Crucial Ear Training For Fiddlers

Ear Training Courses Welcome Video

Welcome Fiddlers!

I´m Mattie O´Boyle, the director of, and I want to welcome you to this Crucial Ear Training for Fiddlers course.

This course provides you with the tools that you need to train your ear so you can learn all your favorite songs and tunes on your own, without sheet music and without abstract music theory.

Additionally, the course is designed as a fiddle skill building method to help you build up your fretboard fluidity, tone and bow control.

This course does not teach you specific fiddle tunes, but rather helps you acquire all the skills and abilities that you need to go out and learn the tunes yourself; it’s a leap towards musical freedom.

Everyone starts this journey from their own point of departure. Some folks quite naturally have a pretty good ear, while others, like myself, do not. The good news is that you can train your musical ear and go as far as you want with that training.

How do you do that? You´ll need to apply the same qualities to acquire these skills as with any other complex skill set: Persistence, patience, holding yourself to high standards and consolidating each step along the path before advancing to the next one. If you do that, I am sure that you will succeed. I have seen many, many students do so and there is no reason why you can not be one of them.

Remember, if you have any questions or technical problems, please contact me through the Contact Us web form and let me know. I am here to help.

You´ll need access to our web apps to follow this course, so if you have not already done so, please go here to sign up for your free 15 day trial.

Table of Contents

Preliminary videos to familiarize yourself with the ear training apps

How to log in and open an app

How To Log In And Open An App

Melody app overview

Reel Ear Melody App Overview

Number of repetitions

Number of Repetitions online ear training apps

Musical gym


How should I use the visual feedback?

One very successful strategy is to leave the repetitions at 2 and do the dictation in the following way:

• Listen to the new phrase, sing or play it back.

• Now, listen again and watch the visual feedback at the same time. This way you can correct yourself if need be.

• Finally, sing or play back the phrase again.

In other words, don’t look, then look, then don’t look. This takes a few minutes of practice. Once you can do your dictations perfectly, then stop looking all together and let your ear be your guide.

Step 1: Long tones on the D and A strings

Before we get really get into ear training on the fiddle, you should make sure that you can play a string clearly and cleanly. This requires you to pay close attention to three variables, bow placement on the strings its pressure and its speed. Use as much of the bow as you need and try and keep the sound constant, steady and full while you play the note.

Don’t worry about too much analysis right now. Just experiment. Remember, its the bow that plays the notes, not your hand, so keep your hand, wrist and arm very relaxed and let the bow do its work.

Start with the open D string and work on playing long, slow, continuous notes. Once you really get a clean sound on the open D string, then move over and develop the same clean sound on the open A string.

Remember that music is sound, so listen to the sound coming out of your fiddle and ask yourself if it’s the sound you are looking for. If not make some adjustments….as we say – fiddle around.

Have a look at the screencast to learn more about using the Melody App for long tones and then refer to the two screenshots to see how to set up the Melody Ear Training App for these specific exercises on your fiddle.

Open D string
Open A string

The button below takes you to the app!

Step 2: Long tones on F#

Now it’s time to add our first fretted note, the F#; most folks play it with their middle finger on the D string. Hit some long tones on this note to make sure that you can play it cleanly. I recommend taking your finger off the note while you are listening to the tone. That way you can practice moving your finger into the note with every dictation.

Concentrate on playing the sound that you hear. You want to be exact.

Long Tones F#

Step 3: Two Note Melody Dictations D, F# and A

Now that you can play your D, F# and A cleanly, we can start working on our ear training. The primary goal here is to begin to distinguish between different melody notes. Of course, in the background, we will be working on two other crucial aspects of playing the fiddle – playing in time with the rhythm and gaining fluidity when changing between notes.

Since Melody Dictations may be completely new for some folks, we are going to apply a scaffolding methodology to help transition into this new layer of musical complexity. Use the scaffolding if you need it, and then remove it as you progress. Please refer to the scaffolding screencast if you need more information.

We are going to work on the following melodic dictations:

• D and A

• D and F#

• F# and  A

Work on the dictations in order. Start with the metronome at 4o bpm, and then slowly speed it up as you progress through each combination of notes. Please refer to the musical gym screencast if you need more information about how to do that.

Open D and Open A
Open D and F#
F# and Open A

Step 4: Long tones on G, B and high D

Let’s get started on three new notes, the G, B and high D. These notes we are going to play in the following way:

· The G with your ring finger on the D string

·The B with your first finger on the A string

· The high D with your ring finger on the A string

If you already play these notes well, then you are ahead of the game. If not, it’s crucial to practice them as long tones before jumping into melodic dictations.

