Hey Good People, I’m going to show you how to use FiddleHed. You can watch the instructional video which includes screencasts of how the site works. You can also read the text on this page which summarizes the points from the video.

Tunes, techniques and concepts are presented in a progressive, step-by-step manner. Though it’s a highly structured course, you have always have the option to choose which tunes you work on as you learn new techniques. FiddleHed will encourage you to approach fiddling with focused, deliberate practice so that you can successfully make music and have fun doing it.


A Modular Progressive Course

The course is organized into three levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Art of Fiddling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within each level there are modules that contain lessons. And the lessons contain videos, tabs, play-along tracks, practice notes and sheet music.

 

In each module, we will define some goals:

 

There’s a weekly practice plan to help you stay focused:

 

The technique lessons are closely integrated with the tunes lessons. For example, in Module 1.3, the main technique learned is the D major scale. And so the tunes in this module, like Oh Susannah and Wildwood Flower, are picked because they are great practice for learning the D major scale.

 

Within each module you will learn core tunes which will be used throughout the course, as well as bonus tunes.

For example, Oh Susannah is a core tune because it is re-visited in a later intermediate lesson on how to add double stops to the song.

I recommend you work within one module for 2-3 weeks. Even if you think you’ve mastered all the material, you can probably make the tunes sound even better with more practice.

When you are done with a lesson, you’ll mark it as complete. You’ll then be able to see your progress in the module:

 

And on the main module page you’ll see completed lessons are checked off:


Tune Lessons

Tune lessons start with an easy-to-follow video lesson. Most of these have handy diagrams to help you learn the left hand fingering:

 

Below that are tabs and play-along tracks for you to practice with.


Color-coded tabs

You’ll notice that some of the tabs are colored. Parts that are repeated are the same color. This makes it easier for you to understand the “road map” of a tune and memorize it more easily. The goal is to get you playing and enjoying music as soon as possible. Learn more about this in the lesson Repeating Patterns in Fiddle Tunes.


Play-along Tracks

Highly extensive play-along tracks are the core feature of FiddleHed. There are three types: exercise loops, full play-along tracks and drone tracks.

Exercise loops are used to continuously practice key parts of a tune at different speeds. This is an amazing way for you to practice and get to the point where you can play with musical flow. The exercise loops also train you how to practice, because they get you in the habit of focusing on small parts until you can play them with confidence. And learning how to practice is perhaps the most valuable teaching I have to offer, because with that you can continue to learn on your own.

First quarter: D2-2-2-1-0-2-3-A0-1-2-3

There are full-length play along tracks in which you’ll play the entire tune at five different speeds.

There are drone tracks on all tune pages. A drone is a repeating reference tone. You can use this to practice scales, tunes and exercises at any speed you wish. 

Another great use of the drone tracks is to practice new fingerings and notes you’ve learned. For example, say you are learning low second finger on the D string (which is an F note). Playing along with the F drone track will help you to play better in tune. Learn more here:

Drone Practice

How To Play In Tune With Drone Notes

One Drone, Many Tunes

Warm-up Exercises

In the tune lessons, you will find warm-up exercises to prepare you for the challenges of the tune.

 


Sheet Music

Near the bottom of each tune page is sheet music for those who know how to read, or for those who are learning to read. You can either read right off the page, or download and print a pdf file.


Technique Lessons

Technique lessons will teach you the basic tools you need to play the fiddle: bowing, fingering and the combinations of the two. Each technique lesson is followed by a page of exercise loops which will focus your practice in a way that’s fun and immediate.

A major scale variations, 80 bpm

You can practice these exercises with the play along tracks. Once you get the idea, you can practice the same exercises with drone tracks at your pace and add variations of your own.


Library

In the main top menu you’ll find the Library dropdown sub-menu. Here you’ll find pages of tunes organized by genre. Browsing through the tune lessons will help you to determine what tunes you need to review as well as what tunes you want to learn.

