NEW HOMEPAGE LANDING PAGE Forums Practice Questions How do you learn new tunes?

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    • #46265
      Mel Newton

      Me and another Fiddlehed were discussing the “best” way to learn new tunes. I find it fascinating how different our brains are wired and how we all learn and create differently. Of course our “best” way was different, despite us being related (that other fiddlehed is my mother….).

      My mom: The best way is to not look at the musical notation until she has listened and learned it by ear well enough to feel the structure and body of the tune. Then use the notation to fill in gaps.

      Me: The best way is to look at the musical notation right away and play along with the play along track. Once I recognize the repeating motifs and structure of the tune that the important riffs are in my fingers….I stop looking at the notation and play along with the track without the music.

      I wanna know what works for you?! Do you agree with my mom? With me? Or do you have an entirely different way of learning fiddle tunes.

    • #46269

      I always listen to a tune first. That’s usually the way I determine if it IS a tune I want to learn. Initially I had to use tab and Jason’s phrase by phrase learning. About 9 months ago I began learning to read music for violin. Now, I can search up a score for a tune I want to learn from a variety of resources. Then I go back and forth between listening to one or more versions and playing the whole tune by reading the music. At that point I can see discrepancies and areas I need to work on for correct rhythm and expression. For me, I have observed that how I approach learning a tune changes over time because knowing how to read music allows you to pay attention to the structure of the song (repeats, runs, etc.). I tend to rely on sheet music without committing to memory but that’s something I will be working more on. Many miles to travel in this delightful journey. Best of luck to all who are enjoying Fiddlehed.

      • #46273
        Nick Wilkins

        I’m with Kay on this one!

        I’m 6 months [and two days] into violin and I’ve stopped using tab [I’ve said this elsewhere so I won’t repeat that part]. I listen to make sure, as Kay says, that the piece is actually something I want to learn, and then I listen while looking at the notation, and then play from the notation. I find that I forget pieces if I haven’t played them for a while, but that with the notation to hand I can soon pick them up again.

        My main motivation for learning to read music is the sheer amount of wonderful stuff which is available in sheet form, much of which is being performed, but not taught, as such, on the internet.

        So, for me its like this: TAB, pond. Notation, ocean.

        Kay, how long has it taken you to learn to read music, and what’s helped most – do you have any tips?

    • #46275
      jason kleinberg

      I like what @nickw54 said, “TAB, pond. Notation, ocean”. Not only is it a useful way to understand the power of sheet music, but it sounds like a spiritual teaching…🙏

      • #46287
        Nick Wilkins

        Thanks, @jasonkleinberg. I’m glad you like that.

        I think it’s clear to every Fiddlehed that the fiddle is a spiritual thing for you, and I think that’s one reason why so many of us rate you so highly as a teacher.

        Six weeks or so ago I’d never heard of Tennessee Waltz, and now [sometimes] I can play it right through [though not as well as @bluegrassgal] and when I manage it, and just some of those notes ring out true, then it’s me and my fiddle and also something bigger which you’ve given me.

        Fiddle, ocean.

      • #46390

        Nick, I already knew basic reading from piano and college class 101 (FACE AND EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE, see my generation?)..but it’s still a challenge to read it for a fiddle so I began by using Jason’s pdf sheet music for songs I had learned tab for. Constantly improving by practice. As with all things, don’t get frustrated. You will get it. Start with a song you like and know and then find some you like and work on measure by measure, paying attention to what your finger is doing as you stare at the pattern. Then, you will get to the point where you can play it and start questioning HOW YOU BOW IT.All the struggle is so much fun and rewarding in this passion.

      • #46399
        Nick Wilkins

        Thanks, Kay.

        I’m the same generation, by the way.

        When I first started with Jason I just wrote out the TAB and played from that once I had the tune in my head. Then I copied out the notation with the TAB underneath [in the hope of some kind of diffusion from one to the other but that didn’t happen!], and then i just folded up my papers so the TAB is covered up.

        In many cases I get to the stage where I don’t need either, as I know the tune. But then what happens is that I forget how it goes and then I’m back to the hard work of figuring out where to put my fingers from the notation. At that point, the temptation to unfold and look at the TAB is very strong, but I resist. Ocean, and all that.

        So yes, it’s hard work but I’m determined to be able to read music as easily as I read a journal article.

        As ever, I’ll take your advice!

        [Shouldn’t you be out flying somewhere?]

    • #46403

      Days I should be anywhere but here.
      Back to fiddling…it’s a process and before you know it, you can look back and say, wow, this is so much easier now. Each person will have unique strategies that suit them. On occasion I still put notes down on a whiteboard so I can follow a song that Martin Hayes teaches (I have yet to completely learn a tune from his YT videos). He’s just awesome to watch though. I follow Chris Haigh, replay his tutorial and still can’t quite reach the proper emphasis to make the tunes sound Irish but I’m better than I was a while ago. Memorizing songs? For me, it takes and took hundreds of play throughs before they stuck. (Like Coleraine Jig and Road to Lisdonverna, Swallowtail, etc.) When you hear the adage Play it a thousand times, we ain’t just a jokin.
      I am coming up on 2 years. Still have days where I think something is wrong with my fiddle (but I know it’s me). I was reminded by a FB group post to scratch the rosin before I applied it to the bow!
      Jason has so much in Modules 1 and 2 to last a couple years for sure! I am still working on 4th finger for sure and it just takes time to get the fingers where they need to be. Have you lines or dots? I purchased a new fiddle after just a few months so I was forced to suffer without them. Now I can just find them by ear more easily. I assume you are learning the notes by first concentrating on D string. Then A string. With just those two sets of strings/notes you can play alot of tunes. It took me forever to get the G string notes to sound close. It was my bow angle. Still working on that.
      Fiddle on ;.)

