Habit Hack #1: Game the Habit Loop

Are you ready to reinvent your routines? Get a head start with our seven habit hacks! We’re diving in with a fun challenge: reward yourself for good habits!

Choose a reward for for yourself when you practice and put it in play. My reward: every day I practice, I’ll mark it on my calendar. It feels really rewarding for me when I see a long streak of practice. Tell us what you choose to do for your own challenge in the comments!

Why is reward the first step to better habits? First, let’s lay some groundwork by looking at the structure of habits. Habits have three basic components:

  1. The cue or trigger
  2. The action
  3. The reward

Looks familiar, right? The tricky thing is, many bad habits have immediate rewards built into them. Eating ice cream instead of salad, skipping your workout for Netflix, or putting off practicing in favor of more time scrolling through Facebook are all things that satisfy your pleasure centers in the moment, even if they don’t help you in the long term. It’s easy to see why these things can seem so appealing, especially when you’re low on willpower.

But the same structure that makes it hard to resist bad long-term habits can also work in your favor if you hack the system. Here’s the trick: when you employ a good long-term habit, associate a short-term reward with it. 

When you go to the gym, treat yourself to 30 minutes reading a good novel afterwards. When you clean your house, turn on your favorite music and throw yourself a private dance party (I can’t be the only one that does this… right?) And when you practice your instrument, the same principle applies: find something that feels rewarding in the moment to help you make positive associations with the good habit.

My students often come to lessons frustrated that they “aren’t making any progress.” Here’s the thing: if you’re practicing and doing it well, I can assure you that you’re making progress. But I know how hard it can be to see it for yourself! That’s why rewarding yourself for tiny milestones, like playing for a certain amount of time, is so important.

What reward will you build into your daily practice routine?

Is it time to change your strings?

Is it time to change your strings? Here’s how to tell! 

But first, make sure you actually have a bridge, unlike the poor fiddle in this stock photo. If you’re bridgeless, you’ve got bigger problems. 😂

Is it time for a string change? Ask yourself:

1) Do notes sound fuzzy or muddy instead of their usual crisp, clear tone?

2) Do you have trouble tuning and keeping your instrument in tune?

3) Are the strings much quieter than they were when you put them on?

4) Have you changed then within the last 4-5 months? This is the max. I always shoot for the 3 month or less range, depending on playing time.

Treat yourself to some new strings! If you’re due for a change, new strings will make playing much easier and more enjoyable.

How to sync your bow and your fingers

Do you struggle with getting your left and right hand to sync up? Many people do. Grab your fiddle right now and let’s tackle this with one simple exercise.  

Find your trusty metronome (you knew I would say that) and set it on a slow beat, maybe 65 bpm to start. Then start playing quarter notes, syncing each one exactly with the beat. Don’t worry about your left hand at this point; just play one pitch and focus all your energy on bowing evenly.

When the even quarter notes feel more automatic, switch to playing eighth notes (still only one pitch) and make them just as rhythmically even as the quarter notes. 

Make sure you don’t move through these steps too fast. Follow each step of the exercise until you can do it reliably. Now, once you manage to get consistent, rhythmic eighth notes (and not before!), try playing a scale. Keep your bows even. 

Here’s the clincher: don’t try to sync your left hand to your right hand. Instead, sync both your left hand and your right hand to the metronome. Keeping a slow pace is key here.

Once your hands are in sync during your scales, try applying these same concepts to your tunes. Use the metronome to ground the timing of both hands and go slowly.

How did this go for you? What other challenges did you discover? Let us know in the comments!

3 Tips to Work Your Rhythm

1. Internalize the beat 
When you’re listening to music, tap along with the beat. I know it sounds basic, but it’s just too easy to let the music play in the background. Try to engage by listening and participating from an actively rhythmic perspective. Tap the beat and feel the rhythm. Then when you pick up your instrument, your frame of mind is already set.

2. Warm-up with one rhythmic note 
When you first pick up your instrument, work your rhythm. Play along with a back-up track or metronome on just one note. Practice connecting that note to the beat by playing quarter notes for a minute or two and then eighth notes. Tap your toe, internalize the beat while you are playing. Do this for two minutes to focus your mind on the rhythmic consistency of your bow.

