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!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

Fiddle Progress Report: 11 Months

This hasn’t been one of my proudest months in terms of practice consistency. I have a list of woes that either sapped my time or energy to play: illness, migraine for days, sick pet, and dealing with something that felt like a house crisis which turned out to be opossums. Go figure.

Anyhow, my consistency was shot for this month, but I don’t feel like I did any backsliding, even if I didn’t really make a lot of forward progress. In fact, since I have continued to make the trio of Angelina Baker, Buffalo Gals and Cindy a staple in my practice, I’ve seen a lot of improvement in the tone of playing those songs.

I want to move on from those eventually, and probably will starting in the new year. But I’ve also been practicing two holiday songs – Silent Night and O Holy Night. I was able to pretty quickly pick up Silent Night, and now play it more or less well.

O Holy Night has been far more of a challenge, and I’ve tasked myself to spend some real focus time in working on it this week. My goal is to have it in a playable condition before Christmas.

I’d love to get Greensleeves started before the holidays are out, but it really depends on if I can memorize O Holy Night enough to start another tune. I’ve not been able to make anywhere near the progress I was hoping to on holiday songs, but I do have a lot of time off coming up from work, and I intend to use it!

I have been working through the classes at Julia’s Violin Academy, though not keeping up with the live classes there as much as I’ve wanted. Maybe I can use some of this time to explore the things I’ve missed. I’ve been working in the scales and arpeggios into my practice, and really need to keep adding more of them and moving forward with that method.

Flashback Time!

About this time last year, I’d already bought my first little fiddle from Ebay. It wasn’t a good quality instrument, and I ended up upgrading pretty quickly, but it did provide me my first look at a fiddle.

Because it was so cheap, I wasn’t afraid to learn how to change strings, change the bridge, change the chin rest, put on peg compound… all things that being totally new coming to the fiddle might have been a bit more scary on a more expensive instrument.

I still own the instrument, and have tried a few times to bring it out and make it sound better, with no luck. I go back and forth on whether to display it just for looks (it is a nice looking piece) or if I should take it to Goodwill. It was my first fiddle, so I have a bit of a sentimental feeling towards it. But I also hate to see an instrument that’s mostly playable go to waste when it might service someone else.

Looking back, I apparently set up my little fiddle on December 22. I was so proud of myself and really in love with the way the instrument looked. It wasn’t until January that I really started to learn what to do with it and February before I set up this blog to document my journey.

The first picture I took of my fiddle, the day I set it up.

I hope the excitement I felt when I first started will continue to move me forward. I really had no idea the amount of time and practice I’d have to put into learning the fiddle to make what I played sound remotely well. But I think that learning the patience and diligence needed to make progress has been good for me in a character-building sense.

Before I get too philosophical, I’ll close this report out. Next time I check in, I’ll be celebrating more or less a year of attempting to learn to play fiddle. I hope that between now and then, I am happier with my time and progress than this month. Nothing else to be done but move forward!

Oh, and I might have a little surprise tomorrow. We’ll see what I decide to do with this.

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

Fiddle Progress Report: 10 Months

Today I celebrate 10 months of learning to play the fiddle! I also celebrate having my Fiddlerman Master violin for just over a month. I’m still very pleased with the violin, and happy that I made the leap. I’ve certainly stopped shopping around and browsing violins online, which tells me that even subconsciously, I’m happy with my purchase.

So what all did I accomplish this month?

Well, I did practice pretty consistently. I missed about 3 days since the last progress report – sometimes just due to having way too many things to do after a work day and that sort of thing. I feel like missing 3 days isn’t a terrible track record, though I’d like to keep it more consistent going forward.

I’ve written about all my practices in my online practice log. Even if it’s just a short paragraph about what I played, how I was feeling and the outcome of the practice, I wrote something.

My goals for last time were to clean up Buffalo Gals and add it to the tune list. I also had wanted to work on Margaret’s Waltz some. How did that go?

Well, not only did I get Buffalo Gals fairly cleaned up and a part of the regular tunelist, but I went on to do the same with a new tune, Cindy. I did end up dropping Margaret’s Waltz, however, because I just feel like I’m not quite there yet. It was outside of the AFM progression and just a tune I was trying on the side, so I don’t feel this was a fail. I will try the tune again when I feel my skill is more up to par.

