Am I Normal? The Question all Fiddle Students Ask

small__3534516458Recently I have been asked the same question several times.  “Do others of your students have this same problem?”  “Is my child learning at a normal speed?”  This is fascinating!  These are students of all ages, so this seems that we don’t grow out of this concern as we grow older.

Many times I have taught students who struggle in their first year of lessons, but who flourish later on.   I have been running a string program at an elementary school for the past three years.  It is great to see that some of the kids who were having difficulty in the first year are now some of the stronger students.  It is great to see their confidence growing as time has gone on.

I try in my lessons to encourage students to improve without worrying about where they are compared to others.  In the end it does not matter whether or not other students have the same problems.  What matters is where you have are having difficulty and how we can fix it!  You need to keep improving and moving forward.

I am not immune to this issue myself and am always comparing myself to other violinists, fiddlers and professional musicians.  At times I feel like my career is moving very slowly compared to some other people.  In the end, I always find that it is best for me to travel at my own speed.  When I think of all that I have accomplished, my career is moving along quite well.

My hope for all us (me included) is that we can concentrate on ourselves, and continue learning and improving.

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Tips & Tricks: Overcoming The Dreaded Plateau

progressRecently a student of mine was getting very frustrated because she was working really hard, practicing regularly, and felt that she was not improving.  I have been through this many times over the past 20 years.  We all think that progress should be a smooth curve, like the image I have included here.  It is not!

In reality, even though you are practicing regularly, there will be times when you won’t feel like you are progressing at all!  There will then be times when you will feel like your playing has improved immensely over night.  The plateau periods are incredibly frustrating and make you feel like you might as well quit trying, but over time, it will all pay off!

So, once you hit a plateau period, what should you do?  The big thing is not to quit trying, but to persevere.  I will often change my practice routine.  I honestly don’t know that it helps break the plateau any faster, but it does help your morale!

Something else you should know is that I still experience plateaus at this point in my career.  I still practice and am still aiming to improve.  I also still experience the moments that seem like sudden improvement.  So, when you run into a plateau, don’t get discouraged and keep on working!

Please leave a comment if you have a great way to break the dreaded plateau!

Hope for the Future: What I Learn from my Fiddle Students

small__390966934Today while I was teaching I started thinking about the future, and in particular, my future.  I began thinking about this as I was teaching a new beginning student, a man 80 years of age.  I teach students of all ages (today my youngest student was 4, and you have already met my oldest) and I enjoy them all for so many reasons.

In the past week I have had 8 new students join my studio, one 78 years old and another 80 years old.  My two elderly students got me thinking about what I might be doing when I am that age, and what I hope to be doing.  They are both charming, entertaining people who are not even sure that they should be coming to me for lessons, but wanted to try it out anyway.

They say that starting new things is a good way to maintain your brain activity and to develop new connections.  I hope that I too will be trying out new things, and wonder what they will be.  Will I start learning all the languages that I have been planning on learning?  Will I take up some sort of sport?  Will I continue learning new instruments?  Will I be travelling?  Maybe walking the Camino in Spain?

I hope to age gracefully, to still be out an about and to be as cheerful and charming as my two new students!

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you hope to be doing!

photo credit: JoePhilipson via photopin cc

Tips & Tricks: 4 Steps to Memorizing Fiddle Tunes

small__3462594915Memorization has been a hot topic recently on music blogs.  I love playing music from memory!  I feel more confident, prepared, and also feel more freedom if I am not having to read sheet music.  Having said that, the situation is key.  By this I mean that I usually perform solo repertoire and fiddle tunes from memory and chamber or orchestral repertoire from sheet music.  In the world of fiddle music, hardly anyone uses sheet music, so let’s get to the task of memorizing!

Here are 4 tips to help you along the way:

  1. Listen to a recording of the tune if you can and sing it back to yourself.  I find that unless I can hum a fiddle tune, I will not be able to memorize it.
  2. Know the format of the tune.  In fiddle tunes there are many parts that repeat.  Usually there is an “A” part that is played twice and then a “B” part that is played twice.  Even within these parts there are usually phrases that repeat, so look for these and know when they happen.
  3. Play the tune many, many, many times!  If I am trying to memorize I will play the tune once with the sheet music and then try it from memory, play from the sheet music, try it from memory…
  4. Set small goals.  Don’t set out to memorize a whole fiddle tune in one day.  Maybe just try to get the first half of it, maybe just the first 4 bars, maybe just one pattern.

I hope that these tips help you!  Please leave me a comment if you have any tips on how you memorize music!

photo credit: Marcos Molina (laro) via photopin cc