In addition to the genre pages, there are useful libraries of  play-along tracks for scales, beats and drones. Scale Central is an easy way for you to find scales you are learning or reviewing. Beat Central is a collection of cool beats that are fun to play along with. And Drone Central is a collection of practice drones in all twelve keys, with and without a beat.


FiddleHed emphasizes deliberate practice

It’s key to make the best use of your time when you play. FiddleHed is an incremental approach which teaches the powerful practice tools of drone practice, looping and self-recording. Want to transform your practice sessions so that they’re fun and productive?

Sign up for the free course on How To Practice Fiddling

Each week you’ll receive a link to a lesson on practice. The course is “dripped out” so you can absorb and use each practice principle for a week before moving on. Alternatively, just take it at your own pace here: How To Practice Fiddling.


I encourage you to move through the course slowly, focusing on making simple things sound good. You’ll find that having a really good sound is it’s own reward. It will give you confidence and encourage you to keep on keeping on, day in and day out.

Remember, the most important thing is to have fun. Fun is not overrated! Also, remember that you are a musician if you play every day.

Now, go fiddle with it…

 


Practice Toolkit

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 drones for the most common fiddle keys. A D drone can be used to practice tunes in D major or D minor (Dorian or Aeolian).

D drone


A drone

G drone

E drone


For drones in different keys as well as different textures and beats, go to: Drone Central.

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.

D Major

G Major, starting on D3

A Major

D Dorian

A Dorian


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 Scale Central.

Rhythms

Tucka 

Short-short-short-short-long-long. Practice on D string:

Practice more: Fingering with Bowing Exercises


Hoedown 

Long-short-short. Practice on D string:


Triplets 

1-2-3 notes per step. Practice D0-0-0-A0-0-0 with plucking:

Practice more: String Crossing Exercises


Swing 

Long-short.  Practice G0-0-2-2-D0-0-3-3-3-3-0-0 with the 'swing double' rhythm:


Slur pattern

Slur two

Here we play two notes per bow. Practice D0-1-1-0 with slur two:

Practice more: Slur Two Exercises


Slur three

Here we play three notes per bow. Practice D0-1-2-2-1-0 with slur three:

Practice more: Slur Three Exercises


Slur four

Here we play four notes per bow. Practice with D0-1-2-3, first time downbow, then upbow:

Practice more: Slur Four Exercises


Slur two-separate two 

This forms a hoedown pattern (long-short-short). Practice it with D0-1-1-1:

Practice more: Slur Two-Separate Two Exercises

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: Interval Central


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)
  • Practice intervals with a drone: 5 minutes

    • Pick a focus note to use as the drone
    • So if you are practicing D3-A0, play along with a G drone (for D3); this will help you tune that note

20-minute review routines

  • Single-drone routine
    • 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 Tunes Listed By Root Note page as your guide.
    • 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

It takes a minute for the notefinder image to appear. Thanks for your patience 🙏

  • 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.
    • Learn more: How To Practice Consistently
  • Listening is practice too.
  • Slow down.
    • This is cliché music teacher advice, but it’s what most students need to do.
    • Learn more: 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.
    • Learn more: Singing and Playing Practice
  • Practice audiation.
    • Audiation is hearing music in your head. Actively practice this.
    • Learn more: Audiation
  • Loop it.
    • 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 more: Looping Practice
  • Micro-learning.
    • Learn in very small increments.
    • Single notes > bits > phrases > tunes
    • Learn more: Micro-learning
  • Drone on.
    • Practicing with drones is pleasurable, and so you’ll be more likely to play every day.
    • Drones will help you play better in tune.
    • Learn more: How To Play In Tune With Drone Notes
  • Be your own teacher.
    • Make up your own exercises.
    • Record yourself and listen back. This way you can pinpoint what’s most challenging.
    • Learn more: 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.
    • Learn more: 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".
    • Learn more: Practice Just To Practice

Here are a few technical reminders to remember as you practice.

Posture reminders

  • 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.

Bowing tips

  • 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 Interval Central to go deeper with this.

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.

Little lift

  • 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 String CrossingApply this idea to more complex string crossings.

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.