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Mastering Speed on the Fiddle: Tips and Strategies for Progress and Patience

This past week, one of my adult students, who has been playing fiddle for a few years now, told me that she feels frustrated because whenever she tries to go faster everything kind of falls apart. I think that all of my adult students relate to this frustration.

Let’s start with the bad news: playing for a few years sounds like a long time, but honestly, this is going to take many, many years. They say that it takes 10,000 hours to develop true mastery of any skill, including playing an instrument. Let’s imagine that you practice for an hour every day, 365 days of the year. To reach 10,000 hours, it would take almost 27.5 years!

Now, please don’t get discouraged! We don’t all need to reach mastery. I believe that playing an instrument is about having fun and sharing music with others.

Building speed and maintaining control can be challenging, but with consistent practice and the right approach, progress is achievable. Here are some tips to help improve speed and overcome frustrations:

Use your metronome

As you know, I love my metronome. Start slowly, speed up gradually, and don’t be afraid to go back to a slower speed if you need to. Don’t be afraid to push yourself every now and then too! I like to write my speed at the top of the page so I know how far I have gotten.

Record yourself periodically

Sometimes, it’s hard to notice you’re getting faster from day to day just by listening in the moment. That’s where recordings come in handy! They act as a reference point, allowing you to hear your progress over time. By giving yourself the chance to listen back to your recordings, you can spot areas where you’ve gotten faster and identify specific sections that still need some work. It’s like having your own personal instructor, providing valuable insights and keeping you motivated on your fiddle journey!

Change up the rhythm

If you are struggling to play a piece that has an even rhythm, change it up! Play the piece with a long-short rhythm all the way through, and do that a couple of times. Once you feel comfortable with that, flip it around and play a short-long rhythm all the way through. Do this a few times until you are comfortable. Then go back to playing it the regular way.

Play with others

Getting out of your practice room and playing with others is a great way to push yourself faster. It provides an opportunity to adjust to different tempos and accompany other musicians, helping you develop your speed and coordination.

Review your progress

Look back at the metronome speeds that you have been writing down, and listen to your earlier recordings. Taking some time to reflect allows you to appreciate the progress you’ve made and motivates you to continue striving for improvement.

Celebrate your wins

Maybe you are not as far along as you want to be, but celebrate how far you have come. We get focused on what we can’t do sometimes instead of focusing on what we can do.

Don’t quit

Sometimes when I am teaching I see people putting their violins down when a tune gets too fast. Instead of putting your violin down, just focus on getting a phrase each time. Sure, you are not getting the whole piece to the speed you want, but if you get a few notes this time, and then a few notes next time, at some point you will be able to play the whole tune!

While it may take some time to reach the desired level of speed and technical proficiency on the fiddle, it’s crucial to remember that the true essence of playing this instrument lies in the joy and fulfillment it brings to our musical journey. Embracing the process, exercising patience with ourselves, and finding delight in the continuous growth and development of our skills is key.

Through dedication, perseverance, and maintaining a positive mindset, we can overcome any frustrations that come our way and discover the rich rewards of playing music at our own pace. Let’s stay committed to regular practice, keep playing with passion, and never lose sight of the absolute beauty that arises from creating fiddle music.

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