Saturday, October 17, 2009

Practicing and Progressing

There are several tips I give my students about practicing. One is proximity of instrument. If the fiddle is in a locked case behind the bed, the chances of it getting played are slim. If the fiddle is out of the case or lying in the case in a safe but very visible location, this can facilitate the urge to practice.

Another practicing factor is routine. Having a certain time of day can be a big help - growing up I always practiced after dinner with my dad. Another routine that can work is if you have a certain chore - washing dishes, gardening, writing, homework or cleaning that you always take a break from with the fiddle. “Taking a break” with your instrument can be a lot easier than “practicing”.

Keeping a chart, log, or journal documenting practice works very well for some people, just posting their tune list for ideas works for others.

Progressing to a Higher Level

Once a fiddler can play a few tunes and has reasonable good control of the instrument, what is the next level and how do they get there? The biggest thing that separates beginning fiddlers from advanced players is tempo. Rather than continuing to learn new harder tunes, but always at the same slow tempos, a teacher should mix in new easy tunes taught at faster tempos and work on bringing old tunes up to these new faster tempos. Intermediate players should have a collection of fiddlers that they listen to and should be learning to read music if they don’t already.

Sometimes a switch to a new teacher or joining a new group, class, or jam can also help a player break through to a new level. More often, it’s patience and great tunes that inspired the continuing practice that’s required to keep improving. Playing the fiddle only gets more fun, the longer you play it and the more tunes you know!

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