Here are some instruments and gear I recommend.


Strings

Helicore

Dominant


Violins

I recommend FiddlerShop for buying violins and bows online. They make good, affordable instruments and have a generous return policy. The fiddles are made overseas and then “set up” by hand at their workshop in Florida. And they are a family-run business.

Tower Strings Entertainer Violin Outfit

Here’s an entry-level fiddle to get you going.

Fiddlerman Apprentice Violin Outfit

Here’s a more expensive violin. It’s a worthy investment if you can afford to spend a little more.


Fiddlerman Artist Violin Outfit


My general advice for buying a fiddle…

Get something good which is also affordable. If you spend $100 on a violin, you’ll pay for it in frustration. You will be less likely to succeed. 

On the other hand, too many people obsess over which violin to buy. They miss a big point: you have to play the thing. If you have a $10,000 violin but barely pick it up, then it may as well be a $100 violin.

If you’re on a budget, I recommend something in the $300-400 range. Think of it as an investment. You’re investing in the peace and happiness that comes with music. You also might see some financial return. If you get into fiddling, you won’t waste money on other meaningless stuff.


Just Bows

Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Bow

A good inexpensive option at $68.79.

 

Holstein Pernambuco Bow

Pernambuco wood is the standard for professional violinists. If you can afford this at $199.99, then I think it would be a worthy investment.


Accessories

Rosin 

Hindersine

I currently use this classic rosin.

 

Magic Rosin

Very cool and fun rosins, created to be visually interesting.


Bonmusica shoulder rest

This is a high tech shoulder rest. Especially recommended if you have back, neck or shoulder pain after playing.


Bow Buddy

This helps with the right-hand position on the bow.


Bow Right

This trains you to bow parallel to the bridge (perpendicular to the strings).


WonderThumb

This aids your left-hand position and helps you play with less tension.

Fiddlehed Jim W. had this to say about it:

“Just wanted to check in and update you on my left wrist issues and my experience with the wonder thumb device.

The wrist is feeling a lot better now that I’m not digging up root balls in the yard.
I’ve been using the wonder thumb for a couple of weeks. It is helping me with the death grip and really relaxing the whole left arm and hand. It’s also helping with better intonation and remembering to breath. Weird right? It’s also taught me that to play on the G and E strings comfortably and with less stress on the left wrist requires the left arm/elbow to move forward a little to get the G string and move to the rear a little to get to the E string. Hope that makes sense.
I think at $24 + shipping is well worth the money for how much it’s helping me. I’m going to give it 2 thumbs up. LOL
I’m very happy you and your student turned me onto this during the last office hours. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes in the next month or so.

Snark tuner


String Swing

Remove resistance to practicing by keeping your fiddle accessible. Another solution would be a floor stand:

Like-it violin stand


 

Dampit Humidifier

This protects the violin from shrinkage in dry climates.


Books

Fiddler’s Fakebookby David Brody

If you buy just one book, this is the one to get. I love it.

The Fiddle Book, by Marion Thede

A great book of old-time tunes and stories. It also is a great resource if you want to play in altered tunings.

The Celtic Fiddlerby Edward Huws Jones

I love this tune selection. It contains tunes from places you didn’t know had Clectic fiddling, like Brittany in France and Galicia in Spain.


Foinn book series

This book has very simple versions arranged in sets of three tunes.


Klezmer Collectionby Stacey Phillips

Mazeltov! If you like Klezmer tunes like Hava Negilah and Berdichiever Khosid, then check this out.

The Cajun Fiddle Tune Book, by Deborah Greenblatt

Another great book with a nice range of skill levels.


Software 

Amazing Slow Downer 

Cleartune

iTabla

Reason

I use Reason to record the play-along tracks on the site.


Other fun instruments

Q Chord 

I use this for backing tracks and just creating cool sounds.


Recommended listening

Here is a Youtube playlist of some songs that I teach:

Here is a similar Spotify playlist:

Here are some fiddle albums I love:

Portland – by Kevin Burke

I just love the way this album sounds. Nuff said.

The Lonesome Touch – by Martin Hayes

Listening to this album I realized that you can re-invent traditional music in beautiful new ways.

Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow! – various artists

Vintage Fiddle Music 1927-1935: Blues, Jazz, Stomps, Shuffles & Rags


Anthology Of American Folk Music

This was a huge influence on me. It’s still refreshing to hear recordings in which the spirit of the performance is valued over perfected audio.


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.

Learn more about how to play in tune with drones here: Drone tuning the notes on the D string.

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.


Notefinder table

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.

G0-1-2-3-D0-1-2-3-A0-1-2-3-E0-1-2-3


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

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 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 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 fundamental technique.
  • Practice everything more slowly than you naturally would play it.
  • Also, slow down your consumption of new lessons, techniques and tunes. Stay with one thing until it really sinks in.

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.

Last lesson complete:


Total course progres

Total modules complete:

All completed lessons

Here's a listing of all core lessons you've completed in the main course (modules 1.1 to 2.9).

Module 1.1


Module 1.2


Module 1.3


Module 1.4


Module 1.5


Module 1.6


Module 1.7


Module 1.8


Module 1.9


Module 1.10


Module 2.1


Module 2.2


Module 2.3


Module 2.4


Module 2.5


Module 2.6


Module 2.7


Module 2.8


Module 2.9