Fiddlers Teaching Fiddle

Intermediate Fiddlers Can Teach Beginning Fiddle

From time to time I will encouraged a student to teach beginning fiddle. They may be intermediate. They know enough to teach a beginner. The most important addition to what they already know is the order in which to teach the skills required.

Recently one of the fiddlers in my Wednesday group revealed that she wanted to get her granddaughter started. She was waiting for the right time and occasion to give her a fiddle, a violin outfit. Christmas is the best time she believes. When I told her that I was writing a Start Fiddling Checklist, she was eager to get her hands on it. It’s available now as an incentive to encourage you to sign up for the newsletter.

Little girl playing fiddle
You can help beginner fiddlers with the skills you know.

When I had been teaching for about two decades, I made a video, Learn to Play Fiddle in One Hour. I called it that because that’s about how long the video was. I’ve used that material personally teaching dozens of students. And I actually did have one student, a young Afro-American woman at the community college where I was teaching, who learned the whole basic program in one hour’s time. 

Learning Fiddle is About Learning Skills

Fiddling is a skill, a complex skill, made up of many simple skills. You have no choice, if you want to learn fiddling, but to master each skill one at a time. Most of them do not take long. Most are a skill that can be learned in  a minute, or a few minutes. Once you learn the skill, then you must continue doing it. You can’t just put it on the shelf and forget about it. It won’t stick.

The requirements of skill with the fingering hand and the bowing hand are balanced. It looks as though the fingering is very complicated and the bowing is simple. Both require effort. If the bowing is easy, how come so many fiddlers are frustrated at not having the “loose wrist”? 

Having a loose wrist is a skill that can be learned. It’s mainly in the fingers where you need to have flexibility. I’ve written about this and recommended the exercise taught by Carl Flesch, the great violin teacher at the Leipzig Conservatory. And I have seen another exercise intended for the same purpose. My belief is that either one works. 

How About Beginner Fiddling Skills?

At the beginning stage of fiddle, the skills are not as subtle as the loose wrist program, or as elusive as vibrato. It’s mainly a matter of putting one and then another finger on the string and coordinating the movement of the bow to match. A student has to play several simple tunes before I even begin to teach how to play more than one note for a bow stroke, as is needed for the slur.

Intermediate students can easily play a slur of two or three notes. If they have the simple technique of teaching it, they could do that, too. 

One of the milestones for a beginner is the mastery of the shuffle bow. That usually comes very early. It is so basic to fiddling, you don’t feel as though you are really playing the fiddle until you can do it. It also is usually learned quickly.

I remember a moment at the Mike Block String Camp when I was helping an adult beginner fiddle student create simple back up rhythm in one stroke per beat. The big thing she needed was a slight accent with the bow each time to give a stronger feeling of rhythm. As she learned that, she was amazed and delighted at the difference in sound. 

Sometimes learning just one new skill, and not a tough skill, can make a real difference in your enjoyment when playing the fiddle.

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