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Teacher Documentation

1.Introduction

FiddleQuest is a curriculum designed specifically for teachers and students in private studios and classroom settings seeking more fun and social interaction in their music. We deliver a large library of great, incrementally difficult songs in various styles from all over the world; comprehensive skill exercises in Scales, Improvisation, Sight Reading, Harmony, Chopping, and Vibrato; and community building motivational tools like student videos that are easily shot and uploaded by teachers each time a song is completed.

Easy to Use

FiddleQuest is extremely easy to use. By working closely with students and parents, we’ve refined our clean layouts to maximize efficiency, make features ever-more intuitive, and ensure that FiddleQuest is never intimidating for a student of any age. In fact, FiddleQuest is so easy to use, we didn’t even have a manual our first year!

Flexible

FiddleQuest is also extremely flexible—by design. Teachers can use FiddleQuest in different ways depending on their philosophy and the unique needs of their learning environment. Although we fully support this flexible approach, we have found a set of recommendations and best practices that we know work extraordinarily well in most settings, and in this document we’ll outline these best practices.

2.FiddleQuest Basics

2.1.Assigning a song or skill

Assigning songs and skill exercises is super easy. In fact, it’s a one-click operation.

From Song and Skill Pages

  1. Make sure you have selected the student for whom you want to assign the item
  2. Visit the song or skill you want to assign
  3. In the navigation bar at the top-left of the screen, click the Assessment Circle and the circle will change to a red assigned flag. That’s it!

Clicking the circle more than once rotates the status between Assigned, Completed, and Unassigned.

From the Practice Page

See the full Practice Page section

From the Assessment Page

Use the Assessment Page to:

To assign a song:

  1. Click the Menu icon at the top left of any FiddleQuest page, then choose the Assessment link
  2. Select the students (or groups) you want to modify
  3. Select what you want to assign (Songs, Scales, Improvisation, Sight Reading, Harmony, Chopping, or Vibrato)
  4. Click the Assessment Circle and the circle will change to a red assigned flag.

Instant Results

Because FiddleQuest uses the cloud to sync data, changes you make to assigned items are reflected instantly on your student’s devices no matter where they are or what page they’re currently viewing. There is no need for you to hit save or for your students to refresh their browser.

2.2.Assessing Levels

In FiddleQuest, Songs and Skill categories are broken into levels. Each level contains 12 items. Students work their way through songs and exercises gradually, graduating to higher levels as they complete each previous level. The songs and skill exercises are independent. A student could be at Level 4 in Songs, Level 2 in Scales, Level 5 in Sight Reading, and Level 1 in the other skills.

FiddleQuest adjusts student levels automatically as you assign new items. So if you assign Ben Scale Exercise 12 of Level 3 to work on this week, on his home page he will see the Scale icon indicating that he is in Level 3 in Scales.

If you assign Scale Exercise 1 of Level 4 next week, he will see that he has graduated to Level 4 in Scales.

Graduating Levels is an important motivation for kids—celebrate it!

Note: FiddleQuest only auto-graduates students up to new levels—never down. So if you need to back up and re-assign an older exercise from a previous level, there will be no negative impact on morale since the student will not find that they have been “demoted”.

Manually Adjusting Levels

Occasionally you may want to manually set a student’s level. This is easily accomplished on the Student Assessment page.

  1. Click the Menu icon at the top left of any FiddleQuest page, then choose the Assessment link
  2. In the first section of the page, select the student you want to adjust
  3. In the second section of the page, select Levels as the item to modify
  4. Adjust the levels you want to modify

2.3.Working with Groups

It’s easy to work with groups in FiddleQuest. Groups can be used for classes, group lessons, performance groups, or any other scenario where you want to assign, assess, and make notes for multiple students at once.

Managing Groups

  1. Click the Menu icon at the top left of any FiddleQuest page, then choose the Assessment link
  2. Click on the Manage Groups tab and add as many groups as you’d like.
  3. After entering the name of the group, you will be asked to select all the students you’d like to appear in the group.
    1. Note: Each student can only belong to one group.
    2. You can easily rename or delete groups from this same tab.

