So far we’ve seen that you can overcome the Practice Challenge by setting a daily practice goal which you can realistically achieve (I recommend at least twenty minutes a day). You can overcome the physical challenge with micro-practice; breaking complex things down into small, manageable pieces. The third major challenge is internal: dealing with the difficult emotions that arise when you get to the edge of your ability.
When students learn in a quick and/or haphazard manner, they don’t sound good, because they have not taken the time to build a strong foundation with bowing and fingering. This leads to frustration, impatience and resistance, followed by feelings of doubt and unkindness to the self.
High expectations also lead to disappointment. Thinking too much about where you want to be instead of enjoying where you are. If you compare yourself to a hotshot fiddler like Mark O’Connor, it’s no surprise that you’ll wind up feeling inadequate about your own performance.
Some mistaken beliefs start to form:
“I’m too old.”
“I don’t have what it takes.”
“I don’t have a musical bone in my body.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“I can’t afford to take lessons and it’s too hard to do it on my own.”
In brief, you can overcome the emotional challenge with the “Small steps, small wins” fiddlosophy. How to do this? Here are some practical approaches:
Make slow and steady progress, like a bucket being filled by a dripping faucet.
On an immediate level, slow down when you play.
On a macro level, don’t consume new tunes and techniques too quickly. Stick with the course. Make everything sound good. And when you think it sounds good, keep playing until it sounds just a little bit better. Doing this will lessen your frustration.
Celebrate each small win.
Celebrate every day that you play.
Celebrate each new tune or technique you learn.
Celebrate every time something sounds even just 10% better.
Don’t think about what level you should be at.
Concentrate on what you are playing right now.
Step back when it feels stressful. Adopt a casual attitude. Say to yourself, “This is not a big deal. I’m just having some fun with my fiddle.”
Become aware of how you practice through daily tracking, recording and journaling.
This will encourage you when you feel like you’re not making any progress.
Remember to be kind to yourself
With each small step, allow yourself to feel a little joy. If you can find joy right in the midst of your practice (no matter who or where you are), then you’ll naturally want to do it again tomorrow. In this way, you go deeper into the virtuous cycle of fiddling.
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.