End on a High Note

Try to end your practice sessions on a high note instead of in a state of frustration. At the end of the session, I want you to be saying, “Yes!!” instead of “Rats!!”

Say you’re learning something hard like a fingered double stops scale. You spent half an hour practicing this, your time’s almost up, and it still sounds horrible. Rats!!

Just let it rest for the time being. Your brain will subconsciously work on the problem even though you are paying attention to something else. Switch gears. Work on a different challenge. Or perhaps just play a few easy tunes and scales. Find your sound again. Ahhh. Yes!!

Then go back to that challenging thing you’re learning: chordal scales, vibrato, low second finger…whatever obstacle you’re facing on your fiddle journey.


The good practice project

This process of alternating between difficult and easier tasks is known as interleaving. It’s a way to be kind to yourself.

This process of interleaving is part of a much larger project: practicing well. Good practice includes things like looping, micro-practice (incremental learning), using drones, and slowing down (such a typical music-teacher thing to suggest 🤓 ).

Ultimately, the most important things about being a musician are things that are within your ability.

  1. Play every day.
  2. Practice well.

Action step

So let’s take action. We’ll use journaling to become aware of our practice. What hard things are you practicing? What easier things are you reviewing? Here’s a brief snapshot of where I’m at in my fiddle practice:

 

Take note of 1-3 things that are currently challenging you. Use the journal in the practice toolkit below, a paper journal or even an index card. Then take note of a few things that are easier for you. Then, over the next few weeks, alternate between what’s easy and what is hard. Use whatever journal system works best for you.


End on a high note

When your practice time is almost up, be sure to end your session with a song or tune that you can play easily with good sound. Choose something you enjoy playing. After that, just play a single note, like an open D string.

Play that one note with a drone. Enjoy the good sound you’re making. Close your eyes as you bow. Breathe evenly. Pay attention to this all sounds and feels. Stop playing and reflect with gratitude on the fact that you have the opportunity to make music. Then loosen the bow hairs and set down your fiddle until the next session…

 

This will nurture positive emotions about the fiddle and your ability to learn. Instead of feeling bad about your progress, you might start seeing that challenging thing as a fun puzzle. Or maybe you’ll view it as a new adventure you’re having as you continue your fiddle journey.

I want you to walk away with a good feeling about your session so you’ll be more likely to practice again tomorrow.

Thanks for reading. Now go fiddle with it…


Further learning

Easy And Hard

Learn Some Easy Tunes!

 

15 responses to “End on a High Note

  1. Thanks Jason. Great words of encouragement! You know exactly what I going through and now it seems to be a normal progression of progress. Some days are good, other days not so good; so I’ll except that and just finish on a high note. Going to go fiddle with it now!

  2. My favorite high note is playing around with variations on Jambalaya, a simple tune from Hank Williams that reminds me of fish fries with my cousins in Louisiana a long time ago 😉 As I learn more this little tune gets more and more fun to embellish. It feels like my encore, thank you thank you thank you very much LOL. Gotta have fun with it.

  3. Ending on a high note is a great strategy. I love the drones, too. They put me in a state of mindful meditation, and the relaxation follows. I always play more beautifully when I’m relaxed! Thanks, Jason!

  4. This is a great tip when you are frustrated and there have been many times that I felt like giving up but your lessons inspire me! I will always remember to end my lessons on a high note!

  5. I’m replying again just coz I want a lesson 😉 I think this is great advice esp. for those of us who beat ourselves up. Maybe do this after listening to a song you just recorded and can’t believe how amazingly bad you are. lol

  6. Your advice is always great. I take to heart everything you say. Sometimes I realize I’m trying to tune that is way too hard for me so I stop and go back to the easier tunes that I know really well. I also go back and try to slow down and do the lessons that lead up to the tune that I want to learn how to play. And as you have advised if it’s really awful I’ll just go back to scales and just trying to play each note properly.

  7. I have found that I always end a session playing the same tune. I know I can play it and I’m messing around with tempo and tone and at the end I can just play it once through slowly and as well as I can and it ends the session on a high, however bad it’s gone in the hour or so before that 🙂

    Thanks for all you’ve done so far to help m,e learn to play this wooden box Jason – one day, hopefully in the not too dim and distant future, I’ll actually consider myself a bit of a fiddle player 🙂

  8. This is brilliant, so encouraging. You’ve made me see this is a process and a journey, to be grateful and never take one note for granted. Thank you so much Jason for such wonderful insight.

  9. Thanks Jason. I have been working on learning variations of Irish Fiddle tunes.
    Going back to the basic tune and other tunes that I am comfortable with is encouraging.

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