I purchased two books to get me started –

“Old-Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus!” by Wayne Erbsen and “Fiddle Primer” by Jim Tolles. Both are excellent books for starting out as an adult. Both include a CD so you can hear what the notes should sound like and how the songs should be played.

Erbsen has a unique method of teaching music notation that deserves a mention – each song is written in his form of tab which is a bit different from others I’ve seen online – over the note bar, instead of a finger position, he writes in the actual name of the note, A, B, C#, etc. On a staff below the tab are the same notes written out in musical notation:

A handy diagram at the top of the page shows where the notes can be found on the fingerboard of the fiddle. Before you know it, you will be reading regular musical notation – you just can’t help but absorb it by osmosis.

Many online resources show fiddle tab like this:

The finger position is shown above the note bar, not the name of the note. This is very convenient if you don’t read music at all and just want to start playing.
I took many years of band in school, so I (used to be able to) read the treble clef. This should be a piece of cake, right? Well, flute is not fiddle (not by a long shot!) and it has not proved as easy as I thought it would be. Finding the notes on the fingerboard, even with a diagram, is not easy when trying to keep the bow parallel to the bridge and use the right amount of pressure and etc. etc. etc.

Both books have many helpful diagrams and tips to make getting started as easy as possible if you don’t have a violin teacher near at hand.

The Tolles book is geared more towards students who have teachers, IMO, and the first songs are what you would typically learn if you were a child – Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle, etc. while Erbsen starts you out with Ida Red as the first tune.

Both books seem to start from the same place and make the same progressions, just in different languages, and I recommend both if you’re an adult beginner trying to sort out where to start with learning the violin.

One thing that may be bothersome is that both books have a stapled binding that won’t allow the book to lay flat. I took both books to a copy place and had a spiral binding put in so that I could flip it open all the way or fold it over to show just the page I am working on at the moment.

I’ll add to this post as I get farther along with both books.

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