Looping is perhaps the most powerful practice tool I know of. If you actually do this you will be able to play all the difficult parts of a tune and the whole thing will flow more.
The basic idea is that instead of playing an entire piece of music all the way through every time, you pick out one very small part and learn it. Once you get the idea of that small part, you repeat it continuously so that it creates a groove and sounds like music. Though you may be a beginner, you can play music right now.
Play the loop slow enough so that your fingers, hands and ears can really learn that part. Speed it up a little so that you can hear how it will sound in context later.
D3 3 A1 1 1 0 1 0 D2 D1
If you loop on something long enough, you’ll get to a point where you are feeling and playing the music instead of thinking about what you have to do next.
Change the loop length
If you’re trying to loop on a part and you can’t do it consistently, it means you have to change the loop length and play a smaller part. This will help you discover what’s really difficult about that part. It might just be two notes. In the Oh Susannah example above, beginning students often have difficulty going from D3 to A1.
If you can’t easily repeat on that part, then you should shorten the part and/or slow it down. You might find that the best loop is going between two notes that are difficult for you. In the example above, you may need to loop on the first two notes with simple quarter notes:
D3 A1 D3 A1
Loop on these two notes until you can do it easily. A nice practice trick is to play things with two bows:
This has a way of magically making a difficult part more easy.
Repeat this process for all the different parts of the songs. Eventually, make longer loops by combining quarters and looping halves, then whole parts of tunes.
Practice becomes play
When you are looping on something, it becomes fun when you stop thinking about what you are doing and really just start to enjoy playing music. You might even start to see that loop as a short piece, like a riff, or the beginning of a symphony. The key is to enjoy both the physical feeling of movement and the process of making music with such a tiny little part.
If you take your time and learn to enjoy all the little parts of a song through looping, you will learn more and learn faster. Looping, looping, looping…
Practice looping at least once a day within your practice session.
Once you have a loop memorized, try to move to different parts of the room as you practice it.
Make the loop smaller.
Then make the original loop bigger.
When you see the following clip in a FiddleHed video, let it be your cue to pause the video and actually loop on a small piece.
Practice this with joy every day. The next lesson in the How To Practice Fiddling course will offer you a tool to focus your practice.
Lessons complete in the How To Practice Fiddling module:
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 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.
G Major, starting on D3
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.
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.
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!
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.