Core Lesson Index
Here’s a listing of all the core lessons you have completed.
- Call-and-response Exercises 1.2
- Mary Had A Little Lamb – Hoedown Variation I
- How to play better in tune with an electronic tuner
- Drone tuning the notes on the D string
- Little Lift
- When The Saints Go Marching In
- Freres Jacques
- Fais Do Do – Beginner
- How to Place Finger Tape
- How to Read FiddleHed Tabs
- One Tune, One Scale, Ten Minutes
- A Major Scale
- Drone tuning the notes on the E string
- Blackest Crow – Basic
- Hector the Hero – basic lesson
- A Major Scale Variations
- Tunes Transposed to A Major (Upper Octave)
- Pentatonic Scales Introduction
- Tennessee Waltz
- O’Keefe’s Slide
- Man of Constant Sorrow
- Cripple Creek
- Britches Full of Stitches
- Tone Building on Tunes – Exercises
- Intervals Exercises III
- How to Get a Good Sound
- Module 1.7 Summary
- Mary Had A Little Lamb – Hoedown Variation II
- D and A Dorian Scale Practice
- Low Second Finger Exercises
- I’ll Fly Away
- Wayfaring Stranger
- Cluck Old Hen
- Shady Grove
- Angeline the Baker
- Slur Three Exercises
- Pedal Exercises II
- Low Second Finger
- 1.7 The Power of the Low Second Finger
- Module 1.8 Summary
- Shove That Pig’s Foot A Little Further In The Fire
- Whiskey Before Breakfast
- G and C Major Scale Practice
- Turkey in the Straw
- Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow Tree
- Soldier’s Joy – Beginner Version
- Yankee Doodle
- Road to Lisdonverna
- Girl I Left Behind Me
- Old Joe Clark – Basic Version
- Three Tunes in G Major Upper Octave
- Transposing Challenge 1.8
- How Dorian Scales Work
- Slur Four Exercises
- Low and High Second Finger Practice
- G and C Major Scales
- Melodic Scale Variation Exercises II
- Melodic Scale Variation II
- G Major Scale Two Octaves Exercise
- Old Joe Clarke – Variation 1
- Arkansas Traveller
- Module 1.10 Summary
- Slur Two-Separate Two Tune Exercises
- Slur Two-Separate Two Bowing in Tunes
- G Major Scale (Two Octaves)
- How to Practice Review Sets
- Shooting Creek – Intermediate
- Twenty-eighth of January
- Separate One-Slur Three Exercises
- Transposed Tunes Using Fourth Finger
- Separate One-Slur Three Bowing
- Module 2.1 Summary
- Introduction to the Fourth Finger
- Fourth Finger Exercises I
- The Butterfly
- The Wind That Shakes the Barley
- Haste to the Wedding
- Ballydesmond Polka – Upper Octave
- Hobart’s Transformation
- Melodic Scale Variation III
- Melodic Scale Variation Exercises III
- Blackberry Blossom
- Fingering and String Crossing Exercises II
- Fingering and String Crossing II
- I-IV-V Progression Exercises
- Irish Washerwoman
- Drowsy Maggie
- Introduction to I-IV-V Progressions
- Double Stop Exercises III
- Double Stops III
- F Major And B Flat Major Scale Variations
- Module 2.5 Summary
- Soldier’s Joy – Intermediate
- Melodic Scale Variation Exercises V
- Melodic Scale Variation V
- Super Easy Chord Backup
- Kesh Jig – Backup Chords
- Review Set #3
- Make your own scales
- Slur Eight
- Louis Louis – Fiddle Lesson
- Kerry Polka – Backup Chords
- Soldier’s Joy – Backup Chords
- Arkansas Traveller – Backup Chords
- Playing Chord Backup on Songs
- B Flat Major Scale (Upper Octave) Exercises
- Low Fourth Finger
- Done Gone
- Berdichiever Khosid
- House of the Rising Sun
- Tunes Transposed with Low Fourth Finger
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).
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 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.
For more scale play-along tracks, go to Scale Central.
Short-short-short-short-long-long. Practice on D string:
Practice more: Fingering with Bowing Exercises
Long-short-short. Practice on D string:
1-2-3 notes per step. Practice D0-0-0-A0-0-0 with plucking:
Practice more: String Crossing Exercises
Long-short. Practice G0-0-2-2-D0-0-3-3-3-3-0-0 with the 'swing double' rhythm:
Here we play two notes per bow. Practice D0-1-1-0 with slur two:
Practice more: Slur Two Exercises
Here we play three notes per bow. Practice D0-1-2-2-1-0 with slur three:
Practice more: Slur Three Exercises
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
- 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.
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!
- 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.
- Within a practice session, alternate between playing and listening.
- Learn more: 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
- Learn in very small increments.
- Single notes > bits > phrases > tunes
- Learn more: Micro-learning
- Drone on.
- Practicing with drones is pleasurable, and so you’ll be more likely to play every day.
- Drones will help you play better in tune.
- Learn more: Drone tuning the notes on the D string
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Crossing. Apply this idea to more complex string crossings.
- 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.