I figured out how to remove the cork residue left from removing the chinrest from my fiddle! This was a huge cosmetic win and it still looks so, so much better.

I decided that I really needed to spend some time with foundational basics and work on technical playing skills. I’m now supplementing my tunes with curriculum from Julia’s Violin Academy (JVC). I’m working through the Basics section right now, and hope to be moving into the Beginner section, to add a number of scales and exercises to my practice.

I decided it was time to break out the Christmas music! I’ve been working on learning Silent Night for the past week or so, and feel like I’ve got it to the point where I just really need some cleanup practice. I want to at least learn one more holiday song on my list by the next progress report and be playing Silent Night fairly well by then, too. It’ll probably be either O, Holy Night or Greensleeves.

I’ve played without any tape on the fingerboard all month! So, when I got my new Master violin, I never put tape on the fingerboard, and I’ve been playing without it ever since. Every now and then I miss a third finger, but for the most part, that’s not been as bad as I thought. I’m pretty good at picking up when a note is off by ear, though, and correcting it.

I’m learning to tune a violin that only has one fine tuner. It’s not quite as easy as it was when I had 4 fine tuners, but it’s not as difficult as I imagined, either. It takes a little bit more time, but eventually, you find the sweet spot.

So, wow. Actually, I did quite a bit this month! I find that I’m moving along at a two-to-three song pace per month when it comes to learning new tunes and getting them mostly cleaned up. I’m still having to go back over old tunes, though, because I’m nowhere near perfect playing them. But I assume that’s all part of consistent practice.

Next time I check in, it’ll be much closer to Christmas, so I hope to have a more holiday music under my belt!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

Fiddle Progress Report: 9 Months

Yesterday, my new fiddle arrived, and it’s really all I want to write about… but… that will have to wait until tomorrow’s post. This is meant to be a progress report! So let’s see what kind of progress happened last month.

Even though I missed some practice time during month 6 & 7, I’m still going to count this as month 9. I did have to do some make-up work for my lack of practice, but now I feel like I’m finally getting back on the ball, even if progress seems slow.

Based on my practice log, I started back playing exactly two months ago. During that time, I’ve only missed one day of practice (on a holiday). I did have a week or so of being down with the cold last month, so while I didn’t get full quality practice in on those days, I did still do things like revisit previous tunes just to stay up on playing. So, I’m pretty happy with my practice consistency.

I had a lot of trouble with the Squeaky E this past month, due to struggling to make clean string crossings. I’m still working on sorting this out, though it’s getting better now that I have an idea of what to focus on.

At last month’s progress report, I predicted that I’d probably only get through cleaning up Cripple Creek and Angelina Baker. This was somewhat accurate — I feel like I have a grasp of the fingerings and how to play these tunes, and have them mostly memorized. But, I still feel they’re more sloppy than I’d like, and I’m still working on getting them cleaned up. Part of that was losing a week of good practice to being sick, I think.

However, I’ve already started to memorize Margaret’s Waltz on the side, and did poke around at learning Buffalo Gals, which feels like it may be easier that the previous two tunes (we’ll see). So I didn’t spend my whole month on just two songs.

My goals/predictions for this month is to continue to clean up Cripple Creek and Angelina Baker, especially focusing on the Squeaky E. I want to hook the two parts of Margaret’s Waltz together and start working on memorizing the tune as a whole. I also want to bring Buffalo Gals into the tune list by the next time I check in for a Progress Report.

Speaking of the Tune List, I’d like to find a way to put some audio on the list – whether it’s me playing the first bar or something like that. I find that I really need to hear the start of the tune to trigger memory, moreso than just seeing notes or tabs. I’ll work on that sometime this month, maybe.

Of course, I’m starting this new month off right with an exciting new Master fiddle, so I hope this beautiful instrument will be the inspiration to push me forward for a long time coming. More on this tomorrow!

Fiddlerman Master has Arrived!
Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

8 Month Fiddle Progress Report

This progress report is both happy and a little sad.

On one hand, I’m happy that I managed to pick up my fiddle and start playing again. In the past month, I only missed one practice day, which is amazing! On top of that, there were a few days that I didn’t quite make the full 30 mins allotment, but for the most part, I did. Also amazing!

It’s a little sad because I feel like after falling out of practice for two months, I rolled back to starting from the beginning again. Okay, so not the very, very beginning. I did retain some information – like holding the violin, the bow hold, and a bit of built-up stamina that was still there. So it wasn’t completely back to nothing.

