How To Practice Fiddling

Tapping your foot as you fiddle is a way to stay in time and drive the music forward. Learning to do this will improve your timing and prepare you for playing with others.

It is NOT easy, and so I don’t recommend that absolute beginners try to do this. As a beginner, you already have a lot you’re trying to remember and practice (playing in tune, in time, getting a good tone, maintaining good form, BREATHING). So don’t add one more thing for you to remember.

You have to know a piece of music very well before you can tap your foot and play it on the fiddle at the same time. In fact, once you are able to do foot-tapping and fiddling at the same time, it becomes a test of how well you know the tune.

That said, it’s good to work at your edge. Once you can play a tune easily, continue to challenge yourself with the same tune by adding foot tapping. Learn more about how to challenge yourself in this lesson: Work At Your Edge.

As with anything, I recommend going into in a slow step-by-step process. These seven steps are the same steps you take when learning how to play with a beat. In fact, I think that playing with a beat is good first step towards foot-tapping while you play.

We start by practicing foot-tapping without the instrument, then try to do it while playing single notes and then gradually work towards tapping through a whole tune.

It helps if you can hear the tapping loud and clear. I often use a tamborine when I foot tap in lessons. You’re probably fine tapping with shoes on a wood floor.


Seven step guide to foot-tapping

Learning to foot-tapping is similar to playing with a metronome. It’s like learning a new instrument. So I suggest starting with simple things (single notes) and adding complexity.

  1. Tap the foot without even playing your instrument
  2. Play and tap at the same time on an open string
  3. Foot-tap simple rhythmic patterns on an open string
  4. Foot-tap intervals
  5. Foot-tap a full scale 
  6. Foot-tap a pieces of a tune
  7. Foot-tap a through a whole tune

Pick a tune you know to practice this with.

The first step might be the most important, so don’t skip it. Tap with a metronome or with a recording of the tune you will speed up. Just feel the connection of the foot with music. Let the mind relax and the body take over.

Move through each of these steps. If at any point this is a struggle, then return to earlier steps. I call this the STEP™ method of learning.

Play and tap at the same time on an open string.

Foot-tap simple rhythmic patterns on an open string.

Then try short 3-5 note bits, like 0-1-2-1, or 1-2-3.

Tap your foot on a full scale.

Tap your foot on a piece of a tune.

Gradually….gradually….move up to foot-tapping as you play full tunes. And if at any point you notice it’s a struggle, pause, take a breath and return to an earlier step.

When you add foot tapping to a tune, you transform yourself into a one-person band.

You also expand your musical perception. If you can tap your foot and play a tune, than it means you are better able to listen to other instruments being played at the same time. And by extension, you are more prepared to play with other people, either in a jam session or in a band.

You can also practice the same skills by playing with a beat. Here is a lesson on How To Play With A Beat.

Finally, foot-tapping and fiddling is fun, and fun is not over-rated.


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