Working with Groups

  1. Click on the Groups tab. Select one or more groups and assign items exactly as you do for individual students.
    A note about groups: when you toggle the assessment status of an item for a group, it will overwrite the previous status of that item for all individuals in the group. In other words, if you assign a song for a group, it will be assigned for every member of the group whether they have previously completed the item or not.
  2. Any teacher note created or edited for one member of a group, will automatically appear for all members of the group.

2.4.Teacher notes

Using a simple but powerful notepad, teachers can quickly and easily add stylized notes that students see when they practice at home.

The notepad icon appears at the top-right of the Student Home Page, Practice Page, and all Song and Skill pages. Clicking on the notepad icon opens the full notepad. If the student has new notes within the last 7 days, a red bell icon will appear on the notepad to flag them of the new notes.

To add a note, first open the full notepad (if not already open) by clicking on the notepad icon at the top right of the screen. Tap the + to add a new note. You can style the text with bold, italics, underline, and colors, drag the notes into whatever order you desire, or delete notes you no longer want by clicking on the red X.

When the notepad first appears, it displays the notes from the most recent lessons. As soon as you add a new note on a different day, a new sheet of the notepad will appear automatically. You and your students can easily cycle backwards through your notes from every previous lesson. Unlike paper notes, they never get lost, the dog never eats them, and they are always present for each practice session and lesson.

2.5.The Practice Page

The Practice Page is truly the core of both lessons and practice.

All songs and skills you assign for a student will appear on their practice page, making it easy for them to practice everything in one place. During lessons, the Practice Page is equally indispensable. Often you can conduct an entire lesson without leaving this one page.

Assigning practice items from the Practice Page is fast, easy, and powerful.

  1. If you haven’t already done so, select the student for whom you are conducting the lesson. (Click the Menu icon at the top left of any FiddleQuest page, then choose the Students link, and then click on the student’s name.)
  2. Visit the Practice Page by clicking the Flag icon in the menu bar at the top left of any FiddleQuest page
  3. Start with the first item on the Practice Page. Skills will always show up at the top of the screen and songs will show up at the bottom. Have the student demonstrate their mastery of the first item, then click the assessment Flag icon next to that exercise. A window will pop open with options like this:
  4. Simply click the option you desire and tap Save.
     
    • If you choose to assign the next item, take a minute to introduce it to your student so that it will be familiar to them at home. Tip: This is a great time to add a helpful note or encouraging word to the FiddleQuest notepad that they will see during the week when they practice.
    • If you want to leave the song or skill assigned for another week, just close the Assessment Window (or don’t click the Assessment Flag icon in the first place) and move on to the next item on the page.
  5. Work your way down the Practice Page following the same steps above through each item you assigned during the previous lesson. When you’ve gotten to the bottom, the student is all set for the coming week!

Note: The Practice Page has a few tricks “under the hood.” We optimized it for those users with poor Internet connections or very old devices. Slow internet or old devices can make moving around any website a frustrating experience. So, the FiddleQuest Practice Page downloads and caches all the content on the page at the time the page initially loads. This way a teacher or student can engage with the page for a whole session without loading any additional content. A student returning to their Practice Page numerous times during the week benefits from the locally cached content, saving them the necessity to re-download the audio files each session.

2.6.Ready/Set/Go

Every FiddleQuest song is made up of three recordings: Ready, Set, and Go.

  • Ready is a very slow recording of violin to introduce the student to the song and provide the easiest recording to begin playing along with.
  • Set is a slightly faster recording that the student will practice with as the week progresses.
  • Go is an “at tempo” recording that usually includes a backing band. The student demonstrates that they’re ready to video the song and move on when they can comfortably play along with Go. Comfortably playing the Go recording doesn’t mean it’s necessarily at “performance” level, but it does mean they could play this song at a jam. When a student can play along with the Go recording, they are also ready to play it on their own or with an accompaniment. (Early versions of FiddleQuest included ‘band-only’ recordings, but very few students used these recordings for practice. Students would always choose the Band & Violin recording.)

2.7.Playback Delay

When practicing at home, most students find it convenient to have a delay occur after hitting the play button and before playback begins. This gives students time to get in proper position and prepare themselves for playing along with the recording.

