Matt is a full-time fiddle teacher based near Dorchester in Dorset. He mostly teaches in his local village church or he can travel to your home (a small token charge for travel expenses applies if you live more than 7 miles from Dorchester) as it suits best. As a music teacher, Matt specialises in teaching the process of learning by ear on the fiddle.

Interested but you’d like to know more? Then please read on.. Otherwise you can email Matt right now at: » lessons [at] matt-tarling [dot] co [dot] uk

Traditional music is an oral tradition which means that it is passed on by word of mouth as well as being written down. This means that the musician carries their repertoire of music around in their head rather than in a music case. Historically speaking, written music, as we know it is actually a very recent invention which is confined mostly to Europe, North America and the rest of the developed world. Written music was actually one of the main reasons that printing presses were invented in the first place. Thanks to the wealth of the Church and it’s need to spread its word through the medium of music, better ways were always sought after to achieve these ends, hence the printing press.
However, there has always been an undercurrent of traditional or folk music of the common people that has been kept going throughout all of this. It also has to be remembered that many famous composers like Dvorák and Brahms openly went in search of the traditional music of their countries for the inspiration to create their new compositions.

St. Jude's and St. Simon's, Winterborne Monkton, Dorset

This style of learning is completely normal amongst traditional music players and offers several possible benefits to players that learning by sight alone cannot. All of Matt’s students are learning tunes by ear on a regular basis whilst also working on their: posture, technique, tone, intonation (being in tune) and possibly some history and origins behind each particular tune. The only thing that isn’t common to traditional music is actually finding a teacher who will guide you through the learning by ear process, it is normally done through playing in sessions and more recently online resources such as Youtube.

Matt has been teaching by ear since 2003 and has a very wide depth of experience and knowledge in this area.

Classical, notated music directs the musician in nearly every way: notes, dynamics, rhythm, speed, feeling and expression – all of these decisions are given to the performer, who tries to interpret the music as closely as they can according to the wishes of the composer. The joy of playing music by ear is that only the melody provides the basis – all other elements are entirely up to the musician. This is a fundamentally different and very creative way of playing music. It is what is referred to as creating a style of playing.

You might ask, ”Does it really matter whether it’s written down or not?” and  if you’re really interested in finding answers then there have been several books written all about this subject that will explain. Including Lifemusic by Rod PatonFor now, to quickly put this into perspective quickly then think of it like this:

Once a piece of music has been written down then it has been captured in one particular setting. Whilst this has the possibility to preserve this piece indefinitely for future musicians, how are they supposed to know how it is meant to sound? All of the nuance and style that makes the music become as it’s composer intended is normally written with different symbols and directives which encompass dynamics and expression. This is where the problem lies. This works very well for music of the classical genre for which it has been created. There is yet to be a lexicon created that can actually explain the complexities and differences that occur with all of the music from around the world. When you learn a piece of music by ear, with the right direction and understanding of your instrument, you can get straight to the heart of it. You will instinctively know how it is meant to sound and reproduce it on your instrument.

For all of you classically trained players out there, this is easier than it sounds! It does require however a temporary complete change of playing style to really successfully incorporate all of these new ideas into your actual playing.

Matt teaching at The Church of St. Jude's and St. Simon's

You may wonder how it’s possible to learn and then remember a piece of music without the sheet music. To make life much easier with this learning process, Matt records different versions of the tunes that each student is learning and sends it on via email. He then advises on how to use these recordings at home to help the learning process move along. For the technically minded, each recording is recorded at 24 bit/48KHz in Matt’s home studio and then it’s saved as a high quality MP3 file. This ensures that the best playback quality is achieved on any platform.

Most ages and all abilities are very welcome. Young children with little or no experience of the violin may find it easier to follow a more traditional approach of learning to get the basics of technique and enthusiasm for playing before coming to see me. In all cases, please do contact Matt as he will be more than happy to help and advise.

For some, weekly lessons are just unmanageable and for others, monthly lessons aren’t enough to keep the interest flowing! Matt always tries to accommodate each student. Tuition is available week daytimes, evenings and Saturday mornings.

Lessons cost:

Beginning of a lesson
Beginning of a lesson
  • £25 per hour
  • £15 per ½ hour

These prices are based on a lesson at Matt’s village church. For any distances over 7 miles Matt charges a £5 fee.


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