Here are some things you can play with before coming to the PlayShop on Saturday.
Start by playing a D major scale using the drone track below.
D drone, no beat
How many different ways can you add variation? Some suggestions:
Add rhythms like
Hoedown, triplets, tucka, swing, etc.
Play with these patterns by reversing, splitting, combining or alternating.
Add slur patterns
Slur two, slur four, slur two-separate two
Tremolo, plucking, bouncing
Add melodic patterns
1-2-3, 1-2-3-1, 1-3
Next, just play a tune in D major, like Oh Susannah, Tobin’s Jig or Arkansas Traveller. If you want to see more choices, go here: Dronopoly in D.
Three notes only
Using the same D drone, try improvising with these three notes: D0, D2, A0. Don’t think about it too much. Just play with the order, add little variations and see if any melodic ideas arise. Keep these guidelines in mind:
Play simple, repeatable ideas.
There are no wrong notes.
Just trying to do this is a big step, so be kind to yourself.
After you’ve done that a while, try to improvise with these three notes: A3, E1, E3.
Finally, try to improvise with these three notes: D0, DL2, A0.
Do you know what each set of notes is called?
Now let’s try to add a few more notes. Do a similar improvisation but now use the D pentatonic scale:
After doing that awhile, try it with a beat:
D drone, simple beat
Next, try improvising with a D minor pentatonic scale:
How does this feel different? What is the emotional quality of each?
D to G hoedown groove
Next, try improvising over this groove. Start by playing the groove. This is hoedown on D chord twice followed by twice on G.
D0A0 hoedown (2x) / D0A1 hoedown (2x)
Once you get going, try to switch to improvising with D pentatonic. When you get tired of that, return to the groove. Enjoy just playing that simple part, just losing yourself in the groove. Then begin again when you feel ready.
After trying that, try to do the same process with D minor pentatonic. How does it feel different?
D blues jam
Here are some D blues play-along tracks for you to practice improvising with.
You can use either the D major or minor pentatonic.
Also, experiment with using the D major or minor triad (what you practiced at the top of the page).
Just the backing instruments
In this first version, the cycle keeps repeating for over ten minutes without the main melody.
In this version, there is a melody followed by a space to improvise.
Trade solos with Jason
In this third version, you can listen to my solo and then improvise in the cycle after me. We’ll keep alternating for ten minutes!
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this in a comment below, or in an email.
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'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! Learn more about sawmill tuning in the Appalachian Fiddle course.
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.
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.