3. Record yourself and listen back 
Record yourself playing the one note and listen back. Are you as coordinated with the rhythm as you thought? It’s amazing how much more you can hear and process when you’re not playing. Listening after the fact can help you discover your tendencies. Do you rush? Do you drag? Is it just inconsistent? Once you’ve discovered an issue, it becomes much simpler to improve it. Then, try again!

Happy Fiddling,

Katie Glassman

Should you take your fiddle on vacation?

Should you take your fiddle with you on vacation? Here are several factors to consider:

1. Where are you in your musical process? Are you in need of a break? Are you having breakthroughs?

Sometimes a break from your instrument can be healthy. However, if you’re having breakthroughs in your playing, take your fiddle and maintain a consistent practice (even if it’s short). It will keep the door open to eureka moments and you won’t regret it. 

2. How often do you go on vacation or travel?

If you only travel once or twice a year, you may consider leaving your fiddle behind on these rare occasions. If you’re a frequent traveler, though, bringing your fiddle can help establish a nice musical routine. Plus, you’ll continue to progress consistently. And your fiddle teacher will be proud of you!
3. Do you have an overhead carry-on?
Remember, your fiddle will need to go overhead (airlines are required to let you carry your instrument on the plane, as long as the bin space is available). If you can, be sure to get an early boarding group so that you are guaranteed bin space. When you place your fiddle in the bin, place it towards the front at a slight diagonal, so that it can be seen easily; You don’t want someone shoving their roller suitcase into it! I travel with a backpack, which I put under my seat, and my fiddle, which I put overhead. If it’s a longer trip, I check a suitcase as well.

4. Is your case easy to walk with?

I recommend getting a lightweight case with backpack straps. It makes it much more comfortable to carry your instrument for long periods of time.
5. Are you concerned you won’t have a place to practice?
I always travel with my mute so that I will have flexibility. A smartphone and a pair of headphones are other great tools for fiddle practice. You can have your tuner, metronome, learning videos and back-up tracks with you wherever you are.

5. Should you take your good instrument with you or a cheap one?

I always take my good instrument. Never leave it in the car when you’re not in it. This will avoid any weather related damage and potential theft. Depending on where I am staying, sometimes I’ll hide it in my room when I leave. Just take care of it and be aware of your surroundings. 

With all of these tips, I hope you’ll take your fiddle with you on your next trip. Bon voyage!

1st Annual Fiddle School Mountain Retreat

1st Annual Fiddle School Mountain Retreat

We are thrilled that our 1st Annual Fiddle School Mountain Retreat 2019 filled up within two weeks of opening registration to our students. This small adult fiddle camp is a dream come true! We hope you’ll learn more about it and join us next year or sign up on the 2019 waitlist. Click here to learn more about camp or sign up on our waitlist.

Office hour #18 will take place this Friday, April 26th at 10:00 (MDT). If you are a 6 month or 1 year member, visit the VIP Fiddle School community on Facebook: Click here.

Autralia, St. Patrick’s Day, Office Hour

I just returned from an adventurous 3-week tour of Australia with The Western Flyers. We played 7 radio shows broadcast on the ABC radio network and 15 concerts in: Tathra, Fern Tree Gully, Yinnar, Valencia Creek, Nethercote, Cobargo, Nerregunduh, Canberra, Therrioul, and Petersham. We played to almost all sold out crowds and felt incredible reception from the audiences. What an honor to go to another country and play to such enthusiastic crowds!

Not only that, fiddling is very alive in Australia. At the Folk Festival in Cobargo, there were countless jam sessions with multiple fiddlers. We ended up having fiddlers show up to every show too!

I saw kangaroos, possums, emus, lorikeets, and many other exotic birds. In the mornings, the birds sing so loudly that you cannot sleep! The beauty of the land and animals kept us all going through those super tired moments of touring. Now, I’m happy to be home and return to my life here.

For those of you in Colorado, Greg Schochet and I will be playing this Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day) at Oskar Blues in Lyons from 5:00 – 8:00 pm. Come celebrate!

It seems like Fiddle School is working for you, help us build the community! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Fiddle School will be holding a 20% off sale on March 15th-18th. If you have any friends you’d like to join, feel free to let them know just how much you’re getting out of our program. With spring around the corner, it’s a great time to start a new routine.

