So, you’ve decided to take up the fiddle! Learning the expressive instrument that most closely emulates the human voice will no doubt be a challenge, but it will be a very rewarding adventure as well. In this thread I will try my best to share my experience and knowledge relating to learning to be a fiddler and musician, but there is only so much that can be explained in a blog. I highly recommend finding a good, reputable teacher in your area because there is no substitute for watching and listening to a skilled player. Learning good technique and habits early on is crucial, and having someone there to correct and inspire you is very important, at least for the first few months. Most teachers will want to schedule weekly or monthly lessons for one-on-one instruction, but there are a host of workshops and camps that you can attend around the country as well.
In addition to learning the mechanics of technique, music theory and ear training, you will want to develop your listening skills. The ability to be a good listener is one of the most important skills you will need to become a great musician. You should be critically listening to everything you can get your hands on, especially the genres that you are interested in learning. Try to tune in on the key, chords, melody, rhythm, timing, feel, soul, message and any other subtleties you can pick up. Ask questions like, why does this song or type of music sound the way it does? How would my hands play this melody? What is the next chord change? Input = output. In order to play something of worth the song, subtleties, and overall sound should be internalized in your brain and soul.
Mary Gordon and Hilary Dirlam have written and co-written some wonderful instructional books about fiddling, banjo, and old-time music that include some great tunes. I use Mary’s Foolproof Fiddle book for my beginning fiddle students. You can check them out and buy them here.