By default, FiddleQuest uses a 3 second delay on student accounts. Younger students may like more delay, while older, more experienced students may prefer a shorter delay. Parents/students can change the default in Settings -> General -> Playback Delay.

During lessons, most teachers prefer to have playback delay disabled. As such, FiddleQuest defaults to a 0 second delay on teacher accounts. Like students, however, teachers can easily change their preferred playback delay in Settings -> General -> Playback Delay.

2.8.Chords Window


Every song in FiddleQuest contains full chord charts and chord fingers for guitar and ukulele and lyrics where applicabler. Most songs also include instructional accompaniment videos that demonstrate how to play them on guitar and ukulele.

The “Chords Window” is designed to make it easy for teachers, parents, and friends to use common, inexpensive accompaniment instruments to take part in making music with FiddleQuest students.

2.9.Practice Guide

The Practice Guide uses recordings and video to make practicing easier for students. The regular Ready, Set, and Go recordings are broken into small, “bite-sized” recordings. Each recording plays in a loop so students can keep playing along with each phrase until they get it and are ready to move on to the next one.

After learning a step, the student moves forward to the next one and progressively masters the song. This process teaches students how to take a difficult passage and break into manageable pieces. It is a skill that will help them in problems outside of music, also!

The Practice Guide contains recordings of the band that allow the student to play along with only the accompaniment.

Many songs also have a “Key Concepts” Video that appears at the bottom of the Practice Guide. This guide will help students with all the primary skills they should focus on in the song—bowing, fingering and technique.

2.10.Notation Tool

The FiddleQuest Notation Tool is an amazing way to help students grow in their ability to fluently read music. Every FiddleQuest Song, Scale, and Sight Reading exercise has a fully interactive Notation Tool.

For pedagogical notes related to notation, please see Sight Reading.

The Notation Tool has a number of powerful features:

2.10.1.Notation Size (Zooming)

Different students have different zoom needs. When viewing FiddleQuest on a Mac or PC, you can quickly set and save your desired zoom level for notation:

  1. Hit the + or button on the top left of any FiddleQuest notation to adjust the size to your liking. The zoom range for most devices is -25 to +25.
  2. Hit the Save icon and your preference will be saved for the browser and device you are currently using.

Note: If you are using FiddleQuest on a mobile device, you will not see the zoom in and out buttons above. In order to maximize speed and stability on mobile devices, we’ve stripped away everything but the notation engine. You can still change the zoom of a given notation by clicking the Gear Icon inside the Notation Tool and adjusting zoom from there.

2.10.2.Looping

One of the most powerful features of our Notation Player is the ability to select and loop a section of music.

Desktop:
  1. Place your cursor at the beginning of the section you want to loop.
  2. Click and drag your cursor to the end of the section you want to loop and release.
  3. Hit play and the recording will loop through your selection.
  4. You can loop once, repeatedly or with a count in by clicking on the selection next to the play
Mobile:
  1. Drag your finger over the area you wish to loop.
  2. Hit play and the recording will loop through your selection.
  3. On tablets, you can get the looping options (e.g. count-in) by having the device in landscape mode. (The options will not appear on tablets in portrait or devices smaller than tablets.)

2.10.3.Speeding up/Slowing Down

Sometimes you need more control over speed than Ready, Set, and Go provide. Fortunately, you can easily speed up or slow down any recording in FiddleQuest.

Desktop

Mobile

  1. Find the Playback Speed control to the left of the play button at the bottom left of the Notation Player. Drag the slider to adjust the playback speed.

Note: Changing the speed of the recording will reduce the audio quality. You can minimize this effect by changing the Audio Source to Piano.

2.10.4.Changing the Audio Source

Sometimes it is inconvenient to close the Notation Tool when you simply want to change recordings between Ready, Set, and Go. Other times it can be helpful to access the piano sound instead of the real violin track. Fortunately, changing the Audio Source within the Notation Tool is easy.

