Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Progress Report

December Fiddle Progress Report

I know it’s a few days late to post a progress report from December, however, I had so many goal posts to make around January 1st, this post just got pushed back a bit.

So what all happened in December? Aside from me deciding to move my blog posts from my dedicated Fiddle blog to this (which is still in the works)?

With the passing of Christmas, I finally put away the only carol I’d been playing since November, which was Silent Night. I started playing Silent Night last year around the same time, and this year I feel that I’ve certainly improved upon it. Silent Night isn’t a difficult tune, but it has a number of long bows and stops that I’ve had to work very hard to clean up and make sound better.

It was during this that I started getting frustrated with bouncing and jittering on long bows. I began experimenting with different things to figure out what was causing it. I changed bows, changed rosin and tried to loosen the bow some. Turns out, what I needed to do was actually tighten my bow more than I though I needed!

While I still have a bit of jitter and bounce sometimes, tightening the bow made it all sound a whole lot better! Live and learn.

I’ve decided I really don’t care for the Thomastik Alphayue strings on my Master. I just don’t like how the D and G strings sound especially. I poked around waiting for some holiday sales on strings that never showed up (I guess they held off after Black Friday sales).

Yesterday, I just caved and ordered a set of D’Addario Zyex with silver D and G strings. I figure I can afford it after getting an unexpected stimulus check, right? These weren’t terribly expensive (Obligato were much more), and I’ve heard good things about them. I wonder if the silver strings will improve the muffled tone that I’ve heard on other strings. I guess I’ll find out – looking forward to trying them and reporting back next month!

I stepped up my sight reading exercises to Level 2 in the Sight Reading Factory. Level 1 was getting to be a little too easy with just two strings and little note variation. This adds the G string notes (which I really need to learn to read), eighth notes, dotted notes and some rests. It’s taken some time getting used to the variety, but I think it’s been a good change.

I haven’t made changes to the tune lineup in December, other than dropping Silent Night. I’m hoping to finally get to a point where I feel I can move on from Russian Folk Song so that I can make progress in my EEI book. Maybe soon?

My consistency was pretty good in December. I missed two practices, one on a day that I was in the ER with family for 7 hours… so I just didn’t have the energy to even think about practicing. I’ve been a little bit more flexible in allowing myself time off from practice because I’ve been able to bounce back each time and get right into the habit again. But I still want to keep my consistency as high as I can.

Onward into 2021!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

November Fiddle Progress Report

I really, really wanted to write an October Progress Report, and just failed to do so.

I was disappointed in that because October marked the one year anniversary of the arrival of my Fiddlerman Master. I’m happy to report that I did not go out fiddle shopping with any great need or intention since it has arrived. I’m still pleased with it and enjoy playing it very much! I don’t foresee me needing a different fiddle anytime soon.

Now, on to consistency. On Thanksgiving, I finally broke my practice record of playing every day. I’m a little sad about it, but at the same time, I think I can grant myself a holiday considering I’ve practiced every day since February. The important thing is that I don’t let a day off effect consistency going forward. I actually think it’s a good test to see if I can allow myself a break here or there and still continue to be consistent otherwise.

Back in my September progress report, I’d just gotten a new Wolf Forte Secondo shoulder rest. I really like this shoulder rest, though I’ve been spending time adjusting it in order to play more comfortably.

At first, I kept all of the height settings to a minimum, still thinking I really needed a short shoulder rest for a short neck. But then I found my fiddle sorta… drooping… which makes playing on the E string challenging. So I started to adjust the side of the chinrest closest to my chest higher to prop the fiddle up more under the E string. Then I started to wonder if I’ve been slouching too much overall, and adjusted the other side of the chin rest higher as well. I’m still getting used to it and trying to find a good balance for comfortable playing – I have learned that the lowest setting is not good, though!

Back in September, I also put on a new set of strings – Thomastik Alphayue. Overall, I don’t feel like these have produced the best sound I’ve heard on my fiddle. I don’t know how to explain it — they’re more prone to be scratchy (to my ear) for some reason. I considered buying new strings during the Black Friday sales, but it seems a real waste to replace them so soon – though I have considered putting these on my Bunnel since I think I see some corrosion on the strings there.