Didn’t Celeste do a great job with office hour?!! I’ve received so much positive response, we’ll get her back. I’ll be conducting the next office hour on Monday, March 18th at 2:00 pm (MT). Send me your questions in advance to learn@fiddleschool.com.

Happy fiddling,

Katie Glassman

Office Hour 6

Next office hour will be held on February 4th at noon (MS) in the Fiddle School Facebook Group. Come ask your fiddling questions. Happy practice challenge week.

How to Structure Your Practice

We’ve all been here: you muster up some energy, get settled in your practice space, pick up your fiddle and… now what? Sometimes knowing what to work on is the hardest part of practicing. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how you can use Fiddle School to structure the3 Essential Components of Practice:

  1. Warm Up

            Mental and physical warm-ups are key to set the right tone for your practice. You’ll have more clarity and ease when you warm up thoroughly at the beginning of each practice session. With Fiddle School, the exercises you need for your warm-ups are right at your fingertips—no decision-making required. First, watch three to five Practice Buddiesto refresh new concepts, and then pick up your fiddle and play along with Katie in a Practice Pal, Fiddle School’s signature guided warm-ups. By the end of your warm up, both your head and your hands will be ready to take on the next section of your practice.

  • Learn New Material

            The best time to tackle new tunes is at the beginning of your practice, when your mind is fresh. Work on new tunes in three phases:

  1. Learn new notes: do this daily as you memorize new phrases and parts from the Learning videos.
  2. Review new notes: slowly go over what you’ve learned that week to cement it in your memory.
  3. Play along with accompaniment: play your new tunes along with Fiddle School’s slow play-along tracks.

  • Review Older Material

            Review is just as important as learning new tunes, if not more! Each practice, revisit two or three tunes you’ve already learned and play them along with Fiddle School’s slow and fast accompaniment tracks multiple times so you feel confident throughout the whole tune. If you find a tripping point, figure out the cause and work through it. Remember to employ the good techniques from your warm-ups throughout your whole practice. It’s often easy to slip into old habits when you play familiar tunes, so stay vigilant!

Practice like this and you’ll get more done than you ever have before. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And the best part is, all the tools you need to practice this way are built right into the Fiddle School method. All you have to do is pick up your fiddle and play.

If you want a personalized practice planto guide you through how to integrate Fiddle School with your private lessons, jamming, playing in a band, and the rest of your musical life, you can schedule time with Fiddle School’s online teacher Celeste J to make a plan customized just for you. Boost your productivity, get clear on how to practice, and eliminate obstacles in a one-on-one private lesson. Click here to try it out. Sometimes the hardest part is getting started, but it shouldn’t be—take the uncertainty out of practicing and you’ll be amazed how fast you’ll progress.

Welcome to Fiddle School!

For many years I have been developing a curriculum to inspire people to learn to play  fiddle in a fun and simple way.  I am finally ready to share the first year long session: Texas Fiddle Foundations 1. Whether you are new to the instrument or the style, or have taken a break from playing, this course covers fundamental fiddle techniques and standard repertoire. The curriculum is designed to simplify the fiddle and help you practice more effectively and enjoyably.  My goal is to perpetuate quality traditional fiddle music and inspire you to progress.

Remember, the most efficient way to use my method is to incorporate 2-3 Practice Buddies per practice session. So, no matter what level you are, I encourage you to start at the beginning to build a strong foundation.  My vision is a 7 year curriculum, I will release 12 lessons yearly to build upon Texas Fiddle Foundations 1.

Additionally, stay tuned for a stretching series, music reading series, improvisation and theory series.

My teaching method is built to help you learn to effectively practice old-time fiddling.  My first and forever musical love is Texas style fiddling.  As the lessons advance over the next couple of years, you will learn more and more about Texas style fiddling.  The history, the musicians and listening resources.  I have chosen tunes which are popular in many jam circles.  Hopefully you will be able to use these tunes to play within your own musical circles.

As questions come up along the way, We can effectively give you feedback with our Progress Reports and Skype Lessons.

Remember, your key to success on the fiddle will be to play with awareness everyday, listen to great fiddlers and most of all have fun!

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