Preparing for the journey

The fact that you are reading this means that you’ve taken a tiny step towards something that interests you: playing music. Instead of just thinking about and then saying “Nah, I’m not musical,” you are on your way to becoming a fiddler. 

Challenges on the journey

You’re going to face three major challenges on the journey:

  • Practice challenge 
  • Physical challenge
  • Emotional challenge

Later on, I’ll go into more detail on these challenges and how to overcome them. But for now, let’s take a bird’s eye view of how to successfully learn and practice music.

A simple model for successful learning

Establishing smart and consistent practice habits is really the central challenge of learning an instrument. Fiddlehed is designed to get you into a virtuous cycle of daily practice, incremental learning, and enjoying each step of the journey.


Each fiddlosophy counters each challenge:

  • Play every day
    • Do this to overcome the challenge of consistent practice.
    • Learn to make daily practice a healthy habit, like brushing your teeth. That way you don’t waste energy thinking about whether you should do it or not.
    • The goal of FiddleHed is to make learning fun so that you’ naturally want to play every day.
    • Here’s a great strategy to help you establish consistent practice: The Two-Minute Rule.
  • Small steps, small wins
    • Incremental “micro-practice” is the way to overcome physical challenges such as fingering, bowing, playing in tune.
    • Learn to break down complex problems into small things you can actually do.
  • Enjoy what you’re doing
    • Each time you take a small step, it’s a small win, and that little win brings joy.
    • Nurture joy to overcome the emotional challenge.
    • Learn to enjoy the sound.

You can benefit from any one of these practices. But notice how they work as a process. If you play every day, then you’ll actually see progress from the small steps. If you have small wins you’ll enjoy the experience. And if you enjoy the experience, you’ll want to do it again tomorrow.

I can’t wait to practice today!

Learning music is not about inflicting torture on yourself now so that you can have a payoff later. I want you to learn how to enjoy music right now. And I want you to learn how to learn so you can continue on your own with whatever you do with music.

If you learn to make the practice fun, then you don’t have to force yourself to do it. Instead of saying, “I really should practice today,” you’ll find yourself saying, “I can’t wait to practice today!”

If a good process is your goal, then you will deal with each challenge, seeing it all as something interesting and fun. In fact, if your intention is to simply practice well, then every time you play, you reach your goal immediately. To be a musician, you just have to play every day. 

Now go fiddle with it…

OK, now that you understand a little of my “fiddlosophy,” let’s make a deal: I’ll do my best to make learning the fiddle fun and you do your best to play every day. And let’s not feel bad about ourselves if we seem to fall short along the way.

Leave a Reply

42 responses to “The Fiddler’s Journey

  1. Hi, I’ve been practicing nearly everyday since the beginning of the year. I progressed from Britches with Stitches to the Ashokan Farewell mainly because I like the tune. I have no background in music. I’m 67. I’ve wanted to play the fiddle for years. This year is when I really knuckled down to it. But progress is slow. Even so I want to keep going.
    My main issue is my bowing technique. I focus so much on my fingers on the notes that I ignore the bow.

    1. Hey Willie, It’s good that you realize where you can improve. Continue to improve your sound on single open strings, then single fingered notes, then two-note intervals, like D1-2. Fundamentals are never mastered!

  2. Hello all!
    New Fiddlehead member here. I started playing the violin when I was in elementary school all the way up until 8th grade! Still don’t think I was all that great. I played on my great, great uncle’s 70+ year old violin my mother got refurbished.
    15 years later I decided to pick up the violin again as my husband plays a musical instrument and I want to be able to jam with him and his friends. I started taking lessons with an instructor, but sadly 2 months in covid struck. I stopped playing until about a week ago the spark finally came back 😊
    Excited to start this journey!

  3. Can’t wait to play a real fiddle tune! I like the attitude adjuster from “I have to practice” to “I can hardly wait to practice.” That is my first objective to complete in the goal of playing the fiddle.

  4. Just got A CHEAP fiddle off Amazon. (Don’t have a lot of dough) never played before but always wanted to… 50 yrs old seems like as good a time as any. Looking forward to more lessons… Gonna have to save, but seems worth it.

  5. Last October my father-in-law passed away. He had a violin, which I’ll call a fiddle out of respect for where I am 🙂 … it was a cheap violin, the kind that comes in a set, but he could never play it … in fact it’s his second violin because he gave up and sold the first, before deciding he wouldn’t be beaten and buying another. Sadly he died before he got even a note out of it and I asked for the violin, sorry fiddle, from the family … which I now have.

    I had never played a fiddle, never even touched one in my 60 years of being alive, but I determined to learn to play something .. anything really, for his sake. So far I am getting notes out of it … which is progress … but most of all I’m actually enjoying it. There are any number of sites and youtube lessons … and my wife bought me Violin for Dummies for Christmas – thanks Babe! … but actually it’s a really good book … then I saw a video by Jason when I was trawling youtube yesterday and thought, “yep, that’s the one” … so here I am … now 61 and still not at the ‘putting my fingers on the fingerboard’ stage yet … although I did have a go last night and it was dreadful.

