Wednesday, June 3, 2009

grab some rosin

Checking in and checking up on all you new fiddlers out there! Did everyone get a hold of the book and a violin? It looked that way in all your comments. I did a quick internet search and saw some folks already posted some videos! I hope those of you brand new to the music wold have found a local music store to help you if needed. Also, those of you still doubting you can play Old Joe Clark by July, well, watch and see. America's squawking today, wonderfully so!

Soon as everyone's ready to go we'll go over the strings and talk a little about starting out as a beginner. Right now you should be reading the intro sections of Wayne's book and getting aquatinted with Old Time music. If you can listen to the CD on your drive to work, it'll help immensely. Start filling your heads with fiddle sounds, new players. Trust me, it'll help down the road to already know what your tunes should sound like.


Anonymous Misty said...

My fiddle arrived yesterday. My book arrived over the weekend so I read through it...along with "Made From Scratch", which I thoroughly enjoyed! Thank you for such a great book.

My tuner, strings and rosin are on back order...the tuner is holding up the works. DH can probably tune it for me, he picked up the fiddle last night and played a squeaky rendition of Twinkle Twinkle...I could barley play the scale in the book. I don't know if I am tone deaf or what but I can't even plunk out nursery rhyme tune on a piano. I played flute for over 7 years and I can't play anything beyond Hot Cross Buns without sheet music in front of me. Then I can't play sheet music without having heard the song :)

I started a blog to chronicle my adventure. A writer I am not, but for the sake of the challenge and my other summer goals I will keep track of my progress.

June 3, 2009 at 6:33 AM  
Blogger Knittymama said...

What great timing!!

I recently listened to an interview with you on Craftsanity. I was excited to come read about your sheep, and then found the fiddling bonus on your blog!

I'm a music teacher and a classically trained (and lapsed)bassoonist. My plans for the summer are to not only finally get some fiddle skills but to also teach them to my 6 year old and a handful of his friends. I'm so excited to have your blog as some inspiration. Count me in!

June 3, 2009 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Got the fiddle, still waiting on the book. Hoping it will arrive any day. I am somewhat surprised by how fragile the fiddle seems. I always thought it would be a bit more substantial.

June 3, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

My fiddle and book are here. We have an electronic tuner, and my husband tuned it for me. I asked him to show me how to use the thing, and well, I just don't think he could resist. :) While Misty's DH was playing Twinkle Twinkle, mine was plucking out Smoke On the Water - HA!

Anyway, I'm good to go. I'll post updates when applicable (and video/audio eventually) to my blog, here:

June 3, 2009 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Nire said...

My fiddle and book are here! :D And because I'm an impatient little sod, I've worked my way up to the Improvising page. I can't wait to ~officially~ get started.

June 3, 2009 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

I got my book! And I've had my violin since 4th grade so all set on that. Stings are good, rosin I have, and I already know how to tune it without a tuner. So I'm ready to start!!

Sharpsville, PA

June 3, 2009 at 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Nikki and Lonny said...

Still need to get a lesson on stringing, tuning etc.
Yesterday I found the location of a likely source of such lessons, but as so often happens when you live in the sticks, it's an hour away, and in a different direction than all the other hour-away places we need to visit. (Everything, almost, is an hour or more away from here).

June 3, 2009 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Woohoo! This has lit a fire under my husband (a long time bass player) to pick up acoustic guitar so he can accompany me. He's always played rock, reggae, R&B, etc. but I have a goal now. I know it's really Old Time, but I will be VERY happy when I can play "Jambalaya" and he can accompany. It's near and dear to us, and also more "our neck of the woods" sort of music.

So does anyone else have a particular song that they're itching to play?

June 3, 2009 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Oops, that should have said "really NOT old time" (but rather Cajun/Zydeco/Country).

June 3, 2009 at 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Misty said...

Tara that is awesome! My son loves Smoke On The Water...I'll have to DH try that one. My 4 year old is completely over the top for this fiddle thing, he is a huge John Denver fan so he thinks this is beyond awesome. I may have to buy him a little violin. He is all but vibrating with excitement, he asked me to play videos of "that cool fiddle music" on youtube.

June 3, 2009 at 10:08 AM  
OpenID lisazahnwrites said...

What a great project you've all taken on! I'm just checking in today and hadn't read of this yet. Go for it! I can't wait to read all of your updates.

While you're plucking away at your fiddles, I'll be inspired to pick up my banjo again. It got played a lot in the long winter months, but I have left it rather lonely in the corner for a while now. We've got the MN Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival coming up in August, and I seriously need to learn more than two tunes for that!

