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Oct 16, 2019 - 7:47:13 PM
10 posts since 12/23/2015

Hi All,
Just got my first fiddle in the mail today. Very excited to start this journey, it’s been a long time coming!

Now, being brand new are there any things you wish you could have told yourself after the first year? Easily avoidable stumbling blocks?

Example for me is the bow does not have any rosin on it, it came with a container full, what’s the best way to apply? How much?
Should I just jump in and not worry about “ruining” the default bow included in a lower $ range kit?

Thanks!!

Oct 16, 2019 - 8:09:52 PM

Fiddler

USA

3977 posts since 6/22/2007

Congratulations!

I've been playing well over 40 years. The one thing I would recommend above everything else is to find a qualified teacher. It doesn't matter if they are teaching classical or other, they will show you the proper way to hold the instrument and get you off on a good start.

I tried to learn on my own and I am still unlearning some bad habits that are preventing me from playing decently.

If the bow came without rosin applied, you will need to do that. A luthier or experience player can help you. The cake that was included is likely a low grade rosin. It's ok to get started, but consider spending a few dollars for a good cake.

The bow is the most probably the important part of the fiddle. Again, the inexpensive bow that came with the fiddle will be ok to get started, but spend as much as you can afford to get a decent bow. It's not uncommon for bows to run $500 and upwards.

Finally, have a qualified luthier set up your instrument. Have the bridge  sound post and tailpiece in the proper positions and the nut set right. If the instrument is difficult to play, you will not play it! 

Again, congratulations and have fun!

Oct 16, 2019 - 8:19:36 PM

1407 posts since 12/11/2008

First, through all this, try to touch the bow hair as little as possible, as your finger oils will make the hair dirty and lend it less traction when you're stroking a string. Don't be insane about this though. Just be aware that it's best that the bow hair remain unsullied by anything but the rosin.

Anyway, hold the bow in one hand. Twist the hand screw at the end of the bow where the hand grip is and tighten the bow hair to the point where there's about a quarter inch of space between the hair and the spot where the bow is the closest to it. You'll know you're at the right tightness when the hair feels nicely springy. Again, don't force things. Let your instincts be your guide.

Now, unwrap the rosin so there's one side of it showing. Gently give the bow about twenty full back-and-forth strokes. Gentle but firm. Ah, that wonderful aroma!

Finally, yeah, the outfit might be a cheap one but it will probably work just fine. And be patient with yourself. When the fiddle is tucked under your chin so close to your ear it'll always sound scratchier than what you hear when somebody else is doing the fiddling. Don't be afraid to be bad. Play, play, play!

Oct 17, 2019 - 4:36:59 AM

78 posts since 11/28/2018

Enjoy the ride!

And realize up front that it will be quite a roller coaster, especially in the first few years. I remember times where I was elated and thought I was on my way to becoming the world's greatest fiddler --- only to become so discouraged the next day that I considered quitting. But I stuck with it and am so glad I did. You will be too.

Oct 17, 2019 - 4:55:42 AM
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835 posts since 1/25/2008

You really need to get together with someone who knows what they are doing!!! It's too hard to try to do it over the internet. I would suggest finding a teacher who would be willing to give you a couple introductory lessons. It will be well worth the money to get you started off right.

Oct 17, 2019 - 7:08:57 AM

4135 posts since 6/23/2007

Gordon Stobbe's bowing instructional DVD "12 Things Your Right Hand Should Know" will get you started bowing right. Since you are a complete novice, you have one advantage. You haven't learned to bow incorrectly so you won't have to waste time and experience the frustration of having to relearn. That DVD is a better bowing instructor than all the fiddle/violin teachers I have worked with. Bowing is the key to good fiddling. BTW, I am not connected with Gordon Stobbe. I am just a grateful user of that DVD.

D'Addario sells some excellent inexpensive NS Micro Violin Tuner. Inexpensive. The better a fiddle is tuned, the better it will sound.

A few questions. Do you already play a musical instrument ? Are you familiar with basic music theory for scales and chords ?

On Youtube there are instructionals on how to rosin a bow. Actually Youtube has instructionals on how to do a lot of different things.

