Tag Archives: Online Fiddle Lesson

New Year, New Goals

As you approach the new year, I’m sure you have a few resolutions.  For me, it’s drinking less coffee, avoid getting distracted by my phone so much, and focusing on being an even better father and teacher.  But for those of you trying something new, like fiddling, or picking up the fiddle after some time off, I’d like to offer some suggestions that will help you get started and stay on course.

1.  Get the book.  Fiddling, The Basics and Beyond, was written to take you step by step, no matter your playing ability, through the difficult and rewarding world of playing fiddle.  There’s over two and a half hours of audio recordings at multiple speeds for EVERY VERSION of every tune.

2.  Once you have the book, browse through it and see which tune, and it’s version, applies to you.  If it’s the beginning, great!  If it’s in the middle of the book, that’s cool too!

3.  Now that you’ve chosen the tune, find the FREE etude video at LearnFiddle.com, that goes with your tune.  Do this FIRST.  The etudes are built to prepare you for the tune, not to be done as an afterthought.

4.  Once you’ve mastered the etude, purchase the video that matches the version you’re learning.  Then, take your time.

5.  Be consistent!  If you really want to make the most out of this, 30 minutes a day will help get you on your way.

6.  Take it slow.  Don’t try to learn and perfect the entire tune in one day!  Get comfortable with a set of bars, then move to the next, then the next.  Once you have it all steady at one, slow tempo, then start using a metronome to speed it up.

7.  Be patient with yourself.  If you get mad, you will be tense.  That’s not good.  If you find yourself getting frustrated.  Walk away, clear your head and come back later.  But forgive yourself and accept the mistakes as the chance to make progress.  Focus on the sound you want, not the mistakes you’ve made.

8.  Ask questions!  I’m here to help!  Feel free to email me! Info@LearnFiddle.com.

GOOD LUCK!

Getting Stuck

By: Patrick Clark

I had a private student come in today, who I’ve had for a year.  Before me, he had another teacher for a year.  His total playing time is now two years and we haven’t passed the twinkles.  I finally have him where his technique is really consistent, but he’s been having incredible pitch issues.  AND he has finger tapes.  I was really surprised, and a bit frustrated.  Then it dawned on me… He’s been on the same tunes for two years.  He doesn’t care about the pitch.  The poor kid is bored!

So, I put him on the next piece, removed two finger tapes and there it was.  PITCH!  He finally found it!  He didn’t have the feel of the tapes so he was forced to use his ears AND he had to think differently because he had no clue what he was doing with the new piece.  It was a rough go at the beginning of the lesson but he came around.

So, how does this apply to the folks at Learn Fiddle Online?  Well, here’s how.  If you find yourself staying on the same tune for too long, trying to perfect it, you may want to move laterally in difficulty or just move forward a bit.  Sometimes, the demands of the slightly harder piece force you into the right technique, or pitch in this case, without even realizing it.  Sometimes, you just have to change it up.

So, lets say you’re working on Cripple Creek, Version 2.  Maybe it’s been a long time and it’s just not where you want it.  First, trouble shoot the way you’re practicing.  Check out my post about practice habits.  Then, contact us on Facebook.  While you’re doing this, you may want to consider looking at Old Joe Clark Version 2.  It’s a little more advanced but it might change it up enough to force you out of a bad habit.  Also, check out the FREE technique videos that accompany Cripple Creek and Old Joe Clark.

This is just one small scenario but the principles still apply for whatever tune you’re working on.  Remember, I’m here to help!  I truly want you to succeed so feel free to ask questions.

A New School Year Brings New Practice Habits

By: Patrick Clark

It seems like school starts earlier every year.  I think in most cases, it actually does.  Either way, this is an exciting new year for me as a teacher.  I’ve been appointed to be the director of a program at a charter school here in Las Vegas called, Rainbow Dreams Academy.  The unique part of my position is that I am actually starting this program from scratch!  What a privilege!  In addition to Rainbow Dreams, I am continuing to grow my private studio at Nevada School of The Arts.  Add Learn Fiddle Online in the mix and you could say I’m a busy guy.

