Learning with Ears
FiddleQuest is a unique curriculum for violinists. Our primary goal is to help students learn the skills that will keep them playing long after lessons have ended. FiddleQuest is built on the belief—borne out by observation and research—that a strong determining factor for a student continuing to play music after lessons end is a strong ear.
A strong ear is the ability to hear music and respond precisely. A response includes replicating the music, harmonizing with the music, or developing the musical idea. A strong ear is not something you are born with, but a skill that is learned through experience.
A strong ear starts with a pathway in our brains that needs to be developed and strengthened. People with strong ears can hear, process and map complex patterns of sounds. The stronger your ear, the more complex and lengthier the pattern that can be processed.
For example, a student with an undeveloped ear may hear just 4 notes and process only 1 or 2 of them. A student with a highly developed ear can hear a new song and be able to process and mentally map the entire song in one listen. While there are disorders that make this natural process more difficult (just as there are disorders that interfere with auditory cognition), humans are wired for this skill. And when you develop this skill, it goes with you to every musical instrument you play.
As a musician, a strong ear also means strong ear-hand coordination. Ear-hand coordination is very similar to eye-hand coordination. A basketball player requires the ability to instantaneously coordinate the muscles in their hands and arms to their thoughts. A musician with strong ear-hand coordination can have a pattern of notes in their head and instantaneously coordinate the muscles in their fingers and bow hand to respond to that sound.
FiddleQuest's practice tools are effective for learning and developing ear strength. It teaches students how to break songs down and loop difficult sections while helping them develop their most important skill—their ear. Students report increased learning and empowerment in their practicing at home and teachers report increased satisfaction and progress with students when using the practice tools.
What about teaching notation skills?
Sight reading is a cornerstone skill. FiddleQuest helps violinists to rely entirely on their ears OR entirely on their eyes for whatever musical situation they encounter.
Just as it is easy for a student to bypass their ear development by leaning on their sight reading strength, the reverse is also true—students can fool their eyes (and their teachers) into believing their sight reading skills are better than they truly are.
FiddleQuest teaches students to read by learning to play harmonies with notation. Anyone who has played a second violin part can attest to the difficulty of 'faking it' through the piece with strong ears. Harmonies are difficult to memorize and require students to rely heavily on their reading skills.
If your students come to FiddleQuest already relying on their eyes, the shift to ear learning will be a challenge at first. Encourage them to hang in there! Consider starting with a few easy songs and let them work through them. Once they begin to experience progress, their frustration will give way to motivation.
Strong ears are worth the effort! The confidence, satisfaction and joy a student experiences from playing anything they hear will last a lifetime.