Fiddling for Violinists

A cordial introduction the fiddle,
the festive folk cousin
to the queen of the orchestra!

This is a well-paced workshop
valuable even to those
with previous fiddling experience.

February 28 to May 23 2006

2nd and 4th Tuesdays
7:15 to 9:15 p.m.

7 meetings

Open to adults and teens!

$196 for regular registration
$186 if paid by February 18, 2006

Fiddling for Violinists is open to violinists
and fiddlers of varying levels

Enrollment is limited to 25 people
Other instrumentalists welcome! * —

Please contact Singingwood Music by phone before enrolling to ensure that the course is good fit for you, and to get the address for sending payment.

Call John Blasquez:  925-935-9295
 Or email John at:

Discover your Inner Fiddler!

Want to have more fun with your violin? Interested in joining campfire jams at bluegrass and folk festivals or playing in Irish sessions at a local pub? Want fiddle at contradances or square dances, or just interested in meeting violinists headed in these directions? Ready to "Think outside the Bachs?"

As a violinist you'll find most fiddling skills already at your fingertips. With an introduction to the various styles, and an exploration of essential subtleties such as bowings, accents, drones, variations and timing, the repertoire and authentic sound is easily learned. Rest assured, you needn't alter your violin in any way ... nor hold the fiddle at your waist! You can use your existing technique.

What to Expect

You'll learn a fiddle tune almost evey session and receive pointers on memorization, practice technique, ornaments, variations and fiddling style. We may have other instrumentalists playing mandolin, guitar, bass and banjo.

We meet in a large room for music presentations, full group rehearsals, performances ... and occasionally for appearances by guest artists. Some nights we break out into additional rooms for rehearsing in small groups, and come back together to perform for each other.

Notation and Materials

Music ntation is provided for each piece. You'll also receive a CD that contains fast and slow recordings of some of the tunes we'll learn.

What to Bring

Tape recorders, Minidisc recorders, and other recording devices are welcome and recommended! Please bring a music stand to class. Guitarists should bring a capo.

              Horizon Workshop

Once you're underway, consider joining the Horizon Workshop. This workshop provides an opportunity to rehearse and perform bluegrass, old-time and Celtic music with coaching from John Blasquez and his two assistants, Mitch Polzac and Chris Smith. It's perfect for people just stating to play with others, and it's great for those new to these styles of music.


All classes are in Walnut Creek at:

   Mt. Diablo Unitarian Church
   in the Gilmartin Building
   55 Eckley Lane
   Walnut Creek

   Directions to the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Church

The Gilmartin Building is the first building as you walk from the parking lot toward the new church hall.

The cross street is Walnut Blvd. near Homestead. On Eckley, go up the hill and turn left into the parking lot. (There are two churches and a Synagogue on Eckley, so don't just pull into any ol' parking lot with a house of worship!)

* Other Instruments

Although Fiddling for Violinists will focus mainly on fiddle technique, mandolinists will easily fit in and receive important pointers along the way.

We also welcome other instrumentalists who want to practice and rehearse with us:

  • Guitar accompanists (chords and strumming)**
  • Flat-picking Guitarists (melody and chords)***
  • Banjo players (clawhammer and frailing)***
  • Bassists (acoustic or electric)

John successfully teaches mixed instrument classes at the Horizon Workshop and Acoustic Instruments 101. Advice is given for all instruments. Participants benefit in hearing about the role and technique of various instruments ... and sometimes a new bit of understanding motivates members to try a another instrument!

** A note to guitarists who join the workshop to practice their accompaniment: Please understand, at times — as the melody players memorize small sections of a piece — you may be expected to play very simple passages, even just a single chord. At such times, to keep you occupied, I'll give reminders about various techniques to practice ... and you'll always have the option of learning the melody by ear, or practicing the melody from notation.

*** Flat-picking guitarists or clawhammer (frailing) banjo players should be able to learn by ear or read tablature notation.

