A Note to Adult Beginners

By the time you’re an adult, you’re  quite accomplished in many skills — at work, while driving, being with friends and family.  But when you pick up a new musical instrument, you start fresh.  It’s an exciting adventure, but also humbling!

In learning fiddle, you will blend the physical, intellectual, and emotional.
Physical:  Your body may not always operate the way you presume.  Be open to new discoveries.
Intellectual:  Think constructively.  Sometimes you need to understand how to do things, while at other times, you’ll find that overanalyzing can get in the way, because much of what you need to learn is nonverbal.
Emotional:  As your violin becomes your musical voice, you will have feelings about various pieces of music — these will often motivate your learning faster and truer than following all the rules.

You already know a lot, because

many of the physical motions you use daily translate perfectly into motions you need for playing the violin, such as wiping a countertop, preparing a tennis backhand, closing the door of the fridge, or drumming your fingers on a table top.  But be aware that there are other natural movements which are not helpful on the violin, such as sawing a board or squeezing a ball.  You’ll need to discover and hang onto the most useful motions, and let go of the others.

Be careful about controlling too much with your eyes.  We use our eyes all day for reading, writing, computers, and driving.  But on the violin, very little of what we do is visual.  Our eyes can barely figure out what’s going on — looking lengthwise down the fingerboard makes it nearly impossible to be sure of what the fingers are up to, and the strings are closer together than the eyes, so not only is it hard to know what your bow is doing on the strings, but there’s a good chance you’ll go crosseyed trying to see!  Don’t let your eyes take away attention and energy from developing the judgment of your ears and your hands.  They do the real work!

You could research every technique you want in books or on the internet, but in the end, your real teacher is your own body, and many of the exercises in the technique videos on fiddle-online.com are there to help your body teach itself.

Don’t forget – this is all about music!  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  Music is the whole; the parts are the phrases, building blocks, techniques.  Listen as much as you can, to the phrase and playalong recordings on this site, and to live and recorded performances.  It’s fun to do, and it will keep your ears on the prize – the music.

It’s rewarding to play for yourself, but doubly so to play with others.  Try a pot luck supper session at your house, or a session in town, form a band, or go to a summer fiddle camp where you can be immersed in music and surrounded by learning, playing and dancing.

Sooner than you think, you’ll be enjoying playing at each level you reach.  A world of music and friends awaits.

©2007 Ed Pearlman

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