How do I know when I’m practicing right?

Home Forums Fiddle Lesson Forum Fiddling Techniques and Playing Advice How do I know when I’m practicing right?

Viewing 2 reply threads
  • Author
    • #29706

      Awesome to see a new instructor! Definitely wonderful

      Something I’d like to ask in regards to practicing and solidifying skills: how do I know when I’m doing it right? Meaning – I see expert players demonstrating the different techniques and how to practice them. So because I know its not something I can replicate instantly, and understand that it’ll take time to learn to do well, I worry that instead of practicing so that it gets better, I’m actually practicing in a way that makes it worse
      From a complete beginner level, is there a way to base my progress on certain milestones maybe?

      Been playing for about 3 years. I have a lot left to learn, and I’m excited for it! 😀

    • #29707
      Casey Willis

      Hi, Lightningie.

      Good question. You’re thinking about the right things.

      I would say that when it comes to specific techniques, you should consider using a metronome with whatever skill on which you are working. Listen or watch what you are doing with a critical eye and ear as you work. If you find that you are making mistakes (even minor ones), or you tone/intonation/timing starts to drop off, back off the speed at which you are practicing. You are absolutely right that if you practice something wrong, you simply solidify that issue going forward.

      Kevin Burke has some interesting thoughts from a different perspective related to being able to play Irish tunes up to speed here. I fully appreciate his thoughts and think they are valid. Plus, Kevin is hilarious, so that’s reason enough to hear what he says. But I’ve always taken the approach of starting slow and incrementally working up to my target tempo.

      One rule of thumb that was drilled into me when I was learning the fiddle as a child is that our brains seem to record an event when we mess something up, whether that is a wrong note, an incorrect bowing, a shaky passage, etc. Then, the next time we get to that point in the tune, our brain has a little “Y” in the mental road…it remembers the missed note or bowing coming up, and more likely than not, the mistake will happen again. The way to fix this is stop playing immediately whenever you notice that you missed a note, bowing, ornamentation, lick, whatever. Then, play that section 3 times correctly before you allow yourself to move on. Now, this can create some pretty frustrating practice sessions, so if you feel like this approach is not working, it’s not something you should get into a time loop over or anything. Maybe just back off your tempo and try again. Or better yet, put your fiddle down and walk away for an hour.

      2 twenty minute practice sessions a day will result in way more progress than practicing for an hour a day, every day. Or 2 hour-long sessions is a much better practice plan than playing all afternoon. You get the idea.

      Also, I wanted to let you know that in her next recording session (possibly February 2022), Megan Lynch Chowning will be recording a series specifically designed for beginner players. She’s currently brainstorming what this series will look like, but I suspect it will be very helpful for folks in your shoes. Right now, we have a ton of tunes to learn on this website and also a bunch of specific technique lessons to dive into, but these are all self-directed kinds of lessons and there isn’t any specific sequence of lessons to follow. I envision Megan’s upcoming series as a more prescriptive and beginner-geared series of 20 or so videos which will allow you to follow a sequence of lessons and basic tunes which build your skills over time.

      Hopefully those thoughts are helpful! Keep up the good work!


    • #29708

      Wow, thank you for all this! This is wonderful.

      Good advice for sure, thank you. I will definitely try to get my metronome out more and put it to good use. I’ve had issues trying to use it before – as in it just feels like I’ve been doing it just to do it, rather than actually benefiting from it. I will have to experiment with it a bit more and see what works and what doesn’t. I’ve seen topics about this around the site before, so I’ll for sure have to go take a visit to those again.

      I will certainly be on the lookout for those lessons in the future. Sounds super helpful and interesting!

Viewing 2 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.