"Practicipant" Home Page

Welcome all to the Fall Practice Challenge!

From October 9-22, you and fiddle students around the world will make a music regular part of your life. The primary goal is to establish the habit of daily practice, and have the time of your life doing it!

I ask that you set two goals for the practice challenge:

  1. Play every day.
  2. Pick one challenging tune or skill you want to improve.

And there are three actions I will ask you take:

  1. Track your practice.
  2. Monitor your performance through recording.
  3. Tell others what you are doing.

Click here if you’d like to be an active participant. Every few days, I will send an email to check in with you and cheer you on. Do you want to take the challenge but not get email from me? No worries. You’re still welcome to do the practice challenge on your own and use the provided materials.

I’m asking you to take yourself seriously as a musician. What does that mean? You are a musician if you play every day. I encourage you to approach the practice challenge with a sense of adventure and fun. What a great thing it is to play music, and you’re going to do it every day!


Play every day

The most important (and simplest) goal for you and any musician is to just play every day.

Some suggestions to help you practice consistently each day:

  • Have a regular time and place that you practice.
  • Make your instrument accessible.
  • Organize your practice.
  • Set a simple, realizable goal.

I suggest at least twenty minutes a day, more if you can. And less then twenty minutes a day is better than nothing! Read more in this article: How To Practice Consistently


Pick one challenging tune or skill to improve

Set an intention to work on one challenging thing during the Practice Challenge. It can be a tune, a technique or practice strategy such as reviewing older tunes. You can do other things as well, such as warmup scales and easy tunes.

Here are some examples of things you can focus on:


Track your practice

This fun practice wall calendar is included in The Practice Kit.

Tracking your practice patterns will help you achieve your goal of daily practice and improving a tune or skill you’ve been struggling with.

I created a downloadable practice kit for you. It includes a worksheet to help you set your intention and focus during the practice challenge. It also includes the Practice Wall Calendar .

The Practice Kit

In the worksheet you’ll set your intention to practice a certain number of minutes per day. Use the practice wall calendar to put put a big fat X in the box for each day you reach your practice goal. Read more about this in these lessons:

Don’t Break The Chain

How To Track Your Practice

If you know in advance that you have to miss practice on a specific day, write that in on your calendar or practice tracker before the challenge begins.

If you miss a day, don’t give up! Fourteen days is just a number. What really matters here is the habit of practice. I want music to be a part of your life, like eating and breathing. You just do it without thinking about it.


Monitor your performance through feedback

Once you have picked the challenging thing you want to work on, record yourself playing it. It doesn’t have to be high quality. I use the voice memos app on my smartphone for this all the time. You can also find free recording apps online.

After you’ve recorded yourself be sure to give it a date and title. Otherwise you’ll quickly lose track of which recording is which. Throughout the practice challenge you can monitor your feedback. On the last day of the practice challenge, listen to the first and last recording of that difficult thing you set out to practice. Take note of how it’s different.

Click here to read more about How To Improve Your Fiddling Through Recording.


Tell others what you are doing

Finally, I ask you to tell at least one other friend or family member that you are taking the practice challenge. By letting others know what that you are taking the practice challenge, you are more likely to succeed in your goal of playing every day.

Do you personally know anyone else who plays any instrument? If so, ask them if they want to join you in taking the Practice Challenge.

Would you like me to be one of those people who help you reach the goal? Just click here, and I’ll check in on how it’s going with you through email. I’ll be taking the practice challenge too!

Click here to tell your friends on Facebook, “I’m so excited to be playing the fiddle every day for two full weeks!”

You can join other FiddleHed students on the community forum and share your practice intentions and progress.


Remember, taking yourself seriously as a musician doesn’t mean that you don’t have fun. I’m certain that if you find a way to play every day you will enjoy it a lot more.

Thanks for taking part, now go fiddle with it…

❤️ Jaso’n


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