Beginner practice journey
October 22, 2021

Hey there fiddler!

This group lesson is for fiddlers who are working Module 1.4 or higher.

We will be using call-and-response to learn a new tune. This is a fun way to develop your ear.

I will go slow, because a lot of folks find this challenging, especially if they’re used to using tabs and sheet music.

Don’t worry if you don’t memorize the tune in this lesson. I’ll add tabs and sheet music. This forces you to rely completely on your ear. A little bit of struggle will level up your fiddling 💪🏽

But actually…I think this going to be a lot of fun for everyone. It’s a new thing I’m trying, so I’ll be learning too.

Video replay

Specific preparation for this lesson


D Drone

G Drone

A Drone

  • Warm up with D Major
  • 1st quarter
  • Alternate plucking and bowing
  • 2nd quarter
  • 1st half
  • 3rd quarter
  • 4th quarter
  • 2nd half
  • 1st quarter
  • 2nd quarter
  • 3rd quarter
  • 4th quarter
  • 1st quarter
  • 2nd quarter
  • 1st half
  • 3rd quarter
  • 4th quarter
  • 2nd half
  • 1st half
  • 2nd half
  • Whole tune
  • Review parts
  • Whole tune
  • Play a different
  • Return to mystery tune

Fiddle Yoga 🧘🏽‍♂️

  • Start by holding the fiddle and just breathing calmly.
  • Relax your back, shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Maintaining this relaxed awareness, play a single note. Enjoy the sound 🎶
  • Play a fingered note. Maintain the relaxed feeling in your left hand.
  • This plants the seed for a good practice session. We’ll check in with the body later in the journey…

What is the hardest part for you?

What’s one big thing you could improve?

  • {thing to improve 1}

The Mystery tune Revealed! Don't look until you've washed the video!!!


Here are some fun projects you can do to learn this more deeply.


Transpose this tune to other keys:

  • D Major starting D2-1-0-G2-2 or E1-0-A3-1-1
  • G Major starting A1-0-D3-1-1
  • F Major starting A0-D3-L2-0-0 or E3-L2-L1-A3-3

Create your own Mystery Tune lesson

You can accelerate your learning if you teach others!

Pick a very simple tune, (like Twinkle Little Star) that I haven’t made a lesson for yet. Make a Mystery Tune lesson. Follow the form in this lesson:

  • Slowly demonstrate the whole tune twice
  • Show the scale
  • Call-and-response on the the first 1-4 notes
  • Keep going until you you’ve built up the whole first quarter
  • Continue the process until you’ve demonstrated the whole tune
  • End by playing the whole tune again

Here are some other things to remember for this:

  • Demonstrate each piece slowly
  • Make a video of yourself playing the song before you make the lesson
    • This will fine tune your skills and approach to the lesson you create

A Travel Guide For Your Practice Journey

What the heck is a practice journey?

This is a practice session in which you focus on one thing, but integrate other things you’ve learned into the practice. You can take a journey on your own or with others. The process of alternating and returning to a focus point is known as Interleaving.

I hope that when you and others students take these live lessons, you’ll put this into practice on your own. Take a practice journey every time you play…

Why take a practice journey?

Taking a practice journey will make your solo sessions and group meetups more fun and productive. If you enjoy the practice today, you’re more likely to do it tomorrow. Fun is not overrated.

This structure will help you to remember things you’ve learned. The spaced repetition strengthens neural connections. 🧠

Practice creatively

Practice is a creative act. How can you find a new way to practice the FUNdamentals?

Approach daily practice as a kind of improvisation. This mindset will carry over to improvising on tunes and in groups. Even if you don’t want to improvise (as in soloing or jamming) you can practice creatively as a form of improvisation.

Think of everything on this page as a suggestion. If you don’t do anything I suggest but have a good practice session, then just keep doing what you’re doing. If any of these suggestions are helpful, work them into your own routine.

Let me know if you come up with a fun or productive way to take a practice journey. That way we can learn together.

A general guide to practice journeys

Below you’ll find a generalized structure to organize your practice creatively. See the the Group Lessons Central for more specific Practice Journey outlines (with video replays and supplemental content).

Find your boat: What will you focus on? ⛵️

  • Possible focus points:
    • Scale or a technique (bowing, vibrato, timing, tuning, etc.)
    • Tune
    • Reviewing older tunes and techniques
    • Improvisation and variation
  • Though you have this focus point, you will integrate other things you’ve practiced into your session. These are stops along along the way.
    • After each stop, you’ll return to the focus point and continue the journey.
  • Pick the focus point before the session
    • Single-player journeys
      • This can be done before you start.
      • I tend to repeat journeys a few days in a row so that they sink in.
        • Each time I learn new things and add them to the journey.
    • Multi-player journeys
      • Everyone decides on what they will focus on for the next session.
      • That way you can practice throughout the week.
        • In this way the practice journey is framework for group practice but also for individual practice.
      • Support each other throughout the week.
        • If you’re struggling or have questions, reach out to others in your group.

Prepare for the trip 📦

  • In other words, warm up. This is like packing food and supplies before leaving on a trip.
  • Play an open string with a drone track.
    • Relax your body and breath.
    • Enjoy the sound.
    • Advanced players: don’t underestimate this step.
    • Student groups: Do this step together.
  • Simple scale or tune
    • Student groups can do this independently or together.
      • If done together, then one person is unmuted and the others follow.
        • Take turns being the leader.
    • Learn Some Easy Tunes!

