, is there to be made in music creation these days. After weeks of condensing all of this into multiple grant applications, I’ve decided it doesn’t matter. It is about the joy of creating something and about the journey to get there. That is why I need to do it. A musical study and adventure for myself that will hopefully result in something people what to listen to. But the goal is a personal creative journey. That is all.

So that is what I have for future planning.  Meanwhile in the present it is about Gaelic Storm tour,  staying fit and healthy, trying to get these video blogs up and running (expect a new post tomorrow!) and oh yeah…planning a wedding….eek. It is hard to find the balance sometimes.

Saltwater Kisses 1 COMMENTS

I never thought I would drive down the coast, squeeze into a wet suit and go for a surf in January.  But here I am, sitting with wet, salty hair in a car parked on top of a hill in La Hinch watching surfers out on the reef.

It has been a crazy year in all respects.xxx A huge year of personal growth I suppose, while maybe not much else has changed.  I suppose in life there are just sometimes where you go on a more personal journey. You reach outside your comfort zone and far beyond the limits you had previously constructed for yourself. This puts you in a face to face battle with your innermost self – that one that only you can know – your toughest opponent.  “What are my limits? What are my boundaries? What makes me happy? What do I  imagine for my life?”  I feel like I look the same on the outside, but inside it is as if I have discovered a new continent.

I took this moment on top of this cliff to look back over the year I just had. It might not look it, or even feel like in the moment, but when you look back over just twelve short months you gain perspective and realize how far you have come.  I got engaged, then moved to completely Ireland and had to find myself again.  I ran a marathon.  I never thought I would say that either.  That is whole mental and physical battle of it’s own.  I survived my first Christmas away from home. Now, I am learning to surf.

It can’t explain it, but I feel at peace here. I laugh at my complete security in doing tasks that seemed so hard before.   I am comfortable in my new home and I have found new confidence in my own skin. While I won’t say I feel comfortable in a wet suit yet, I can at least put in on by myself and get out of it in less that 10 minutes.  And I stood up on a wave! A tiny, wave, but a wave none the less. It feels amazing!

The title of the post was inspired by an amazing show I went to in Galway. Local band The Whileaways just released their newest album entitled “Saltwater Kisses.” It is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. Somehow, for me, the album encapsulates this strange bubbling and deep calm I fell that I have trouble putting into words. It’s my current soundtrack to life. I strongly encourage you to have have a listen!

http://www.thewhileawaysmusic.com/listen-download

“They’ll be saltwater kisses

for you on the shore,

Saltwater kisses

and worries, worries no more”

 

  • from Worries No More by the Whileaways”

PS: I hope you have a good laugh at that wetsuit selfie. (above)

That’s all for now!

 

musing in my journal on the drive home 1 COMMENTS

Driving west into the dawn. The sun peaks its little bright head over this island and what was dark slowly saturates into this early kind of dewy grey.  Not quite color yet, but almost there.  Early and silent.  Sometime you still feel the wildness, the magic hear. A silence and stillness so heavy, like a breath waiting to be taken.

 

I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and hear the sound of birds outside my window, my birds.  To feel my nose tickle with the smell of the ocean, my ocean.  But for now I just sit on the bus and wait while the wheels turn beneath me.

 

It’s the simple pleasures I look forward to most:  Making coffee, the sizzling eggs cooking on the stove. Meandering down to the beach to look at seashells, running in the deep mossy woods.

 

The sun is out a bit more now and little white houses begin to pop out of the landscape as it turns from a cold grey to a pastoral picture postcard.  I remember thinking it so strange that all the houses here were white – but now I get it.