Starting over, however, let me jump into practicing a completely different method with different goals. After a full month of doing this, I feel like this was a good move to make. I’m much more focused on learning by ear and picking up new songs more slowly.

Part of this is because I’m really working to know that I’ve not just memorized a song but that it sounds at the quality level I want (more or less) before I pick up something new. The tunes in the EEI book were shorter, somewhat less complex, and focused on learning to read notes rather than memorize the tune.

I feel this new method is more challenging, but more rewarding. I’m having days where I’m drilling the same songs, working to get certain passages to sound well, playing slowly and working up in tempo… and I feel like this approach is more what I should be doing. I also feel like the songs I’m playing are actual songs. Not just children’s jingles (though there was Twinkle in there, of course).

The truth is, to make that switch, I would have needed to start over again and make a major shift in my playing perspective. So maybe this was all for the better.

I’ve spent time setting up an online practice log and a tunes list on this blog last month. Both of these are great tools. The practice log has been doing its job to keep me recording thoughts and goals, as well as keeping me publicly accountable for practicing consistently.

I’ve also finally pinned down a single date when I’m going to note my progress “anniversary” each month. Previously, I tried to count four weeks off to say “Hey, it’s been another month of playing.” And this just got too complex.

Since I started playing around January 14-15th of this year, I decided to set the progress day for each month on the 15th – which was yesterday. Interestingly enough, I started back playing on the 15th of last month, so this seems like a good plan.

Goals for this month?

Keep practicing the songs I’ve learned already, for one. I also really want to fix my squeaky bow issues when playing Cripple Creek, and bring it up to tempo. I don’t know why this tune is giving me so much grief, but it is!

The next song on the list to learn seems more complex than any of the others I’ve picked up so far. There’s less repetition, it’s a longer song, and some of the fingerings seem fast. I’ve only watched the play through video in making this judgement, but I have a feeling that between that and Cripple Creek, those may be the only two songs I work to master the next month. Or I may get a major breakthrough and find myself pleasantly surprised.

I’ll check back next month and let you know!

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

5th Month of Fiddle – Facing the Music

Last Friday marked five months since I began learning to play fiddle.

I’m wording it that way on purpose, because though my 4th month started out strong with practicing and making forward progress, it ended rather dismally. A combination of feeling ill and lack of energy compounded, and I quickly found myself falling out of practice.

However, I’m not writing this to say that I’ve given up. It’s come to my attention I need to really rethink my approach to practice and the amount of time I have to dedicate to all this. I know that at the end of this month, I’m going to be away on leave for work, and other things are going to be cropping up that will pull my time away yet again.

I mulled this over and came to two conclusions:

  • I’m going to make my practice sessions shorter
  • I’m going to consolidate the content of this blog into my existing personal blog.

Let me talk about these things.

My practice sessions have typically been about 30 minutes. And that seems tiny compared to what I hear other people practicing. However, for me, after being at work all day, running errands after work, needing make supper, other things that need my attention after work… even 30 minutes seem difficult to set aside.

I figure if I put in even 15 or 20 minutes a day, it’s better than no practice at all. And if I’m in the mood to do more, I can. The idea is to keep myself consistently picking up the instrument, even in times when I just don’t feel well, or feel I don’t have the time to do so.

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

Progress Report: Four Months of Fiddle

Subtitled: Gifting Yourself and Handling Practice Doldrums

Today marks 4 months of learning violin for me! Similar to month 3, daily practice has been more sporadic than I would like… and I’m learning how to deal with the reality of that in a way that keeps me coming back to the fiddle instead of shaming myself for days I miss.

I think my mindset and how I handle missed practice is very important at this point. I want to keep playing – I still love the instrument and feel like there’s a whole world of music out there for me to discover. It’s just things in adult life that keep tripping me up and pulling my time and energy away.

Granted, missing practice is not something I want to encourage. But if I go heavy handed on myself, I know that it’ll damper the energy and whimsy I’m approaching this process with. I don’t want to do that.

Gifting Myself – Practice Journal

I’m the type of person who can become inspired with a project only to set it down a month or so later. But I’m also the type of person who is still working on producing work weekly for an online project after 17 years of hardly missing a week, aside from vacations. So I can go both ways!

