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Lesson Policy

What I Teach

The styles of fiddling that I teach reflect the styles of fiddle that I most enjoy to play: Irish, French Canadian, Old Time, and New England contradance fiddle. I also teach some bluegrass and country style fiddle, but with a more limited repertoire.

Learning by ear: I prefer to teach most fiddle tunes by ear. I provide sheet music to take home with you, but it should be used to jog your memory rather than as a permanent crutch. Learning by ear helps to absorb the feel of the tune right from the start. Your ability to learn the characteristics of a particular style will develop quicker when learning by ear, and a tune will stay in your memory much longer.

I like the analogy that reading a fiddle tune from a sheet of paper is like casually reading a magazine article. The details of the article pass through your mind but quickly fade away. In contrast, learning a tune by ear, and reinforcing it by ear, quickly gives YOU the ability to tell the story to others, over and over again, adding your own unique twists to the tale, and telling it straight from your heart.

Student Ages

My students often range in age from eight years old to nearly eighty. Eight is the youngest age I take. For children younger than that I recommend finding a Suzuki violin teacher, who often specialize in the techniques and materials required for getting younger children started on the instrument.

Several of my students are adult beginners, classical players looking to branch into traditional fiddle styles, or adults who played violin when they were younger and would like to pursue music once more.

Practice Policy

Focused Practice: Focused practice between sessions is important. The more practice you're able to fit in between lessons the quicker and more solid your progress will be. If time is tight, several shorter practice sessions through the week are better than one long one right before your lesson. If you're unable to fit in adequate, focused practice between lessons, it will be difficult to make progress.

Please note: Simply playing through tunes is not practice, it's play. Practice is identifying areas in one or two tunes that are giving you trouble (which I can help with in lessons) and focusing on them until you train your brain, bow and fingers to feel comfortable, or at least more comfortable than they were at the start of the practice session. A favorite quote: "If what you're practicing sounds good, you're not practicing the right stuff."

Of course play is important too, but use that as your reward after you've finished practicing.

Occasionally I do have adult students that cannot fit regular practice into their busy lives, and are happy just to learn as much as they can in their lesson time. This is fine, as long as both of our expectations are set ahead of time.

Listening: When you're working on getting a tune in your head, listen to it repeatedly - whether driving your car, cleaning the kitchen, or just hanging out, until you can hum along with the recording. This IS part of your practice time, as you're training your brain and developing your ear.

Teaching Materials

Instructional books: I have compiled two instructional books with both audio recordings and sheet music for the tunes and technique exercises that I commonly use during lessons:

Learn to Fiddle and A Fiddler's Guide to Building Repertoire

The books are intended to give a broad introduction to fiddling. From there, for students with a strong interest in a particular style we can customize lessons further as their skills develop.

Reading music: I believe that the ability to read music can be an important tool in your musical toolbox, especially with the abundance of fiddle tunes available in tune books and on the internet. For those that don't know how to read and would like to learn, we will use the book "I Can Read Music" by Joanne Martin. It is a marvelous, easy to use, well laid out book that quickly develops reading skills, and is available at Amazon.

Other tunes: I encourage students to bring to my attention other tunes they've heard and are excited to learn. If they are at a skill level where it is feasible, I'm happy to include those tunes in their studies. If a transcription of the tune is needed, we can work on it together during your lesson time.

Audio Recordings: For tunes not already recorded on the CDs that accompany my teaching books, bringing a recording device to your lesson is strongly encouraged. I'll make an recording of the tune during your lesson so that you'll have an audio file to practice with.

If you don't have a recording device, I recommend a simple digital voice recorder with a built in USB connection, available at places like Best Buy or Staples for about $70. The USB connection lets you transfer your audio files directly to your computer, where you can burn them to a CD for listening in the car, etc. The device is also fantastic for recording tunes at jams or from other fiddlers.

Scheduling Options

Regular lessons: Weekly and every other week scheduling is available. I strongly encourage raw beginners to schedule weekly lessons so that they can develop good habits right from the start.

Occasional lessons: For fiddlers who already know the basics of the instrument, I am always happy to provide one time or occasional lessons as my schedule allows. For those folks, give me a call a week or so ahead of time to see what may be available.

Group lessons: I also offer adult group lessons a few times throughout the year, either through Broome Community College's Continuing Education Program or through my teaching studio in Binghamton. Check my website for upcoming group offerings.

Whichever scheduling option you choose: Try to be on time for your lesson so that we can maximize our time together. Your lesson time includes the time for you to unpack and tune. If you should arrive early for your lesson, please wait on the bench in the hallway outside the teaching room so as not to disturb the lesson currently in progress.

Lesson Cost

Lessons are $30 for 45 minutes, $40 for an hour. Payment for the entire month is due at the first lesson of the month. Cash or check is fine. Most students pay with a check. At the first lesson of the month we can compare schedules, and payment can be made out for the weeks we will both be available.

Missed Lessons

Other than for sudden illness or severe weather, a minimum of twenty four hour notice is required if a student is unable to make a lesson so that I can fill the time slot (I usually have a waiting list). Remember that this is not a hobby for me, it is my profession. This time has been reserved for you, the same as time for a doctor or dentist's appointment.

If a lesson is missed because something else came up, the student was too busy, they forgot, or any other reason which is not urgent, there will be a charge for the missed lesson.

Severe weather: If a day's lessons are cancelled due to severe weather, I will credit your next month's lessons.

If I cancel a lesson: If I must cancel a lesson due to personal illness or family emergency, we can try to reschedule the lesson. If a mutually agreeable time cannot be found I will credit your next month's lessons.

Make-up Lessons

If you have had to miss a lesson and gave at least 24 hours notice, we will try to find another mutually agreeable make-up lesson time. My schedule is rather full, especially in the after school/after work hours, so there is often not a lot of flexibility if a scheduled lesson is missed. If we're unable to find a make-up lesson time, the next month's payment will be credited accordingly.

Contacting Hope

If you take lessons in Binghamton: There is no landline or internet at my Binghamton studio. I am unable to receive email there. If it is the day of your lesson, please use my cell phone, 607 972-6497. Usually I do not answer while I'm teaching, but will try to get back to you on my next teaching break. If your call does not relate to the current day's lesson, please leave a message on my home phone, 607 687-3675, or send an email to hopefiddle at gmail dot com.

If you take lessons in Owego: You can reach me on my home phone, 607 687-3675. Usually I do not answer while I'm teaching, but will try to get back to you on my next teaching break. If your call does not relate to the current day's lesson, you can also send me an email at hopefiddle at gmail dot com.


Playing the fiddle has been one of the great joys of my life for the last 40 years, and I've been lucky to be able to communicate that joy teaching the fiddle for the last twelve years. I look forward to sharing the road with you on this stage of your fiddling journey!


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