Reading melodies for the fiddle

The melody of each song and fiddle tune is the part written in music notation in the book. Though this section is given as specific to the fiddle, in a broader sense it is melody-specific. As such, much of this section is also applicable to singers looking to learn to read the melodies of songs from written notation.

The section is intended for those who have never attempted to learn from written music. It is assumed only that you have a fiddle and bow, that you have the means to tune the fiddle, and that you have at least the most basic knowledge of its mechanics such as how to hold it, how to make notes with the left hand, and how to bow it. You will notice that it is also assumed that you are right-handed, meaning that the right (or bowing) hand wields the bow and the left (or noting) hand makes the notes on the fingerboard. If you play with the bow in your left hand, then you are considered left-handed and should reverse the orientation of any hand-specific instructions.

Those who learned and who play the fiddle by ear may find that to be a head start, as should those who already read music but play some other instrument. Those who play the violin or fiddle and who read music may still find some of the material in this section to be beneficial.

This section does not cover the fundamentals of technique such as bowing, intonation, etc. Many instructional materials are available for those subjects.

Tips for the absolute fiddle beginner: If you aspire to play an instrument and to read music and have never attempted to do either, realize that you have two separate things to conquer and that these pages offer detailed, simplified, graphics- and audio-assisted instruction for only one of the two, reading music from notation. If you are patient, you may learn to play the fiddle "starting from scratch" here and become capable of learning every fiddle tune in the book. Otherwise, consider seeking additional instruction specific to learning to play the fiddle; perhaps focus on that for a while and then return here after gaining some familiarity with the instrument. At least you won't be facing the first round of challenges on both of the two fronts simultaneously.

Be realisitic in your goals. Expect to master it; don't expect to master it soon. Take it slow. Really, really slow is fine. Try to be mindful of understanding the current thing before moving on to the next. If you have a recorder, consider recording yourself as you learn from notation. You will have your own personalized audio-assist materials and a documentary of your progress. Playing along by ear with your recordings may be helpful for review, and it is good to be able to learn both ways, by note and by ear.

As long as it's fun, you are in learning mode. Some frustration is to be expected, but if it is a chore and a bother, either try to figure out why and fix it or take a break from it. Finding other players at your level can add a new dimension of enthusiasm and inspiration.