And p.s., if any of you are near Minnesota, this is the 30th year of our bluegrass/old time festival and it is some serious fun! 5-6000 people jammin' away all over the beautiful campgrounds, a main stage of great bands, a dance stage and lots and lots of workshops for newbies. Very inspiring! Just google Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival for info.

June 3, 2009 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tara, I'm itching to play Ashokan Farewell...that song from the Ken Burns Civil War documentary. It will be awhile though!

All my things have arrived but I suspect the rosin that came with the fiddle is not very good. Not seeing any white powder. So I'll be going to the music store to get some good stuff. May spring for better strings too. Took the fiddle to the same store on Monday to get an initial tuning. Also bought a pitch pipe to go with the electronic tuner.

Okay so I'm trying to play the scale but I can't keep the bow on just one string at a time! It keeps overlapping to another string. Any suggestions?

June 3, 2009 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

I've read through the book and I'm working on the D scale. First four notes I can handle but the switch to the A string is giving me trouble. One thing that surprised me is how loud the instrument can be. I had no idea.

I added "Songcatcher" to my Netflix queue so I can get inspired!

June 3, 2009 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nancy, My better quality rosin (Jade) leaves much less white dust than the super sensitive that I was using. This not only means less rosin to clean off the violin at the end of practice but much better for my allergies. Also, beware of using too much rosin like my daughter sometimes does. Our violin teacher's rule of thumb is 5 entire bow lenghth strokes with the rosin per day.


June 3, 2009 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger n.g.74 said...

Is it too late to join? I have the book coming soon. Still looking for a violin. Is everyone just blindly purchasing one online? Would love to take part.

June 3, 2009 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger MrsL said...

I just had a look for Ashokan farewell (thanks Nancy!), and found a lovely Youtube with very moving photos of the Civil War; I've heard the tune before. By the end of the challenge, I want to be playing that, plus the music I have on my own blog, Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing. Best get going, then..........:)



June 3, 2009 at 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Sherr said...

Hey, that's ME on the video! HAHAHAH.... I think my Week Two video is much nicer...

You can learn more about all my homesteading and graphic arts and bluegrass music and all that at my blog...


June 3, 2009 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

I am still waiting on my book ordered the same day I signed up for the challenge! :(

I have been playing around with my fiddle though and getting reaquainted with her.

June 3, 2009 at 2:03 PM  
Anonymous kandy Gray said...

good luck everyone!

kandy from canada

June 3, 2009 at 3:55 PM  
OpenID belfountain said...

I'm still waiting on the book, although seeing as it's being shipped ground mail and I'm in Canada, it could be next week before I see it (come on, great postal system, don't let me down!). Meanwhile, I'm trying to get to know the notes on each string and scales and such, and working on my posture (and does it ever need the work!)...

June 3, 2009 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger White Feather said...

We had a violin in the house -daughter played when she was a teen-she didn't tell me the bow was broken:-( I discovered that while checking it out with my new book that had arrived. Anyhow, it was beyond repair and I'm waiting for a new one, which could take a week or TWO! Dang! Anyhow, I got a fancy tuner (they didn't have any cheap ones in the local store) and I'm having trouble understanding how to use it. I can probably get my son to help me. I don't trust my ear with the pitch pipe.

I really love the Akoshan Farewell, also. My husband has watched the complete Civil War series at least 3 times and we both loved the song. It's beyond my expectations that I'd ever be good enough to play it, but I would love that.

I'm off with husband for a few days while he recovers from some minor surgery, so I expect to at least learn how to tune the thing and familiarize myself with the music on the CD. Don't wait for me to get my bow--carry on and I'll catch up when I can. I nearly always do what I say I will do. I'm excited about this one!

June 3, 2009 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger Alicia said...


What programs can I use to record myself playing the fiddle? I want to add what I can to my blog. I do not have a webcam, so I can not tape and upload to YouTube.

June 3, 2009 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Heathers T and E said...

Got my fiddle and the book. Just waiting on a tuner, but alledgedly my violin was sent tuned and ready to go. I wouldn't know.

June 3, 2009 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Mine arrived yesterday and I picked up a tuner today. Last night I learned you have to "rough up" the rosin, and tonight I'm learning how to tune. The tuning is tricky, but it looks like I'm close. Will read more of the book tonight and listen to some of the CD.

