The fiddle is one of the most well-known and popular instruments, its versatility spanning many genres and making it popular in many traditions worldwide. Folk fiddle playing is a fluid technique that can change as much with the individual player as it does with regional style. This course aims to introduce traditional fiddle tunes and accompaniments and open the door to developing personal style. Material will be predominantly English but will also include tunes from other European and American traditions.
The groups have a laid back and friendly approach, and allow a variety of abilities to co-exist happily. Learning will be done by ear with recordings provided online after each session.
Level 1 (Absolute Beginners) - Autumn term only
In the autumn term this class is open to absolute beginners, you never need to have played before! You will explore the sound of the folk fiddle, learn simple tunes, develop your rhythm, learn how to tune your instrument and develop your ensemble skills by learning and playing with others. This course aims to give you a solid grounding in both the basics of playing the fiddle and of traditional folk fiddle tunes and accompaniments. A great way to start your learning and prepare you brilliantly for approaching any style of playing with confidence and knowledge.
Level 2-3 (Beginners / Improvers)
You will start with simple traditional folk fiddle tunes in a greater range of keys and rhythms than at beginner level, and move on to more complex tunes by the end of the year. Alongside learning lots of great tunes, this year is about building a wider musical understanding that will prepare you to build your own style, and fully explore fiddle music. By the end of the year you will be confident to play in a range of keys, explore and absorb the structure and understand and be ready to build your own style and repertoire. You will start to explore the limitless role of the fiddle in folk music, learn great tunes, improve your rhythm and build your confidence by learning and playing with others. This class is suitable for anyone returning to the violin after a break of any number of years!
Level 4 (Intermediate)
This course aims to immerse you in fabulous folk fiddle music in a range of keys, rhythms and structures. You will have ample opportunities to refine, develop and explore personal style, explore the limitless role of the fiddle in folk music, learn great tunes, improve your rhythm and build you confidence by learning and playing with others. We will improve skills in ornamentation and double stopping, as well as improvising variations and accompaniments. Besides students who feel ready to progress from level 3, this class is suitable for students who are new to folk repertoire but have a good working knowledge of the instrument.
Suitable for absolute beginners and re-starters.
Please note that we only accept complete beginners during the Autumn term – there is no Level 1 class offered in the Spring term. Level 1 becomes Level 2 (Level 2-3 becomes Level 3).
Students should be able to hold the instrument and bow confidentially, make a reasonable sound, and know how to play one-octave G, D major and A major scale. Previous experience of folk not required.
Students should know their way around the violin in 1st position effortlessly, and be comfortable with basic scales and arpeggios in at least G, D, A, C major and E, B, G, D minor. Previous experience of playing folk is not required, but a willingness to try playing by ear is!
Fiddle Level 1 is taught by Beth Gifford. Fiddle Level 2-3 and Level 4 are taught by Laurel Swift.
Beth is an experienced performer, composer, workshop leader and teacher. She studied Music at the Birmingham Conservatoire with her principal study in viola. As a Violist she is one half of the duo Anna Mullens and Beth Gifford (New Roots Finalists 2015) and a former member of The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble. She regularly performs on violin and viola with the ceilidh band Take the Biscuit and with Anna Mullens and Beth Gifford and Gifford Brookes. Workshop experience includes working with The Full English education team in Birmingham, setting up and running One of the Few (Primary folk education workshops) and leading fiddle, ceilidh, full band and playing by ear workshops for youth tutoring company Shooting Roots. Beth is also a violin and viola teacher for Camden Music Service.
Laurel is a fiddle player, a dancer and an inspiring instigator of creative new projects and performances rooted in the folk arts. She plays fiddle and viola in dynamic fiddle-singing duo with Ben Moss, double bass with Gadarene, a high-energy band blending obscure 18th-century manuscript tunes with modern beats, and fiddle with irresistible ceilidh dance groovers, The Gloworms. Laurel has choreographed and devised national touring dance productions for Morris Offspring, co-created and performed Under Her Skin with Debs Newbold, advised theatre & film companies on using folk music and dance material. She is in demand to perform and teach at festivals in the UK and America, founded Shooting Roots, which develops youth folk arts projects, and teaches and contributes to education projects in London and nationally.
Autumn Term: Sept 14, 21 | Oct 5, 12 | Nov 2, 9, 23, 30 | Dec 7 (9 week term)
Spring Term: Jan 18 | Feb 1, 15, 29 | Mar 7 14, 28 | Apr 4, 18 (9 week term)
NB: Saturday Folk Music Workshops do not run during the Summer Term.
Please note that we only accept complete beginners during the Autumn term - no Level 1 class is offered in the Spring term.
Fiddle Level 1: 10:00 - 11:30 (Beth Gifford)
Please note that we only accept complete beginners during the Autumn term - there is no Level 1 class offered in the Spring term.
Fiddle Level 2 & 3: 11:45 - 13:15 (Laurel Swift)
Fiddle Level 4: 13:45 - 15:15 (Laurel Swift)
Annual fee: £220 | £175 concessions*
Termly fees: £118 | £95 concessions*
Advance booking required
We recommend enrolling for the whole year (Autumn and Spring term). We offer a 5% discount if you choose to pay for the whole year at the beginning of the Autumn term.
We cannot refund participants for missed classes.
Refunds are given only if your course is cancelled or closed early.
If you enrol on a course but decide after the first session but before the second class of term that it is not right for you then you can either:
- transfer your booking from one instrument to another (depending on availability). If the course of your choice is full then we can reserve a place for you on the following term.
- or have the course fees refunded to you minus an administration charge of £15 (as long as you contact us before the second class of term).
These terms and conditions apply only to Saturday Folk Music Workshops.
Find out more about individual class times, dates and further info.