All of this experience is giving me so many ideas on future videos to share with my customers at Learn Fiddle Online.  It’s very exciting.  But as we approach a new school year, I want to encourage you to practice smart this school year.  So often, students are sent home to practice, but have no idea how to approach the tune, or piece.  The answer is subjective but let me give you the basics of a good practice.

1. Warm Up!

“How,” is a question you might ask.  That depends on your skill level.  If you’re an experienced player of two or more years, try long tones on each string at a slow tempo with no fingers.  Just see what the instrument feels like.  Then try the FREE Every Open String Etude video with me.  Then try a scale.

If you’re a beginner, try pulsing eighth notes on the “E” string.  Try 4 times in a row with a metronome set at 70-80 beats per minute.  Try this on the “A” string next.  Then, alternate back and forth.  Either way, you should spend about 10 minutes doing the basic warm up.  Then it’s time to challenge yourself with a technique exercise!  There are tons of etudes to try in my book “Fiddling, The Basics and Beyond.”

2. Treat Yourself To an Etude Challenge

See if you can find an etude that stretches you a bit, but is still achievable in a short period of time, (10-15 minutes or so.) Start slow and be very particular about your pulse, your tone, and your feel.  Don’t go nuts trying to perfect it, just improve it.

3. Tune Time

No, I don’t mean tune your fiddle! That should have happened a while ago!  It’s time to work on your tune!  Find the section you’ve been working on and take another SLOW whack at it.  See how it sounds.  Then, make it better, slowly.  Maybe try another section, SLOWLY.  You can build your speed short stints at a time.

4.  Finish With Something You Know!

When you’ve fried your brain, take two minutes to play through something your hands are very used to playing.  Chances are, it’s going to sound better than it did the last time you played it because you’ve been concentrating on improving other aspects of your playing.  Take a comfortable speed so you feel good finishing up.

5. Set a goal for the next practice, clean your instrument before you put it away.

 

GOOD LUCK!

 

Best Beginner Fiddle

By: Patrick Clark

After playing for over 25 years, and teaching for almost 15 of those years, I’ve had the opportunity to try nearly every “brand name” student fiddle on the market.  I’ve found some amazing, inexpensive fiddles in my day.  But finding the best, most consistent brand, can be very hard.  When talking about “student” instruments, there are several factors that you have to consider.

1. Size (Is the student a child or an adult)

2. Price (There is a breaking point between student and advanced)

3. Manufacturer

So, let’s talk about the size first.  There are a lot of choices out there for fractional size student instruments.  Most, these days, are made in China.  But, let’s be honest, how much sound can you really get out of an 1/8 size violin? Or, even a 1/4 size?  The answer is, not really that much.  Quality and consistency is very important but peeling paint off the wall like a 17 million dollar Guarneri?   Well just look at the price tag, it’s probably an unrealistic expectation for a fractional size.

The bottom line is, the instrument has to have a good, rich (enough) sound, and be set up properly.  It must be forgiving when you play it.  Set up is EVERYTHING folks!  The initial muscle memory put into the hands is FOREVER.  Therefore, when choosing an instrument to learn on for the first time, you may become very overwhelmed with the options.  And, chances are, you have no idea what you are doing or looking for.  A great recipe for OVERLOAD!!!!

I spent about a year and a half working for Eastman Music Company, in California.  While there, my job was to travel all over the country selling Eastman’s violins to violin shops.  I played HUNDREDS of student, step up, and professional instruments.  The constant that seems to be an issue with many student instruments is nut heights, bridge heights, and neck placements.  All of which, if you’re not hip to these issues, may be overlooked.  I’ll come back to Eastman in a minute.

Price. Price! PRICE!!! If you’re looking to buy, you’re going to have to spend AT LEAST $500 or more for a DECENT STUDENT FIDDLE.  REGARDLESS of size.  There was an article that was shunned for calling some sub par instruments Violin Shaped Objects.  VSOs for short.  The author was RIGHT.  You might get lucky and get something for cheaper, but the old adage, “you get what you pay for,” applies here.

