My collection of exercises is expanding! I'm starting to use the TABS underneath the "Exercises" header above. Check it out - if you hover your mouse over "Exercises" you'll see a link to Speed Drills. Wow, I'm getting so organized! Everything is still free, so check it out. 

Sheet music and mp3s for exercises can be accessed here!  These are samples, which are free to download.  My goal is to post the sheet music, mp3 backup tracks at several speeds (for your practicing enjoyment), and mp3 examples of me playing the exercise on the fiddle. Eventually the full collection will be available at my Store (which is still under construction). These aren't easy - beginner exercises will be created and loaded as my students need them.


It's important to practice scales - both for technique, and to put the "theory" into your hands and your ears. One of the most common scales in Bluegrass and Country music is the Pentatonic Scale, which is made up of 5 notes (pent = 5). The Major Pentatonic Scale uses these scale steps: 1 2 3 5 6

Major Pentatonic Scales

Here are the Major Pentatonic Scales in 12 keys. It's nice to practice these with a backup or drone to keep your pitch in line. I'll get that posted soon.

Pattern Drills

7th Chord Pattern Drills

Here are two seventh chord patterns that are great as warm-ups. These move diatonically, starting on each step of the major scale. Although you can move through all 12 keys in any order, I've put them around the circle of 5ths for this drill. The first exercise (Diatonic Sevenths Ex 1) is in cut time, so play it along with the backup mp3 called "Major Diatonic around circle cut time."  The second exercise (Diatonic Sevenths Ex 2) works with the backup mp3 called "Major Diatonic around circle common time." 
Here's another pattern drill that moves diatonically through each step of the major scale. Diatonic Triad Ex 2 uses a moveable hand shape, which is a powerful tool for fiddling, especially at top speeds. Notice that the pattern starts on the 3rd of the triad instead of the root. Things sound very predictable if all of your licks start on the root of the chord, so it's good to practice exercises that start on different chord tones. This drill works with the backup track, "Major Diatonic around circle cut time at 80" provided below.
Major Scale Pattern Drills

Here's a 4 note pattern, running step-wise through the notes of the major scale. Since it's always harder to come down, you get to do that twice, each time with different fingerings. It's 3 octaves, so I adjusted the pattern a bit for D, Eb, E, F, and F# (it just got too screaming high). The example mp3's for this exercise are from the Sibelius classical violin MIDI robot. Not very expressive, but really, really in tune and steady.
Pentatonic Scale Pattern Drills

You can also run pattern drills over different scales. Here's a 3 note pattern that starts at each step of the Major Pentatonic Scale, and runs through all 12 keys. This is the 3-octave version (kinda tricky). Easier versions will come later. I promise.


Diminished Swing Lick #1 is a tag from a contest fiddle tune.
Chromatic Lick #1 is pretty darn hip! You'll probably want to slur it in groups of 4 or 8, depending on the tempo. I typically don't add fingerings to every note, but chromatics are tricky.
Yodel Lick #1 is a classic western swing lick. Play it over the 5 chord, resolving to the 1 chord. This exercise takes the lick around the circle of 5ths.

Rhythmic Bowings

I've been studying Indian Rhythms, and practicing bowings based on different groupings of running 8th notes. Since so many fiddle tunes are made up of running 8ths, spicing up the rhythm adds interest and intensity. Here are the first mp3 backup and example tracks for this type of exercise. I made these rhythmic loops on the Yamaha Motif XF8 then recorded them as audio in Pro Tools. The backup tracks are 6 minutes long, so you have plenty of time to play along with it.

Takita 1
I've named the first rhythmic exercise Takita 1. The pattern is 3+3+3+3+2+2. In my non-scholarly, fiddle-playing view of Indian Rhythms, groups of 3 are spoken as "Ta-ki-ta" and groups of 2 are spoken as "Ta-ka." Each eighth note gets a syllable. So, the way you would "speak" this rhythmic pattern is Takita Takita Takita Takita Taka Taka (over and over). With the fiddle, you can slur 3 notes for Takita and slur 2 notes for Taka. You can also get this rhythmic feel with single bows, accenting the first note of each group. Playing this over a song with a basic rhythm of 4+4+4+4 really spices things up! I use this as a warmup, especially over simple classical etudes like Schradieck #1 (The School of Violin-Technics) and Kreutzer #2 (Forty-Two Studies). I also practice scales and pattern drills with this bowing. An example of me playing this rhythm over the Schradieck etude is below. Backup tracks at several speeds are provided for your practicing enjoyment.

Dadingendum 1
The second rhythmic exercise is called Dadingendum 1. The pattern is 5+5+2+4. My non-scholarly, fiddle-playing interpretation of this Indian Rhythmic pattern is to speak groups of 5 as "Da-din-ge-na-dum," groups of 2 as "Ta-ka" and groups of 4 as "Ta-ka-di-mi."  The full pattern would be spoken as Dadingenadum Dadingenadum Taka Takadimi. I've posted the backup tracks at several speeds, as well as an example of me playing the Kreutzer Etude #2 using this bowing pattern (slur 5, slur 5, slur 2, slur 4). Watch out for the string crossings - fun times!

Indian Rhythm Backup

Rhythmic backup tracks for practicing bowing groupings over fiddle tunes, etudes, scales, and pattern drills.

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  1. 1 Takita 1 with Schradieck example 02:16 Free
  2. 2 Takita 1 at 80 06:05 Free
  3. 3 Takita 1 at 96 06:04 Free
  4. 4 Takita 1 at 116 06:09 Free
  5. 5 Takita 1 at 132 06:07 Free
  6. 6 Dadingenadum 1 with Kreutzer example 01:27 Free
  7. 7 Dadingenadum 1 at 80 06:08 Free
  8. 8 Dadingenadum 1 at 96 06:04 Free
  9. 9 Dadingenadum 1 at 116 06:08 Free
  10. 10 Dadingenadum 1 at 132 06:08 Free