Once Upon a String

I recently discovered a wonderfully simple book for learning fiddle fundamentals titled Once Upon a String. Geared towards children, I also see a great value in this book for us older folks who, unlike youngsters, somehow seem to want to complicate everything, and learning the fiddle is no exception.

Written by a passionate ambassador of Canadian fiddle and a Clinical Psychologist, Shamma Sabir has put together a fiddle primer of the basic elements necessary to get off to a good solid start when learning the fiddle. She uses her fiddle experience and knowledge, along with her understanding of neurocognitive development, to convey and teach important fiddle concepts. A valuable resource for a beginner, Shamma’s lessons can also be useful for anyone who has missed a few techinical steps along the way or as a source for basic review at those times when it seems like everything is going backwards.

Once Upon a String covers beginning fiddle technique in an easy to understand, step-by-step fashion and includes: pictures illustrating how to hold the violin and bow; practice tips to reinforce learning; checklists for key concepts; basic rhythmic patterns for waltzes, jigs, and reels; major scales orientation; basic theory as it applies to fiddle playing; and more.

Table of Contents

Once Upon a String is great book for younger folks just learning the fiddle (Parents and grandparents take note!), and any beginning adult navigating as a self-learner. With all the information available on the internet, I know my head sometimes begins to spin when I start reading articles, watching YouTube videos, and asking questions on forums, even when trying to learn something basic about playing the fiddle. Shamma’s presentation is non-complicated, straight-forward and effective when it comes to learning or reviewing fiddle basics. In my few days of reviewing this book, I have picked up some helpful information and tips which I have incorporated into my learning. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? 🙂 It’s a lot easier when the teacher knows how to teach and keeps it simple.

Once Upon a String is available at Shamma’s website or at Amazon.com.

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  7 comments for “Once Upon a String

  1. Kathy Gallagher
    March 30, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Peter,

    I suggest you sign up for a trial at Online Academy of Irish Music (OAIM).
    They have great instruction and also “Virtual Sessions” (recorded) that you can play along with.
    The BBC online also has an online virtual session and they have the music for the tunes with it.

    Also RTE has a lot of Comhaltas videos on YouTube as well as archival videos of the great players from the past.
    Regards,
    Kathy G

    • Peter
      March 31, 2020 at 7:52 am

      @Kathy Gallagher – Thank you.
      I’d considered the OAIM offer before, but was put off by the thought of £204 each year and having to learn different notation systems (what’s ABC?). Foolish really; I have nothing to lose by trying them out and if I cannot get on with the lessons or notation, I just stop before the fortnight is up.

      • Peter
        March 31, 2020 at 8:04 am

        Posted by: @peter
        @Kathy Gallagher – Thank you.
        I’d considered the OAIM offer before, but was put off by the thought of £204 each year and having to learn different notation systems (what’s ABC?). Foolish really; I have nothing to lose by trying them out and if I cannot get on with the lessons or notation, I just stop before the fortnight is up.

        Edit:
        I backed out of applying when I realised I have a teacher who charges fairly, provides lessons when I need them, is flexible, uses standard music notation and is just 250 yards away from our house. Lessons are awkward at the moment due to cv19 isolation, but come late summer we’ll be back in the swing of it. If I’m desperate, there’s always Skype.

      • Kathy Gallagher
        March 31, 2020 at 2:31 pm

        Hi Peter,

        I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
        OAIM has all the tunes in standard notation also – and you can always look up tunes on “The Session” website if you like – I use that a lot if I am looking for a particular version or setting of a tune.
        You can also download their audio version of a tune and use some sort of slowdowner software to learn by ear.
        I have Audiopro on my phone and it works fine for that. I think there are many programs to do this.

        Here’s another resource I just got from a friend. He highly recommends Randall Bays group class (8 week session). Its a bit expensive ($140 US for 8 weeks). Tunes are taught by ear only. My friend told me he has taken these classes in person and loved them. Randall also have an extensive library of slowed down tunes recorded for learning by ear..
        https://www.randalbays.com/irishtuneclass.html

        Regards,
        Kathy

  2. Peter
    March 30, 2020 at 11:35 am

    Too bad; but then I intend to spend _so_ much more time at local Irish sessions once this summer of isolation is through.

  3. Peter
    March 30, 2020 at 9:53 am

    That’s a very tempting contents page.
    The chapters on jig, reel and waltz patterns: how useful are they? This is a deal-breaker, as I have far too many fiddle books for youngsters which promise much and deliver little. Having special material covering these rhythms would mean a purchase if it’s of good quality; the UK purchase price of £34-53 on Amazon (something like fifty bucks US!) is extraordinary, and is in the realms of the big academic biology works my memsahib buys.

    • MoonShadows
      March 30, 2020 at 11:19 am

      @peter There is only 1 chapter on jig, reel and waltz patterns and it is just 10 pages long. It’s real basic. At that price ($50 US), it is probably not worth the purchase just for that section.

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