      • #46405
        Nick Wilkins

        Hi Kay

        I didn’t know about Martin Hayes but just looked and love his accent, so I’ll pay him some more attention, for sure – thank you. Chris Haigh is great, yes. Do you know PeakFiddler? That man is so talented and just loves fiddle.

        I’ve taken off my dots, but have one of these in case I need to check that I’m in just the right spot: D’Addario PW-CT-14 NS Micro Violin Tuner – it’s great.

        Yes, I’m concentrating on D and A for the reasons you say. My E is screechy [my fault] and G is lovely when it’s right but that isn’t often yet!

        Red Desert Violin is great on bow angle. Joy Lee, by the way [who is lovely] says put rosin on the bow AND on the strings [yes, really] and to rosin a lot, and that has really helped me get a better tone.

        ok. Better get back on The High Road to Linton – 950 more times to go …

        Keep flying [even when you’re fidddling].

    • #46406

      Love PeakFiddler – learning his Earl’s Chair tutorial. Almost done with B part. Love Red Desert Lady too. Today I am working on B part of Maid Behind the Bar. Usually what I do when I can’t get a tune out of my head.

      • #46407

        Oh, quick question…are you recording yourself? If so, great, if not, it is recommended. With caution – it can be very discouraging as well as instructive.

      • #46413
        Nick Wilkins

        Funny you should say that, Kay, as I recorded myself last week for the first time and it was so very bad that I thought I needed to get a bit [actually a lot] better before I try it again [I know, doing it makes you better].

        Funny too that I felt so nervous doing it!

        I can hear you thinking, so I’ll have another go tomorrow; thank you for the nudge [I need it].

        Totally off-topic – when I was a kid my life’s ambition was to own a Piper Comanche [never fulfilled] – or, obviously [kids dream this stuff], a Hansa Jet.


      • #46414
        Nick Wilkins

        … or a Piaggio Turboprop.

        There’s something I like about a ‘plane with its wings or its engines on back-to-front, though you may not agree!

    • #46429

      Love nature. Rode motorcycle for 15 years and brief stint with sailing. Both similar – wind in your face and earth moving beneath your feet. I don’t fly in small planes LOL. But gladly return to traveling once barriers lifted. I didn’t begin recording until maybe a year after beginning. Deleted MANY a video. Still do. Now I do it routinely and try to figure out what I need to change. So odd that one’s playing can sound great to the neighboring ear but the recording disastrous. I have fiddle friends I meet with weekly and I actually get nervous when it’s my turn to play part A or B. Comes with the novice aspect of the endeavor I presume.

    • #46430
      Mel Newton

      Recording myself is so scary. I try to to do it in the least amount of takes in order to get a sense of where I really am, and it’s funny…in the short term I’m never happy with it but in the long term I’m much kinder to myself. My goal is to post more of the videos here in the forum and facebook this year instead of hiding them. But everytime Jason suggests a video my first reaction is NOOOoooooo…..

    • #46446

      I listen and work through it with Jason’s tutorial with the sheet music in front of me. I get the feel of it from Jason and then I can work with the sound tracks and print. For some time I was recording myself and sending them to my great grandkids. Great nonjudgmental crew that I was relaxed with but at the same time I was able to see what I needed to work on, ie bow hold and tracking, posture, etc. I haven’t gotten the courage to post any recordings of myself on any public forum. I’m trying to at least expose myself to as many pieces as possible because it gets me into a variety of tempos and styles I never dreamed of doing and then I pick and choose what ones I want to try to master. Trouble is I like too many of them. There are some I can play from memory but for the most part I need the music to at least get started properly and for the timing.

    • #46447

      Hi, Granny Fiddler
      I am a granny too and it’s only my great grandson who seems to appreciate my fiddling interest in the family. Thanks for sharing your approach. I, too, soon got interested in finding new tunes constantly and I still see that as a good thing even if I don’t master them individually. Sometimes I feel confident that I have the A part but the B part only comes into grip months later. That’s okay; I love the tune and am determined to learn it! I just keep working on them and see where I could improve. I did join a couple FB groups, one of which is Green Fiddlers. I have posted two videos so far, Doon the Brae and one I learned from Jason’s site. It’s fun to have some interaction, hear new tunes and see what other newbies are up to, offering encouragement since it’s very clear so many of us are passionate about this interest even if we are not accomplished, virtuosos, etc. So, keep on fiddling and sharing your love of learning with others!

    • #46603


    • #47070

      As Melinda said earlier, I like to learn a tune by watching, listening, repeating, from the instructor. Another challenging way to learn a tune is to put it in a slow-down program and learn it, bit by bit. Only after I own the bones of the tune do I go out and look for the sheet music to see what I missed or to straighten out a tricky spot. Is it harder than just pulling up the music or tab? Absolutely. But it seems to set more securely in my brain and I can call it up later after not playing it for awhile. If I shortcut with the sheet music first, It takes longer to lodge itself in my call-up memory.
      I’m doing the Irish Journey, which is way harder than my old friend, Old Time music. Because most all the Old Time tunes are already in my head, and they come out my fingers easier. I have to hum and sing the Irish melodies in my head and out loud to get them learned well enough so it’s not just me reading sheet music.
      Melinda and I differ in this way: I can pick stuff up by ear better than her, but she is a speed demon at sight-reading, compared to me.
      The harder parts of a tune for me are everything that is not the straight melody. That’s one thing I’m glad to be working on, which is part of the creative process.

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