Skip to Content

Embracing the Ups and Downs of Musical Progress: Lessons from a Fiddler

Ever had those moments when you grab your fiddle (or dive into your favourite activity) and feel like you’re hitting a wall? I’ve been there, and lately, quite a few of my students have shared similar frustrations with me.

There are a couple of things at play here. First off, when we’re performing or practicing in front of others, it’s natural to feel a bit more jittery than when we’re jamming out solo at home. That’s why I’m all about getting out there and performing regularly—it helps us get comfy with those nerves and grow from them.

But here’s the real deal I want to chat about: the ebb and flow of musical performance. Most days, I’m feeling pretty good about my playing. Some days, though, it’s like I’m just hitting bum notes left and right. Then there are those magical days when everything just clicks, even in the middle of a live gig! Ever had one of those? They’re what makes pushing through the tough times worth it.

Lately, I’ve been hammering home to my students that everyone—no matter how seasoned—has their ups and downs. We all have those days where everything just feels off. But the cool thing is, the more we put in the work and hone our skills, the higher our ‘good days’ soar and the less our ‘bad days’ sink.

Let me paint you a picture. I’ve got this one student who’s been at it for a few years now. They’re always admiring my playing, hoping to hit that level someday. They watch me breeze through pieces they’ve been struggling with and wish they could do the same, even when I’m having an off day.

And then there’s Hilary Hahn, a total legend in the classical music world. Even she has days where her playing isn’t up to her usual standards. Me? I’m aiming to match her skill, even on her trickiest days. It’s a reminder that every musician, no matter how seasoned, wrestles with the ups and downs of performance.

So, what do you do when you’re in the thick of a ‘useless’ day? Well, here’s my playbook:

  1. Sometimes I just pick up my fiddle and play for the pure joy of it, forgetting about improvement for a moment.
  2. Other times, I push through the frustration, knowing that every little bit of practice counts, even on the toughest days.
  3. And hey, sometimes I just set my instrument aside and treat myself to a calming cup of tea.

See, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s all about tuning into what feels right for you in the moment.

Remember, the journey of musical growth—like life itself—is full of twists and turns. Embrace the highs and lows, and above all, keep on having fun along the way.

Back to top