June 3, 2009 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

This is for Nancy, and anyone else having a hard time playing each string individually. I was having that problem too, and found this:

Pay special attention to the movements of the upper arm he describes here.

June 3, 2009 at 10:55 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tara, thanks for the link. I'll definitely check it out.

Kristin, how do you rough up the rosin? Mine is just this hard lump. Its hard to tell anything is getting on the bow.

June 3, 2009 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Nancy, I found something on the internet that said it needed to be roughened up first, and some people use the screw of the bow to do this. That's what I did. I just rubbed the screw lightly against the rosin, and it got a little flaky/dusty on top. I think she also said a light rub with sandpaper works well too.

I still wasn't sure I was doing it right, but it seemed to be doing "something." I tested it by sliding the bow over the strings and it made the appropriate sound instead of just a dull sliding-around sound.

June 3, 2009 at 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My book came Monday; the violin has shipped and should be here sometime next week. Can't wait!

June 3, 2009 at 11:32 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I tried to tune my fiddle last night and broke the E string! I couldn't keep the pegs from slipping when tuning! Anyone have any ideas on this? I'm trying to find a music store that can help me, I don't know how to change a string. Can't wait to learn how to play!

June 4, 2009 at 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Emily said...

Got my Grandpop's fiddle and Wayne's book. I'm ready to rock this Summer Challenge. (I second the goal to eventually learn Ashokan Farewell.)

June 4, 2009 at 8:50 AM  
OpenID lisazahnwrites said...

@Carrie--I broke a string tuning my banjo once too. The longer between tunings, the more out of tune it gets, the easier that is. I don't really know what I'm doing, so if I have to do more than just a little tweaking to tune, I go too far one way or the other. That one time I went way too far in one direction, turning those thingies, and boing! the string now if I haven't played in a while, I ask my wonderful musician husband who knows what he's doing to tune it. That's like cheating, I know...I should make him teach me a little more about tuning and which way you turn for what, etc. Understanding the concept is probably how you avoid breaking strings.

I am having so much fun reading all your comments! I just love the images in my head of y'all sitting around learning to play the fiddle. Too bad I chose banjo and not fiddle...

June 4, 2009 at 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Cypress said...

My book has not arrived yet and I have not bought new strings yet either. I'm a few steps behind!! Thought it would take a bit more time for everyone to bid, win, and receive fiddles through ebay, so I've been dawdling...I'll get on the ball here and catch up.

June 4, 2009 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger k10 said...

I have the book! Now I'm just waiting for the fiddle! It should be here by thursday of next week! But I'm reading the book in the mean time :)

June 4, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger spinyurchin said...

Hey belfountain, I'm waiting for my book to come across the border too! Things always get held up at customs. Don't they know we have a Fiddlin' Summer?

June 4, 2009 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Having not yet gotten my book and yet being excited to start, I've been poking around the internet. There is an astounding piece I found on Youtube:
Also, since I'm impatient, I found this page that helped me:
It's a violin owners manual - basic care, tuning, etc.
I'm not sure what's covered in the book, but this seems to be some good info for those of us still waiting.

June 4, 2009 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Got the fiddle on Monday, with the book...4th of July huh???? Neighbors Beagles are howling like crazy...are u sure by the 4th of this year or next year. Ida Red, Ida Red.....:))) Kids are wondering why it is soooo loud....They might shove me in the closet.

June 4, 2009 at 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Leigh said...

To help everyone like myself without books yet- I'm a school librarian, and typically publishers print only so many copies of books based on predicted sales. With more people than usual ordering copies, there may be a slight delay as the jobbers (Amazon) and publisher (Native Ground Books & Music) catch up.

Also- I love the YouTube videos everyone has been sharing. I am going to save links to all the videos you post here over on my blog for my own use and reference for now. You are all welcome to visit and view if you like. A clearinghouse of sorts until something else comes along... :)
If you are having a hard time with tuning, I used a piano. It was much easier for me to hear the proper note.

Because I don't have the book to practice, I downloaded some fiddling and non-fiddling songs on my laptop, and I have been trying to find the notes on the violin myself. My husband has been using his guitar to work with me, but he is used to frets. I like the fact that there are no frets. I wonder what the consensus is on learning- should we be able to read the sheet music. Is it necessary or not for being a good fiddler? I tend to lean more towards instinct.

June 4, 2009 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Great idea for corraling the videos! Just like a librarian! Takes one to know one...I'm a librarian too (of the public variety). ;)

June 4, 2009 at 6:12 PM  
OpenID belfountain said...