In the end, I didn’t pick anything up for Black Friday. But I might look into it for Christmas sales. I’m not sure what to try next – I’ve heard D’Addario Zyex are nice. I also have a set of D’Addario Helicore on my Bunnel which sounded fairly good – but again, I don’t know how it will stack up for my Master.

Let’s see… I’ve added string-crossing exercises in conjunction with my long-bowing exercises this month. I feel like this is really something I need. It came to my attention that perhaps it’s playing on a 7/8 size fiddle that makes it easier to accidentally hit strings I don’t mean to, so putting time into mindful string crossings can help.

I’ve even rotated the bows I’m using again. I was playing with the Holstein sandalwood bow since about a year ago, but I wonder if it’s been causing me more bouncing and scratching issues than it should. I switched back to my original Fiddlerman carbon fiber bow and it feels lighter and a bit less scratchy. It could be player error, so who knows. I’ll keep experimenting.

I’ve got a much better grasp on 4th finger now – much thanks to the scales exercises and EEI tunes that have pushed me to incorporate 4th finger into things. I’m not perfectly great, but I’m doing a whole lot better than I was a few months ago.

I’m still working on colle, and improving on that. But vibrato has been a long, slow progress for me. I’ve even watched additional videos and implemented some tips from those. They helped, but I still see this as a long road to making anything close to a good sound with this technique. I just can’t seem to rock my hand fast enough at this point. Not going to stop practicing it, of course!

Other than that, I’ve been focused on moving very slowly through tunes now days. Much, much more slowly than I did last year. I’ve even been practicing Silent Night since last month – some days it sounds better than others.

That’s really all I’ve got for this update. I feel like I forgot a few things since this covers October as well as November. I’m just going to continue to focus on my practice and look forward to holidays in December!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

September Fiddle Progress Report

Let me start this post by saying: September marks 8 full months of consistent practice!

What hasn’t been so consistent is remembering to write progress reports. Trying to do them in the middle of the month doesn’t seem to work out so well. So I’m trying to move them to the beginning on the month instead. I really do still want to keep up with practice reports.

So what’s been going on?

Well, I got a new shoulder rest. Yes, again. And I need to write a post about what I learned and why. This time, I picked up a Wolf Forte Secondo shoulder rest which was quite affordable at Shar and actually pretty comfortable. While I liked my Play on Air shoulder rest, I had reasons for making a change back to something a bit more traditional. I like the Wolf far more than the more rigid shoulder rests I was using before, and I’ve been experimenting with different height settings to find what makes playing easiest for me.

I also got a new set of strings! The Thomastik Alphayue with Magic Rosin bundle was on sale at Southwest Strings, so I picked that up. I’m still working on breaking in the new strings, and haven’t quite formed an opinion on how they sound or feel in relation to the last set of strings – they were Obligatos and cost more than twice what these did.

I figure it’s time to experiment a bit, trying different price ranges of strings. Not that my playing skill actually brings out anything in any of these brands, but you never know!

I am noticing this pinging sound when I move from an open string to a slur on my D string. I don’t know what causes it. At first, I thought changing my strings would fix it, but it didn’t. Then I picked up my old Bunnel and tried the same fingering – that fiddle makes the sound, too! So it’s not just something with my Master Fiddle. I tried resetting the bridge, changing the strings, resetting the chin rest and different shoulder rests. None of it changed it. I just wonder what it is.

I’m overall pleased with my progress through my EEI book. These are generally easier exercises, but I’m happy that I finally got back to where I was in the book when I was first working in it last year. I’ve now moved beyond that point, though not hugely much. I’m not trying to rush through it, and I do spend several weeks on each tune.

Thanks to these exercises and the scales exercises from the I Love My Scales book, I’m happy that my 4th finger reach and usage has improved quite a bit! This isn’t perfect, of course, but far better than where I was several months ago.

I continue to work on colle exercises, and am slowly trying to integrate the motion into actual tunes when I play them.

I’m also still working on the vibrato exercises, though this has taken me sooo long. I watched a different video about vibrato, and think that maybe I haven’t been doing the motion exactly right – so I’ve been fixing it. I’m still only to the point where I’m making warbling on a string with one finger. I still have issues trying to bow and roll at the same time – my bow keeps wanting to stop when I need it to keep going! More practice, I guess!

