How to Learn

  1. Listen a lot to music you like, especially to tunes you’d like to learn. Sing along (out loud or in your head).
  2. Try doing stuff with the fiddle and the bow.
  3. When something goes right, try to do it again.
  4. Repeat.

I can’t emphasize enough how important engaged listening is. In my ideal world, all my private students would have been listening for a year or more to the fiddle tunes they will start learning with me before they take a single lesson. Sometimes this happens, when I get to teach a relative of someone who already plays, and it is amazing how much easier the tunes come when people already know how they sound. So start out by listening to the play along tracks or the beginning of the video lots of times.

I strongly encourage you to try to learn by ear (see How to Learn by Ear), because that is how the fiddle tradition works and the subtleties that create the style (what makes it sound “fiddley”) are mostly not written out in the music. If this is too daunting, use a combination of listening, watching the video, and the sheet music or the fingering chart to figure out how to play, then play it again and again until you have it by heart. Then play it some more. See Practice Strategies for more ideas about this.

Listen to yourself. Sing along with yourself in your head while you play. The more you can focus on hearing very clearly and loudly in your head the sound you want to make and notice how close you are to achieving that, the faster you will progress. Record yourself and listen to that.

Getting frustrated? Slow down. Then slow down more.

Remember that you are learning and synthesizing a lot of new skills. Unless you have some of these skills already, it’s going to take you a while. Be patient with yourself and remember that errors are an essential part of learning anything new. Also remember to keep an open mind – sometimes a “mistake” can make a really interesting sound that you want to be able to do again!

Find other learners to play with. Go out and hear concerts or find some to watch on YouTube. Keep listening to great music and keep playing!