“Kenny Jackson is one of the best! He is able to break down knowledge of his craft for the beginner to understand, and can teach at any level. I am a beginning fiddle player, and while I am in awe of his musical skill, I still find him to be an encouraging, clear, and excellent teacher. ”
— Sue West
The fiddle music that I teach is deeply rooted in American traditional music, especially from the Appalachian South – the kind of music that was commonly played by country folks long before more modern styles like bluegrass, western swing, and country-western were popularized via mass media. It’s a beautiful, diverse, and deep kind of music that I’ve loved, played, and taught for decades. I love lots of kinds of music including all the above, but this is where my roots are strongest.
I also teach old-time banjo (clawhammer and fingerpicking styles), rhythm guitar and basic flatpicking, and old-time mandolin.
You can take lessons with me either online via Skype or in person at my home in beautiful Chatham County, NC. I have taught many students online since 2007, and it is a great alternative if you aren’t within commuting distance, are short on time, or if you just prefer to take your lessons in the comfort of your own home.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have before you book any lessons. Life is short, and there’s a lot of music to be made, so if you’d like to learn to play old-time fiddle, there’s no time like the present!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is your approach to teaching?
I believe that traditional music is best learned by ear and by heart, with written music used only as a memory aid if used at all, and for learning nothing beats a relationship with a good teacher.
If you’re a complete beginner, or have had just a little experience, I will help you to develop a good foundation with your instrument. You’ll learn simple, authentic versions of traditional tunes. We will work a lot on bringing out the rhythms and phrasing of the music in a way that makes your fiddling sound like the real deal. You’ll learn to play in standard violin tuning as well as traditional alternative tunings that lend the music unique character. I will help you to build your skills and understanding of the music so that you can begin to do what is the most fun part — playing music with other people.
For more experienced old-time fiddlers, we can work on expanding your repertoire, honing your technique, learning to play more challenging tunes, and exploring nuances that come with intensive playing and listening. If you're an experienced player in another musical genre, I'll help you learn to shift into "old-time gear", learning what's distinctive about the music, and how to achieve an authentic sound.
What ages do you teach?
Practically all ages! You’re never too old to learn, and I’m willing to take as students children as young as 8, provided they are motivated and well-behaved. However, for students 16 and under, a parent or other responsible adult must accompany them for the lesson (contact me and we’ll discuss it).
Should I have any classical training in order to learn how to fiddle?
Classically trained violinists and traditional fiddlers, while using basically the same instrument, play very different music, with very different aesthetics and somewhat different techniques. Although there are certainly some valuable transferable skills to be gained from classical training, it isn’t necessary for fiddling. Over the generations, there have been many good, and indeed great, traditional fiddlers who had no “proper” violin training whatsoever, having learned in a purely oral/aural tradition. And so I’m happy to work with folks who have had no formal musical training, as well as those looking to make the leap from classical violining to traditional fiddling.
How long do lessons last, and how often should they be?
For a dedicated student, weekly lessons really help to maintain a sense of continuity and progress. Many students find that in a 30-minute lesson they can get enough material to carry them through until the next lesson, especially when taken weekly. That said, 60-minute lessons can offer an opportunity to go into the material in greater depth, and offer more time for questions to be answered, etc.
It’s also possible to do biweekly, occasional, or even one-off lessons, depending on your needs. Just let me know what those needs are, and we can work out the best schedule for you.
What do I need if I want to take online lessons via Skype?
You’ll need a reliable high-speed internet connection, a webcam, and a Skype account with the software downloaded and installed on your computer or mobile device.
What should I bring to lessons?
Your instrument, and your enthusiasm for learning of course! Beyond that, I do recommend having a good old-fashioned paper notebook in front of you. You also should have some means of recording sound/video from the lesson–you’ll get a lot more out of your lessons this way and I highly recommend it. Many find that their smartphones work well, for both in-person and online lessons. A number of software plugins are available for recording Skype calls, and a list of them can be found here. I recommend Call Recorder for Skype, which is available for both Mac OS and Windows.
What study materials do you provide?
Written materials: because traditional music is best learned by ear, I don’t teach from written music. That said, because many folks find that written music can be a valuable memory aid once a tune is learned, I can provide tune transcriptions when requested. If I have a particular piece already transcribed, there is no cost. If you would like me to transcribe a tune that is not already in my library, the charge is $15 for the time I spend working on it.
I have a library of existing short recordings made for previous lessons, and when applicable to a lesson, I can provide these without charge. If I need to make a short audio/video recording for you outside of lesson time, something not already in my library, the charge is $10 per recording.
Any written materials and any audiovisual materials that I provide, or any recordings that you make during your lessons, are for your use only and are not to be shared online or otherwise copied and distributed without my consent.
What are your rates?
Singly-booked 30-minute lesson $30
Series of four 30-minute lessons (equals $25/lesson) $100
Singly-booked 60-minute lesson $55
Series of four 60-minute lessons (equals $45/lesson) $180
What is your policy regarding payment and refunds?
For all singly-booked lessons, full payment is due on the day of the lesson.
For all lesson packages, full payment is due within seven days of enrollment. If you decide to cancel enrollment in the series, payment is 50% refundable if cancellation is made prior to the first lesson.
What forms of payment do you accept?
After I've booked you for a lesson or enrolled you in a series, I'll send you an invoice by email, which will allow you to pay online using your credit or debit card, or by bank draft. You can also pay by personal check or cash.
What if I have to miss a lesson?
If you need to miss a scheduled lesson due to illness, unexpected family, school, or work circumstances, etc., just let me know and we’ll reschedule your lesson for the earliest convenient and available date. We can almost always work something out.
How should I contact you to enroll in lessons?
You can use this website’s contact page to get in touch with me. Tell me a little bit about yourself, your interests and experience, and when you are available for lessons. I’ll reply with my regular email address and phone number so that we can continue to communicate through those channels. You can also contact me via my Facebook page.