Welcome!

My name is Jenny, and I'm glad you're here.

I'm guessing that you found me for one of two reasons:

  • 1 ~ You enjoy the music of my band, Circa Paleo and want to know more about it.
  • 2 ~ You have a Hot Violinist within and are seeking some tips on how to do all of this yourself.

I'm mostly focusing on the instructional stuff here, but this is also a great place to hang out if you want more behind the scenes info and unreleased previews of my music projects.

If you're just here to listen and watch, that's cool, but now a few words for you fiddlers and fiddlers to be:

I'm not claiming to be an expert of the violin, but I do know a LOT about starting violin "late" since I myself began my fiddle journey at age 18. I've also learned a lot about unique world music styles over the past several years of traveling all over the place.

Now I want to share all the quirky tips and music that I've learned. In other words…

I'm here to make YOU into a Hot Violinist.

Before we go further, lets define hot, shall we? Because the hot I’m talking about reaches far beyond smokin’ fiddle riffs and gym bodies. Check out my first blog post, "The Hot Violinist Manifesto," to read about what "hot" really means to me.

How to Play The Last of The Mohicans, “Slow Part” Edition

Well here they are!

Two videos to guide you through the “slow part” of The Last of The Mohicans Theme. This smooth lyrical melody appears in the sounds track version as a layer over the rhythmicky (Hot Violinist technical term), five-note-roll-filled part that starts the song. This is a stroke of composer Trevor Jones’s genius in arranging the basic fiddly part that was written by Dougie MacLean, god bless you wherever you are.

When I was first learning this song, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to play these two parts at the same time on one violin (without growing a couple more arms).

I was afraid it might not even work as a solo arrangement!

My game plan was to play the main fiddle part over and over again so many times at the beginning that it would almost start to create a loop in the audience listener’s imagination. That way when I come in with the slow part, maybe they’ll still be subconsciously feeling the other part and have a good experience.

There have a been a few critics over the years who will say something like, “Why does everyone like this? It’s way too repetitive.”

But the overwhelming consensus (based on my observation of YouTube views, comments, roaring applause, festival-roaming people stopped in their tracks with turkey leg held up in front like statue of liberty torch, and tears streaming down the cheeks of even the toughest looking biker dude) …is …it works!

I recorded this very raw version with E Muzeki in 2005 for our Sindh album which is available in my webshop.

Many tunes on this album had complicated productions that took us multiple days to record but we decided to try this one raw first. We recorded the guitar and violin in two separate rooms but live together via the headphones.

I still remember standing beside the stone fireplace in our recording engineer Ron Flynt’s living room right after that first take. I was surrounded by a maze of audio cables that snaked from the mic and my violin around the corner, down the hall, and back to the garage which had been nicely converted into a control room. I also had a plaid scarf rolled up on top of my head to keep the headphones from painfully resting on my elf ears. Sexy.

After a few generous moments of the last ringing guitar chord, Ron’s matter of fact voice clicked into the headphones, “That was sensational.”

And that’s the take we kept! I think that is the only truly one-take performance I ever released on any of my recordings.

Later with Circa Paleo we got back in the studio and had a field day (or ten) playing around with overdubs and all kinds of fun production tricks. That resulted in two versions of this song that we didn’t want to part with, so we put them BOTH on our Tideland album. 😛

That one is out of print, but you can get a CD Baby download card with collectible album art sticker as part of my discography pack if you’re interested in checking them out.

My most recent sheet music arrangement follows the formula of my original solo violin arrangement:

-Play the the rhythmicky part on repeat as much as feels satisfying to you (bars 1-16)
-Then the smooth melody in the high octave (bars 17-32)
-Then a variation of this slow melody in the lower octave (bars 33-49)
-Then back to the rhythmicky part with a variation to wrap it up (bars 50-70)

If you still need to get a copy of the sheet music, please sign up for my newsletter, then click confirm in the confirmation email you recieve, and it will fly to your inbox magically.

Instructional videos #1-8 on my YouTube channel are all about the faster fiddly part.

Now I’ve released video #9 which guides you through the slow melody in the higher octave:

And video #10 which guides you through the slow melody in the lower octave:

I hope this helps some of you guys to get a little bit more traction learning this one!

If this still leaves you with more questions, please post them in the comments section below, so we can all try to figure this out together.

If this is all still a little advanced for you, but you’d like to play this tune one day, please stay tuned! I have a very exciting plan in the works for you total beginners. I’ll be sharing the details with you all very soon!

The North Jetty Living Room

Here’s an oldie but goldie from the E Muzeki days of yore!

We wrote it while our band was on tour in Florida in 2007 and first recorded it on our Agrafa album released later that year. It was influenced by some Appalachian fiddle tricks I learned from Judy Hyman along with a whole bunch of Hank 3 we were listening to in the truck on the way to and from everywhere.

We named it after a fishing spot off the Texas Coast near my home town of Flour Bluff.

Two jetties line the Corpus Christi Ship Channel as it enters the bay from the Gulf of Mexico. In Port Aransas you can park your car on the beach and walk right up onto the South Jetty and out toward the deep water where silver Tarpon and King Mackerel are swimming. The North Jetty is attached to Saint Jo’s Island which can only be reached by boat.

Lets just say, if I were a tarpon, I would much rather swim near the North Jetty. It’s a great place to be a human too. You don’t have to race with everyone’s kids to find whole sand dollars on the beach, there are rumors of buried Spanish treasure, and overall it’s way more cool and fun than the normal mainland beach.

I guess it’s officially called San Jose Island, but I swear everyone always called it St. Jo’s.