Course Description

We may not cover all the topics listed in this description, but you can see there is no shortage of material.

Explore popular styles: We'll learn music from each of the following genres, particularly bluegrass, old-time and Celtic ... and we'll explore the different styles of rehearsing, jamming, and performing specific to each:

  • Old-time
  • Bluegrass
  • Celtic
  • Cajun
  • Country
  • Jazz, Blues & Swing

Develop an authentic sound by attending to:

  • Timing (straight vs. swing)
  • Rhythmic Transparency (solo vs. backup)
  • Accents
  • Slurs and bowing
  • Pulsing the bow
  • Ornaments
    • Anticipation
    • Grace notes
    • Filled triplets
    • Doubled notes
    • Irish: Swells, Short rolls, Long rolls.
  • Vibrato (when and where)

Understand the basic structures of fiddle tunes:

  • Meter
  • Keys and Modes
  • Chords and Backup bowing
  • Chord Progressions:
    • I - V    •    I - IV - V    •    I - IV - V - vi
    • Modal: I - bVII - (bVI)
    • Cycle of Fourths: IV - II - V - I
  • Tunes vs. Songs (singing in old-time)
  • 8 bar tunes / 16 bar tunes
  • Repeats: AABB, Roundpeak AABBBB
  • Those optional C parts!
  • Crooked tunes

Explore various styles of learning & sharing tunes:

  • Playing by heart — Speeding the process.
  • Backward building — Learn faster and better!
  • Retaining what you learn (Holding a repertoire)
  • Learning in jam sessions
  • Learning by ear
  • Chasing tunes
  • Slow jams
  • Preparing for workshops and music camps

Participate in various types of jam sessions

  • Finding jams
  • Jam etiquette
  • Getting started and fitting in
  • Straight time vs. swing
  • Starting and stopping tunes
  • Repeating tunes — keeping it interesting!
  • Playing and arranging Celtic sets
  • Switching tunes
  • Keeping the banjo & cross-tuned fiddles happy
  • Dealing with discord and intrusions
  • Rehearsals: What to do when NOT jamming.


  • Use notation, don't abuse it. (It can interfere with memorization! Read a lot, but don't memorize?)
  • Finding good sheet music
  • Music on the Internet: Notation, MIDI, MP3
  • What's not on the page
    • Slurs, Accents
    • Swing vs. Straight
    • Drones
  • "That's not what they played on the recording!"
  • Different versions (Ain't two fiddlers play a tune 'xactly the same!)
  • Misnamed tunes / Same name, different tune!


  • Learn how to vary and develop melodies
  • Add your own mark, but still fit in with the group
  • What's at the core of a tune
  • Twin fiddling (Harmonies)
  • Writing tunes
  • Improvisation (spontaneous composition)
    • Getting started
    • Scales
      • Major / Minor
      • Blues / Relative Blues
      • Scale formulas
    • Arpeggios
    • Timing:
      • Alignment
      • Entry points (timing)
    • Improvisational devices
    • Slowing CDs for practicing improv.
    • Handling II chords and long V chords
    • Solo and backup timing
    • Chords
    • Backup (accompaniment)

Understand the role of other instruments:

  • Guitar: Bass strum
  • Bass: Root, Five
  • Banjo: Glitter and crowd control
  • Mandolin: The snare; 2nd and 4th beat
  • Percussion: Keeper of the beat! (Please don't play spoons or bones unless you're one of the best in the world! Listen up bodhran players.)

Oddball stuff

  • Cross tunings: ADGE, AEAE, DDAD
  • Singing with the fiddle
  • Festivals and Camps
  • Contests
  • Resources / Recommended listening
    • Radio
    • Library of Congress
    • Internet
      • Web pages (effective searches)
      • Lists of events and workshops
      • Email announcements
  • Useful music software

John Blasquez is an award winning fiddler with 29 years experience teaching private lessons and workshops.

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