    Just my story so far … we all have one and that’s mine 🙂



  6. Good day! I absolutely love your lessons and how many tunes can learn! I started playing this year and try to practise everyday. I have tried a few teachers and I find that your way is so fun and exciting! It’s the songs with the play along that enjoy so much. One question I have is which brand of fiddle do you recommend? Thank you Heather

  7. Hi Jason,
    What do I say. You so many things well and with clarity, it’s hard to point out any one thing. I do play a few instruments, guitar, bass, piano, some banjo. I know I’m in the right place to learn fiddling. I’ve previewed some of the song lessons, and impressed how your teaching method makes it fun and easy. Of course, I’ve tried a few basic songs and progressed through them fairly well.I know the final results depends on my comment to dedicated practice, as with any instrument. I’ve previewed some of the easier basic songs and surprised how I progressed with your teaching method. I can read music. An added benefit .

  8. As I read the posts before me, I start to believe I’m in the right place here! Hello to all you Good People. I subscribed today after about a week of taking in the YouTube videos. Your method is logical, flexible, appealing, easy-going and direct. The real kicker to get me in is the variety of genres and styles you cover. I’m 55 and a life-long musician, recently retired from 30 years in public safety. Music has always been my happy place of refuge from life’s storms. Though I play several instruments in a few groups, the fiddle has always been my Holy Grail and I think now it’s time to seriously commit to this quest. I have been a novice violin student (day one, lesson one) about a half dozen times over the past 32 years! I have no foolish notions this will be easy or fast. You do, however, make it seem at least possible for me to someday reach a level I can enjoy playing with others. That is my goal. Thanks.

    1. Hey FrostyMac,

      What other instruments do you play?

      As you may know, if you focus on a good daily process, you will be able to do this.

      One pitfall for people who’ve already learned other instruments is that they tend to rush through whatever course they take. I recommend you make something sound good every time you play. If you build a good foundation, than you will be in a your learning will naturally accelerate.

  9. I play guitar and piano. 50 yrs I’ve played Folk Rock/Rock in bands and solo. Dedicated myself to study/play Old Time and Bluegrass. The first Fiddlehed video I saw inspired me to start up! Great teaching method Jason. I am also learning Mandolin at the same time, due to compatible strings (G-D-A-E). What I learn for fiddle I apply to the Mandolin! Slow and Steady 🙂

    1. What an arsenal of talents! Good on you to keep with such a variety of musical journeys.
      We are happy you got what you needed from our videos to start you fiddlin’! If you are open to it, we would love to use your words as a testimonial to let others know about the joys of fiddling with us! No worries if not, but we are grateful you’re fiddling with us any way!

    2. Hi Markus,

      As a person who has already learned other instruments, what is the biggest challenge about learning fiddle?

      It’s nice how it’s relatively easy to play Mando once you can play fiddle.

      Thanks for the kind words…

  10. I took violin lessons for about two years to learn fundamentals, all the while watching fiddlehed videos to learn what I really wanted to play. My instructor took pneumonia and went on to her final recital so I’m fiddling regularly with fiddlehed Fiddle lessons. Great lessons and tune selection

  11. I have been taking violin lessons for a couple of years. My instructor is on maternity leave so thought I would try my hand at fiddle lessons . Thx for being here. I love your tutorial on Long Black Veil, That is what got me interested

  12. I started to learn the violin at age 70 and am now 82 and still love the instrument. The only violin I ever heard as a youth was a Strat at a church concert at age 15 when we held a concert toget money for our choir, of which I was a member. Then nothing until age 68 when I was a member on the Orlando ,fl old time fiddle group playing a chelo as a bass. I secided tto get a cheap violin from China, after I started I loved the fiddle and still do and play with a group of old timers in Saint Cloud , fla.every Friday evening.

  13. Was drawn to fiddle music all my life. Finally got a fiddle 4 months ago and started learning at 58. I now know I should listen to that voice inside when it speaks. Going slow, and loving it.

    1. I play a few other things but have always been interested in fiddle too… finally dove in a few months ago at age 60. Never too late, but what I tell others who say they want to take it up when they retire? I say why put it off? Get on in there now! Time’s a wastin’!

  14. All of the FiddleHed material has been very helpful in my taking up the fiddle once again. For a long time (many years) I have not played due to chronic pain from an injury to my neck and right shoulder. I decided to give the fiddle a try and see if playing would worsen my problem. Somewhat to my surprise I found that this type of “exercise” seems to help my situation.
    I find all of the lessons and posts to be very encouraging and presented in a real down to earth and easy to understand format.
    This is a great site!

  15. Have been away from fiddling for a couple of weeks. Picking it up again and appreciated your post. I’m still less than two years into it and realizing I really love it in spite of myself.

  16. When I was much younger (43 years ago), my mom wanted me to play the fiddle. I played from 7th-10th grade. I was super bad. I think the orchestra teacher kicked me out because I was so bad. Now, a year after my Mom passed away, I’m playing again. Actually, I’m practicing @4 hrs a day. I love it! It’s like, “wow, I actually am playing and playing with my heart and soul”. I know my Mom is loving not hearing the squeaks. She’s probably telling everyone in heaven that I’m actually making progress!

    1. I play a few instruments and before my mom passed away late last year, I whispered to her something that has been true my whole life… I said to her “every note I’ve ever played was for you” and I couldn’t have said it out loud without crying, but I could whisper it, so I did. It made her tear up (me too) but truer words never spoken, for sure.

  17. I believe reviews are like basking in Moms homemade roast beef dinners. You just don’t remember it all until you’re enjoying it again. Refreshing, isn’t it? There’s always stuff that fades and going there again brings out the best. Thanks