Fast Track to Happy Fiddling, Learn to Play Fiddle and Have Fun is the working title of my book about..well, learning how to play fiddle. It starts at the very beginning and goes to about the intermediate level of fiddling. By very beginning, I mean even for someone who has not gotten a fiddle to play, there is advice and help to get the best violin outfit they can. That’s a good start. Violin teachers speak of what their students use to learn violin as VSO’s or violin shaped objects. These are the entry level instruments, usually made in China, that are not well put together and sound shallow and rough.
Fiddling Compared to Flying
The book is organized on the metaphor of taking off in an airplane and flying. When fiddlers get going their bow flies over the strings. Sometimes their fingers fly over the finger board. That’s the goal. But at the beginning you need to have a vehicle that will serve your purpose. And the vehicle needs to be checked out just like an airplane before flight.
Then you start of moving down the runway, faster and faster. Finally you begin to lift off the runway and take to the air. You keep ascending in the air until you reach cruising altitude, then you can begin to enjoy your flight, the hard part being behind you.
So it is with learning to play fiddle. After the violin and bow are prepared for use, you need to learn how to hold them, how to make a basic sound. Then there are specific fiddle techniques, or skills, that you learn one by one to produce an ordered series of sounds that we call notes. After you can play notes, you begin putting them together in a pattern called a fiddle tune. This is just the beginning. You are still moving down the runway.
Fiddle Skills that “Get That Sound”
As you play the fiddle tune and learn certain skills to make it sound right, that’s when you lift off. Adding more tunes of particular types get you moving up further. When the time and effort you have put in allow you to play some tunes at a moderate speed, you are just about cruising. In time you will add more tunes and more speed, and more skills to get you sounding like a real fiddler playing real fiddle tunes.
The first tune is Bilem Cabbage Down. That’s also the first tune in Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Method. It’s a well known tune, a hoedown, and comes from the cowboy song tradition. When people hear it they often think they have heard it before in a movie or TV show. It’s that well known.
Other well known tunes are added like Cluck Old Hen, After the Battle of Augrim, Old Joe Clark, Soldier’s Joy, Mississippi Sawyer. Even a couple of jigs are introduced for learning entirely different bow and fingering skills. Then two hornpipes are brought in to create a different kind of fiddle sound that has a swing feel.
Play Notey Fiddle Tunes
After this, tunes having more active fingering are presented. These are often called “notey tunes.” We are nearing the intermediate level of fiddle instruction at this point. Specific practice techniques are explained which can speed up the learning process when they are used.
The book concludes in the last chapter with how to enjoy learning and playing fiddle tunes. This would seem to be automatic, but it can be enhanced with a slight tweaking of attitude and beliefs. Concepts from the classic book, The Inner Game of Music are discussed and applied to fiddle playing, practice and performance situations.
The exposition in the book is very detailed. Those skills which are known to be sticky spots are highlighted and handled as adroitly as possible. This project is the culmination of decades of experience in teaching beginners how to get started fiddling, both children and adults.
It usually take more than a year to get to the intermediate stage of fiddle playing. That means playing fiddle tunes with good style about 80 beats a minute. Which is almost danceable, but a little slow, and yet makes the tune easily recognizable as a fiddle tunes. If a student really wanted to dig in and go faster then that, it would take a practice regimen that is two hours or more every day, and very conscientious about good practice technique.
The book is projected to be published early in 2020. It will be available as a normal music book or as a Kindle book.
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