Tips & Tricks: Step-by-Step – Why it is Important to Learn to Fiddle at Your Own Speed

small__3955533735Periodically I come up against the same dilemma:  it feels like everyone else in the world is progressing really quickly, in whatever way, and like I am moving very slowly.  In the end I always achieve more success when I remember that I need to progress at my own speed.  This applies to all aspects of life, including learning the fiddle.

I have noticed that many of my adult students have this same concern.  “Am I learning at a normal speed?”    This is a question that I often hear from my students.   Our concern about “normal” is interesting.  I have watched students at fiddle camps get frustrated because other students are learning at a faster speed.

So, what is the problem with comparing yourself with others?  Often it can get discouraging.  The more time you spend worrying about how well others are doing, the less time you are putting into your own progress.  Also, the more frustrated you get, the worse things seem to go.  I have experienced this many times!  There seems to be a loop of negative feedback where the more you want to progress, the worse you get, the worse you feel, and the more others seem to be getting ahead!

What is the solution to this?  Focus on your own progress, compete with yourself, and relax.  Traveling at your own speed works out for the best, and you will actually progress faster in the end.

photo credit: Evalia England via photopin cc


2012 in Review: A Year in the Life of a Fiddler

ImageIt’s hard to believe that another year has passed, and what a year it has been!

The highlight for me this year was being recognized as Classical Artist of the Year by Music NB.  I was shocked that I won the award, but delighted at the same time!  I figured this would be a good time to look back at my goals for the year and let you know how I did…

Goal #1:  Improving my health.  This goal is going really well!  I have become completely obsessed with food, and have been spending more time in the kitchen, and a lot more time chopping veggies!  I have lost 20lbs this year, which brings me to a total loss of 60lbs over the past 3 years.  Honestly, those weren’t the numbers I was hoping for, but I will take them!  I am really proud of myself for maintaining and continuing to loose weight over 3 years.

Goal #2:  Perform the cello in public.  I have now done my first professional gig on the cello.  I played solo cello for a wedding in October.  I was absolutely terrified, but it was a great experience, and now the next time won’t be so scary!

Goal #3:  Give back to my community more.  I still feel the need to work on this more.  I have been taking some of my groups around to perform in hospitals and retirement homes on a volunteer basis, but will be looking for more ideas for 2013.

Goal #4:  Be more proactive in my business.  Things are going really well with my business.  I have redesigned my website, gotten my in-box under control, blogged twice a month, sent out newsletters twice a month, been more active on facebook and twitter, have joined a couple of on-line fiddle forums, have been updating my records every month, and in general, just feel like I am more organized than ever before.  I still have days when I feel completely overwhelmed and that I will never get everything done, but in general I am please with how things are going!

Goal #5:  Record and release a CD of Christmas music.  This project has been tabled for right now as I don’t think it should be my focus at this time.  Perhaps you will see this goal pop up again next year!

Goal #6:  Start a series on intimate concerts in the style of house concerts.  Success!  I held a total of 6 concerts in my studio this year.  I went through a little period of doubt in the summer and was considering tabling the whole plan, but got back into it and had two great concerts in the fall.  I will definitely be continuing with this next year.

Now it is time to look ahead to the  New Year and decide where to go next!


CDs of 2012

Now that we are into December and nearing the end of the year, many publications are coming up with lists of “The Best of 2012.”  I am going to join in with my own list of CDs.  These are all excellent CDs that I am come in contact with through the year, some from groups that I had heard before, and some from groups that were new to me.  Some CDs were released in past years and some were just released this year.  I hope you have a chance to check out the music from some of these groups.

654367029985_cover.170x170-75 1.  Sprag Session – Sprag Session formerly known as the Colin Grant Band

This is a great band out of Cape Breton with front man and fiddler Colin Grant.  I first heard them at the EMCAs in Charlottetown in 2011 and again at the NB Highland Games in Fredericton that same year, where they were a huge hit.  This is their first CD as a band.  This is a great CD.  Be sure to check these guys out live if you ever have the chance as they are even better in person!

1-panel-outside-test2.     Ten Strings and a Goat Skin – Tri

This trio of young men from PEI mix traditional fiddle, guitar, bodhran and song with original songs and tunes.  I heard them first at the ECMAs in Moncton this year.  They too were a huge hit at the NB Highland Games in Fredericton this year.  They have grown beyond their debut CD and I believe are in the process of recording a second CD.  Keep your eyes and ears open for these young men!

CDCU04-150x150-23.  Rubicon – Live in P Major and Mary Mac

This band from Ireland has just released their third CD Mary Mac. I have not heard it yet, but I know their second album Live in P Major is excellent.  Francine has a wonderful voice combined with the fabulous fiddle of Dolcie, the great guitar of Ciaran and the amazing accordion/midi of Haensel.  This group performed at the NB Highland Games in 2012 to great acclaim.  Everyone fell in love with the band.

image_3346058.JPG4.  Mason’s Tender – Mason’s Tender

Fronted by Bryon Chase, this band has become a staple at festivals and pubs around NB such at the Miramichi Irish Festival , NB Highland Games, O’Donaghue’s Pub (Miramichi, NB), and the Old Triangle Pub (Moncton, NB).  This is their debut CD as a band and has a strong Celtic/country feel to it.

5.  Stacey Read – Not Forgotten

Stacey has been one of my favourite fiddlers since I first hear her perform with the band Banshee many years ago.  We have since worked together on several occasions and I continue to love her Old Tyme style of fiddling.   Stacey currently plays fiddle with Mason’s Tender.

If you have any suggestions for music well worth listening to, please let me know by replying below!

Tips & Tricks: Know when to walk away…

ImageYou have been practicing really hard, you have been making progress, and now things seem to be getting worse instead of better.  It feels like nothing is working and like you have completely forgotten how to play the violin/fiddle.  I am sure that we have all been there!  So, on a day like that, what do you do?

1.  Don’t panic and don’t beat yourself up!  This happens to professional musicians as well, so it is nothing to worry about, but is incredibly frustrating!

2.  Slow the passage down to see if you can play it slowly.  Sometimes if I can prove to myself that I can play the passage slowly, I am able to speed it up again.

3.  If that doesn’t work, try to play something else.  Something familiar, something that you enjoy and can play well.  I like to do this just to see if I can break whatever pattern is occurring.  I sometimes do this in lessons with my students as well if they are having trouble with a passage on a given day.

4.  If you really can’t seem to get beyond the frustration, step away from the violin and come back to it later.  At this point it is good to do something unrelated to music.  Go for a walk, read a book, or do something that will relax you.  Once you hit a certain point with frustration, you can actually just be compounding the problem by continuing on.  Sometimes I return to the passage later that day, sometimes I wait until the next day.

I don’t have a good reason for why this happens, but I do still days like this at times!  I hope that you don’t experience this too often, but remember when you do, that you are not alone, and it will get better!

If you have any good suggestions for how to beat these days, please leave a reply below.

photo credit: thecrazyfilmgirl via photopin cc