Desktop

  1. Click the Headphone icon near the bottom right side of the Notation Tool.
  2. Select the Audio Source (Ready, Set or Go) that you want to interact with.
Mobile

  1. Click the Gear icon near the bottom right side of the Notation Tool.
  2. From the top of the settings window that opens, select the Audio Source you want to interact with.

2.10.5.Transposing

Occasionally, you may wish to play a song in a different key. The FiddleQuest notation tool can do that!

  1. Change the audio source to Piano (Key Transposition does not work on Violin or Band recordings.)
  2. Click the Gear icon to open the settings window.
  3. Find the Key Transposition slider.
  4. Drag the slider to the key of your choice.

2.11.Shooting a Student Video

Student Videos are one of the most motivating elements of FiddleQuest for students of all levels. We encourage teachers to shoot a new video for every song the student completes. We’ve made it so efficient for teachers to shoot and upload videos that it shouldn’t even slow the flow of your lesson.

  1. Download the free FiddleQuest for Teachers iOS app from the Apple App Store. The app runs on any Apple device running iOS 8 or newer.
  2. Start the app and login with your FiddleQuest username and password. Note: You only have to do this once after downloading the app.
  3. Use the app to shoot the video. Tip: For best results try using an inexpensive stand like this tripod.
  4. Select the student from your list of students.Select the song, or enter a custom name if it’s a song outside the FiddleQuest curriculum.
    Tap the Upload icon.
  5. That’s it! Move on with your lesson while the app compresses the video and uploads it to FiddleQuest where it will become immediately viewable by students all over the world.

2.12.Watch / Student Video Page

Why Student Videos?

Students love watching their peers play the songs they are learning. Countless parents and teachers report that kids especially love watching students who are a year or two older than they are. The results are amazing: kids spend more time engaging with music, they learn the songs more quickly, and they stay motivated to keep pushing their playing to the next level.

Finding Videos

Student Videos can be viewed from:

  • the Watch section of each Song page
  • the Student Video page
    • Tip: To access the student video page, click the Menu icon at the top left of any FiddleQuest page, then choose the Videos link.
    • Tip: You can quickly search by song name and/or student name to explore specific videos.

2.13.Video Sharing

Parents love our video sharing feature, because it makes it quick and painless to share videos with friends and family via Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, or email.

  1. Hover your cursor over the video you want to share.
  2. Click the Share icon (the icon highlighted in blue in the image above).
  3. Choose the method you’d like to use for sharing.

Privacy settings

Users can choose whether or not they want their videos to be sharable. By default, videos are sharable, which means they can be shared by any FiddleQuest user with anyone outside FiddleQuest.

Changing your desired setting to not sharable instantly makes your videos not-sharable outside FiddleQuest. Only FiddleQuest users will be able to view your videos. If some of your videos have previously been shared, they will instantly become non-viewable outside FiddleQuest.

  1. Click the Menu icon at the top left of any FiddleQuest page.
  2. Choose the Settings link.
    • If you are logged in as a student currently, you will be asked to enter your parent credentials to access settings.
  3. Click on the Sharing tab.
  4. Sharable or Not Sharable

2.14.Curriculum Map

The Curriculum Map is a great way to see the whole FiddleQuest curriculum from a bird’s eye view. Every song and skill is listed as a link to make it easy to explore individual items. Click the Printer icon next to each song for a printable PDF of the song notation which has been specially designed for educational use.

Note: The Curriculum Map is not designed to be a core navigation tool. See the Navigation Tips for fast ways to move between songs and skills.

2.15.Hiding Skill Categories

Occasionally you may want to hide a skill category so that it does not appear on a student’s homepage. This is easily accomplished on the Student Assessment page.

  1. Click the Menu icon at the top left of any FiddleQuest page, then choose the Assessment link
  2. In the first section of the page, select the student you want to adjust
  3. In the second section of the page, select Levels as the item to modify
  4. Adjust the level to “Hide” for skills you want to hide from the student’s homepage

3.Songs

The heart and soul of FiddleQuest

Nothing truly engages the young beginner from their first few notes like playing real songs (on open strings) with great recordings or in-person accompaniment. Nothing keeps the junior high and high school student coming back like fantastic songs coupled with social jamming and performing.

