Learning A New Song Routine

Do you ever begin a practice session wondering, “What should I play today?”

Do you find that you tend to wander from one thing to the next without making progress?

If you said “Yes” then give this “practice journey” a try. It’s a simple routine that can be adapted to any song you learn.

1. Warm Up ☀️

Warm up with a single note using a drone track or metronome. Let the body relax, enjoying the sound. Then play the scale for the song. Add simple variations: RhythmsTexture and Volume.

2. Listen 🎧

Listen to the whole song. Then listen to the beginning a few times.

3. Chain 

Play the first note, the first two notes, continuing until you have the first musical Chunk. 

4. Go Slow

Pay attention to the motions as you play that Chunk. Make small adjustments so that the hands reach their destination with ease.

5. Loop 🔁

Play this chunk in a continuous Loop. Let it groove and flow as if it’s a complete melody.

6. Sing 🗣️

Sing the first Chunk. Alternate between singing and playing the first phrase (either the lyrics or non-lyrical vocals like “na” and “la”).

7. Memorize 🧠

Play the first Chunk until it’s memorized.

8. Repeat 🔄

Repeat steps 2-7 for the next chunk of the song.

9. Chain the Chunks 🔗

Chain the first two Chunks into a bigger piece. Repeat steps 2-9 until you have the whole song. Work on the transitions between parts.

Take A Small Step 🐢

You don’t have to learn the entire song in one go. Focus on mastering small segments. Celebrate each small step.

I encourage you to customize this to your needs. You may find other strategies that work for you when learning new songs. Or you might need to adjust your approach to learn a particular song.

Note: I use “Song” as a general term for “tune”, “piece”, “repertoire” etc.


Below you’ll find some examples of how to use this routine on particular songs. These videos are relatively short summaries of the routine. I show you how to use the full routine in more in-depth workshops.

This routine can be applied to any new song, regardless of skill level. Whether you’re a beginner working on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or a more advanced player adding variation to Wagon Wheel, I encourage you to apply this to songs you’re currently learning.

Hesitation Blues

I’ll use “Hesitation Blues” as an example.

Specific notes for learning Hesitation Blues

Take a full workshop on this here.

Start by getting into a Small Steps, Small Wins mindset. You don’t have to learn the entire song in one go. Focus on mastering small segments.

Warm up with the scale for the song. For Hesitation Blues it’s A Major Blues.

Use an A Drone this song.

Listen to the song. If possible to the exact version you’ll be learning.

Next, Chain the first few notes. Keep going until you have the whole first bar.

Play it once and notice if you stumble anywhere.

For example, E0-A2 might be sloppy. So Focus on Movement as you practice that bit. Drill down on any other hard parts in that Chunk.

Once you have this chunk, slowly Loop it.

Embed this first part into your brain as a Mental Trigger. by saying the title and then playing the first chunk. For example, say “Hesitation Blues” and then play the first chunk. This will help you recall the tune later on.

Extract the Rhythm When faced with a tricky rhythm, simplify things by playing it on a single note. Go deeper by clapping or chanting the rhythm.

Once you master the first chunk, use the same process for the remaining chunks of the song.

Now take this routine, apply it to whatever tune you’re learning and go fiddle with it on your own.

When The Saints Go Marching In


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Further learning

Play Slowly

Mix Up Your Music Practice With Interleaving

Fiddling With Micro-Motions

Blues Fiddle Workshop (for paid subscribers)

Hesitation Blues Workshop (for paid subscribers)

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear Workshop (for paid subscribers)

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2 responses to “Learning A New Song Routine

  1. Absolutely stellar advice for learning songs/tunes, especially for those that the fiddle may be their first foray into music/a musical instrument. Also a great reminder to all of us old timers who tend to forget this when learning a tune. Rome was NOT built in a day, folks!