When The Saints Go Marching In – Variation


In this journey you’ll add variation and expression to “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

Main takeaways

  • Practice adding variation to single notes and scales before trying on songs.
  • Add a single variation or expression idea to one Chunk of the song.
  • Alternate between the basic and variation versions.
  • Approach learning with an improvisational mindset.

Two ways I can help you on your fiddle journey 🎻

  1. Sign up for the Free Two-week Trial.Β 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.
  2. Sign up for the FiddleHed newsletter below, then get high-value tips and lessons delivered to your inbox.

Variation Process

Use these steps to add variation to any song! Lower on the page I’ll instruct for a beginner variation.

1. Warm up β˜€οΈ

D drone


Warm up with a single note (D0) Use a D drone track to warm up with D0-A0

Add these rhythms:

  • Hoedown
  • 3 + 3 + 2
  • Bars 11-12

Feel it in the body. Enjoy the sound

Play the D Major scale with the D drone.

  • Play at different volumes
  • Add a rhythm
  • Add texture: plucking, tremolo, staccato

2. Basic Chunk 🧩

Play a basic version of the song. Then play the first Chunk. Go Slow.

3. Variation Chunk 🧩

Add simple variation (like volume or texture) to the first Chunk to get in the flow.

Next let’s add a more challenging variation: the hoedown rhythm.

Practice it with single reps. Make adjustments to how you play this until it sounds right.

4. Loop πŸ”

Play the variation chunk in a continuous loop. Let it groove and flow as if it’s a complete melody.

5. Basic <> Variation Loop πŸ”

Alternate between the basic and the variation in a continuous loop. This helps you refine the variation.

6. Improvise πŸ¦„

Play the song with a drone track.

Play its pentatonic scale.

  • Add variations: rhythms, slurs, textures
  • Change the note order

Add variations to song Chunks.

Alternate between song and improvisation.

  • Play the song, then improvise with the scale and song.
  • Add little or big variations to the melody.
  • Make up new melodies by re-ordering pentatonic scale.
  • Don’t overthink. Have fun.

7. Play The Whole Song 🌍

Follow steps 2-6 to apply the same variation to other parts of the song. It may not sound good to add variation to certain parts. Play attention to this.

8. Repeat The Process πŸ”„

Repeat steps 2-7 with other variations.

We’ll do these variations next:

Add 3+3+2 (Tresillo)Β rhythm

Count 1-2-3 | 1-2-3 |1-2. This will help you feel the rhythm. Then clap on the “ones”.

Once you can do that, clap without counting

On the next pass, aim to integrate the 3+3+2 into the song along with hoedown. This is step 10.

Add Double stopsΒ 

Beginners can add simple droning double stops to the basic version. More advanced players can add two-fingered chordal double stops. Also experiment with adding double stops to the hoedown rhythm (Variation 1).

Always ask yourself, “Does it sound good?” Use recording to help you answer that question…

Full Variation

This will include everything we’ve done and more:

  • Hoedown
  • 3+3+2 rhythm
  • Melodic tag
  • Double stops

9. Integrate & Arrange 🌍

Decide on a strategy for how you will add variations. Make choices that you can execute today.

Play attention to what emerges and what feels right.

Assume that your version of this song will change as you learn more skills and songs and gain more confidence. Enjoy the way it is now.

10. Record & Reflect πŸŽ™οΈ πŸ“

Each time you practice, make a short Recording of yourself playing the whole song with variations you’ve added. πŸŽ™οΈ

Then ask yourself, “What has improved? What still needs work?” Take note of this in your practice journal:

You must login to view the LifePress Dashboard Login

Variation 2: Single notes, mixed rhythms (intermediate)

Here is a single-note variation. FiddleHed students can find a beginner hoedown variation as well as more advanced variations in this workshop:Β When The Saints Go Marching In – Variation Workshop

50 bpm – Basic mix

Multi-tempo – Jam Mix

Further learning

Adding Variation To Fiddle Tunes

Return to the Fiddlosophy Blog >>

Leave a Reply