Something I don’t talk about very much is my sight reading exercises. I’m really glad that I chose to add these to my practice every day, as I’m seeing improvement in my sight reading after several months of working on these random tunes at Sight Reading Factory. Lately I’ve been thinking about increasing the difficulty of the exercises just a little — adding more strings, that kind of thing. We’ll see.

I think that’s really all I have for this progress report. There’s several topics here I’d like to touch on in posts on their own if I ever get the time to sit down and write about them!

Happy October!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

August Fiddle Progress Report

Progress report is back!

I know I missed last month’s progress report, and almost considered putting them away for good. But I’ve decided to actually write one this month, and a day early, to boot. This is mostly because I’ve been doing a number of new things lately, which I do want to document.

Looking back at my June report, I see that’s when I started going back through the EEI tunes. I’ve continued to do that, especially focusing on songs that challenge me to make use of 4th finger.

Some new things that I’ve picked up in the last few weeks…

Collé — working on flexibility of my bow hand. I began by practicing with a pencil. But starting this week, I’ve actually moved on to practicing collé using the bow on the strings. I find this easier than trying to do it in mid-air. I feel like this is a pretty important skill to work into my practice for sure.

Vibrato rolls — I’m continuing to build on the vibration training bit by bit. It’s taken me a long time, and I’m still working to understand the newest motion — rolls. I’m starting to get better with this, I think. The next step will be actually applying bow strokes to the finger motion. But I feel that’s a while away yet.

New scales book — I Love My Scales. I bought a new book of scales that has replaced the old scale practice I was doing. I like this far more and feel like it gives me much more practice than just going up and down a scale. Especially since there’s a focus on 4th finger here, too.

Fiddle & Song book — Learning how to shuffle bow. This new book has really put shuffle bowing up first and foremost. I need to write a post about it eventually, but I’m having a great time with the technique!

Most of what I’ve been doing have been from various book/CD sets lately. I took a bit of a break from the AFM and other methods I’d been following. Also took a break from the Skye Boat Song, which I’d learned from my Celtic book all during last month.

All in all, I’m pleased with the variation I have in my practice and the different exercises I’ve picked up since my last progress report. I hope to see continued progress by this time next month!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

June Fiddle Progress Report

Hey, look! I’m on time with this post for once!

Also, I’m happy to say that another month has gone by and I still have not missed a day of practice. It’s come close a few times, but I’ve been able to stick to it. I know there will come a day I will break the practice streak, but I’m trying to hold fast to it.

I’ve been pretty pleased with my progress and feel like going back and refining older, simple songs had been a good experience. I seem to spend about two weeks on each of the tunes before feeling like I can move on to the next. At this pace, I have a few more months of review before I think I’ll start pulling in a random tune again.

Sadly, I hit a wall in my attempt to play the next song in the OAIM method. I’ve really, really enjoyed playing the first three songs, but then I hit Hole in the Hedge and realize that the difficulty leap is just too much for my skill level. This makes me sad because I really have had fun adding actual Irish tunes to my practice.

For now, I’ve had to put the OAIM sub on hold since I know it’s going to be a while before I have the skill to tackle that tune. I do still have the means to practice the songs I’ve already worked on as it’s encouraged that you download the sheet music and the play-along track. So, I’ll still work on reviewing what I have learned.

In the meantime, I’ve been picking at tunes in the Celtic Fiddle book I got for Christmas. I’ve only played through one of these so far – Rakes of Mallow – but hope to work on a few more soon.

I’ve also had fun going back and reviewing songs from the EEI book. Though these tunes are simpler in composition, they have returned to me my old nemesis – the 4th finger. I’m really struggling to get it to work correctly (though I could have sworn I had it working before!), so I’ve added some focus on my 4th finger along with continuing to work on slides in my vibrato practice. I’m not quite ready to move on from slides yet, though.

I have converted a few songs using Scan Score since the last progress report — this is one of those ongoing project/goals. But I still have a ton more left to do. I also haven’t checked out the Udemy courses on fiddle that I picked up last month.

All in all, I’m going to stay on course and continue to do as I’ve been doing for yet another month.

Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Progress Report

May Fiddle Progress Report

So May sped right by me and I completely missed the date on which I usually write a progress report.

I’d feel a little bad about this except for the fact that I know I missed the date due to being much more focused on doing daily practice. Plus, last week was the first week I added uke practice to the mix, and I’ve been diving into that world a bit — not to the point that I’m doing any less on fiddle, though!

