Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

I’ve launched a new site. I’m going to be uploading heaps of video tutorials in the coming weeks, as well as the accompanying sheet music. You can find it at:

http://www.fredsfiddleacademy.com

Also offering lessons via Skype or in person (if you happen to be based in Melbourne). I’ve got plenty of respect for the community here, so any thoughts or requests for tutorials are appreciated.

Thanks,
Fred

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

I do have a thought. It would be good if you could post some videos of yourself playing Irish trad tunes. It’s all too often that under-qualified fiddlers try to teach Irish, and that does no good for the students or the music. So it would be good for you to demonstrate that you can play the music.

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Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Hear hear.

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Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Well, Fred does have a little teaching video on his site.

So, who’s qualified to to judge whether a fiddler is qualified to teach? Eh? Eh? 🙂

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I saw the video. It doesn’t show much. I also looked at the Web and didn’t see anything.

Who’s qualified? Maybe someone who’s going to plunk down money for some lessons, and has the good sense to check out actual Irish fiddler teachers like James Kelly. That person should be able to tell the difference between real and wannabe.

I don’t know if Fred can play or not. Maybe he’s tremendous. But if I were a student looking for lessons, I’d like to see who will be doing the teaching.

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Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Fred can play.

Ergo he did’t specifically say "Irish fiddle lessons" did he?

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Thanks Tom. It would be nice if he’d put a few things on the site, still.

Also, I know he’s not claiming to teach Irish per se, but it would be nice if he’d do some Irish tunes if he’s looking to offer lessons to the people on The Session.

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Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

I would say Fred learned to speak English in Britain, not in Melbourne, so sub-titles will not be necessary… . just kidding guys. If I were teaching a rank beginner, I would probably start with more fundamental details, but as a video primer Fred’s video is pretty good. Getting started can be easier with a few lessons, but self motivation is the most important capacity. Decent musicians tend to be largely self-taught.

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"So, who’s qualified to to judge whether a fiddler is qualified to teach? Eh? Eh?"

Well, that would be all you guys here at the Mustard.
That’s why everyone keeps coming here, asking for advice here, right?

Clearly, the buck stops here…
😉

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Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

I think the posted audio files are pretty good. Even though they are not especially Irish, I would guess Fred can make a respectable show at ITM. I hope he does well. Maybe we will get to hear some impressions from people who sign up for his lessons.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Having seen this musician at a number of sessions around Melbourne in recent months I would say that his playing skills indicate sufficient all-round knowledge of fiddle playing suitable for teaching. He has a wide selection of tunes, excellent timing, good bowing technique, and a sound knowledge of fiddle ornamentation.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Thanks for all the kind words, and constructive criticism - both are equally welcome.
It was a conscious decision not to include my playing on the site, only because it’s not my style of teaching. Obviously everyone is different, but it is exceedingly rare that I get a student who responds well to me ‘showing them how it’s done’. The site isn’t a vehicle for my performing career and never will be- if people want to hear me play then, as Tom found out, it is easily done!
I am self taught, having only ever learned trad (admittedly not pure-bred ITM ;)), so a lot of the gripes and groans I encountered along the way have relatively home-spun solutions, or at least my take on them.
I regularly attend workshops of all levels and swap notes with other teachers because I am passionate about teaching fiddle. My list of top ITM teachers and top ITM players are completely different because they are two entirely different disciplines.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Before reading the previous comments I had no intention of seeking out Fred’s playing. When i read Fred’s first post, out of curiosity, I did a quick Youtube search (I didn’t even "Google") and found nothing. No big deal - I was more interested in the teaching part and the site, as I teach too.

In any case, I’m glad I heard the Soundcloud stuff (thanks, Tom Zero!), and to Fred, I say I think your playing and content is very good in my book. Good man 🙂

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Hope you don’t mind me adding it Fred — all the best!

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Thank you for sharing the clip, very nice.
"It was a conscious decision not to include my playing on the site, only because it’s not my style of teaching. Obviously everyone is different, but it is exceedingly rare that I get a student who responds well to me ‘showing them how it’s done’."

Could you elaborate on this please?

I wonder that if the lessons were also going to be on Skype and teachers such as James Kelly offer Skype lessons, would it not be doing more for the Irish music tradition to direct the students towards someone like him for instruction?

And if students don’t respond well to ‘showing them how its done’..what is their expectation from the lessons? If, for example, James Kelly were giving the lessons, would they be OK with James showing them how its done?

I just think its very important to preserve the truest form of the Irish music tradition whenever we can. If not, there is a danger that it will be become so diluted, because the teaching is diluted, that it will be lost forever. And that would be very sad indeed.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Hi Éilís, thanks for thanking the time to respond.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for James as a teacher and player, but I don’t think his existence invalidates any other teacher.

The only thing sadder than Irish music being lost for ever would be for its players to lose the spark of innovation and fail to recognise it as the evolving tradition that it is.

