At the beginning of the last lesson series, I outlined a simple plan:

  • Play for at least twenty minutes a day, at least six days a week. It helps to do it at the same time in the same place.
  • Small steps, small wins. Focus on steady, incremental practice.
  • Celebrate these small wins. Be kind to yourself when you seem to fall short. Then just begin again.

I know that you’re just beginning, so you may still be figuring out the optimal time and place. But establishing consistent practice NOW is the best thing you can do.

One of the three obstacles to learning is the Physical Challenge. That includes:

  • Getting the form right for bowing and fingering.
  • Playing in tune.
  • Getting a nice sound.
  • Overcoming fatigue.
  • Playing at a steady tempo.
  • Remembering tunes.
  • Remembering to do everything on this long list!

It can be overwhelming. The best way to overcome physical challenges is to simplify complex problems into simpler problems. Learn and practice in small increments. I call this approach “micro-practice”.

Say you’re learning a new tune. If you always charge through the whole thing, it will be a struggle. You’ll be practicing the easy parts as much as the difficult parts. In this way, your progress will be slow, because you never give those difficult parts the attention they need. This can lead to frustration and the thought, “I’m not cut out to learn the fiddle.”

The power of micro-practice is that you learn to isolate each challenge of a tune. Difficult parts are broken down into small, easy-to-learn bits. Eventually, the small bits are put together into bigger bits and before you know it, you can play the whole thing. Here is an example of how Kerry Polka is taught with what I call “Learning Chunks.”

Notice that we start with two-note exercises (intervals). With a few minutes of practice, you can get to a point where you can do this with flow. Then we do a four-note exercise (A1-D0-1-0). Finally we do the whole first quarter of the A part. If at any point you get stuck, you simply break it down again and practice a smaller piece until it flows.

With this simple approach, you can overcome any physical or technical challenge. With FiddleHed, you will learn how to learn. Then you can continue to learn on your own with whatever music interests you.

“The way you teach by breaking down the song into part A and B and quarters is fantastic. And your patient and calm manner really helps.”

-Neil Farnall, age 40, London, England

The magical part is that if you practice a very small thing, it will start to sound like music. As a result, you’ll start to enjoy the sound of the fiddle. Fun happens in the present moment, not in some imaginary moment in the future. And if you wind up having fun every time you play, you’ll want to do it again tomorrow.

Does it make sense that if you practice this way, with enough time, you will eventually be able to learn the fiddle?

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