Since April, I’ve once again changed things up in terms of what I’m doing with my practice. I continue to be consistent and haven’t missed a day of practice since the start of February! But I’m always refining and thinking about my next practice plan in terms of what I want to achieve.

This past month has really been about stopping and focusing. I haven’t moved forward with any new songs. Instead, I’ve gone back to the very beginning and started to refine the songs I’ve practiced since last year. The goal is to start with the easier ones and spend time, even slow practice, until I’m happy with how they sound.

I’ve been doing this with the AFM tunes to start with. So far, I’ve cleaned up Boil em Cabbage and Shortnin’ Bread in D and A. Each week, I’ve also reviewed one of the OAIM songs I’ve learned, and have done the best I could to play that song well, too.

Another thing I’ve done is gone back to working through the EEI book. This was actually more challenging than I expected it to be, because, again I’m working towards playing the songs well before I move on. Some of these tunes I haven’t played in a year (so weird to say that!), and it’s been a while since I’ve been forced to play with my 4th finger.

I eventually want to get back to the point I was at before I put the EEI book down last year, and then continue to work through it. I’d like to eventually finish it — because that would be one book I’ve actually completed out of the many I own! However, the rate I’m working through this, I don’t really see this happening anytime soon. I’d be lucky to get it under my belt by the end of this year if I continue with consistent practice.

I STILL need to go back and start converting tunes with ScanScore! That was something I noted in my last progress report, and I’m still dragging my heels. I don’t really have an excuse, especially since I’m going back and revisiting old tunes. I just need to get in there and do it.

I also haven’t picked up any new scales or technical things… aside from starting vibrato exercises. I think this has been an interesting little addition to practice — nothing too overwhelming. Just a daily hand and finger exercise to work up towards the motion of vibrato over time.

I did buy a couple of Udemy courses last week — one that seems to focus on a lot of technical playing topics — that I want to look into. I might start using that for things like scales and music theory.

Overall, things are going well, and there’s still lots to work on!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

April Fiddle Progress Report

Here’s what’s been going on in the world of fiddle for me since the last progress report.

I feel like I’ve weeded out most of the songs I’m going to from the Tune List. This ended up only being two so far. I reviewed several the past month to see if I felt like the tune difficulty led more to relearning than reviewing, and I hope that the ones left will continue to be good review.

I decided to put more focus on learning to sight read again. So I picked up a subscription to Sight Reading Factory, and I really feel like I’ve been making progress there! This has been a excellent choice, and is something I’ve used just about every day to drill a bit on sight reading.

In celebration of two months of consistent practice, I also picked up a new set of strings. I think they sound better than the old set, but I’m not finding any miraculous sound from them. Probably because I simply don’t have the skill to bring that sound out on the strings. Considering their cost, I think I’ll continue to shop around next time I need a string change.

In terms of songs, I’ve added Amazing Grace, Terry Teehan’s Polka and Rakes of Mallow to the Tune Review since last month. I’ve started Eternal Wind, which I’m in the process of working through still, and just begun with Britches Full of Stitches this week. I seem to be working through songs for about 3-4 weeks before feeling they’re good for the Tune Review list. I certainly haven’t found any that were too easy, but I am taking care that they’re within my skill level before graduating them.

I’ve also remained consistent in my practice since the first of February. This month, I’d like to go back to considering a new chin rest as the reward for continuing to play every day.

I’d also like to finally sit down and put all the remaining songs through ScanScore 2 and get them up on the page. I don’t want this to become too overwhelming a task as I keep adding new songs to the Tune Review.

One last thing I’d like to look at before next month is moving on with a few more technical videos and maybe getting another scale or two added to the mix. I could use more variety there for sure!

Overall, I’m happy with the progress I’m making, even if it seems slow. The Fiddle Focus has kept me on track, and I continue to try to be consistent with my practice as the days go by.

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

March Fiddle Progress Report

Oh wow, the Ides of March slid right by me, and I’m a day late with my progress report! Where has this month gone?

Feb-March has seen a lot of change for the better. Practice continues to be consistent. I’m pleased with the kind of tunes I’m playing, and overall just enjoying practice much more than I was before.

Last month, I hit the realization that I may have been asking too much of myself and trying to play tunes that were beyond my comfortable skill level. I completely stopped everything I was doing at that point to give my practice content a good look-over and make some changes. This has improved things for me so much!

