Monday, November 16, 2009

Fiddle Class (or Club)

A kid’s fiddle class is one of the few classes or lessons that I do not start off with scales. I like to warm up my younger fiddle classes by jamming - I play a series of tunes at a good tempo for the group and the students join in on whatever they know. This develops the skill of jumping in to the middle of a tune - it takes a couple of bars to recognize what it is. I try to pick easy beginner tunes I think everyone will know, some more advanced tunes that I think some students will know, and some tunes that no one knows, for exposure. All together I like to play 5-10 tunes, one time through each. At the end of the exercise I quiz the students on what tune I played (this can be hard for everyone to remember - including teachers!) to work on learning the names of the tunes.

After the warm-up I teach a new tune while they’re still fresh. My procedure in a kid’s class is similar to a lesson or adult class but is carried out at a faster pace. I don’t give them a second to noodle around and figure it out or ask a question - kids will stretch these little breaks on and on. Instead I call out orders at the end of each chunk; “listen” for don’t play (if I need to give them more info), no command for just playing back together, “again” for playing together again, “all together” for playing through a section of the tune, and “top” for starting at the beginning. It helps to speak quickly - I find that at a certain point some kids can relax and just follow the flow - and by either playing or speaking in a constant stream I usually manage to cut down on interruptions and get them into this flow.

At a certain point I hold up and let them ask questions, noodle, and breath a little. Maybe ask them a question or two about the style of the tune or point out a hard part to play or remember. In a class that meets every week I try to teach a whole tune (just an A part will do if it’s a very beginning class) and review the new tune at the end of class and in future weeks. I often ask at the end of the tune who knows all of it, most of it, and some of it to get an idea of how much review it’s going to need. Make sure to assure the “some of it” students that they’ll pick it up in time. Newcomers to a class will need to be reminded of this.

My tune review often starts with me picking a couple of tunes from past classes. Sometimes a variety different tempos will allow more kids to play and keep up. After that I go around the circle of students and let everyone play a tune themselves or pick a tune for the group to play. On the very first class or for a student’s first time in class I’ll allow them to pass - just once! This quickly become the highlight of the class.

In any extra time I review the new piece or play a guessing game where I play different styles of tunes from around the world and have them guess where it’s from, what kind of tune it is, what key it’s in, what kind of dancing might be done to it, and what the name is.

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