Long Tones G
Long Tones B
Long Tones high D

Step 5: Melody Dictations (two notes)

Now, it’s time to use these new notes in some call and response dictations. Follow the same routine as before. Use scaffolding if you need to at the start, and do musical gym with each combination of notes. That will really help you internalize the work.

Here are the combinations:

• G and high D

• G and B

• B and high D


G and high D
G and B
B and high D

Step 6: Long Tones on A, C# and high E

We are back to some new Long Tones. This time we are going to work with the A, C# and the high E. Since we have already worked with the open A string, we just need to do long tones with the C# and the open E string.

Play the C# with your middle finger on the A string

Notice how the reference note changes to A for this one.


Long Tones C#
Long Tones open E string

Step 7: Melody Dictations (two notes)

Are you ready for two note dictations with the open A, C# and the open E?:

• open A and open E

• open A and C#

• C# and open E

You know the routine, right? Scaffolding at first if you need it, and musical gym for each combination to help move playing back the sounds into your unconscious mind – making it automatic.

open A and open E
open A and C#
C# and open E

Step 8: Long Tones on the low E

It’s time to add one more note into the mix, and that is the low E note; play this note with your first finger on the D string.

Time for a Long Tone workout, if you have never played this note before. Remember to take your finger off the note while you are listening and put it back on in time to play. That’s an important point.

Also, notice that the reference note is back to D.

Long Tones low E

Step 9: Melody Dictations (two notes)

Now, it´s time to get back to Melody Dictations. We are going to work with the low E, G and B notes. Only the low E is new and the G and B combination we have already done:

• low E and B

• low E and G

Remember scaffolding and musical gym.

low E and B
low E and G

Step 10 : Arpeggios

Now we are going to transition into doing three note melodic dictations. To accustom our ear to all three notes being played in a sequence, as well as work on our fluidity and intonation on the fiddle, we are going to shift over to the Arpeggio Ear Training app before we move back to the Melody app.

What’s an arpeggio? An arpeggio is a musical chord, but instead of playing the notes in the chord simultaneously, we play them sequentially – one at a time.

Have a look at the screencast to familiarize yourself with the Arpeggio app, and then move on and get to work on your first arpeggios.


Reel Ear Arpeggio Web App Overview

Step 11: Arpeggio on the D chord

It’s time for the first arpeggio workout. Let’s start with the D chord. The notes in this chord are D, F# and A. Does that sound familiar? Don’t worry about terms like “chords” and “arpeggios” too much. It’s not the abstract meaning of the words that we are after, but rather the sound of these combinations, and the fretboard fluidity that comes from following the methodology.

You can practice arpeggios in a lot of different ways, but for this ear training course, we will be going straight up and down the arpeggio, make sure you select that icon – it’s highlighted in the screenshot, along with the other variables.

And I’ll give you a hint – when you do the arpeggio dictations, listen for the note that repeats!


Arpeggio D chord

Please note that you must deselect the default pattern (highlighted in yellow) and then select the Up and Down Pattern (highlighted in blue). If you don’t you will get a warning message about “Asymmetry”. If this happens, simply click “Cancel” to close the box.

Step 12: Three Note Melody Dictations open D, F# and open A

Now that you have practiced this combination of three notes in a structured way, let’s jump into a three note call and response dictation, using the open D, F# and open A. The methodology is the same; use scaffolding if you need it and work your way through the musical gym to really internalize this process of hearing a musical phrase and playing it right back on your fiddle.

open D, F# and open A

Step 13: Arpeggio on the G chord

Let’s hit the G chord arpeggios next. The notes in this chord are G, B and high D

Arpeggio G chord

Step 14: Three Note Melody Dictations G, B, and high D

Ok. Now let’s bounce back to the melodic dictations using the G, B and high D notes.

G, B and high D

Step 15: Arpeggio on the A chord

The notes in the A chord are A, C# and the open E string. Go ahead and practice the arpeggio.

Arpeggio A chord

Step 16: Three Note Melody Dictations A, C# and open E string

You know the routine, right? Remember to change the reference note in the app from D to A for these dictations.
Work through these dictations until they flow smoothly.


A, C# and open E

Step 17: Arpeggio On The E Minor chord

Here is the last chord for this course, the E minor. The notes are low E, G and B.


Arpeggio E minor

Step 18: Three Note Melody Dictations E, G and B

Here is the last melody dictation for this course, the E, G and B. Run hard right to the end!


E, G and B



If you have been working through this course diligently and holding yourself to high standards, you should have developed a solid ear training base as well as a high degree of fretboard fluidity in the notes we have worked on. You should be reacting automatically to musical phrases which contain those notes, and, as you branch out your ear training routines into new territory, you will find that your learning rhythm will continue to accelerate, propelling you towards your music goals.

Stay in touch. I can’t wait to hear your music.

-Mattie O’Boyle,