Teachers experienced with other curricula regularly comment on the quality and quantity of FiddleQuest songs. The FiddleQuest curriculum is designed with small jumps in difficulty between songs so students can move consistently forward. As students make progress, their sense of accomplishment increases their motivation and leads them to want to play more.

3.1.How many songs should I assign?

We aim for the average student to complete one song every two weeks on average. Our curriculum songs are paced with this goal in mind. If a student is hungry for learning and advancing unusually quickly, assign two songs a week. If they’re struggling and not ready to move on but getting tired of the same assignment, dig into the rich library of Bonus Songs available in each FiddleQuest level.

3.2.When is a song complete?

Every teacher has their own gauge for the level of proficiency they want for any given song. A fundamental goal of FiddleQuest is to keep kids engaged and playing. One obstacle that can cause a student to stop is a teacher’s pursuit of perfection and the lack of forward progress. At FiddleQuest, our “best practices” suggestion to assess a song as complete when the student and teacher feel it is ready for playing with friends at a jam.

Why? Unlike skills, where we need the student to demonstrate mastery of each exercise before assigning the next one (because each exercise builds on the previous one), songs do not need to be ‘perfected’ to move forward. Students can enjoy these songs in social gatherings even if they are not perfect. By encouraging students to keep playing their songs at jams or with their parents or reviewing them each practice, the songs will continue to get more fluid and natural.

Examples of when to move forward and when to stay on a song:

The student has had the song for 1 week and they can play it in tune, but the rhythm is not quite right.

Keep the student on the song 1 more week and make the rhythm the focus.

The student has been playing the song for 3 weeks but the rhythm is a little off.

If you sense they are frustrated or losing energy and it can be played in a jam, then you may wish to move them forward. Tell them what the problem is but it is ‘good enough’ to enjoy with friends and will continue to get better. You may wish to go to some Bonus Songs and have them learn these before assigning the next song in the Level. Sometimes with rhythm, the student gets into their head wrong at the beginning and it can be unusually hard to fix. If the other aspects of the song are good (e.g. intonation) then the rhythm will get better and better with continued playing in groups or with you.

The student has been moving very fast (1 song a week). They have the present song in perfect intonation, good rhythm, but you feel like it could use some more dynamics and energy.

Have them spend 1 more week on the song specifying what you are looking for.

3.3.What are the goals of each song level?

Here are the skills that are learned with songs. While we hope all students will learn all skills to a high proficiency, having a sense of priority (what’s critical and what’s simply desired) is helpful when determining whether to move a student forward.

Direct Learning: when a student learns a skill or technique primarily from the teacher in a very specific, focused way.

Indirect Learning: when a student learns a skill or technique primarily through exposure to other players.

4.Skills

Developing well-rounded players ready for anything

FiddleQuest provides step-by-step exercises in a variety of independent skills. Separating the skills allows teachers to use their judgement as to the student’s motivation and progress so as not to overwhelm the student, nor allow the student to get bored. The skills are designed to allow an average student to complete an exercise in 1-2 weeks.

4.1.When is a skill complete?

A skill exercise is complete when the student demonstrates mastery of that exercise. Each skill exercise builds on the one before it. It is imperative that the student master each step before moving on to the next one.

4.2.Scales

While songs are used to teach most of the skills that are learned in music education, scales are an opportunity to focus on specific skills and techniques in a way that can avoid putting students at risk of quitting. Students want to learn songs. But if songs are used as the only vehicle to teach technique, then students are likely to lose enjoyment in playing. But if scales are used to focus on issues (e.g. intonation, left hand position, bow arm, etc), teachers can be more ‘perfectionistic’ about technique with less risk to reducing enjoyment in the songs. Motivated students can move forward on technique while less motivated students move forward on their songs with less attention to the technique. The hope is that they will begin to build their confidence in playing and want to develop the important skills that come along with scales, such as:

Finger Patterns and Intonation

The primary purpose of the SCALES UNIT is to teach left hand fingering patterns (e.g. high 3rd finger, low 1st finger, etc), ear-hand coordination* and intonation.