Set sail ⛵️

  • Practice the focus point: tune, technique, review or improv.
  • Simply play through it a few times.
  • What was challenging about this?

Side-trip 1: Sharper focus on challenges 🐪

  • This is your first stop along the way.
  • Focus on the challenging part you identified earlier.
  • Loop it
    • Loop on a difficult piece until it flows.
    • Shoot to make it 10% better.
    • Learn more: Practice Loops
  • Change the loop length
    • Playing short loops allows for greater focus on what’s actually difficult.
    • Playing longer loops allows you to integrate the difficult part back into a larger piece.
  • Chaining

Return to the boat ⛵️

  • Once more, simply play through the focus point a few times.
  • Was the challenging part any easier?
    • Shoot for 10% improvement.
    • You can do this!

Take a break 🏝

  • Take a short break.
    • Stretch, breathe, move around.
    • If you’re in a group, pause to chat.
    • This is a form of kindness to your body and mind.

Side-trip 2: Related technique 🚕

  • Practice something different than the focus (but related).
  • If your focus is a tune, then work on a scale, bowing technique, ear-training, tuning, timing.
  • If your focus is a technique, then practice a tune.
  • Add variation or improvise

Return to the boat ⛵️

  • Once more, simply play through the focus point a few times.
  • Can you integrate the focus with something you did in the side-trip?

Side-trip 3: Variation ✈️

  • Transpose, add variation, improvise with the focus point
  • Transpose
    • Easier: Start on a different string (same fingering)
      • Switch to the appropriate drone note
      • For example, Hector The Hero starting on D0 (D Major, D drone)
    • Harder: Start on a different fingering
      • This means you have to map the entire tune or exercise to a new set of fingerings.
      • For example, Hector The Hero starting on AL1 (B flat Major, Bb drone)
  • Add variation
    • Beginner
    • Advanced
  • Improvise

Continue… 🛣

  • The practice journey never ends!
  • Continue alternating between the focus point, side trips and short breaks until you are almost ready stop for the day.
  • Save a few minutes for the wind-down.

Side-trip: Add variation to the tune (advanced)

What variation did you add to the scale in side-trip 1? How can this be added to the tune?

Add variation to one small piece.

  • Then alternate between the basic and variation

Then try to add variation to other parts using the same process.

Side-trip: Improvise

Use the Tune/Improv/Tune format

  • Play the tune, improvise, then play the tune again
  • The Improv can simply be scale practice.
  • Play with small bits from the tune.
    • Change the note order.
    • Add rhythms.
    • Add other variation.
  • Always return to playing the tune simply.

Side-trip: Play a set

  • Try to play the tune a few times and then seamlessly shift to a different tune.
  • To succeed at this, practice the transitions between tunes.
  • Start with conventional sets, like 2-3 polkas, or 2-3 reels.
  • Try more unconventional sets, aka medleys

Side-trip: Practice note-reading


  • If you’re learning to read music, then practice intuitive note-reading on this tune.
  • Play the first quarter. Loop it until it flows.
  • Then play while reading the first quarter.
  • Alternate between looking and not looking at the sheet music.
  • Variations:
    • Alternate between singing the piece, with and without reading the sheet music.
    • Audiation: Alternate between auditing the piece, with and without reading the sheet music.

Side-trip: Practice backup (intermediate)

  • Play the chords with the melody. Use play along tracks.
    • Start with single quarters.
  • Practice singing the melody while playing backup (advanced).

Wind-down 🕰

  • Short recap of the practice journey
    • Briefly review and practice all the things you’ve done in this session.
      • This is more spaced repetition.
    • This will creates new connections in your brain. It will help you to internalize what you practiced and learned.
  • Play a simple scale.
  • Play an open string with a drone.
    • Relax the body and breath.
    • Get a good sound with this one note.
    • Enjoy the sound!
    • End on a High Note
  • Give thanks for this music. 🙏
  • Reflection

Further journeys

I lead group lessons in which we do this together. These are recorded and archived with outlines so that you can take the journey again on your own or with a practice group. See the “Archived Practice Journeys” tab on the Group Lessons Central page.

The group practice journeys are a fun adventure that continues to evolve. Do you have any suggestions that would make this better? Could this page be set up differently? Do you need more preparation? Could the meeting be run differently?

I want you to become an amazing fiddler…

If you have any ideas, please leave a comment below, or email Jason (please include the name of this group lesson in your email).

Thanks for taking part…

7 responses to “Practice Journey: Mystery Tune 1

  1. Jason,

    This was a cool lesson. I plucked the entire lesson since I’m still on bowing restrictions. Loved the sound of the tune. Attempted a quick scoring of it as we went along and was fairly close.

    This morning I remembered the tune and was able to add some double stops almost naturally.

    Thanks for your unique style of teaching and your great patience with beginners.


  2. Thanks for another great lesson Jason! I just went through it using the replay, enjoyed the methodical process and then transposition. Nice to hear the different tonal sound of new keys. Actually I think that’s a bonus of learning a tune by ear. When we listen more deeply, we can appreciate and develop the sound of our fiddle. Interleaving was also interesting, I didn’t think I would remember the new tune when I returned to it but was pleasantly surprised to find it was still there.😌

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