Here’s a GREAT Question!!!

This article filed under: Walker Street Fiddlers, Workshops

We recently received this question on one of our comment forms. Scott is frequently asked questions of this nature…age references vary widely! SO…we decided to post the response so you can apply it to your own individual scenario. We hope this will inspire MANY new musicians to take a leap of faith!!!

 Question: Would it be possible for a 64 year old woman learn to play the fiddle?


This is a great question, and the answer would have to be yes!

A person of your years (let’s say maturity) is beginning to have time to pursue a project like this. You probably don’t have young children, you are probably not in the process of building or remodeling your home, you might even be close to being “retired”, so you may be working less.

 If this or some of this is true, you would definitely have time to learn to play the fiddle. I think it is a great incentive to stay healthy, and to keep exercising and staying limber. Playing the fiddle will keep your fingers and your arms moving and keep some illnesses at bay. I’ve know older players who played with mild forms of arthritis! You just need some time, but you need it everyday.

Sometimes people say,, “Oh, I’ve been playing the fiddle for 5, or 10 or even a higher number of years. They may have bought the instrument that long ago, and they may have started learning that long ago,,,, but what really matters is the total number of hours they have played the instrument, or actually the number of minutes, on average, they played per day! It simply does takes regular “time in the saddle”!!

So, for a beginner of any age, the key is consistency. If you are willing to go to your fiddle and spend even a small amount of time (the more the better) working the bow and the fingers, even after the thrill of the beginning stages have worn off,,,, yes you can learn to play.

Three important keys to success: High Motivation, Proper Goals and the hard part,,, getting to the Real Fun.


Everyone comes to a new project with different amounts of drive and determination. We have a “mature” fiddle student in the “Walker Street Fiddlers” who waited and waited until her children graduated from high school and left home. The day they left was the day she started playing the fiddle. Even with a full time job, she has been motivated enough to remain consistent, and has improved quickly enough to be playing tunes well, (although not at a fast enough tempo for her), within a year. Now new tunes are not so hard, and the speed and good sound is improving all the time.

Ask yourself: Is this something you have been wanting to do? Are you willing to spend some time, and put up with yourself not sounding really good for a while? Do you already listen to and love fiddle music? What kinds of music do you listen to? Who do you know that plays fiddle music?

Do you have friend that you could share this with? If you have the “right”

answers to these questions, go for it!! Make the effort to go to live performances, meet the musicians, find all kinds of music to listen to at home, as much as possible. Go to a contra dance, a great place to watch and listen to musicians, even if you don’t dance every dance. Have fun! You may decide more about what type of music you want to play eventually, and at the same time become more inspired than you thought you were! Your motivation level has to rise above the obstacles you will encounter for you to feel successful.


When you go on a trip, it necessary to know where you are headed. A long and involved trip to an exotic place to learn new things and experience something really dramatic takes a lot of preparation and planning. A trip of lesser magnitude, even a short one, made with the right attitude, can be very fulfilling as well. So setting realistic goals as a fiddler will help give you focus and direction for what you want to accomplish. Do you want to play well enough to play in a band, to make recordings, and get to know and play with other really fine musicians? That is a long and exotic trip, and I’m not saying you don’t have time to make it all the way there as a “mature” beginning fiddler, but on the other hand; if you set your sights on playing at home just for yourself, that may not be a trip at all, and you probably won’t get anywhere! Ha! So, try to make a goal that is realistic and attainable. Along with your practice, you will need to find other people to play with. This could take some effort.

There may be teachers in the area that gather students into groups to play (encourage your teacher to do so!), there are jam sessions in most communities, sometimes even beginner jams, and there may even be a group that has not been formed yet that you can form, where you yourself gathers folks together to play for fun! There are workshops and camps around you could attend (see below) As you set out on your goals, which is probably learning to play well, don’t forget that it is very important to simply have fun as you play! So, along with the laborious steps I outline below, I suggest you find someone or a group of someones who are of similar abilities (mostly), are like minded, and who, between each tune you play together, are reaching for what the Irish call “craic” or the fun!!! Look it up!!


To have “real fun” playing the fiddle, you have to work your way through the first few stages of playing the violin. First, find a private teacher who you like, who gives you a weekly or bi-weekly date to work towards. Feeling pressure as you near your lesson is probably more important than what he or she teaches you!! The work at the beginning can be engaging, is definitely challenging, but is not always considered “real fun”. Developing past this beginner stages can last up to a year or more, and you may feel like you are going backwards at times. (These times usually correspond with the “I just haven’t had time to play times”). The more lessons the better, or, the more you actually play the fiddle, the faster you get through the frustrating parts. How you do at the very beginning depends somewhat on your physical aptitude towards the instrument, and on your musical intuition, but don’t put huge stock into this, and don’t be discouraged. It’s like what Thomas Edison said, it is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. Oh, and put in 110% effort. Listen to a lot of music!! That’s the ear training, and the extra, 10% you need!!

In order to develop enough reliability in intonation and in bow control to handle simple tunes at a slow tempo, you first should feel comfortable as you play. You learn to hold the instrument and the bow well enough so that the instrument feels normal, and eventually “good” to you as you play. Your left hand learns to be flexible enough so your fingers can move to the correct note on the finger board, and your bow hand learns to make a sound with the bow that is consistent and not scratchy. (Your bow should travel perpendicular to the strings most of the time) As a “mature”

person, make yourself spend extra time just practicing with your bow by itself, to improve your tone, so that you can play on one, or two strings at once, on purpose. The left hand usually messes up the right, and vice versa. Do this as a regular part of your practice. Figure out exactly what the bow is doing in a tune and teach your bow arm to do that. Then add the left hand, and vice versa. Progress will be easier, I promise! Important!!

Get the best instrument, bow and shoulder rest (to free your left hand) you can afford.

Ok that was a quick year. Now, while all this is going on at home and at your lessons, get out of the house, and find other musicians. As I said before, find other players who are like you, accepting and forgiving. There is nothing worse than being a beginner and trying to play with the wrong level of musicians!!! It is true that playing with good players makes you a better player, but remember to watch out for your tender feelings. Playing music as an adult is tricky. Try to keep your environment “safe”, to avoid becoming discouraged. There are always people ahead of you, and remember everyone is in the same boat, looking for the “craic” too. Later, when you are not a beginner, be more adventurous, and move into groups that have better musicians than yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and remember to be nice to the beginners!!

I have seen adults be very successful! I hope this helps you get started.

And I hope this helps more people than just Virginia!


Scott Walker

 Oh YES, as suggested above, this is why you should come to “The Walker Family Band Music Workshop”. We try to help lay musicians and people feel comfortable in every way we can, in the dorm room, in the lunch room and on their instruments, no matter where they are in the process!

Google fiddle teachers and workshops in your area as well!

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