*Hand-Ear Coordination
Playing music is stringing together intervals. Hand-ear coordination allows violinists to hear an interval and immediately find it. For example, when a child hums Happy Birthday, they immediately find the intervals. Hand-ear coordination allows that child to immediately reach for the right notes as they play Happy Birthday on the violin. In other words, with hand-ear coordination , if you can hum it, you can play it.

Arpeggios

All the scale exercises include an arpeggio. The arpeggios are particularly important to developing ear-hand coordination.

Grouping

Scales are grouped together by fingering patterns. So G, D & A 1 octave scales—which all share the standard high 2nd finger—are taught together.

Review

Each exercise contains the NEW scale exercise and a REVIEW. The REVIEW contains most of the scales the student has learned to that point. For scales in the same GROUP (G, D & A 1 octave), only one of the scales is selected. The review recordings are valuable for reinforcing what students have already learned.

Tempo

Scales are introduced with slow tempo patterns and gradually step up over the course of 3-4 exercises.

Bowing

The bowing patterns in the SCALES UNIT are all single bow, non-slur patterns. A separate BOWING UNIT teaches different patterns that can be used with the SCALES UNIT.

Notation

Like the songs, scales can be taught without notation. In fact, FiddleQuest suggests that teachers use the audio player as the primary teaching device. Forcing the ears to anticipate the intervals speeds up ear-hand coordination. The Notation Tool is very effective, though, for focusing on trouble spots in the scales or arpeggio. The looping feature in the Notation Tool will allow you to play a scale as many times as you need.

Fingering

Because not all teachers agree on the same fingering for scales, FiddleQuest leaves fingering out of the notation. Teachers can print and teach the finger patterns they choose.

4.3.Improvisation

Improvisation is taught by FiddleQuest in a very simple, experiential way.

Linked to Scales

Improvisation exercises are in the same order as the scales. (e.g. Scale Level 3 Exercise 2—B & F# 1 Octave scale—is matched to Improvisation Level Exercise 2—Key of B.) Teachers should assign the improvisation exercise that matches the scale you are on.

The One Rule of Improvisation Exercises

The only “rule” is that the students must use the notes that are in the scale they are working on. Teachers should correct a student that uses, for instance, an F instead of an F# in the Key of D.

The One Suggestion of Improvisation Exercises

FiddleQuest suggests that students learn to end their improvisation on the root note of the key (e.g. G for the key of G).

How to Introduce Improvisation

Introducing Improvisation starts with playing the first 2-3 notes of the scale in any pattern that you desire. As the student plays these notes in their own pattern, you can introduce the next notes until the entire scale is being used.

Chord Patterns

FiddleQuest uses widely used chord patterns as rhythm tracks to the improvisation exercises. Students will soon begin to anticipate the natural changes within songs between chords.

Back and Forth

The rhythm tracks typically play the chord progression 6 times. FiddleQuest suggests that in the lesson, teachers take the first time through. As the chord progression ends and returns to the beginning, the instrumentation will change (typically adding drums and bass) indicating that the student should now play.

Conversation

Improvisation is the musical equivalent of ‘conversing’ with someone. And just like conversations, the best way to learn how to improvise is to simply start doing it and help your students keep their self-consciousness to a minimum by words of encouragement and as little ‘correcting’ as you can manage.

4.4.Sight Reading

Training Eyes (not ears)

Students with strong ears have an amazing ability to bypass the notation on the songs they are learning. Of course, a strong ear is fundamental to being a versatile musician. And because all FiddleQuest students will have strong ears, we created Sight Reading exercises that are too hard to memorize. The unintuitive, difficult to predict musical patterns require a student to rely entirely on their eyes.

Consistent and Gradual

Relying on the FiddleQuest approach of consistent and gradual progress, the Sight Reading skills introduce one new concept (e.g. a quarter rest or a G#) per exercise. Students will be able to confidently build on their success and move as far and fast as their motivation carries them.

Minimal Lesson Time on Sight Reading

Because students can see the cursor moving while the notes are being played, they learn to associate the notes quickly. Students start slowly and play along with the violin on the READY recording, speed up while continuing to play along with the violin recording on the SET recording, and on GO, students play along with the moving cursor and a metronome.

