How Long Does It Take

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    Great ScottGreat Scott

    Howdy y’all!
    As some of you already know, I am a complete beginner when it comes to learning to play the fiddle. However, patience is not my greatest virtue, and I am always wanting to run before I can walk. I am the the sort of guy who throws away the instruction manual but still manages to get the product put together and working just fine; even if there are still a few pieces left out of the assembly process.

    With that being said, I am just wondering how long does it usually take a complete beginner to go from zilch to being able to confidently play and sound like s/he has a good bowing arm/wrist, good bowing technique and basically just good sound, and be able to play some nice tunes? I realize it is “horses for courses” and that everybody is different, but if you were to put a number of years on it, would it be 2 – 5 years, 5-7 years or what? Is it possible for a complete beginner to sound good, without sounding like a beginner in only a couple of months?

    I would love to hear your experience, and your opinions.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this! 🙂


    Read on if you want to read the rest of this post and also perhaps try something that may help you. I hope you get something out of it!

    ….(continued) … I really haven’t even begun my journey yet despite having a not-so-good fiddle that I bought a few months ago. I don’t even like looking at it, but I sometimes get it out of its case without trying to play it so I can practice my finger positions on the fingerboard.

    Even now, I still practice my bow / wrist / arm technique by “bowing” a piece of wooden dowling in and out of a narrow cardboard tube. Sounds silly, I know but it really loosens up the wrist and makes you very aware of excess arm and shoulder movements! It is easy to do, however, for the sake of describing how to do it in text, I will explain: — All I do is join the tip of my left thumb to the tip of my left index finger and make an “O” shape with thumb and finger and slide the tube into the “O” shape and then lightly wrap my other fingers around the tube; and then hold the cardboard tube up to where I would hold a violin, and then start “bowing” the wooden dowling in and out of the end of the tube. There is no noise, no wrong notes, and you can really let lose and go as wild as you want! I think this is a good way to develop “expression” in your movement when playing — so that you don’t look stiff and un-animated when you are playing. And the best thing about this is that you don’t have to worry about concentrating on hitting any wrong notes! I often do this (what I call “tube practice”) while I am watching a movie; however, I would not suggest that you do this in the cinema. LOL! Better to do it at home! Give it a try.

    Share the love 🙂


    John (BGD)John (BGD)

    Scott, that actually makes sense… I like it! Practicing your bowing without the fear of hearing bad notes! But what about the balance? A bow is a delicately balanced instrument. Is it not like practicing your tennis swing using a box lid? I wonder how you could do the same thing with the bow. It is probably not bad for the bow to use on cardboard. After all that is softer than steel! Actually I am thinking that a PVC pipe might work well as a false fingerboard. Hmmm… OK the engineer in me is now trying to design a PVC fiddle. Maybe I should stop while I’m ahead!


    It has been suggested before! I have a DVD from Gordon Stobbe of Nova Scotia…in his video “Twelve Things Your Right Hand Should Know” he talks about the toilet paper roll on the shoulder with the bow drawing back and forth for practice. He then demonstrates using a piece of doweling with a piece of paper large enough to wrap around the wood…it has to be just loose enough to slide back and forth. The doweling is held firmly in the direction that your bow would travel and your right hand will just slide the paper up and down to practice bowing and wrist movements.
    As for your number…I’m still waiting…but I’ll keep you posted.

    John (BGD)John (BGD)

    That is great Peggy — I am going to try it out with some of the younger fiddlers!

    I played “I Saw the Light” at a fiddlers convention after I had been playing for two weeks with no teacher. It was awful! But so fun… What memories! I guess I had no fear; I was fourteen years old and had a pretty big ego, so it didn’t really bother me that I didn’t sound very good. I will say that it took around three years before I felt comfortable in a “jam” situation.

    Your fiddle is sort of like your voice. After all, your voice box is really just a musical instrument that you carry around in side of you. You can make noise with it immediately, but it takes about a year to start expressing yourself in a way that others can understand you. After about two years you can can repeat almost anything, and after about three — you start to make it sing!

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