Foundational Ideas of FiddleQuest

Solving Puzzles in Music

Learning to play a new song is like solving a puzzle. We start with hearing a very complex collection of notes and then break it into smaller components. Some of the components are familiar patterns and others are difficult and require more effort.

I did not enjoy working on puzzles as child. But over the years, my confidence that I could solve puzzles and other ‘problems’ grew as I kept learning musical pieces.

Which is why, perhaps, I am working to solve a larger musical puzzle — why is the drop-out rate so high for violin students?

Every year, thousands of 4–14 year old children pick up the violin for the first time. They will choose the violin as their instrument for the school orchestra. Or their parents will take them to private lessons.

When I was a young player, it felt like a game of musical chairs. Every year, fewer and fewer of my peers were still in the game as the next round started.

Most people don’t realize is that of those thousands of children who start on the violin, only a few of them will be playing when they are an adult.

Improving the odds that young, excited, children face to reach an early goal in life has become a puzzle to solve. And my approach is pretty much like learning a really difficult piece of music — I’m breaking the puzzle into small components and looking for the patterns.