Carrie - the same thing happened to me when I bought my violin (off craigslist) and tried to tune the G string (the strongest of all strings! the E is much easier to break, so I'm told). I was really worried that something was seriously wrong with it, because the pegs kept slipping. However, I took it in to get the string replaced and the pegs were fine - I just had to make sure they were pushed in firmly. So in addition to the turning action to tune, you also have to keep pressure towards the middle. I haven't had a problem since...

Spinyurchin - Oh, I know! Those folks at Canada Customs ain't no friends of mine! :)

June 4, 2009 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Open 2 Awareness said...

Ok, I knew this would be a new experience but I think I suck worse at this endeavor than anything I have ever tried! I may have even created a new realm of suckdom. I haven't given up but I will say that my 7 year old sounds an "h" of a lot better than I do. Good thing I have a great sense of humor and that our dog is deaf! Robyn

June 4, 2009 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger Nire said...

For anyone who's looking for something a little more complicated than the Erbsen book to poke at, I found this one youtube:

June 4, 2009 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

After reading how many of your readers are picking up the fiddle, I called my daughter to see if she still had her violin from hert high school days. I might give this a go, too. Now I am off to put my name on the waiting list for the book!

June 4, 2009 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

More for those of us still without a book - check these out...

June 5, 2009 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger fromthepines said...


I just got caught up today on reading all your posts. I got here from reading your book from the library. How inspiring and how cool is it to know you are inspiring people?

I have - for the first time now, a raised garden and even though I was thinking of doing it this year already, you definitely made me want it more. And now, the fiddle! I have loved fiddle music forever and I never thought I could learn - I am not musical at all more the artsy type and drawing and painting. BUT I guess it all goes together and music makes everything better.
I am up here in North Ontario where we still had frost last night - ugh! and I want to plant tomatoes and peppers today.
The sun is shining and the pine trees are swaying in the wind so a good day to be out and maybe lay in the hammock with a good book too!


June 5, 2009 at 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Lynnanne said...

To all who have ordered books:

Which are you having better luck at -- Amazon or Native Grounds or whatever it was Jenna mentioned??

I haven't ordered the book yet and am curious where I might get one quicker (if there is such a thing).

Received the stringed monster this week and am heading to the music store after I type this, so they can help me figure out how to look at it without offending it!

June 5, 2009 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I ordered the book from Amazon and got it really quickly.

June 5, 2009 at 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Leigh: Re your question about playing instinctively ("by ear") or with music, the Irbson book recommends learning by ear because you can then pick up on what anyone else is playing and play along with them (jamming.) For classical violin, of course you would need to read music. Fiddlers tend to play by ear.

When my daughter was 9 and taking her first violin lessons at school, her teacher called me and said she wasn't making much effort to learn to read the music. She was doing a really good job of playing, though, since violin lends itself to that, but she was going to eventually get lost without the sheet music once things got more complicated (symphony orchestra type playing.)

June 5, 2009 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Ditto on Amazon.

June 5, 2009 at 12:57 PM  
OpenID chickadeeworkshop said...

I don't usually make fun of other people's typos, but this one made me giggle: "getting aquatinted" Jenna, I hope we don't have to get tinted aqua to play the fiddle :-)

You cracked me up!

June 5, 2009 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

OK I was a really mediocre violin player about 45 years ago, but I'm going to give it a whirl. I happen to know several great teen violinists who are unemployed this summer. They might be desperate enough to teach me. The question is, where can I practice without setting my dog to howl and my kids to complain?

June 5, 2009 at 11:56 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Another treasure and inspiration...

June 6, 2009 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Is there a special trick to making the B of the D scale? I can manage all the other notes clearly, but I get nothing but a squeak for the B.

June 7, 2009 at 4:09 PM  
OpenID journeyseeds said...

I'm still waiting on the book....not sure what the delay is. But, I've been scratching away at some old fiddle books I had lying around and actually played a very simply version of Old Joe Clark..yea! I'm going to did out my old fiddle books from the barn. I was thrilled to find I remember more than I thought...but, I'm treating myself as a complete beginner and trying to enjoy the journey this time around. I am hoping I can get learn to improvise, play without music in front of me and learn to jam with others some day. I apologized to my violin for keeping her in the closet for so long. You don't know how thrilled I am to have had this lovely nudge from you in this direction. I keep running to the mailbox everyday looking for my book! I'll take some pics of my violin soon and post them.

