I have recently started teaching a group of adults to fiddle. One of my students came to me ready to quit after 3 lessons. This raised the question in my mind of what it takes to learn the fiddle. I think in some ways it is harder for an adult to learn to fiddle because you can understand so much and you are used to being able to do things well. Adults want to be able to play right away (and something more complicated than “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”) whereas most kids are excited to be making sound at all.
My student and I talked about why he should continue learning. This brought me to the realization of the three P’s of Learning the Fiddle: Patience, Practice and Persistence.
- Patience: You will not be able to leave your first lesson playing fiddle tunes well. It takes time and patience to learn. I often have adult students wanting to quit shortly after they begin because it is hard to have the patience to get through the initial learning process to get to a point when you can play a fiddle tune that really sounds like something. As I tell my students “If you could do this easily right away, you wouldn’t need to take lessons!”
- Practice: In order to learn the fiddle you have to repeat the exercises over again many times! The best plan is to practice every day. At the beginning, it will just be for very short periods of time, but the more often you play, the more quickly you will progress. Also, don’t ignore the initial exercises while trying to jump ahead to learning fiddle tunes. Keep working on the basics along the way!
- Persistence: I often run into students who panic at the first squeak that they make. As soon as they hear a note that does not sound right, they ask me what is wrong. It is good to try to figure out what is going on, but at times what you need to do is just try it again. You need the persistence to go back and work on getting better even when your playing does not sound very good.
So keep on working, be patient, practice as often as you can, and to be persistent!