Immediately start making happy sounds with plucking
Learn the names of four new friends: the strings on your fiddle
Learn some jolly fiddle rhythms
Have fun with looping
You don’t have to learn anything fancy to make music that sounds good. And you don’t have to wait for this to happen in the distant future. Let’s start fiddling now.
Plucking is when we use the right index finger to make a sound. It is a great way to start making music, learning note names and practicing rhythms. Throughout your journey as a fiddler, you can use plucking to work out tricky parts of tunes and left-hand techniques.
Start by placing your right thumb on the side of the fingerboard. Place your index finger on the strings over the end of the fingerboard.
Hold your fiddle and pluck each string.
Take a moment to just play around with plucking on your own.
Let’s learn the string names. The string all the way to the left is G. Say it and play it.
Then say and play D, A, and E.
Demonstration video: plucking
Guitar position is an alternate way to hold the fiddle for plucking. This will be especially useful when we start learning left-hand fingering.
Pluck twice on the G string, then twice on the D string. These are called quarter notes.
G to D
Let’s repeat this for the other pairs:
D to A
A to E
‘Tucka’ is a rhythmic pattern that sounds like “short-short-short-short-LONG-LONG.” Saying “tucka tucka tuck ah” will help you with this rhythm. Or say “Mississippi hot dog.” And if you are a vegan you can say, “Marinated tofu.”
Let’s practice Tucka by alternating between two strings:
G to D with Tucka
D to A with Tucka
A to E with Tucka
We play these play-along tracks continuously without stopping. This is called ‘looping.’ Looping will help you to move beyond thinking about music to playing music.
This is a powerful practice tool. It’s also a fun way to play because you’ll quickly start to get the feeling that you are grooving and making actual music.
Hoedown is a rhythm which sounds like “LONG-short-short.” This is used all the time in American fiddle styles (old-time, bluegrass, Cajun). Let’s practice Hoedown by alternating between two strings:
G to D with Hoedown
Saying “Long short short” or “hamburger” will help you with this rhythm.
D to A with Hoedown
A to E with Hoedown
Triplets are a rhythm made of three notes of the same length. Let’s practice triplets by alternating between two strings:
G to D with Triplets
Saying “1-2-3” or “blueberry” will help you with this rhythm.
D to A with Triplets
A to E with Triplets
Were you able to do these rhythms? If so, then pat yourself on the back. Believe it or not, these are core rhythms that you practice over and over again throughout the course. Think of these rhythms as old friends that travel with you on your fiddle journey.
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'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! Learn more about sawmill tuning in the Appalachian Fiddle course.
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.
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.