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Suggestions for a "newbie"

Country Fiddler

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Tomorrow, I'm on my way to purchase a violin to learn how to play.

I'm not so much into Orchestral or Classical music. Rather, I love bluegrass and country music fiddlin'


Realistically...how long am I looking at lesson-wise before I could expect to comfortably play "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"..."Orange Blossom Special"..."Rocky Top"...and other such similar tunes???

Also, is it possible to be self-taught from books...or is nearly impossible to ever become very accomplished WITHOUT taking lessons?

How difficult is it to learn how to play the violin? I've heard it's one of the most difficult instruments to play. True?

What is MOST I should pay starting out for a "starter" violin/case/bow set?

[This message has been edited by Country Fiddler (edited 10-21-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Country Fiddler (edited 10-21-2000).]

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I can't give you any information on how much you should pay for a fiddle as I am a person who believes the best values are to be found in junk stores and pawn shops. I paid $50 for mine. If you can't afford lessons then I suggest you pick up a video or two. You learn so much more from being able to watch someone. There are a number of them out there, even Natalie MacMaster has one out. The Mel Bay books are great so I imagine the video is as well. Good luck!

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You should be able to get a complete and adequate starter outfit on eBay for south of a hundred bucks.

When it arrives, say, "let's get aquainted".

Once tuned, starting on the open G string, start playing (with separate and full bow strokes), do, re, mi, fa. When you get to sol, you have no fingers left so see how closely this pinkie note matches the next open (D) string. Notice that when you end at the last "do" on the D string (third finger) it's the same note as the open G that you started with, just an octave higher.That's the beginning of understanding the relationship between the four strings Before you even begin taking lessons.

Repeat this until perfected and then do it again starting on the next string.

This will at least get you started in familiarizing you with your new instrument.

Good luck.


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I think it's fine to teach oneself, in fact I taught myself to play! You must however, go into this process realistically, It will take a LOT of work and dedication to even start making the notes sound decent! I suggest getting a beginners video, videos and recordings are invaluable to a fiddler, I tend to shy away from sheet music if at all possible, but sometimes sheet music is the only source for some of the more obscure tunes.

As far as price goes, My fiddle cost me $60 at the pawn shop, and it does well for me! A first fiddle need not be top of the line just something to get you started, You would probabally sound much better much quicker on a better instrument, but better does not necessarily mean $500-1000!!

The most important thing is #1 Don't get discouraged!! #2 Practice as much as is humanly possible! and #3 HAVE FUN


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Being a "newbie" myself I might be able to help a bit. I still don't have a teacher, if you want to know why read the thread "not built for a violin". I have been teaching myself, but I do know how to read music and play other instruments. The key is to practice, I probably average almost two hours a day spread out amoungst three different times of day. It took about two weeks before my family didn't all leave the room and actually complimented me.

I found Public Television to be an invaluable tool to learn about technique.

Good luck!


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Just to give the other side, there has been quite a bit of advice on this board to the effect that a teacher can be an invaluable help when you're starting, and can significantly reduce the time it takes to get really proficient--provided you find the right one (a musical approach and level of intensity you respond to, knowledgable about the styles you want to play, etc.). In my own case, I took a couple of years of lessons from a classical teacher, even though I was most interested in folk, bluegrass, and Celtic styles ultimately, and I think it did a lot of good. Virtually all of the basics you have to learn early on can be learned in almost any style, and classical stance, technique, etc. is useable in most styles. Violin is among the most physically challenging instruments, with many things happening at once and interlocking skills to develop all at the same time, so even a few lessons with a teacher can get you on the right track (and more importantly, avoid a lot of habits you'll need to unlearn later) with regard to the physical challenges. Just adjusting the physical aspects of holding and manipulating the fiddle and bow is a challenge. Videos can be good in showing you models of good posture, figure position, bow attack, etc., but it can be very difficult to assess the accuracy of your efforts to match the video instructor's example. It's much easier for an experienced teacher to help you make those adjustments and establish good habits early on.

Playing fiddle seems in some ways a lot like playing golf (an illness I have avoided so far), in that each is an almost perfect illustration of the principle of intermittent reinforcement. In both, you're trying to do about 30 physical things at once, and most of the time they don't all come together, but every so often...wow. Good luck, and have fun.

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