What are my expectations as an almost-senior-citizen learning how to play the fiddle? As an older person, I haven’t consciously tried to learn a new skill in quite a while. Yes, I’ve learned new skills, but there were no self-imposed performance expectations. I just kind of learned as I went along, i.e. gardening, wood-working projects, running my own home business. When something didn’t work out, or it took me a while to learn something to a point of proficiency, I just went with the flow. I had no pre-conceived milestones, markers or deadlines. And, most of all, I made sure I was enjoying myself. Now, I have put my mind to learning how to play the fiddle. I am making a conscious effort. I am following progressive lessons, each one requiring a level of proficiency before moving onto the next lesson. So, what are my expectations?

Expectations can be a real obstacle

Expectations can be a real obstacle to learning, proficiency and enjoyment. While I keep telling myself I just want to play as well as I can, I have already found that I can easily get frustrated when I don’t learn something right away. Heck, I’m an adult; I should be able to “get this” faster.

A couple of days ago I learned my first basic tune, Boil ’em Cabbage Down. First, I plucked it, phrase by phase; then, I plucked the entire piece. Next, I bowed it, phrase by phrase; then, I bowed the entire piece. I kept playing it over and over until I got through it, and it sounded pretty good. Then, I played it even more, and it sounded better. One lesson learned! The next day, I went to play the same tune, and it sounded horrible. Hmm. I had to start again, not at square one, but I had to go back pretty far. Yesterday, the same thing happened, but not quite as bad as the day before.

I found myself getting frustrated. I found myself thinking, maybe I made a mistake; I shouldn’t be trying to learn the fiddle. I should be able to do this. I was getting tense, trying to power my way through it. I wasn’t enjoying this! Then, a voice whispered in my ear, “It’s alright. Just do the best you can right now. You’ll get better.” I sat back, collected my thoughts, took a few deep breaths, reminded myself I am the newest of beginners, and then laughed. I wound up having an excellent practice. I didn’t do things perfectly, but I did them well enough. I was pleased and happy.

Realistic Expectations

When I started my home business, I knew nothing about running a business. I knew and assumed, however, I would get better at it and grow it if I stuck to it, learned what it takes to run a business, kept trying, had patience, and enjoyed myself. Now, in my fourteenth year, I have grown my business by leaps and bounds since that first year. Can I apply these same principles to learning the fiddle?

Getting better and better at playing the fiddle will take the same realistic expectations that I applied to learning my home business, growing vegetables from seed, or seeing a wood working project through to completion. Dedication. Knowledge. Practice. Patience. Fun.

This morning I made a poster for my wall in my practice area with those five words on it. I plan to use it as a constant reminder of what it will take for me to play the fiddle…as well as I can!

Are you learning how to play the fiddle? What are your expectations?

  7 comments for “Expectations

  1. old cowboy
    April 18, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    go to youtube and watch Fiddlin Phil Play Nellie Gray. He started playing when he was 70 and is now 80.

    • Deb
      April 18, 2019 at 2:01 pm

      Now that is inspiring!! Thanks Cowboy! πŸ˜‰

    • April 18, 2019 at 2:34 pm

      Here’s the direct link: https://youtu.be/l5ybysvrMx0
      There’s hope for us! Is another name for this tune Irish Soldier Laddie? Sounds just like it.

  2. Deb B
    March 21, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    I was about to write my first post here when I read Aywrens comment.. the same point I was going to make. I learned that tip when training horses. I am 58 yrs old. My sons bought me my first fiddle 2 1/2 yrs ago for my birthday. As an adult with a full time job and acreage complete with lots of chores and work.. I am in the same boat as many here. I have limited spare time and funds. I could not see spending money on formal lessons when I can’t commit to regular practice time. My first year went pretty good and I had all the same frustrations that you do. Press on. Don’t be too tough on yourself. I’ve learned to look back and notice how far I’ve come.. rather than the long road head. And don’t compare your progress to anyone elses! We are all unique and learn at different paces.
    My second year was not good.. there was a family crisis and over the course of the year, it seemed like I hardly ever picked up my fiddle. With that behind now, I set out the new year (this year) with a different strategy. I would TRY to play every day.. for 15 minutes. Who can’t fit in 15 minutes? And if that’s all I have time for.. is 15 minutes of scales.. or working a technique or a song… the goal is for 15 minutes a day. Now, that doesn’t work everyday. But with the pressure off to practice and hour every day.. I don’t miss very many days now. And most of the time, once I get started, I blast past 15mins in no time and often go 30 or 45 minutes. My fiddle hangs on the wall and easy to take down and play while supper is cooking or the washing machine is in cycle. I have come much further the last 3 months of this year than I did the first 2 yrs. Find what works for you with time and schedules. Sometimes my practice is later at night. Practicing as close to every day as possible, even if its for 10, 15 or 20 minutes, has moved me further along than trying to play for an hour once or twice a week. It just ended in frustration and disappointment. But if at all possible, don’t quit the session on a bad note. Stop for day on a good note. πŸ™‚
    Love the website.
    Deb B.

    • March 22, 2019 at 3:05 am

      Thanks for that inspiring post, Deb! I’ve stopped my “open-ended” practices where I would go on for a long time, past the point of being tired and frustrated. (I’m semi-retired, so I have the time.) The past two weeks, I am limiting my sessions to 1/2 hour. I split my practice session into 3-10 minutes sections. 1. Practicing scales with variations. (This has been a big help!) Next, I play the few simple tunes I have already learned and/or work on a part that I am having a problem with. I end with learning something new, even if it is just a phrase from a new tune. This “concentrated” practice routine has been more productive for me. And, even on days when I could make a better sound rubbing two sticks together, I always have something I did well or something new I learned, and I walk away feeling much better now. Glad you like the website! ~Jim

  3. February 15, 2019 at 11:36 am

    This sounds very familiar! You are absolutely not alone — I’m having a similar experience.

    I’ll practice a song one day and feel like I’ve got it down pretty good. Not perfect, still room for improvement, but good. I come back to it the next day and I don’t even remember what it sounded like (until I let the sample track play). Even then, I have to re-practice and bring myself up to speed to where I was the day before.

    I read a suggestion somewhere from another adult learner. She says that at the height of her practice, when things are going well, that’s the point she stops practice for the day. It sounds odd, but she said that in doing so, you walk away with positive feelings associated with the act of practicing, which makes you more eager to try again. Rather than just giving up when frustrated, taking away negative feelings from the time before. I thought it was interesting.

    I have very little in the way of expectations. I know that it’ll be slow, and will take years of dedication. I know that even as an adult, I’m coming in at the lowest point I’ll ever be in the foundation of knowledge. I’m mostly doing this for fun, and simply because I really want to play an instrument at some point in my life. Now is as good a time as any!

    Keep going! You’re doing awesome. πŸ™‚

    • February 15, 2019 at 12:32 pm

      I figured I am not alone. Yesterday, I purposely ended my practice on an up-note and felt very good about it. We’ll see what today brings. πŸ™‚ I am like you; I’m doing this for fun, but I can be hard on myself, as we all can. At those times, I have to remind myself.

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