11 Months ago I bought a cheap fiddle from Ebay. I took it out of the case when it arrived, tuned it up as best as the slippery pegs would allow, picked up the bow, and realized that I had no idea what to do next. It was a feeling I hadn’t had since getting my first banjo 7 years ago, knowing basically how the thing works but just having no sense of generally recommended technique or where to start. I did spend a bunch of time trawling the internet for beginner lesson videos, tips, and techniques, but I was skeptical of the cheap thing’s utility as a starter instrument and inclined to heed my own advice to other people looking to start a new instrument: Take at least a few lessons with a human being so you don’t develop any bad habits.
Not having had money to spend on a better instrument or lessons, my fiddle has spent most of the interim in its case. Once every couple of months I would get it out, bow a couple of notes, and put it back in the case like I’d just touched a hot stove; without buying a mute there’s no way to play quietly until you gain a little bit of confidence, and I’ve lacked the gumption to fight through the “sounding like a cat skinned alive” stage. As the colder weather and long nights chase me back indoors, though, my thoughts are returning to the fiddle and how I’ve really kind of been wanting to learn for a few years now. Since a nicer instrument or lessons are not in the budget right now, back to the internet I have gone.
I realized today that I didn’t even know whether my instrument was properly strung, and after watching a few how-to videos I’ve determined that it is not. The current strings are wound every which way and overlap each other, which may be half the reason the pegs slip as much as they do. Some peg drops and a new set of properly applied strings and I could be in business.
Here’s the thing: people were teaching themselves fiddle on crummy instruments without benefit of formal instruction for generations before the internet, and in many cases were probably happier for not being subjected to the blather of self-styled discussion forum authorities. Should I let the knowledge that a nicer fiddle and lessons would give me a leg up stop me? I’ve decided I should see how far I can get with common sense and youtube before making that determination.