Ed Pearlman

Ed Pearlman

Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the country. He tours, often with his son Neil, a pianist in Scottish/jazz/Latin/funk styles. Ed directed the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club for 18 years, including major concerts and festivals. He has 3 CDs of his own and appears on others. His primary expertise is in Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle styles, but Ed plays other Celtic, American, and Canadian fiddle music, classical, some jazz, klez and Hungarian. For ten years he ran a CD distribution company to bring music to the USA from Scotland, Atlantic Canada, Ireland, Brittany and Wales. Ed has written the music column for Scottish Life magazine since 1996.

teaching older music students

I once had a beginning student named Harry, who was 72 years old. He did quite well, generally, but one day I heard him playing a tune all wrong.

The tune had the rhythm of quarter, eighth, eighth, repeated four times.  Then there were two quarter notes and a run of eighths.

He had played this tune fine before, but that day, he played all the notes straight through as eighth notes–da da da da da da–regardless of the written rhythms.

I said, “Harry, what are you doing? You know this tune.  See the quarter notes, and the eighth notes?”

Said Harry, “I didn’t want to waste time.”

Well, maybe this says something about older students.  After all, I have noticed that some of my older students allot a fixed time for themselves to “get good” at the instrument. But it’s true for kids, lawyers, business people–there always seem to be reasons to “not waste time.”

The thing is, music is time.

Sometimes I will play a tune like Happy Birthday to a student, with beautiful tone and intonation, but in all sixteenth notes.  They never recognize the melody.

Then I play the same tune with the right rhythm and they light up.  I even play it badly, with horrible sound and pitches but in the right rhythm.  They still know what melody it is, and they still like the song.

Sometimes people get so focused on pitches and tone that they sacrifice good timing, or destroy the continuity of a passage just to fix the pitch of one note.

But in the end, it seems to me, music is timing.

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