Does it seem like you’re not making any progress with the fiddle? Are you feeling frustrated? The key word here is “seem”. It may seem like you’re not improving, but how can you know for sure?
Here’s one way to accurately measure progress: Make “video capsules” of your playing on a regular basis. This will help you to overcome the Emotional challenge of learning an instrument.
I’ve written a few posts about recording, here and here. In these posts, I focus more on how recording can help you to immediately see your strengths and weaknesses. This is a great way to overcome technical challenges.
In addition to this immediate feedback, self-recording can show you that you’ve actually made significant progress over time, even when it feels like you haven’t. If you see that you’ve come a long way, you’ll be more likely to not give up. It will encourage you to continue practicing on a consistent basis. It’s common for continuing students to get stuck in a rut. One way to break out of this is to realize that you are constantly learning and growing, even though it’s not always apparent.
Let’s do it
The simplest way to start is to video yourself on a weekly basis and review it from time to time. I recommend you do this today. Create an album called “My Fiddle Videos”. Every once in a while look at older videos to remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
If you want to put a little more energy into this project, then label the videos. This will allow you to see your progress on specific tunes and techniques. For example, if I made my first recording of “Bile ’em Cabbage Down” on July 20, 2020, this would be the label:
Bile/take 1/July 20, 2020
Use whatever labeling system works for you. But these videos will have a lot more value if they are labeled.
You’ll get an emotional reward if you compare your past and current skill levels. I’m a big fan of the “small steps, small wins” approach. But sometimes, the steps are so small that we don’t notice them. Like the moon moving across the night sky…And so we need some evidence to dispel those feelings of doubt.
You can also record the same thing at a series of checkpoints. Then you receive more specific feedback on a tune: what has improved and what still needs work. This adds even more value to the video capsule system.
In each module of the FiddleHed course, there is now a suggested “Video capsule tune”.
Video this tune or technique at a few points in the future. After you record each new version, compare it to older versions.
1st video: After you first learn the tune or technique
- Record this when you can make it through the whole thing start to finish.
- Label it: Bile/take 1/July 20, 2020
2nd video: 2-3 weeks later
- Label it: Bile/take 2/August 5, 2020
- Compare this to the first version. Celebrate any small wins!
3rd video: 3-6 months later
- Play the same tune or technique again.
- You may want to include variations you’ve added to it.
- Label: Bile with variations/take 3/October 18, 2020
A Youtuber named Violin Noobie put together videos of her progress over two years.
You can do this too. Learn to use a simple video editing program like iMovie or OpenShot (free software). Slowly add new video clips to create an overall progress video. If you do this, please share it with me!
Remember, this system of checkpoints is just a suggestion. The important thing is to start doing this. If the labeling or checkpoint system doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it. Find your own system. Or simply just make videos of your playing and review them later on. This is a way to practice without playing.
Alright! Let me know if you discover a good strategy for video capsules.