I also started taking the lessons at OAIM, which I’ve enjoyed immensely so far. It’s wonderful to not just say “One day, I will learn to play Irish music.” And actually just be learning it! So far, I’ve learned Maggie in the Woods, and I am now working on Terry Teehan’s Polka. Neither songs were I familiar with, but there’s still something identifiable in the note progression of Irish music that makes it feel familiar.

I also started to put more focus on warm up exercises during my practice. I’d already added a random scale of the day, which has been working great! But now I’ve also added long open-string bowing, and have been focusing a bit on bowing straight and clean.

And finally, as a reward for consistent practice last month, I bought ScanScore 2. This is software that can scan sheet music and turn it into a MIDI. I then convert the MIDI to WAV and have added it as the sample song to my Tune List. This has been working really well! I’m trying to do at least one or two songs a week and have been updating my Tune List as I convert them.

Speaking of the Tune List, I have gone back to fully randomized review for old tunes this past week. But I’ve done it with the intention of weeding out any songs that just feel like I need to completely relearn them before I can play them. So far, I’ve only removed two songs (Cripple Creek and O, Holy Night). I’ve been surprised at how many of the AFM tunes I actually still remember well enough not to struggle with.

The goal is to ensure that the review portion of practice is actually a review, rather than re-learning. I shouldn’t be spending more time on the review than I do with learning the newer songs.

Overall, I’ve been making good progress and staying consistent. I’ve been pleased with this past month. If all goes well, I plan to reward myself for consistent practice with trying out a new chin rest at the end of March!

Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Progress Report

February Fiddle Progress Report

Starting this month, I’m doing Progress Reports a little differently.

Since I’ve hit my year mark last month, I really don’t feel like there’s a need to keep counting the months the way I did last year. It’s a little odd to be like: “One Year, One Month.” But I still want to sit down and think about things each month on the 15th like I’ve made a habit to.

The Month In Review

First of all, I’ve stuck to my Fiddle Focus practice plans each week, and I feel like it’s a huge improvement to structure my practice time. I cover more during practice. I look at the clock less — since the mindset is no longer “I need to practice for 30 mins,” but rather “I need to complete as many things as I can on my focus list – all of them, if possible.” And I can set aside a week to really focus on a tune if I feel I need to do better with it.

My consistency with practice has been really good, especially since the beginning of February. I’ve promised myself a little reward at the end of this month if I don’t miss a day of practice — not quite sure what it will be yet. I’m actually looking into programs that can turn simple sheet music into MIDI, because it helps me to be able to hear a song along with trying to read sheet music. Maybe that’s what I’ll pick up.

I’ve gone back to reviewing reading notation using EEI again. This week focused on the D string, which is the very first string in that method. Next week, I’ll add another. I’m remembering it fairly well – at least on one string – and I feel like I’ll be able to pick it up again if I keep setting aside time to focus on it.

I finally added the random scale generator on my Tune List this month! I think even if I shake up my practice focus, I’ll still be working on these scales.

When Is Challenge Too Much?

Now here’s the tricky part. In returning to the old exercises in EEI, I’ve learned that I play them quite well. I mean, they even sound pretty good. Especially compared to my attempts at some of the tunes I’ve floundered and struggled with in AFM and at Bluegrass Daddy.

I love Bluegrass Daddy, don’t get me wrong, especially when there’s a random tune I suddenly wanted to learn, and he has a lesson just for it! It also turned out that As the Deer was a pretty simple tune to learn, and I’ve made more progress on it than other tunes I had practiced for weeks before. But it’s hard to tell how difficult one of the “beginner” tunes is there until you try it. As the Deer has been great, while O Holy Night is still a terror. XD

I’m starting to recognize one thing: Maybe I’ve been pushing myself to play songs that are beyond my ability range. And because of that, I’m struggling to get a decent sound, even half a year after starting to work on them.

Back when put the fiddle down for a few months, I returned (in August I believe) using the American Fiddle Method. I did this mostly because I’d paid for an account there – you have to pay for a three month block – and it felt like a waste to never have used it.

In retrospect, it was a good thing because it got me into playing “fiddle music.” I learned about the A Part and the B Part. I learned how to memorize a tune. I learned quite a bit, and I think the method is great!

