teaching students who are accustomed to fiddle

Amy said: May 14, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
50 posts

I recently moved to an area where relax after work by playing bluegrass with family and friends is a tradition that is still live and well. Overall, I think this is amazing, but it definitely presents some challenges I’ve never before faced. Since old-time fiddlers don’t vibrate and rarely get out of first position, they commonly let the neck of the fiddle rest on the left wrist. My students have spent their whole lives observing fiddle players (including their parents) and most can’t fathom why anyone would ever want to be able to do cool things like vibrate or play in higher positions. Because their experience indicates that left-hand balance is inconsequential, training the left hand has been a special challenge for me.

In my mind, it’s very clear that classical training can help my students become better fiddlers, but so far I haven’t convinced any of my students of this. Any ideas about how to make the most of this amazing musical culture in which I find myself and also overcome the musical-cultural challenges?


Eleanor Bennett said: May 15, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Villa Rica, GA
62 posts

Teach the 4th finger trill. They have to have a straight wrist for that

Eleanor Bennett

Aurora Adamson said: May 15, 2013
Aurora Adamson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Saint Cloud, MN
6 posts

Many excellent fiddlers have good left hand positions. Maybe introducing them to videos of high-profile fiddlers and pointing out technique could help build interest? Natalie MacMaster, Brittany Haas, Darol Anger, Alasdair Frasier, those are some names that pop to mind who definitely have enough posture and technique to get around the fingerboard.

Karen said: May 16, 2013
Karen Walls
Suzuki Association Member
Indianapolis, IN
15 posts

Hi Amy,
I recently came across a 106 page paperback book (magazine excerpts) I found at the library that I’ve had checked out for weeks now. It’s called “Fiddle Traditions: a music sampler from the pages of Strings magazine”.

The first excerpt is written by Donna Hebert titled ‘Twelve Questions Violinists ask about Fiddling’. It is so insightful and would give you some good perspective on what you’re doing.

The 2nd excerpt is by Pat Talbert: ‘Bridging the Gap Between Classical and Traditional Music’. That one helped me see that both genres have their worth in their world and it is, indeed, difficult for the classically trained to get the technique of the fiddler, and vice versa.

James Reel wrote one titled “Birds of a Feather: Bluegreass and classical string styles are closer then you may think. Very helpful.

Perhaps you can find this near you. I found it in the fiddling section at my library. It has a sticker ‘Nov. 2011′ that covers the binding of the magazine, so not sure if that’s when the library got it. Inside date of the book is 2007 by String Letter Publishing. It also give a website: www.halleonard.com.

Hope this helps!

Karen Walls
Indianapolis Suzuki Academy
Instructor of Violin

Amy said: May 16, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
50 posts

Thank you all for your great suggestions for how to further familiarize myself with the music my students and their families know and love, as well as overcoming the left-hand struggles. We’ll get there, it’s just a different kind of challenge than I’m used to.
Amy B

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