How to Introduce Sight Reading

For most students, you will want to introduce Sight Reading when they reach Level 3 songs. The first sight reading lesson will show the student the relationship between the open notes on the violin and the notes on the page. Have them immediately begin by playing along with READY. There is no need to go into much detail about the clef or time signature or even what measures are. The only thing they need to pick up on is what each of the notes on the staff represents. Over time, you can begin adding in the details.

Each Week

Most teachers only need about 3-5 minutes to explain the new concept that is introduced in the next exercise. Have your students play along with the READY recording again and see where they struggle. Most of the struggles will be easily tackled through repetition with the recordings. Some concepts, like slurs or dotted quarter notes, need a bit more explanation. Typical students require only 1-2 weeks per exercise.

Sight Reading Exercises Overview Map

View the detailed Overview of Sight Reading Exercises

4.5.Harmony

Harmonizing is improvising in a way that enhances a melody. Again, like conversation, it is best taught through repeated use, experimenting, and minimal rules.

Harmony Exercises are designed to give students experience with playing alongside another instrument on the melody. Through repeated exposure to playing with the Harmony recordings, students will develop both their ear and their confidence to join in with others to complement and enhance others on the melody.

Assigning a Harmony Exercise

Like Improvisation, Harmony exercises are in the same key as the scale in the respective Level and Exercise. (i.e. Level 3 Exercise 2 Scale is the B & F# scales. Level 3 Exercise 2 Harmony is in the key of B.) By selecting a Harmony exercise in the same key as the scale, students reinforce the scale finger patterns they are learning while also getting a clearer sense of the choice of notes that work for the song they are harmonizing with.

How to teach Harmony

Like Improvisation, Harmonizing with others has very few rules. The primary rule is to stay in the notes of the scale in that key. Students are often quite shy about playing alongside melodies in the beginning. Over several months and many exercises, they begin to lose their fear about failing. They then begin to explore sounds that are different and creative. Comment on how long notes sound compared to short notes on a particular phrase. Or how playing loudly and softly sounds different on certain passages.

Start Small

Begin by playing first with only 2 or 3 notes to start. A student will discover they can sound good behind a melody with very little struggling. Allow them to enjoy just a few notes until you sense their confidence growing.

Explore and Discover

Allowing the Harmony exercises to be an opportunity for exploration is the best approach for teaching this skill. Students will eventually begin to pick up on the soft skills that go along with Harmonizing.

4.6.Chopping

Chopping has developed into an important and desired skill among young players. The FiddleQuest exercises show students (and teachers that are not yet skilled in chopping) a step-by-step approach to chopping on the violin.

Chopping is a skill that requires incremental and persistent steps forward. Once the basic chopping technique is learned, the pace of learning does pick up. The sequential approach of FiddleQuest allows students to move forward gradually, see their success, and incrementally develop fast and fun chopping grooves.

4.7.Vibrato

Teachers tell us that teaching vibrato is one of their least favorite activities in the lesson. It is a very slow-growing skill that where progress can be difficult to see. We’ve developed an approach that incorporates fun band accompaniments and simple, progressive exercises that kids enjoy. Parents may perk their ears up when they hear sliding, siren-like sounds accompanying the different bands. But the kids will soon develop the mechanics that lead to a beautiful vibrato.

Developing the motion

The FiddleQuest approach begins by getting students to loosen their wrists through sliding up and down the fingerboard. As the exercises progress, the students slide less and less distance. Eventually they are moving their hand back and forth in a relaxed manner.

The Music

The music behind the vibrato exercises is designed to get the student to move in a consistent rhythm. As the tempo picks up, so does their forward/back motion. Students will stay with slower tempos until the teacher feels their technique is good enough for the next (faster) exercise.