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I plan to enjoy this Christmas – My first Christmas in Ireland.  I’m nervous, of course;  Away from my family, new people, new traditions.  You spend you childhood with a very particular idea of what the holidays look like.  For me that was a white christmas with lots of snow, hot chocolate, and board games. Each year we had a christmas tree cut from the farm down the road and decorated with multicolored old lights and ornaments that ranged from childhood craft projects to glass angles with a special emphasis on ornament of various animals. My mother and I baked more pies than a family of four could possible eat and my brother and dad played cards while drinking egg nog.  Christmas eve we would all be corralled into the car with our favorite stuffed animals and mom and dad would drive us around the neighborhood looking at christmas lights.  Then, when we got back we would open one, just one, present of our choice before bed.  Santa came in the night and filled up stockings and usually set up one choice gift ready to play with.  It was never lavish – but always meaningful.  I suppose it is the nature of things that as you age you slowly realize that the image of christmas in your head was carefully curated by your parents and cultivated by your environment.  And being in a new country of the first time I find myself examining over and over again each little bit of my holiday routine in my head.  “Why do I do this? Is this important? Where did this come from? What traditions do I want to bring with me here? What traditions will I want to pass on to my kids?”  While I keep many of my own traditions in my heart, I am trying to start here in Ireland with blank slate for the holiday and see this magical time of year through the eyes of my new friends and family here.  There are so many things I am excited about. Dying to learn about and experience.  Mostly I am just dreadfully curious to see what is similar, but especially what is different!  Nollaig Shona – as they say here.

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Up next,  me making and tasking christmas pudding (a curious concoction that is a mystery to me. Is it cake, is pudding?) and mincemeat pies ( which are similarly confusing – mincemeat pie should have meat in them right? wrong) exploring the exciting Christmas Market which I have heard to much about.

fall at home – cooking roast butternut and parsnip soup 2 COMMENTS

Sometimes it is nice to just take a break and unwind from the stress of travel, tour, and the constant demands and pings from social media.  My favorite way to do this, to de-stress, is cooking.  Both of my parents are fantastic cooks, and I was lucky enough to grow up in a house full of love with the small kitchen being the absolute center of it. Many weekends were spent baking with my mom or barbecuing with my dad.  I find it a kind of mindfulness these simple things .  This week, I decided to take inspiration in the kitchen from the amazing fall root vegetables the abound here in Ireland.  Although the fall here has been unusually sunny,  it is still the time of year when everything starts to slow down and the cold rain and changing leaves beckon you to a kind of stillness curled up by the fire, and a nice hot soup in hand helps.

So here it is, my completely made up recipe for Roast Butternut Squash and Parsnip soup.

 

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash

4 Large carrots

4 Large Parsnips

coconut oil

1 cup coconut milk

cinnamon

ginger

cumin

cayenne pepper

smoked paprika

salt

pepper

 

  • Peel and dice the squash, carrots, and parsnips. Place on a baking tray, and lightly cover the veg with coconut oil salt and pepper.  Roast at 200 *C (425ish *f) for and hour, or until the squash is browning and an fork inserted comes out clean.
  • Put all the vegetables in a food processor and pure.  I only have bullet blender, so I had to pure them in a couple batches but it worked just fine.  Place blended vegetables and one cup of water in a large pot over low heat.
  • As the soup continues to simmer, slowly add coconut milk. Depending on the size of the vegetables you may need to add more or less liquid.  Just look for your ideal consistency. I am also a firm believer in tasting many times as you go..
  • Add spices to tast.  I didn’t measure anything as I went, but I added loads of paprika first (about 2 teaspoons) and I used a heavily smoked paprika from Spain that added a really lovely complicated taste to the soup.  I’d say after that roughly 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, dash of salt and pepper and cayenne to taste.  I like it spicy so I kept adding more as I went.
  • let the soup simmer and mull in its spices for as long as you can.  All good things take time. Your kitchen should also smell amazing by this point.
  • Server with a dollop of plain greek yogurt and a sprig of mint. (I actually put a wedge of really soft goat cheese on top instead of yogurt and it was amazing!)  Happy Dinner as we say in the Webber family!

 

Photo Journal: Summer Tour Re-cap COMMENT