Please feel free to share. “The Little Drummer Boy Project”
Having no musical experience, is it unrealistic to make a goal of being able to play in public in a year?
I don't mean in an orchestra, etc. We do Airstream (camper) rallies monthly, and have no musicians in our group. One of the things I want to do is to be able to play music everyone can sing along to at the campfire.
If this is an achievable goal, can anyone guesstimate how much time per day in practice would be required to reach that point?
It's definitely an achievable goal. If you don't insist on having a huge repertoire the first time out, you can probably start sooner than that.
How much you need to practice to achieve that is a lot trickier question. It depends both on your talent (and you can have talent for certain elements of violin playing, as well as the whole art), and what you practice.
From my own experience, technical exercises (bowing practice, tone practice, scales, etc) pay off a lot more than you would think. I have a problem with my right shoulder, and until I gave up normal technique and went to a "bad" way of bowing, I could only practice 10 minutes a day at most, and that had to be broken up into 2-3 minutes sessions. For about a month and a half, I did nothing but those technical exercises. When I finally found a way to accommodate the injury, it was remarkable how much improvement there was in my playing. (If you want the technical practice my teacher gave me, just holler.)
Another recommendation, have several shorter practice sessions rather than one long one, if at all possible. You'll hurt less and learn faster.
I could go on and on all day about possibilities, but I'll wait for you to ask questions. Less likely to bury you in information you didn't want that way. 🙂
One last bit of advice. If you're like most of us, you'll never think you're ready. Get another person or three to listen to you and tell you when you're ready.
Hey tinksquared, I think an hour a day, every day, should get you where you want to be. It really does depend on how fast you get along with vibrato. I think that is what makes it really pleasant to listen to the fiddle for most folks. If you are thinking about accompanying sing-a-longs you should work on double stops and rhythm patterns also.
I'm far from being an expert on this. I'm just relaying this info from what I've been told by an experienced fiddler. Also, I've spent a great deal of time playing guitar around the campfire, sometimes accompanying fiddle.
My teacher has a solution for that problem with vibrato making the bow wiggle. Air vibrato. Practice the vibrato motion with your left hand, while doing the bowing motion with your right. The emphasis is on the "walking and chewing gum at the same time".
Make sure that the bow stays smooth, even though the left hand is moving. It won't make it instantly possible to do a vibrato where the hands are disconnected, but having a lot fewer things to think about helps.
I personally don't think you have to have vibrato to play around a campfire. Lots of people like it, and if you're already doing it some with no trouble, go for it, but I wouldn't consider it a top priority.
The technical exercises my teacher gave me:
1 Bow stretcher - One string. 3 to 3 and half minutes. Use a different string each day.
2 Schradieck - 3-4 minutes. One exercise from it, varying speeds (the book says moderate, but doing them slow, fast, and in between is better). Add slurring on some iterations of it.
3. Chromatic Exercise - 2 minutes, play all the notes reachable in first position - G, G#, A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, etc. all the way up to A#/Bb on the E string, and back down.
4. Scale - 1 per day, 2.5 to 4 minutes. Do the basic scale and arpeggio (1,3,5,8,5,3,1). If you're going to be playing with other people, I'd also throw in the pentatonic scale (1,2,3,5,6,8,6,5,3,2,1).
5. Play a song
1. The bow stretcher exercise is designed to practice tone and bow control.
Everything is done on open strings. Use a metronome. Part of bow control is how much bow you use in a given chunk of time.
Every stroke is the entire length of bow. Start with a downstroke.
Start out playing as fast as you can while still having good control of the bow and good tone. The target is 60 BPM (each downstroke or upstroke is one second), but start out at whatever you have control at. I had to start at 35 BPM.
After 2 or 3 cycles (one down bow, one up bow), slow the bow down, so that you are doing two beats per stroke (each up bow and down bow now take two seconds).
Doing 2-3 cycles at each speed, do 3,4,6,8,12,16,24,32 (in the beginning, and if you're starting at a slower speed, you won't be able to go all the way to 32. Go as slow as you can while still keeping a good-sounding, steady tone. If you can't do 32, but you can do 28, do 28.) Once you've done a couple of cycles at your slowest speed, speed it back up the same way, until you're going your fastest.
That whole grand cycle is the bow stretcher exercise. My teacher swears by it, says he still does it every day.
2. Schradieck - The Schradieck book is available here on the fiddlerman site. https://fiddlerman.com/studies.....d-music/ The technique books are on the bottom half of the page, after all the song sheetmusic. You don't have to use Schradieck, that's just who my teacher likes. Any good technique book will have good exercises for building familiarity with the fingerboard and dexterity.