As for me blasting a brand new student with some of my playing, here’s the parallel I always draw: imagine you’ve gone in for a night class in creative writing. The first thing the teacher does is slap a manuscript in front of your face and says ‘read that. It’s bloody brilliant. That’s how you should be writing’. Not a good way to learn. Rather, I demonstrate techniques and melodies in the context of our learning, not just to prove that I can play.

I really do appreciate your response and I’m taking all this on board, but your approach to me sounds anti competitive and - if I might be as frank and honest as you were - a little disappointing!

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

I’ve bought a lot of Homespun Lessons over the years. They get a lot of big name musicians to tape lessons. These folks certainly know how to play. But they don’t all know how to teach. Watching Fred play won’t tell you how well he teaches. He should offer a clip of him teaching some technique and let that speak for itself.

Which he does, under "Videos".

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Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Just to get back to my original point. I wasn’t suggesting that you "blast" a student with your playing, and I wasn’t criticizing your video lesson. I think it’s fine.

What I was suggesting was that you simply prove you can play ITM. That’s because there are plenty of teachers — some on the Web — who claim to teach "Irish" but who cannot play Irish. Yes, they may teach generic fiddling and even do some good for some people, but they can’t play with a lilt, they can’t play musical rolls, triplets and other ornaments, and they don’t understand the difference.

I think it’s only fair for a teacher to show that he or she can actually play in the style. Your playing sounds good, but it’s more Scottish than Irish, so that’s something that might be important to some prospective students.

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Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

I liked your playing, Fred. But I agree with Ergo, that a wee example of it would be nice to see — or hear — on your website.

To carry your analogy forward… If I went to a creative writing class, I would want to know that the teacher has had some success at writing novels/short stories/poetry, whatever it is. Yes, yes, teaching people to write and actually writing a novel are obviously different skills (one can argue whether or not it is possible to be taught how to write a novel or poetry, but that’s another can of worms; neither here nor there in this discussion), but you ought to be able to competently do the thing you are teaching. I would probably read or at least skim through the thing my teacher has written because that would give me some indication of their approach to novels. I would definitely want to know what they have written, and I would be more interested in a class with Richard Price than with JK Rowling.

To be more on point, I would not take Irish/Scottish/Old Time/Bluegrass/Klezmer fiddle lessons with someone who has no idea how to play the style I want to learn. If I had a recording of their playing, I’d know they played in a style I want to learn.

With both novels and Irish music, you can in fact learn a lot from reading a lot of novels and listening to a lot of music. In fact, I would say that you need to. I’d recommend slapping a novel or a tune in front of someone, and them absorbing it, working out why it’s bloody brilliant, both consciously and unconsciously. I don’t reckon anyone will become competent without that.

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All very good points Dr Silver. In fact my first question to my students is always ‘who do you listen to?’ Immersion is dead important to learning the tradition. That is, immersion in the tradition itself not in my playing! Radigun was primarily a Scottish project. Nowadays I divide my time equally between the two traditions. I don’t believe that takes away from my knowledge of either of them, and I don’t believe that you need to be born and raised in Galway to a musical family in order to be qualified to teach Irish music!

I’ll still be leaving the site as tutorials and teaching info, but based on what you’ve all said I might whack a link to my Soundcloud on there for those who are interested.

I do hope I’m not coming off as too defensive as I’m thrilled people are engaging with me and being constructive. I’ve been a teacher for a long time, and self employed for even longer; I’ve learned to follow my gut on a lot of things!

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Sean Kenan is a CCE-accredited teacher who has been running a successful fiddle school in Melbourne for years - see http://www.seankenan.com
So I wonder if Fred’s using a bit of hyperbole when he claims on his home page to be "Melbourne’s leading fiddle school."?

PS: I’m not a fiddler and I’m not from Melbourne, and I’ve got zero involvement in either fiddle school. Good luck to Fred and his Fiddle Academy.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Thanks Dogbox.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Ah good luck to Fred and his venture 🙂 But if I were him, I’d tone down the expectations in http://fredsfiddleacademy.com/about/

"It is my firm belief that no-one is unable to learn an instrument, and that everyone has the potential to become a great musician. With a bit of work, we’ll turn you into the next Kevin Burke!"

I know it’s a bit of hyperbole but it’s also misleading. Everyone may in theory have the ‘potential to become a great musician’ but few will get there. Mostly we amateur musicians go along enjoying the good days whilst forgetting the bad and that’s about the sum of it.

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AS others have stated, having tried quite a few teachers myself, I found that a good player doesnt make a good teacher. Probably 50% Ive had it felt like I was putting them out by being there and they were just doing it for an easy buck. Not saying that is the case with you ofc 🙂. but that is probably the main thing that has kept me away from getting more lessons

kind of like going to a hooker you know they are only gracing you with their presence cos you are paying them and have no passion for what they are doing.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

Best of luck Fred.

Re: Introducing Fred’s Fiddle Academy!

thanks for making my feet move. now if only my fingering and bowing would move with that inspiration…