I decided my approach to this would be to celebrate the fact that I’m still practicing after 4 months, even if I don’t make it every day. So I bought myself a little gift of encouragement – a practice journal!

Yes, I’m aware that I could make my own practice Bullet Journal instead of buying one – I might do that somewhere down the line as I do like to journal, and practice seems a good topic to do this with. But to start out, I wanted a journal that would give me some guidance on what I should focus on when I record practice.

The journal I picked was 10,000-hour Practice Log & Journal. It was inexpensive, put together by a musician, and just seemed to have the feel of what I was looking for. I’m not sure that I buy into the 10,000 hour theory of practice, but I am pleased with the journal!

While EEI had a little place for me to record my time and what I practiced on the website, it was just a short one-line description. This book goes into a lot more detail in what you record, and while it takes more time to fill it out, the act of writing down what I practiced and how well I did makes me think back over the session. It’s not just one and done.

I’ll talk more about this book in its own post since this one is getting long already! I do want to quickly touch on my actual progress!

Month 4 Progress

I spent some time working with the FiddleHed online lessons this month. I really do like the approach and how songs are broken down in chunks to learn more easily. I had already picked up this method from reading the Practice of Practice, but this actually put it into action. I may come back to the site in the future as I did have fun with the songs, even if they were just your starter tunes.

I the end, I decided that instead of jumping into a brand new method, even though I enjoy FiddleHed, I really want to see what I started through with Essential Elements for Strings – Book 1 with EEi: Violin. I like this series a whole lot, and even more now that I’ve discovered backing tracks for the online playback songs.

I’ve made pretty good progress and I’m getting towards the end of the book. So my goal is to focus on learning the songs and working on the exercises that will finish Book 1. Once I “graduate” that, I’ll decide where to go. I have other method books that I’d like to investigate, or even Book 2 of EEI on down the line.

I have mostly solidified playing songs #116-#118, since this is where I’ve been stalled out at since last month. I find myself going over and over these tunes (Song for Maria, Banana Boat Song, Firoliralera) to retain my practice since it’s been so spotty. While I can play the songs alright, it isn’t good to not be moving forward at all.

Last night, I decided to push on past the Skill Builders section (which are mostly scales that I practice, too), and try out a new song – Jingli Nona. While I haven’t tried playing it with the music yet, just working through the song on my own, it seems like it should be pretty intuitive to learn. Here’s what it sounds like:

It’s nice to be making progress on a new song again! Hoping Month 5 will turn out better that the past two months have been for practice.

Posted in Fiddle Progress Report

Progress Report: Three Months of Fiddle

Today marks the third month of learning to play violin. I wish I could say this was as successful as my first two months, but, as I wrote before, I’ve had more trouble sticking to daily practice. A lot of this is due to simply being exhausted when coming home from work… so hopefully, as things shift, I’ll have more energy to put back into practice again.

So, as to not concentrate on the bad, I do want to talk about what I made progress on. Since last month, I have practiced up to exercise #117, which is The Banana Boat Song. Song #118 seems a bit difficult to tackle, so for now, I’ve skipped it and moved to the series of technical exercises that start with #119.

These are mostly variation of scales and practices, which are all good for daily revisiting (even if I don’t get anything else done). There’s a whole page of short scales and tunes, so I think I’m going to focus on these on the tired days, if nothing else. Maybe by the time I’ve got some scale practice in, I’ll feel more up to playing something more.

I did start practicing the slur technique this month. Also, I removed one of the tapes from my fingerboard, and really, haven’t had much trouble with that. Still not quite ready to remove the other tape, though!

I also wonder if it’s time to weave something new into my practice. I know that Jim at Fiddling for Older Folks has good things to say about the FiddleHed online lessons. I signed up for a trial account there last month, but something came up that weekend, and I wasn’t really able to explore the lessons or site as much as I’d have liked. I got an email from FiddleHed yesterday that offered a pretty sweet discount for trying my first month (I assume since I haven’t acted on the account in a while), and I think I might just take up that offer.

I’ve heard good things about the site, and a full month access to all of the tutorials would allow me to get a better feel for where I stand in my own progress vs. what the site offers to see if it provides value. Plus, to add a little something different in my practice might spark excitement. I really love my instruction book, but even I know I need to change things up from time to time. So this might just be the perfect thing to lead into a new month of practice!

I’ll keep you posted!