Holding the Fiddle and Bow / Plucking / Bowing / Basic rhythms / Beginner Duets / String Crossing / Fingering with Plucking / Fingering with Bowing / Adding Rhythms / How to Read Fiddle Tabs / Drone Practice
Drone tuning / Improving the Sound / Little Lift / Call-and-response game / One Tune One Scale Ten Minutes
D Major Scale / Intervals I / Adding Variation to Scales / Little Lift
G Major Scale / Transposing / Intervals II
A Major Scale / How to Get a Good Sound / Pentatonic Scales / Tone-building on Tunes / Intervals III
The Slur / Singing and Playing / Intervals IV / Pedal Exercises I
Low Second Finger / D and A Dorian Scales / Slur Three / Pedal Exercises II
G Major Scale Higher Octave / Intervals with Low and High Second Finger / Three Old Favorites in the Higher Octave
Triads / Melodic Scale Variation I / Adding Slurs to Tunes
Melodic Scale Variation II / Adding Melodic Variation to Tunes / How to Review
Here is a quick way for you to access the essential practice tools you need. Under each tab you'll find play-along tracks, tabs and condensed teachings to help you as you practice. This is an evolving idea, so let me know in a comment below if it could be better.
Here are some common scales used in fiddle tunes. Each runs through a series of variations: two bows legato, two bows staccato, four bows, tucka (4 shorts, two longs), hoedown (1 long, two shorts), throwaway bow, triplets, tremolo.
G Major, starting on D3
Practice a tune with its scale (Kerry Polka is in G major, so practice a G major scale). Practice scales before, during and after practicing tunes.
For more scale play-along tracks, go to
30-minute Tune Routine
Tone and scale warmup: 5 minutes
Interval warm-ups: 5 minutes
Tune: 20 minutes
Find all play-along tracks for intervals here:
One Tune, One Scale, Ten Minutes
Play a scale for five minutes
Play a tune using that scale for five minutes
As a variation, just alternate between a tune and its scale for ten minutes
10-minute tuning routine
Practice individual notes with a drone: 5 minutes
So to practice D1, use an E drone. To practice, D2 use an F sharp drone
If you're unsure what note you're playing, then use the Notefinder (found in another tab with this Practice Tools section)
20-minute review routines
Review tunes that share the same drone note. So tunes in D Major, D Dorian or D Klezmer can all be practiced with a
. D drone Use the
page as your guide. Tunes Listed By Root Note Play the relevant scale before each tune you review.
This is a fun and refreshing way to review tunes.
Last 5-10 ten tunes
A simpler routine is to just review the last 5-10 tunes you've learned in a twenty-minute session.
Play the relevant scale before each tune you review.
Experiment combining or alternating routines.
Click here for more practice routines
Here's a newer version of the Notefinder which is based on sheet music. If you're interested in learning to read, this will be an invaluable reference. I'll be posting lessons on this in 2020.
Note: the brackets indicate notes that are the same pitch but spelled differently. For example, AH3 (D#) sounds the same as AL4 (Eb). Without going into too much teory detail here, this will be determined by the key of the tune or piece you are playing.
Here's he original table version of the Notefinder. Sometimes people learn in different ways...
Sawmill tuning Notefinder
This is used to find notes in Sawmill tuning (when the G string is tuned up to A and the D string is tuned up to E). If you're a beginner...best to ignore this!
You are a musician if you PLAY EVERY DAY
Find a consistent time and place to practice. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth; that way you spend no energy in deciding to practice or not.
How To Practice Consistently
Listening is practice too.
This is cliché music teacher advice, but it’s what most students need to do.
Slow Down To Speed Up
Sing what you play.
Singing or humming (if you’re shy) will help you to play in tune as well as remember melodies.
It can also be a lot of fun to alternate between singing and playing a phrase to song.
Singing and Playing Practice
Audiation is hearing music in your head. Actively practice this.
Whatever level you’re at, you can benefit from looping small bits and phrases.
Not only will it help your technique, but it will unlock your creativity and bring you joy.
Learn in very small increments.
Single notes > bits > phrases > tunes
Be your own teacher.
Make up your own exercises.
Record yourself and listen back. This way you can pinpoint what’s most challenging.
Be Your Own Teacher
Remember to sound good.
Always return to a good sound, even if it means playing quarter notes on the D string. You can do this! You just have to remember to pause on practicing the challenging thing and just get a good sound on single notes.
Why do this? Because it will bring you deep joy. And it will build your confidence which will inspire further practice.
Remember to Sound Good
Practice Just To Practice
Don't fixate on being great or perfect. Good is better than perfect.
The moment you pick up the fiddle and play you have "made it".
Practice Just To Practice
Here are a few technical reminders to remember as you practice.
Curve left-hand and right-hand fingers.
Bend right thumb.
Bend right arm and wrist.
Use minimal energy.
Left-hand fingers land on tips, not pads. This makes for more precise playing.
Take time to focus on bowing during each practice session.
Get the best possible sound on single notes using long bows, throwaway bow, rhythms. Even just a few minutes of this will drastically improve your sound.
Use less bow.
This is a rule of thumb for fiddle tunes, especially for when things are difficult.
Continue to practice long bows. This will improve your overall sound.
Play in the middle of the bow. This is the sweet spot.
Use no extra energy or force for double stops.
It's more a matter of getting the bow perfectly balanced between the two strings.
Again, playing with less bow will help with this.
Left-hand fingering tips
Keep fingers down when possible.
For example, if you are rapidly playing D1-2, it is easier if you keep D1 down while fingering D2.
Practice this on scales.
Practice Little Lift
Don't lift left-hand fingers too high. Let them just hover above the string.
This allows you to play faster, better in tune and with more ease.
Take a lesson on
Little Lift. Practice challenging intervals
Your fingers need a lot more time with things than your brain (which gets bored more easily).
Find the most challenging interval from a tune, like D3-A1 in Oh Susannah, and practice that until you can play it with ease and joy.
Use the exercises from
o go deeper with this. Interval Central t Check in with the body
Is it relaxed or tense? Are you breathing evenly?
If you notice you are tense and not breathing evenly, simply pause on what you're currently practicing and play a single note. Make it sound nice. See if your body is more relaxed now.
If you can play a single note with a relaxed body, then try more complex things: 2-note intervals, scales, simple tune phrases, whole tunes.
Keep returning to single notes as a way to center yourself, relax and enjoy the process.
Don't lift your left-hand fingers too high off the fingerboard. You only need to lift them about a millimeter.
This saves energy and will allow you to play with more ease and speed.
Practice: two-note intervals (like D1-2), scales, tune phrases, whole tunes.
Keep your awareness on Little Lift as you practice more complex things.
Take a short lesson:
Little Lift Little pauses
If you find that sound is sloppy, try adding a little pause in between the notes. This gives your fingers time to find the next note. This is especially helpful with string crossing.
Take a short lesson:
A Little Pause Practice the "Stop n' Rock" exercises from
Apply this idea to more complex string crossings. String Crossing. Slow down
Students of all levels can do this to improve their technique.
Take short breaks
It's easy to get caught up in practicing and not notice that the body is stiff and sore.
Take short breaks to move, stretch and breathe.