BUT.

I also think I was biting off more than I could chew. I jumped from EEI, which was quite simple exercises, to full on fiddle songs. And I lamented day after day how I did a little better, but just couldn’t get a good sound. Honestly, that hasn’t changed in all these months.

I can play Cripple Creek (sometimes), Angelina Baker, and Cindy. But I don’t play them well, especially not at speed.

You might say, well, it’s good to challenge yourself! And that’s true. You don’t want to only play things that are easy for you. But there comes a time that you have to be real with yourself and realize you don’t have the basic foundations down well enough to tackle the challenges you’re throwing yourself.

Focus on Foundation

That’s part of the reason I was drawn to Julia’s Violin Academy. I knew I needed things like scales and arpeggios, but didn’t know where to start. I have learned so much from this method – including structuring my practice! – and those foundations have been very worthwhile to me.

However, JVA is also pricey at nearly $40 a month. And a lot of the benefits that come with this online school are the social interactions through the Facebook group. There are live lessons, practice sprints and group practice. If you’re involved in the community, then the price may be well worth it.

This is great if you have the courage to get on a webcam (which I don’t even own one!) and interact with a group. But I’m not one of those people who can (I might be able to do one-on-one but not a group). Not to mention, often things happen when I’m at work, or at odd hours, since they are accommodating people world-wide.

So while the online instruction is really good, I’m starting to consider something less costly. Especially since you can’t really download the videos, and there’s no play along MP3 tracks like at other sites. They do provide PDFs of each section, but I need to hear things as well as look at them. And not having at least a backing track or a MP3 download is difficult – I was spoiled by EEI.

Irish Fiddle Basics – Shifting Methods

All of that background just to lead up to this announcement! Sometime this past week, I discovered a set of online lessons for the beginner level specifically for Irish fiddle at the Online Academy of Irish Music. This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for!

There’s a 14 day free trial to see if it’s what I hope it is. Not only that, but for $20 a month, you get unlimited access to all the academy, which includes many more instruments!

I do own a mandolin, guitar and tin whistle. So maybe one day I could dabble in some of those classes, too.

But the coolest thing is that there’s fiddle classes beyond just the basic.

So this would likely take me all through my progression… if I ever could reach intermediate, of course!

I watched a sample video, and was impressed at the string overlay they use on the left hand side. I like that they provide the notation letters on the strings, which helps reinforce my desire to learn not just by ear but by note.

And, to top it off, sheet music and MP3s are there to download.

I’m really excited about diving into this new method. I’m going to start the trial probably tomorrow, just to look around and start structuring next week’s Fiddle Focus around these new lessons. For now, I’ll see out my current Fiddle Focus. But next week, I hope I’ll finally be jumping into the genre that I’ve wanted to from the start!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

Celebrating One Year of Fiddle!

The date might not be exact, but I’ve noted that a year ago today, I was starting consistent practice on my old cheap fiddle.

My first, cheap fiddle, bought in Dec 18

It didn’t take me long before I realized that the quality wasn’t going to be what I needed to learn on, but I remember purchasing a cheap one simply because I didn’t know if it was something I was going to stick with. I did have some lull time during the summer of last year – so this hasn’t been a full consistent one year. And I have off weeks.

BUT! I’m still practicing, and I never fully put it down. I think that means I’ll hopefully stick it out.

A Year in Review

I wanted to take a look back at all the progress I have made, even if I still struggle with tone and technical issues while playing.

I started out working through the EEI book, which I still feel was a fantastic beginner’s book. I really do want to revisit that book this year, and brush up on my notation reading. I think I’m to a point where if I picked it up, I could actually finish and play all the tunes in that book. It would be a nice thing to add to my Tune List.

In the beginning, I had a couple major issues that felt almost impossible to overcome.

First was the bow hold – I still don’t think my hold is 100% but at least I feel like I can hold the bow without strain. For a while, I was using the Bow Buddy to help out with that. Almost at the first month mark, I had a breakthrough on the bow hold, and it hasn’t been as difficult ever since.

The second issue I had was just not having the stamina to hold up the fiddle and play for a long stretch of time. When I first started, a tune or two was all I could manage before I had to give my arms a break. I’ve come a long way with that — though I still get some tension and pain if I push too long. I’m not quite ready for hour long practice, but I have been able to practice 30 minute blocks with short breaks and arm stretches.