5.Starting a new student with FiddleQuest

5.1.The First Lesson

First impressions are important in all encounters—especially with a 5 year old wanting to start the violin. A suggested first lesson looks like this:

  1. Introductions
  2. How to hold the bow
  3. Bowing on the shoulder
  4. Show them how to hold the violin under their chin
  5. Show the student their FiddleQuest Student Home page
  6. Take them to Blueberry Jam and start the READY recording
  7. Guide their bow as they play along with the recording
  8. Gradually pull your hand away from the bow as they get the motion
  9. Make sure the parent understands how to hold the bow and have them help the student practice as if you aren’t there
  10. Show the student the videos of other students playing Blueberry Jam on the song page

5.2.Getting Parents Invested in FiddleQuest

Parents who begin violin lessons are typically motivated parents with a great deal of hope and enthusiasm. They want to see their child succeed and are appreciative of tools and encouragement that helps with that goal. Showing the parents how you navigate the FiddleQuest site and inviting them to try it out during the lesson will help them see how they can support their child even if they do not have a musical background.

5.3.For Musical Parents

If a parent is a musician and can play along with the student, the student may be less reliant on the FiddleQuest site during practices in the early months. The goal is to have children playing with others, so when people can provide the music instead of the website, all the better. To help facilitate this, FiddleQuest songs include chord charts and instructional videos to help musical parents play along with their kids.

6.Transitioning an existing student to FiddleQuest

6.1.Switch or Quit Students

If a student is simply not doing well with an existing curriculum and they are looking like they may quit, making a quick transition to FiddleQuest makes sense. Both you and the student will be ready to try something entirely different.

6.2.The Gentle Transition

If a student is doing well with a current curriculum but you would like to see them learn songs and skills from FiddleQuest, then you will want to make a gradual transition over a month or two. Start with simply learning some songs that are not too easy, yet can be learned easily in a week. Students often enjoy the successful feeling of learning new songs in the easier levels. It is a great way to help them get acclimated to the site.

6.3.The Advanced Student

Advanced level students can benefit from going to specific songs or skills to complement their current music. Identifying the most relevant skills for the student and the most interesting songs is a good start introducing FiddleQuest to this level student.

7.Lesson Flow

7.1.Example

A Typical 30 min Lesson for a 10 year old Level 3 student

:00-:03 — Tuning and Check-in

  • Open the Student’s Practice Page

:03-06 — Scales

  • The student plays the Review Scale and then the New Scale that they’ve been working on this week.
  • The teacher checks on technique, fingering, and intonation.
  • The teacher assigns next Exercise (or sticks with same exercise for another week).
  • The teacher writes a quick note on the notepad for the student to pay attention to something they’re struggling with.

:06-09 — Improvisation

  • The teacher begins the recording on the improvisation exercise. He plays along with the chord progression using just a few notes of the scale.
  • The student takes a turn and plays with those notes.
  • The teacher takes another turn and adds a few more notes and the process of back and forth continues until the end of the 2 minute recording.
  • The teacher marks the Exercise complete and assigns the next Improvisation exercise. The teacher notes that the exercise is in a new key and points out to the student how it matches up with the scale in the new Scale exercise he is learning.

:09-14 — Sight Reading

  • The teacher asks the student what recording they are up to and the students reports he is up to the GO recording. The teacher puts it on GO and observes the student play it. There was only one minor mistake. The teacher backs it up a few measures before the mistake and the student completes the exercise.
  • The teacher marks the exercise “Complete”
  • The teacher sees that there is a new note, the C natural, on the next exercise. The teacher shows the student how it is played with the low 2nd finger.

:14-16 — Previously Assigned Song

  • The student demonstrates ability to play along with GO recording
  • The teacher plays along with the student on the guitar or violin

:17-21 — Video

  • The teacher makes a video of the student playing the song
  • The teacher uploads the video
  • The teacher marks the song as complete and assigns the next song

:21-28 — New Song

  • Teacher introduces the new song by playing it.
  • Teacher has the student learn the A section of the song slowly, by ear. The teacher plays a small phrase and the student plays it back with the teacher. Phrase by phrase, measure by measure, the A section is learned by the student to a slow, basic level.
  • The teacher has the student play along with the READY recording through the A section.
  • The teacher shows the student how to loop the A section on the Notation so the student can play that section repeatedly at home.

:28-29 — Notes

  • The teacher writes a quick note asking the student to move ahead to the B section of the song at home.

:30 — Goodbyes

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