June 8, 2009 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Kimberley, if your B note is squeaking, you are probably drawing your bow across the string at an angle instead of straight. Try practicing in front of a mirror so you can see where it is going.

Nancy, when I started learning the violin in NZ in 1968, the guy who sold it to us said the best place was the bathroom because the bath acts as an amplifyer and mellows the sound so you don't sound as if you're strangling a cat all the time. Good quality strings make a real difference. When my father started learning to play the trumpet at the age of 60, my mother sent him out to the barn to serenade the hens. (He's now 80 and still plays occasionally!)

Good luck to all of you in your endeavours. I only had two years tuition from 12-13 and 16-17 and gave it up once I left home. I still play piano and teach beginners up to ABRSM Grade 6. Both my eldest son and daughter play violin, along with piano, guitar, drums, recorders, eukele, flute and whatever else she can get her hands on. The middle one started with piano and clarinet then fell in love with the guitar. I keep loads of percussion instruments and wind instruments for my tinies to play around with when they're first learning the piano. I was very chuffed at the beginning of the year when I helped one of my piano pupils with her Grade 2 violin exam and she passed with a merit. I just need to get another violin and start doing something for myself. I recently downloaded Der Shlocket Light - a modern Scottish folk tune. You can download most folk tune music for free - look for Mudcat.

June 9, 2009 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Wow, count me in. I can't commit until I have a fiddle, which could take some time, I refuse to spend more than $50. I have a very nice 6 string Breedlove guitar, if you've never heard of them, please google them, they are amazing handcrafted instruments. I have a piano, two electric guitars, and believe it or not, I actually own a hand crafted Dulcimer my mother picked up for me two Christmas' ago. Soooo, not only am I going to learn to play a fiddle (I am a HUGE Alison Krauss fan and I would love to pick up some of her style), I am getting the Dulcimer book so I can suprise my mother with a few songs on the Dulcimer, she would LOVE that!
Jenna, I love your site, and pretty much your whole lifestyle and way of living. I have been more and more into the homesteading idea and you are one more inspiration to help me along the way! I have two great organic gardens now, I now grow everything from tomatoes and peppers to onions and potatoes and everything in between up to melons and cukes. I love it, I've been eating fresh peas off the vines for the past week and it tastes, well, if you could eat heaven, this may be the essence of it's flavor. ;) I am largely contemplating meat chickens and egg chickens, I have to really decide if I want that, it just puts me one step closer to being self sufficient. Energy, this is another topic I need to tackle but I don't have the money for a new energy system, but getting off the grid is DEFINATELY the goal.
I'll be ordering your book tomorrow when I have my debit card with me, I have a feeling it will be a one weekend even reading it, if I am right I'll pick it up and not want to put it back down!!!!

June 9, 2009 at 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an e-mail from the seller (e-bay) telling that my violin was damaged in shipping and is on the way back to the them:(

June 9, 2009 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

For a brief, shining moment, I was able to play the B that has been eluding me. I closed my eyes, played from D to B over and over and tried to memorize exactly what I was doing. Then the B was gone, like it never was there. But at least I know I can do it - now just to do it on command!

June 10, 2009 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Okay, I just bought a fiddle on Ebay for $59. I am waiting to hear from the seller to arrange payment and I hope to have it within 2 weeks. I can not wait to recieve this instrument. My goal is to be able to "jam" within a year, I hope that isn't too unrealistic. I have done some reading and I know that my guitar playing will not help me out here!!! Thank you for the challenge, which led me to take the first step!

June 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Anybody able and willing to post a short youtube video demonstrating how they play the notes that use the index finger? I'm really struggling with the B on the D string and the F# on the E string. I must be doing something wrong in that position because the other finger positions seem to be working fine. I'd sure appreciate some help. :-)

June 12, 2009 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Kimberly Ann,
Check this video out that I found. It may help:

June 12, 2009 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Thanks, Kathleen. I'll keep comparing my placement to see what I'm doing wrong.

June 12, 2009 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Finally got around to posting a mini video of my fiddle practice. I posted it on my blog here:

I'll post on youtube once I get around to making a new user name. Right now all the youtube stuff is connected to my fiancee, and I can think of nothing more humiliating than his friends stumbling upon my fiddle practice.

June 16, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

My fiddle should be here on Friday, and I got the book today. Amazon was very fast. Hopefully the fiddle I bought is not a piece of junk. We'll see.

I am also going to take time during this to start learning to play my harp properly, because I really shouldn't ignore it as I have been doing!

June 16, 2009 at 9:23 PM  

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