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There is a small, noisy public boat that runs out there across the channel and back throughout the day, but if you miss the last one back, you’re stuck out there till morning. My friends and I would regularly do this on purpose.

My memories of St. Jo’s Island and the North Jetty include:

– Sleeping on a rock under a twinkling black sky and being covered in salty mist.
– Wading through low tide at sunrise when my friend (and co-writer of this tune!) Mark caught a small shark with his bare hands.

When I say small, I mean it couldn’t bite off your arm or leg, but it could still take off a hand in just the wrong situation. A finger? Easy. That’s a story for another time as I would like to share the tune!

Here is a recent performance with my sister Kelly:

The fans at Groupees.com voted on this song to be performed and filmed in the living room as one of the rewards for their contribution to the fund raiser for Girls Not Brides Charity.

Fans were allowed to write in anything they wanted to vote for. As you can see by the 10.18% who voted for the category Who is Jenny?, not all these people were familiar with my music. So, I’m proud of The North Jetty for rising to the top in competition with some popular mainstream covers and folk standards! Go North Jetty!

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The Agrapha CD by E Muzeki that includes the original recording of this tune is available in my discography bundle! Wink Wink!

I’d love to know what song you’d like to hear Kelly and I play next as this living room thing is becoming a bit of a tradition. Please let me know in the comments section below!

 

How to Practice the Violin Consistently

 

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I get asked about practicing all the time. Practice schedules, how to practice, what to practice, routines, habits, techniques… everything!

And while I’ll save my complete guide on practicing for another time (as it’s a very in-depth manifesto), I want to address an EXTREMELY common issue that adult learners have with the violin: consistent practice.

The Problem: Life

I’m sure you’ve encountered this scenario: you get home late from an exhausting day’s work. You plop down on the couch and take a breath, head starting to race with the things left in the day, whether they be personal or for family.

What am I going to eat for dinner?…

Gotta help the kids with their homework…

I should probably go to the gym…

Need to call my cousin back…

And then you see your violin staring at you out of the corner of your eye. You’ve committed to yourself to practice AT LEAST an hour per day, but gosh… so tired right now! A whole hour of violin practice suddenly looks like scaling Mt Everest.

Not gonna happen.

Understandably, this cycle tends to happen day after day, especially during busy pockets of life. It can become extremely discouraging because you can’t seem to build up any momentum.

Without momentum, practice takes a ton of mental energy which is hard to muster when life is crazy, which is most of the time.

I’ve seen this scenario play out a ton, especially with adult fiddlers (including myself!).

Showing up every day is the key to building the muscle memory skills needed to play the violin. Daily practice is way more important and helpful than doing a marathon practice one or two days per week.

Momentum makes it sustainable to practice every day. Once you have it, practice can feel energizing and relaxing instead of draining.

So how do you get that ball rolling the right direction?

The Solution: M-V-P (not the Lebron James kind but just as great…)

Here’s a gross confession: I once went years without flossing my teeth.

Most days I would feel too rushed to start my day in the morning and too tired at night. The toothbrush pretty much reaches in there right??

I just couldn’t maintain the habit until a friend suggested that I lowered my quota to one tooth per day. At that point it felt really silly to skip it.

It worked like magic!

Since I was already standing in front of the mirror, with floss just beginning to cut off the circulation of my fingertips, stretching my cheeks like a kid making faces, it was really really easy to just continue and floss the whole mouth most days.

Then sometimes I would exercise the right to literally take 5 seconds to floss one tooth, throw the floss in the trash and call it good!

Using this mindset, I created something for my students that helped them SO MUCH to form a consistent habit of practicing their violin.

I call it the Minimum Viable Practice, or MVP.

It’s a short (<5 minute) simple, yet useful practice which you set as your measure of success for the day.

It breaks the cycle of feeling like a failure when you can’t find time for a longer practice. It’s way more resilient against excuses because it only takes five minutes.

Defining “successful practice” is an incredibly healthy and helpful mindset shift. Our minds tend to skew negative, so if left to our own devices, we often tell ourselves that we didn’t do enough or we could have done more and then it feels like all is lost.

Our dreams are dead in the water.

An MVP is protection against “those days” when the thought of an hour of practicing seems really daunting. By just doing your MVP, you’ll have achieved success for the violin that day and everything else is considered gravy!

If it sounds a bit like an average warm-up, it’s supposed to! Just like my example of flossing, you’ll notice that on some of “those days” you’ll complete your MVP and think:

Well I’m already warmed up, I might as well practice that one song/technique/scale part.

These will turn into 10, 15, 30+ minute practices that will make a WORLD of difference compared to skipping days outright. And even the days where you just spend 5 minutes on your MVP will compound immensely over time in terms of positive momentum and muscle memory skill!

What does an MVP look like?

For an example of an MVP geared towards beginning learners, check out my video here, which comes from my beginner program ViolinWOD.

For more intermediate or advanced players, some examples could be:

  • 8 full bows (frog to tip) on each open string, set to a metronome
  • Basic scales: G major/minor, D major/minor, A major/minor, and E major/minor  

It really doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as it makes sense for your particular skill level.

Remember, the goal is to get you to show up. The real power of the MVP is sparking practice sessions that would otherwise never have happened. Over time, the compound interest will accelerate your skill level faster than you could imagine.

Keep Consistent!

I have used it for a few years and I totally wish I had it when I was first learning! It would have saved a lot of discouragement.

Keeping a consistent practice schedule or starting a new habit with anything is a challenge, so don’t make it any harder on yourself than it needs to be. Set your daily quota low so success is inevitable, show up every day, and ride the positive momentum to achieving your goals!

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I want to hear from you! Please give this a try and leave me a comment down below with your MVP ideas or practices.