If you answer the questions I posted, you will get more useful information.

Good Luck

Oct 17, 2019 - 7:29:40 AM

2157 posts since 10/1/2008

OK firstly rough up your rosin cake with an emery board some folks use their keys. This with help get the rosin onto the bow hair.
Here is a list I send to new to fiddle players. Good luck and be patient...
1. Learn both open and closed position scales and arpeggios
2. Take some lessons. Bad habits are tough to unlearn.
3. Every time you pick up your fiddle to play , tune it.
4. Play every day … a lot of this is muscle memory.
5. Practice your scales with your tuner. It helps with intonation.
6. Play with a loose grip on the bow and don’t over grip when noting a fiddle. Tension causes short and long term problems.
7. Listen to many fiddlers. Both passively when you are doing other things and actively with your fiddle in hand.
8. Learn fiddle tunes in standard as well as non standard keys. This helps to learn the fingerboard.
9. Play out in public as soon as you feel like you are able. Watch other fiddlers whenever you can. You can learn a great deal that way.
10. Change your strings two or three times a year. Your fiddle will appreciate it. Opinions differ on this.
11. Practice bowing some with your shoulder trapped against a wall or door frame. This makes you use your wrist in bowing.
12. When you think you are ready for a new fiddle buy a better bow first.
13. Buy a mute ...... you house mates will thank you.....

Oct 17, 2019 - 10:25:09 AM

441 posts since 9/1/2010

I don't disagree with getting a good teacher. There's no doubt that it has many benefits. However, it is very possible to go your own way using books and the endless resources online (youtube in particular). It depends on you more than anything. Everyone is different, and some people are very capable of learning without the guidance of a teacher. I'm not saying teaching yourself is better than a getting a teacher, but it has worked for me. I did have 20+ years of playing other string instruments when I started though. The other thing that you need to have is strong motivation. Play as much as you can every day even if it is only for 10 minutes. If you CAN'T get yourself to do that then having a teacher may be the way to go. Having a weekly lesson would put the "accountability" factor in there....making you practice. You don't want to show up to the next lesson not having learned the previous weeks lesson do you? There's a lot of good advice in the previous posts. Always tune before playing is one of the best tips.

Oct 17, 2019 - 8:28:25 PM

10 posts since 12/23/2015

wow thank you guys for all the great advice.
I appreciate the tips on applying rosin, that is very new. I have played guitar and mandolin, so I have some experience with music basics.

The goal is to practice daily, if even for a few minutes. Like you guys have mentioned, the muscle memory is key.

I'll look into the suggested dvds. Talk about dreaming, I saw MasterClass is offering a intro to violin by Itzhack Perlman so I will see if black friday holds any discounts there.

Thank you all for the sage advice, hoping to use it wisely. BTW good suggestion on playing out, I just realized how valuable the Sound Off section of the forum is here. I will try to contribute to the mix :) :)

Oct 18, 2019 - 7:24:36 AM

4135 posts since 6/23/2007

Based on my experiences, I would have to say finding a qualified fiddle instructor can be very difficult or nearly impossible. On Youtube, there is an abundance of instructionals on the basics of playing the fiddle and for the care of the fiddle and bow. I keep repeating myself, but as far as bowing instruction for fiddles go, Stobbe's "12 Things Your Right Hand Should Know" was very effective. Better than any bowing instruction I had ever received from face-to-face instructors.

Oct 18, 2019 - 3:29:28 PM

kjb

USA

672 posts since 6/8/2013

I agree with the teacher deal, from a guy who did not and mostly wasted 30 years of screwing around with a fiddle, I still have not gone to a teacher, but have become disciplined, and sensible about practice. also a lot of advice from others . But If I had done that in the 70's , I think I would have been at this point 20 years ago , well maybe anyway!

Oct 21, 2019 - 1:55:02 AM
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54 posts since 6/26/2007

I'm not certain that you can think of things like the fiddle in these terms: "If I had only started 30 years earlier, I'd be a whizz at this now." Counterfactual thinking can really put a crimp in life. "If I had only learned to swim when I was two years old, I'd probably be an Olympian by now." The historian Eric Hobsbawn famously put it this way: "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd have been a Greyhound bus," the probable implication being that we then could have charged excessive fares for trips.