Now back to Eastman.  There are many instrument manufacturers all over the world.  I could tell you a few that I don’t believe in, but let’s not waste your time with negatives.  Eastman Music Company is the distributor AND manufacturer of their instruments.  This means that they have complete quality control over their product.  I’ve been a clinician for Eastman for almost 6 years.  A year and a half of those 6 years, I was an employee.  I left the company to pursue my passion for teaching and I currently continue to be a national clinician for the company today.

My passion for education and demand of quality from my students, and business associates leads me to recommend Eastman violins/fiddles for the FIRST student instrument.  Every beginner I take, I put on an Eastman.  It has nothing to do with business loyalty or internal politics.  It has everything to do with quality.  So, in a culture where we feel the need to trust big names, Eastman, is one that you can trust.  The company has a customer satisfaction promise that is very fair.  I stand by them both as a clinician, and as a consumer.

Best Beginner Instrument = Eastman Fiddle

For more information about purchasing an instrument, or to consider renting, check out my book, “Fiddling, The Basics and Beyond.”

 

Violin or Fiddle, That is The Question

By: Patrick Clark

The single most asked question I get from non-musicians is this; “What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle?” The first few times I heard it, as a very young boy, I thought, “really?  Are you REALLY, asking me that?” But then it started happening all the time.  That’s when I realized, many people really DON’T know.  So, here’s what many “fiddle” players, who are untrained, say.

Although it technically is EXACTLY the same instrument, which it is, fiddle players flatten their bridge so that string crossings are easier.

To this, I say, “hmmmmm”.  For those of you who may be insulted by this, please, don’t take offense.  You may not understand how tension works in relationship to the string heights.  So, allow me to elaborate a bit.

Let’s start with some questions.

Q:  Which string, of the four strings on your fiddle, do you think has the highest tension?

A:  Your highest (sounding) string, the E string.

Q:  Which string, of the four strings on your fiddle, do you think should be closest to the fingerboard?

A:  Your highest (sounding) string, the E string.

Now, let’s explain the relationship.  The higher pitch, the thinner the string, the higher the tension, the closer to the fingerboard it has to be.  Within reason of course.  Imagine for a minute, a trampoline. If your trampoline is not tight enough, when you bounce, you bottom out and your feet hit the ground.  If you’re trampoline is too tight, you might as well be jumping on concrete.  The same principle applies for strings and their heights in relationship to their pitch.

As you go from your highest to lowest string, you will encounter increasingly thicker strings, with decreasing tension, respectively.  Additionally, the wave length of the vibrating string is increasingly larger, string by string.  So, more room needs to be allowed for the larger diameter, lower tension, and larger wave length.  So, on my fiddle and any professional violinists instrument, you will see a gradual increase in bridge height as the strings get lower in pitch.

This gradual compensation is also critical to the consistency in the feel of the instrument across the board.  The biggest issue with flattening the bridge is that the two middle strings, the A and D, sit much lower than they should.  The result is not only a difference in the feel and overall response of the instrument, but the wear on the fingerboard itself can result in frequent, costly trips to the luthier to have the fingerboard planed.  There are other issues that accompany such alterations but they are slower to present themselves.  Ultimately, you can see that I personally feel that it’s a bad idea.

So, the big answer to the big question is this;

The difference between the violin and the fiddle is nothing when it comes to the instrument itself.  They are one in the same.  The word “Fiddle,” implies that the style of music being played on the “violin,” has its roots in some sort of ethnic or folk music.  It could be Swedish, Irish, Scottish, Country, Jazz, Bluegrass, Appalachian, or any other stye that is not rooted in what is generally referred to as “classical,” music, or it’s categorical derivatives.

More information about fiddling can be found in my book, “Fiddling, The Basics and Beyond.”

Finally Open

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well! We are finally completely open for business! The videos are being added regularly so keep yourself in touch by checking in. We are going to add a couple more things to the site over the coming weeks. First, there will be a new opening video that will walk you through signing up for the All Access membership. Second, there will be a newer, nicer welcome page for all of you when you sign in. Third, there will be a sample lesson posted on the site itself so that people, maybe you, can see what’s really happening here before you decide to pay. I am very excited about this

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and I hope you will be too! Please post any questions, comments, or anything else here on this blog post, or start your own! Thanks for your time and I look forward to chatting with you and teaching you soon!

Patrick