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 so, you might benefit from using a practice routine.

Learning A New Song Routine

Follow these steps to when learning new songs.ย 

1. Warm Up โ˜€๏ธ: Begin by getting a good sound on one note. Then play the scale for the song.

2. Listen to the song ๐ŸŽง

3. Chain & Play Slowly โ›“๏ธ๐ŸŒ: Start with the first few notes.

4. Focus On Movement ๐Ÿคธโ€โ™‚๏ธ: Pay attention to the mechanics of your movements.

5. Loop ๐Ÿ”: Continuously play the first Chunk.

6. Mental Trigger ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿ’ก: Mastering the first phrase can serve as a mnemonic device for recalling the rest of the song.

7. Spaced Repetition ๐Ÿ“† Alternate between your main practice piece and 1-4 other songs or skills.

8. Small Steps, Small Wins ๐Ÿฅพ Once you’ve learned the first chunk of a tune, it’s time to celebrate. Also remember it might take longer than one session to learn the whole song. The secret is knowing when to stop for today. Assume you will return.

9. Repeat ๐Ÿ”„ the process for the remaining chunks of the song.

10. Chain The Chunks ๐Ÿ”—: After mastering individual sections, link them to perform the entire song.

I encourage you to customize it as necessary. 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 Starย 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

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 Aย 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.

Two ways I can help you on your fiddle journey ๐ŸŽป

  1. Sign up for the Free Two-week Trial.ย You’ll get full access to all courses and group lessons. Plus, I’ll send you some free lessons tailored to your current skill level.
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It Came Upon A Midnight Clear


Specific notes for learning It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Further learning

Play Slowly

Mix Up Your Music Practice With Interleaving

Fiddling With Micro-Motions

Blues Fiddle Workshopย (for paid subscribers)

Hesitation Blues Workshopย (for paid subscribers)

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear Workshopย (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!