Category Archives: Technique

Improving Fourth-Finger Intonation

For us violinists and fiddlers, the fourth-finger is kind of our problem child. Not only is it weaker and smaller than the rest of our fingers, it also seems to have a mind of its own. It can’t find the notes and stay on them as easily as fingers one through three.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, just try bending your third finger (ring finger) without bending your fourth finger (pinkie) at the same time.

See what I mean?

Here’s an exercise that will get your fourth-finger to start behaving.

If you’ve taken lessons from me before, there’s a good chance I’ve assigned this exercise to you at least once.  It’s a straightforward (though not simple) exercise that I’ve been doing for years. I’d recommend doing short sessions with this exercise, but do them often. Try a minute or two, on any pair of strings, every time you take your instrument out of its case.

Because one show is worth a whole lot of tell, here’s a video to demonstrate. This is my first foray into video, and more instructional videos are in the works.

I’m a little green when it comes to video, so please bear with me — I’m still learning…and hopefully improving!




Shuffle Bowing

A student once told me that Bruce Molsky in his fiddle workshops calls the violin bow a “rhythm stick.” I love that! Calling the bow a rhythm stick gets to the heart of what makes fiddling distinct from violin playing, and that of course is rhythm. All fiddle music is dance music. From Canadian old-time fiddling…Continue Reading

Tune of the Week: “Scotland”

Over the weekend, I did a twin fiddling showcase with Catie Jo Pidel at the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association’s “12 for 12” Fundraiser, and one of the tunes we pulled out was Bill Monroe’s twin (sometimes triple) fiddling classic “Scotland.” Now, this is a tune I hadn’t played or thought about for quite some…Continue Reading

How do I play the double shuffle in Orange Blossom Special? Part Two.

In part one of this lesson, we looked at two types of double-shuffle bowing as well as two basic double-stop voicings to use with these bowing patterns. Once you’re able to play these patterns with good timing and intonation, then you’re ready to tackle the triple-stop (three-note chord) version. The easiest way to beef up…Continue Reading

How do I play the double-shuffle in Orange Blossom Special? Part one.

This is a question that comes up in lessons and workshops a lot. I mean, A LOT! And that doesn’t come as a surprise. Orange Blossom Special is far and away the most popular American fiddle tune, it’s fun to play and it’s always a show stopper. The High 48s usually end all of our…Continue Reading