Here’s a replay of the office hours livestream with indexed questions. Thanks to all who attended and asked questions. 🙏

I’ll soon be using excerpts from this to make short lessons. These micro-lessons will help you to quickly find answers to your questions about fiddle technique, practice and performance. Click here to see these: Micro-lessons/Student Questions

Notes & further learning

Here’s an outline of how I answered the question along with further learning links. To see video answers to the questions, click the links above.

When you say to practice something 1,000 times … do you actually track it? If so, how? 

Kelly from Syracuse NY asked this.

  • She’s asking about a post I made called Repeat A Thousand Times.
    • This is something that Earl Scruggs would say in his banjo books. He’d teach a riff and they say “Repeat a thousand times.”
  • First, playing it 1000x does NOT mean you turn into a robot.
    • Be creative.
    • How many different ways can you practice the same thing?
    • How can you integrate this practice into other areas?
      • For example, if you’re learning vibrato, how can you practice it on part of a tune?
  • I think I only actually tracked something once.
    • Here’s a simple system for tracking how many times you practice something. It’s kind of like having a trainer at the gym.
    • Practice a small task in groups of 10 reps.
      • This works better with small things. 
    • Do something else. Do another 10 reps.
    • This is called interleaving.
    • At the end of the day, take note of how many reps you’ve practiced.
    • 50 reps a day is not impossible
    • If you do 50 reps/day, then it takes 20 days, or three weeks of consistent practice.
    • It would take longer to play a tune 1000x.
      • But if you do this, you’ll be shocked at how good you are at that tune. It will also improve your technique and stretch your creativity.
  • Practice Like A Master

How do you make fingered double stops sound good?

Abee in San Diego asked this question: I’m trying to learn stops while playing on two strings. I’m ok with playing D and A strings if the stops are on the A. Boy howdy, can’t say the same if the stops are on the D. Any advice on this? My fingers on the D are hitting the A and my ears hurt.

How do you know when to use double stops? 

Tara, North Carolina asks: Should double stops be played throughout the entire tune or should I sprinkle them in when I feel it’s “right”? When I listen to fiddle players like yourself, Ian Walsh, Mark O’Connor it seems like you guys play the entire tune with DS, or are you picking and choosing when to play them? So hard to tell when you’re playing fast 🙂

  • Listen to other fiddlers. Listen to other kinds of music as well. Discover what sounds good to you.
  • Learn to trust your ear.
  • How much does a double stop add to the song? Does playing a single string sound better?
  • Experiment
    • Keep alternating between double stops and single notes
    • Try different combinations
    • Double stops on different parts of a tune
  • Play double stops accents
    • Single/double patterns
      • Create rhythmic textures with sing and double stops
    • Whiskey example
  • Experiment with double stops on different parts of a tune.

***Question to students: Is anyone interested in a zoom group class?

How can I avoid shoulder/back pain when practicing?

Steph asked this.

  • Something I’m working on too
  • Check in with your body throughout a practice session
  • Pay attention to the body and breath
  • Lower your shoulder. Practice with this on open strings
  • Use a Bonmusica shoulder rest
  • Take frequent breaks and stretching
    • Practice in 20-minute blocks
    • Twenty minutes on, then a few minutes break. Or practice another 20-minute block later in the day
  • Breathing exercises

How do you go about implementing the various shuffles into songs without losing the melodic line?

Lisa from Northeast Florida asked this.

How often do I need to use rosin on my bow? Can there be too much rosin?

Joe, from Los Angeles, Anita from Mulberry TN and Richard from Utah: 

  • Every 4-6 hours. Roughly twice a week.
  • If there’s not enough the bow slides.
  • If too much, there’ll be clouds of rosin dust.
  • I currently use Hindersine

How do I know if I tightened the bow hair enough?

Asked by Anita from Mulberry TN.

  • The bow is too tight if it looks like an archery bow
  • Too loose if the bow hair touches the would when you play
  • Fiddlers keep it a little looser than classical players

Do I need to use a humidifier for my violin?

Ginny asked this: I live in Colorado, a dry climate. I use a tube type of humidifier that slides into my violin. I can’t tell if it’s working. How can you tell? Do you think those work well?

  • In dry areas, the wood dries out, causing instrument to shrink
  • The instrument should be kept in a 40% humidity environment or higher
    • Use a room humidifier
    • In-case humidifier
    • In-instrument humidifier
    • Keep it away from air-conditioning and heaters
    • Here’s a video explanation:

  • In high humidity areas, do the opposite
    • Iron a pillow case, place on fiddle to absorb excess moisture.
    • I’ll let Olaf the Violinmaker explain further:

When should I slur the bow?

Mary in West Georgia: I’m curious about when to use the slur. For example Midnight on the Water, on the 8th notes can I use the slur? I have confusion about when the slur is useful. 

How can I improve my fast playing?

Nancy from Kentucky: I am working on Little Liza Jane. When I get to 5:45 on the Full Play-Along Track it becomes too fast. 

  • First, work on your timing at a comfortable medium speed.
    • If you can’t do this, then you won’t be able to play fast
    • Use a metronome
    • It might be hard at first, so start with very simple things, like going single notes and rhythms on open strings
    • When you want to speed up a tune, speed up the most challenging parts
      • These parts will set the tempo for the whole tune
      • As you speed up the hardest parts, you’ll be able to speed up the whole tune
  • The Jedi-knight method of playing fast: play things VERY SLOWLY with a metronome
    • This is hard
  • Don’t worry too much about playing fast
    • If you focus on fundamentals, this will happen more easily down the line
  • Will a metronome help my fiddling?
  • Metronome tracks

***Question to students: Do you like that the play-along tracks speed up? Or would it be better if they didn’t?

Return to Micro-lessons>>