Take An Intermediate Step

When practicing something difficult, see if you can break it down into a series of small, intermediate steps.

I’ve been learning bluegrass solos from a book by a great fiddler named Annie Staninec. It’s been fun and challenging. It’s good because I feel like I’m working at the edge of ability.

I’m currently working on the “Banks of the Ohio” solo by Paul Shelasky (with Blue & Lonesome). I’m feeling challenged by some of the double stops. In particular, I just can’t play the D4A2 double stop in tune yet. This happens a few times in the tune. 🤯

I’m trying to practice what I preach and use the micro-practice process. I realized that the first three double stops are not as challenging for me. It’s going from D1A0 to A2D4 that’s beating me up. So I concentrate my practice energy and time on that one transition:


To solve this particular musical problem, I broke the “target phrase” into a few intermediate steps. I work on each intermediate step and then try to play the whole target phrase.

I’m also cheating a bit by sliding into A2. I have faith that once I master this, I won’t need the cheat. As long as I’m aware of what I’m doing than it won’t become a crutch.

It’s a bit frustrating to not be able to do it easily. But I know that if I invest the time in this now, I’ll better be able to do this particular double stop when it arises again.

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Here’s the solo I’m learning.

Further learning

Special thanks to Annie for permission to mention her book…and for writing it.

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