I'll be 68 in January. Though I do recall some false starts - in my early teens, and then again in my 40s after I had started getting serious about guitar and banjo - I really did not buckle down on the fiddle until, well, just a month ago.

It is what it is, and it will be what it will be. I always wondered how that phrase could make sense, but now I sort of understand. If I'm unlikely to become an Olympian Fiddler, at least I will have had the chance to try my hand at "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

I have not found a local fiddler who might teach me some here in Fauquier County, VA - I think the several teachers are bluegrass players, though that might not matter for a starting student. Dick Hauser's point that there is an abundance of good guidance for start up fiddlers on Youtube is certainly right. I just haven't had the time to explore the Live Teacher thing. But I've gotten some good advice from a West Virginian fiddler friend via email, advice that has a "Just Do It" aspect to it:

-- Tune the fiddle to GDGD - As long as it is tuned to itself, the fiddle, just like a banjo, is perfectly playable, perfectly functional.

-- Put enough rosin on the bow so that it grabs ahold of the strings as it passes over them.

-- Practice moving the bow across the strings, playing the fiddle slowly. One by one, back and forth, the complete length of the bow.

-- Don't fuss too much with finding a resting place for the fiddle - under your chin, on your collar bone, on your chest. Hold it comfortable. Play it like a bass fiddle, if necessary.

-- Begin working the left hand on the fingerboard, finding the right place to produce coherent sounds. Get used to marching the left hand fingers up and down the length of the string, at least partway down the length of the fingerboard.

-- Sing, or hum, or mumble a simple tune to make certain that it becomes familiar, and then find that tune on the first string of the fiddle.

-- It will sound terrible and it will become more and more terrible as time goes on.

-- Embrace that terribleness.

-- Start from the premise that there is no such thing as a "correct" setup for a fiddle; "those kinds of questions are not allowed." Just keep finding the sound on a string. Prior experience with a fretted stringed instrument might suggest the exact point on the fingerboard where to land the index, middle, ring and little finger on the first string. Lack of such experience won't be a decisive advantage; just keep sliding those left hand fingers around until they come to the "right" place on the high string.

-- Don't touch the bow hair and get finger grease on it, and don't touch the strings in front of the bridge - so as not to get the oil from one's fingers on the strings.

-- If the strings are not touching the fingerboard, then the bridge will be good enough.

-- Start sawing on the strings right at the open area past the end of the fingerboard.

-- Keep the bow running somewhat flat. Do not rock it.

-- Focus on just a handful of tunes. Simple stuff: "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." "Mary Had A Little Lamb." Fix your attention on no more than, say, five tunes, and work at them.

-- Watch Lester McCumbers, Melvin Wine, Tommy Jarrell. Watch what they are doing.

-- But do not "anal-lize" what they are doing. "Taste what them old fiddlers are doing." And learn to listen . . .

It's easier said than done, but playing 20-30 minutes every day makes a difference, and doing basically the same thing for those fiddling minutes every day also pays off - playing "Twinkle" and "Little Lamb" helps loosen up the brain and awaken some of that muscle memory capacity.

My long distance teacher friend makes one more point: don't look at this drill as "practice." That sucks the fun out of it somehow. Look at it as "play." Adds more of a comfort level to the whole thing.

Play hard,

Lew

Oct 21, 2019 - 4:32:59 AM

kjb

USA

672 posts since 6/8/2013

its not what we would have been ,
its you are young now so you can do what we would have done after having the 70 years of experience ,

most people don't take advice, a common human trait, like don't put your hand in the fire , but by putting the info out there, at least they have the option to reach a potential they would not have reached by hit or miss practice, bad practice techniques, and poor intonation. bad posture ect.
Also unlearning bad habits is very time consuming, better to at least learn how you are supposed to do it. Putting the stick-on fingering labels on the violin makes great sense, in the end its all muscle memory for intonation.
playing with a tuner , and using a metronome , all very helpful .

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.'

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