Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ with Katie:
  • How long does it take to learn a tune?  That completely depends on the tune and the fiddler.  Tunes in more complicated meters and forms will take longer.  But my fiddle students can learn a simple AABB jig, for example, in about 15 minutes.  It gets easier with more practice.
  • Why are you against learning from sheet music? I'm not totally against it... I think writing tunes down is a good way of ensuring that they'll be around for people to play in the future.  The problem is it's impossible to write down an Irish tune that will convey how it's really supposed to be played.  The lilt, bowing, and articulations just can't be captured by our current system.  So, written notes are good as a reference, but you need to hear a tune to really know how it's supposed to sound.  Also learning by ear makes you smarter and cooler.
  • What kind of microphone are you using?  Sometime back in August I bought a microphone, so the videos made after that point have a much clearer sound.  It's an Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Condenser mic.  I chose it because it plugs right into my laptop via USB and I can use it in iMovie and Garageband without needing a mixer or anything else.  I highly recommend it.  And no, they are not an official sponsor of NTAD.... although they should be.  
  • What kind of fiddle do you have? My fiddle is a German factory violin from around the turn of the 20th century. It was imported and sold in the Wurlitzer catalog out of Cincinnati. I purchased it around 1995 from Weaver's Violin Shop in Maryland.
  • Why should I learn to fiddle?  This is such an important question I gave it its own page.  Click on the link above.
  • When did you start to fiddle?  My mom played Irish folk harp and although I started with Suzuki lessons at age 4, I always fiddled too.  When I turned 9, I got to join my mom and my older sister playing music for weddings, concerts, and the Maryland Renaissance Festival.  I kept up my classical stuff all through college, but was always simultaneously doing fiddle and jazz styles.  Now I'm nearly 100% fiddling but I still do my scales and etudes.
  • Do you have the sheet music for any of these tunes? No, probably not.  But if you really really need the sheet music and you can't find it online (at for example), email me and I'll be more than happy to transcribe it for you and send it your way.  I'll ask $5 for a transcription if I haven't already transcribed it.  If I have the transcription you need just sitting on my computer I'll send it right to you for free.
  • How do you do those Irish ornamentations?  Those you might be able to figure out by ear, sometimes it's just a quick stop of the note with your third or fourth finger.  I have a tricky way of outlining the different ornamentations you can do.  The source of this information is fiddler-extraordinaire Mick Conneely.   Here it is:  (you're welcome!)     (click to enlarge)
Email questions to katiehendersonfiddle at gmail dot com.