Personal Updates

Hey Fiddle Jammers,

Fitz here.  I’m feeling the need to share a bit of an apology for the lack of activity on the FJi website this past month.  Things have been super busy on the homefront, with some family illness and visitors coming and going, and me having to also keep the roof over our head and lights on …yes, full disclosure, FJi is not making me quite enough money to quit the proverbial “day-job” just yet (to make ends meet, I’m currently on assignment as Instruction Coordinator at our local Guitar Center… for better or worse, my first ever gig in the corporate world)… but, that said, I’m fully expecting and intending for all that to change soon, as my real desire is to be putting all my attention to FJi full time, comes into fruition, as we now head into “phase two” with our new “accountability” courses launching in May.

Let’s make and army of creative fiddle thinkers!

I hope you all will consider helping the world-wide fiddle jamming cause by participating in one, or more, of our courses.  Access to the FJi library of lessons is a good thing of course (no pun), but many of you have been saying that you’d like something a bit more structured than just “free-styling” it through the FJi lesson list.

So, here’s the Top-10 of what we’ve brainstormed.  I’ll be making final decisions this week as to which courses to run first based on your input (email me your votes via the form at the bottom of this post!).  So far the top votes are for Fiddle Jam 101, and Music Mechanics, with Blues Violin coming in a close 3rd.  Prices for these intensive courses will be reasonable, with plenty of opportunities for insider’s deep discounts for FJi members, and some free bonus sign-up gifts, and the possibility of a prize for a lucky winner if we get enough sign-ups.

Here’s the initial TOP 10 four-week course list with some short descriptions of each.  Please give me your votes below!

  1. Fiddle Jam 101: Jammer The original way-cool EZ way, Fiddle Jam Method from the beginning.  Crack open the door to your creative self!  Have fun while learning how to improvise to simple one-scale-fits-all tracks.  Tons of positive encouragement.  Major scales, Blues scales, EZ “Tater-ing” (improvising back-up parts), all applied to some easy songs.  Great for the near beginner, Hobbyist, or the Classical cross-over student who just wants to get “hip!”  Covers multiple music styles: folk, blues, country, swing, funk, rock n roll, and more.
  2. Music Mechanics Course: Fiddle Jam style!  Don’t let Music “Theory” scare you away.  Learn the nuts and bolts of how music works as applied to your fiddle and being able to use it in the service of keeping your Goosebump Factor intact!   I will show you the easiest ways to use musical knowledge on the bandstand, on the fly, with as little thinking as possible.  EZ chord speller system, scale anatomy, intervals, moods of the modes, triads, 7th chords, arpeggios, reading rhythms, note numbers, chord numbers, & pentatonics …all learned, and then applied each week.
  3. Blues Violin Course: The Blues… where it all began.  Learn how to navigate within this most creative & moving style!  EZ-Zones, playing with emotion, rhythm, straight vs. shuffle feel, riff & licks vocabulary building exercises, tunes, bass lines, boogie woogie, I-IV-V, Blues progression variations …Lots of FUN!
  4. Fiddle Jam 102: “GiggerLevel two of your Fiddle Jamming adventure.  Where the original Fiddle Jam Book and our Jammer level materials on the site purposefully keep it all with a one-scale-fits-all approach, this is not necessarily the way it always works in the real world.  In this course we will explore how to start “growing your ears” and learn to switch easy Pentatonic scales to MATCH simple chord progressions in what I call Roots Music.  This will include older Country, folk & fiddle tunes, Cajun music, and the more countrified side of Blues & Rock.
  5. Tatering Course: How to create back-up parts on the fly, so you can step back, and play supportive things when it is someone else’s turn, or even just learn to participate and play SOMETHING even if you do not know the song!   EZ Music Mechanics: how to choose notes that fit the chords in a song, play simple repeating “bass” lines, using  “leading” tones, Boogie Woogie, Double string drones, ear training, and more.
  6. Fiddle Jam Greatest Hits Course: Learn up to a dozen simple Fiddle Tunes that have become favorites in my Fiddle Jam Classes.  All these fun tunes have room for back-up tatering & improvisation too… of course!
  7. Gypsy Jazz Course 101: Gypsy Jazz has enjoyed quite the resurgence in popularity in recent years… get on the wave!  This will be a introductory course to this exciting violin style originally developed in the 1930’s and 40’s by guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli.  Learn about harmonic minor scales, swing feel, & some licks and tricks.  We’ll start with some of the less harmonically complex tunes like: Minor Swing, Noto Swing, Spider Man, Swing 42 and others, and probably touch on some easy music mechanics.
  8. Jazz Violin 101: Get started in this sometimes intimidating style with songs that stay closer to our one-scale-fits-all approach at the beginning (like “Autumn Leaves” and others).  Then, get introduced to leading tones, modes, and how to create custom scales to fit chords while working with songs like “All of Me.”
  9. Rhythm Changes Course (Jazz 102): If Jazz has a standard form, “Rhythm Changes” is it.  Learn how to navigate the 100’s tunes that fit this format.  The III VI II V I progression (usually in the Bridge), learn to recognize and think in “diatonic chunks” and when to throw in the Blues scales for musical punctuation! 
  10. Electric Violin Course: Learn about stepping into the guitarist’s world and playing with distortion and other electronic effects.  We will apply these techniques to various Rock n Roll eras from the 1950’s to present, and cover what musical knowledge, playing techniques, and approaches it takes to play this exciting stuff!

Course Formats:

Basics: I am planning on making all the courses intensive 4-week events, with a weekly live webinar (also available as a replay if you can’t make the live time slot) with me explaining and performing the week’s studies, assignments, and goals.  I will be personally available for questions and coaching via phone, email, messaging, and web cam, throughout the week as I can also.  An online quiz will have to be passed in order to continue on to the next week’s materials, as well as your video posting (Ex: on YouTube or Facebook) of the performance homework.  

I’ve been toying with the idea of your performances being fairly graded by yourself, your peers, and me, as part of your passage into the next week’s units, but after some initial negative feedback on this, I think we can just stick with the “positive encouragement” approach for now (again, I’m open to your thoughts on this).  

Enrollment: In order for the “accountability” part to have any validity, we will need a minimum and maximum student enrollment quota.  I think that at least 4 participants in each course will work, but also no more than 20 so that I can give you all individual attention as needed too.  These seem like good numbers to start with (though, I’m open to your ideas and comments).  The “accountability” portion will be in the taking of quizzes and posting video of yourself playing the lesson materials when appropriate (to YouTube or Facebook, etc…) and then posting the link to your video on a student page on the FJI website just for your class.  

For those who are super shy, I guess we could possibly offer a “shadow” course too (for a lesser price possibly) where you could follow along with the course materials but not take the quizzes or be a part of the group posting and review portions.  *Contact me if interested in this option.

Pricing:

Because of the more labor intensive aspects of running programs like this, these courses will have to be a separate pricing structure from our usual FJI tuition membership.  $199 for a four-week intensive course seems fair to me and others I’ve been brainstorming with… but with deep discounts (40% = $119.40) offered for those who sign-up early (by May 1st), and additional 10% off for our current All Access Pass (AAP) FJI members ($99.50).  

To keep the technical aspects of our website from getting over-complicated, being a current FJI member during the course will most likely be a requirement too (and access to the FJI library may be helpful to you during the course anyway).  I’ll be running all this by my webmaster and am very open to your ideas, as you are all my beta-testers!

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