The last issue I had was the lack of flexibility and reach in my left hand. I have small hands and short fingers, so reaching the D string is often difficult for me. It still is, but I feel like moving to a 7/8 size fiddle and just working at it over time has made a huge improvement.

Those seem like little things, but they were foundational aspects to overcome to continue practicing. When I look back on my first year, I’ll note those as a baseline of things I couldn’t do well, and could have been a turn-off from the whole thing, but I am quite improving on now.

In February, I got my Bunnel. It’s a fine little fiddle, and exactly what I needed to continue practicing where the cheap fiddle was failing. Things got a lot better at that point, and my practice was really consistent through spring and early summer.

Bunnel I bought on clearance

I’m not sure what happened in late summer, but suddenly I just fell off the wagon completely. I failed to practice day after day, and was almost afraid that was it. I even went as far as to move all the content in this blog into a merge with my other blog, and claim this blog was done.

I’m also not sure what brought me back from that. Maybe it was because I’d invested in an AFM course that I’d hardly touched, but really wanted to. Whatever the reason, I came back to fiddling in August and I started doing things differently.

I began following the AFM track (which I still play), and learning how to memorize fiddle tunes. I mostly put away the EEI book, which means my notation reading has suffered, and I do want to address this.

I also started keeping an online Practice Log. This was a wonderful step in the right direction. It gives a purpose to this blog and keeps me accountable in a public sense. It’s also much easier for me to type out practice session thoughts and highlights than it is to hand-write them, and it saves on paper!

The Practice Log helped to keep me going through the months that followed, though I still have some practice consistency issues.

In September, I began building my Tune List. This has also been a valuable tool to help me see and review songs that I’ve learned. No matter how well I think I’ve learned a tune, if I don’t come back and revisit it, it’s very easy to forget them! I still want to improve on my Tune List page by adding sound bytes to it rather than printed notation.

In October, I invested in my Fiddlerman Master 7/8 fiddle. I’m still in love with this instrument, and am very pleased with the choice I made to purchase it. It’s far more violin than I am player, so I know it’ll probably last me a lifetime.

I can happily say that I haven’t had the urge to shop around and browse violins with the intent of purchase ever since. This is a good thing, because I think I’ve put just about as much money into this as I want to right now!

In November, I felt as if my practice was missing something, especially in the technical sense. I wasn’t really practicing scales or arpeggios, and didn’t have a direction when it came to practicing these kinds of exercises. So I joined Julia’s Violin Academy, and have been weaving in the technical lessons into my practice ever since.

In December, I bought my ukulele! I have plans for the instrument, I just need to make some time to pick it up and practice. I picked up the app and have been following John Atkins with plans to use his content as my learning guide.

I also altered the look and feel of this blog a bit to embrace the coming of another instrument. Despite this, most of my blogging and serious practice has been focused on my fiddle still. I love the casual fun of the Uke, though, so I really do want to make it a goal to learn to play and build up the finger strength I need for it!

For Christmas, I received a book of easy Celtic fiddle tunes. Since folk fiddle is the direction I really want to go, I know I’ll be putting this book to use this year. I wanted to note this here because I feel like this year’s tunes will be pulling from this book (once I finish polishing up the song I’m on now).

In January, I came around to the idea of creating a weekly practice plan. I call this my Fiddle Focus for the week. I write it up as a blog post at the beginning of the week, and reference the post every time I practice as a sort of checklist of things to touch on.

This has worked extremely well for me! I do allow myself a little wiggle room on busy or tired days to drop exercises if needed. But for the most part, I stick to the plan.

Along with the Fiddle Focus, I’ve set up a plugin that produces a random tune on my Tune List Page. Every day when I go to practice, all I have to do is refresh that page and it pulls a tune from my list to review. This helps me from leaning too heavily on certain tunes that I’m more comfortable reviewing (I had a certain three I’d play almost every day for a while there) and gives me more random variety during practice.

I want to set something up for random scales and arpeggios in the future. So that’ll be another project on down the line.

And there you have it – my first year of fiddling in review. All of my learning has been on my own, based on lessons and content I’ve found online. Hence, I remain the Net Fiddler. 😉

Let’s see what this year has in store! I dearly hope that when I come to my two year celebration, I’ll still be playing and have seen some good progress!