Adding Variation To Fiddle Tunes


Want to start adding variation to songs you know? This is a way to make your music sound more like music.

Here’s a simple process for adding variation:

1️⃣ Choose a scale or song chunk to focus on. 🎼

2️⃣ Start by playing a simple version of it. 👌

3️⃣ Add variation to challenge yourself and explore new ideas. 🌈

4️⃣ Begin with single reps, then switch to looping. 🔁

This method not only helps you test out the variations but also trains your mind to transition from thinking to playing! 🧠 ➡️ 🎶

Deeper Dive Into Adding Variation

Here’s an older video which goes into the process of how you can explore variation on songs.

Learn variations in small steps

When learning to add variation, follow this practice path:

  • Single notes
  • Scales
  • Phrases
  • Songs

Let’s explore this with an Irish embellishment called a mordent. Notice how we alternate between the note and the note with the embellishment.

D0-1-0  {D0-1mord}-0 0-0

Apply variation to scales

Then we’ll learn how the embellishments work and practice them on scales:

Notice how this arrangement has the Basic <> Variation cycle built in. We play a note with the mordent (variation) then without the variation (basic).

Apply variation to phrases from tunes

Next let’s apply these variation to phrases. Once you can do this with flow, then you’re in a good position to try it in the context of the whole tune…

First quarter:  D1-A0-0-D1-A0-0-{A1-3mord}1-0-1-{D2}3-A0

I explore this with Fisherman’s Blues in this short lesson:

Other types of variation

Here’s a partial list of variations you can add to songs. Most of these can be practiced with single notes.

  • Slurs
  • Textures: staccato, plucking, tremolo
  • Volume: soft, loud, accents
  • Double stops
  • Irish embellishments
  • Melodic variation
  • Rhythmic variation

Each variation can be done LOTS of different ways. Take your time exploring each one to avoid option anxiety 🤯

Art of Fiddling

Adding variation is the art of fiddling. Add variation as a way to practice and then it becomes art.

You can learn how to add variation in the Art Of Fiddling course.

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Further learning

Take a deeper dive into fiddle variations with these courses:

And these workshops:

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