Peta Goodwin playing fiddle
Creative joy

Fiddlin’ about

All my life (it seems) I have filled in time spent waiting – which is a LOT of time, as all women know – by imagining myself playing the violin. I have played symphonies in parked cars, concertos in dentists’ waiting rooms, the ‘Four Seasons’ in cafes (of course) and etudes lying on the beach. In my imagination I have tucked a fiddle under my chin and set feet tapping in all sorts of unlikely places. I have loved the imagined feel of the thrumming instrument on my shoulder and the sensuous glide of the bow awakening the silent strings.

In 60 years I have never even got close to – or dared to – pick up an instrument. Not that I ever came across any which could be just casually picked up. But two months ago, I decided to FINALLY learn to play.

I found a teacher – easily, in the local supermarket, just by chatting. I found a violin to borrow. All systems go. I am left-handed and I knew that I wanted to play the violin left-handed because that’s how I had always played my imagined violin. But apparently a violin can’t just be restrung like a ukulele (for instance). A left-handed violin has to be specially made. Just learn to play it right-handed, I was told – like everybody else.

I didn’t want to. I knew that it wouldn’t be the same experience as playing my imaginary violin at all – it would hurt and I wouldn’t want to play it. I returned the borrowed violin and rang a few music shops and instrument makers here in Western Australia to enquire about left-handed instruments. Not one to be found. I went online and discovered several pages of left-handed instruments for sale in Wisconsin. Left-handedness is not only acceptable but big business over there, it seems.

My violin arrived and my first lesson was arranged. I had been too – overawed, I think – to even touch my instrument up to this point. There were a few extra bits that had come with it that I wasn’t sure what to do with and I thought it might scream if I put the bow to the strings.

But when I had tightened the bow, rosined it well, set the shoulder stand in the comfortable position and I finally held that violin in my arms, I knew that we were meant to be. I drew the bow gently across the strings and that quirky, curvaceous little box with a handle sighed, trembled and SANG.

We were made for each other.

My teacher plays fiddle – bluegrass, Celtic, folk – so that’s what I’m learning. Vivaldi can wait. She belongs to a group of fiddlers and I have been allowed to play the drones and shuffles for them (until my fingers get faster and I can play tunes). This is the most fun you can have without food I reckon.

I just wonder why I waited so long to do it.


  • Summer Goodwin

    Summer Goodwin

    Hi Mum, I’m so glad you’re finally learning fiddle – and that you persevered with playing left-handed!

    I initially learned how to play guitar right-handed and it always felt uncomfortable. My strumming hand was my non-dominant hand and I could hardly keep rhythm! I ended up playing my right-handed guitar upside down because even that felt more comfortable. When I eventually got a left-handed guitar – initially a nylon-string acoustic restrung left-handed – it was a great relief and my skills progressed much more quickly. I now have a left-handed steel-string acoustic and it’s an absolute pleasure to play.

    Have fun! 🙂

  • Jac


    Congratulations PETA, sounds like u r going to be having lots of fun with the band, what a great thing to get into.

  • Sharon

    I’ve been staying with Peta and have had the pleasure of listening to Peta’s disciplined daily regime of ‘practising’. I must admit, she has come such a long way very quickly, it’s been very inspiring to see how quickly she has progressed. I’m sure it releases endorphins, as Peta is so happy after a good session!

  • Cherina James

    What an awesome thing to learn Peta! I am suitably impressed by your determination despite the hurdles of being a molly-dooker. Not sure of that spelling… anyway,well done you are an inspiration. Cher