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

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