3. Chromatic exercise - If you have extensive experience with music and can recognize a proper chromatic scale by ear, then this will be easy (at least, after a little while). You may want to use a piano or guitar, or try to find an example of someone playing a chromatic scale, if not. The idea is to get your fingers familiar with every place they may need to play. A lot of people consider keys like Bb or Eb hard, because they're playing in unfamiliar spots. This will help that. (You play on every spot your fingers can reach.)
4. Scales - start out with the easy ones - G,D,A. Then start working on common but slightly harder ones, E and C, and then the hardest of the basic scales B and F. Then start working on the sharp and flat versions (G#/Ab, D#/Eb, etc.) My teacher suggested the arpeggios. (Violin teachers are fond of them for some reason.) I suggested the pentatonic scale, because it has a very useful property. By leaving out the 4th and 7th notes, it magically goes with anything in that key. So if someone is playing a song in A, say, you can toodle around the pentatonic A scale, making up anything you want, and it will "go" with what they're playing. For some reason the 4th and 7th notes of the scale are the ones that will jar if not played in the right combination. By dropping them out, you have an instant accompaniment scale. Since you're planning to play with others, from the sound of it, I thought that'd be useful.
5. A song - the fun stuff, things to keep you motivated. I strongly encourage you to memorize whatever you plan to play. Trying to read music while camping is not going to work real well, unless you want to be that eerie sound coming from the 3rd tent (where you're out of the wind). 🙂 Having your sheet music blow into the fire is a bummer, too.
Also, experiment. I can pick out and play a song that I know well much faster (and I play it better) than I can anything on sheet music. For me, knowing what the song is supposed to sound like is a huge help both in memorization and the musicality of my playing. That might or might not be true for you. Play around with both reading music and picking things out by ear, and find what combo works best for you.
Bear in mind, this was designed to add up to no more than 15 minutes, because that's all my shoulder (or my pain tolerance) could take. You could do them longer. If you break up an hour's practice into 15 minute chunks (which I'd recommend), you might do exercises 1-4 on two of them and music in all 4. (If you wanted to do the technical exercises on all 4, it would certainly pay you back. Just a bit boring.)
Nah, it just takes a day to read it. 🙂
Note that there are times on several of them. So if you figure
Bow stretcher 3.5 min
Schradiek or other technique book exercises 3.5 min
Chromatic scale - 2 minutes (this one might take longer at first, but if you do high and low positions for all 4 fingers (recommended), it's still only 36 notes (9 per string), and another 36 back down. At 60 BPM (which would be a pretty long time to hold each note for a scale) that's 12 seconds over a minute. Played at the speed most people play scales, it's probably under a minute, so 2 is being generous. (Once you get it under a minute, you might want to do it twice. I forgot to put the recommended times for the last two technical exercises. This one is two minutes. (I've edited the original so people can have it all in one chunk to print.)
Regular scale - same logic applies: a two-octave scale, done that slowly, is 30 seconds. Arpeggios and pentatonic scales are even faster. he recommends 2.5 to 4 minutes.
So that's roughly 12 minutes. It would be shorter than that if you did each of the scales only once. (That's not recommended, though.)
Some thoughts on scales and arpeggios: B-flat, E-flat and maybe even A-flat are likely to be easier than B and F, because of the way the fingers fall on the fingerboard. Arpeggios are useful for accompanying, because they move you up and down quickly while staying within a chord. A lot of fiddle tunes are based heavily on arpeggios.
Other than Schradieck, you may also find the Wohlfahrt exercises useful. They're available as a free PDF here:
You'll see, on the first page of the Wohlfahrt studies, a set of bowing and rhythmic variations that you can (and should) use with any technique book, not just Wohlfahrt.
Great information here I'll just add one thing that really tightened me up on scales and playing songs better intune is a practice Drone tone being played in the back ground. Fiddlerman has a page of drones on his web sight that work well, as well as a video on how to use them. I bought a CD or you can down load a set or drones from Darrol Anger's web sight that I use on my computer and my phone to practice with.
Just a thought,
Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.
Absolutely! People love to hear the violin!! It doesn't need to be fancy. Just rhythm and pitch over simple tunes - and your personality in the tune. I'm not even that good and people love it - trick is to pick something you think they can relate to - as this question is about playing for others. In this family jam I play with, Susan always requests a spiritual. You'd be surprised how much a clean, sweet, simple and heartfelt Amazing Grace can do for the soul. Clean, sweet and simple with nice tone and a moderate pace. Susan inspires me to practice because of the joy of making her heart happy with music. For me, that's really the point. I get too type A, hung up on trying to be Super Fiddler - and remind myself that nothing is sweeter than good tone and a thoughtful simple tune with genuine heart and soul in it.
That and - practice every day unless you're sick or tired. Find the joy in playing, and you will want to practice.
Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art. Charlie Parker
Thank you, I needed a good belly laugh, when you said, your, "husband was bowing like a crazed cat in heat" what a mental picture that was.
You two enjoy you learning together, sounds like a lot of fun and enjoyment.
Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.