NEW HOMEPAGE LANDING PAGE Forums Practice Questions How many tunes to learn at once?

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    • #44729
      Nick Wilkins

      Hi Everyone.

      Apologies even before I start for this ‘beginner’ question, but here it is anyway:

      Should I learn a whole tune ‘properly’ before I start on another? Or is it ok [even good practice, maybe?] to have a couple/a few on the go at once?

      My problem really is that the more of Jason’s videos I watch, the more songs there are about which I say “I have to learn that!”

      So right now I have a decent start on Cripple Creek and Wabash Cannonball, but I’ve also written out the Fiddlehed tab for Red Haired Boy and Tennessee Waltz and Hector the Hero and

      How many tunes?

    • #44730

      Oh my goodness. I did the same thing and am not sure I should have. However, if you are doing well with tone and advancing that quickly who’s to say? Jason has some thoughts on that but I don’t remember where they are located. Many of his videos have asides about learning and personal paths so really it’s all about you and what makes you happy. I couldn’t stop trying new tunes when I first got his subscription. What I see happening during year 2 now is that they are getting easier for sure. I still revisit lessons in Module 1 and there are a few that are still a bit challenging for me in Module 2. Like the 4th finger work. Love Hector the Hero. Just love Irish music!

    • #44732
      Nick Wilkins

      Thanks again, Kacey; if it’s good for you I’m certain it will be for me also.

      I’m taking that as a green light to keep 2/3/4 going at one time – there’s just so much wonderful music on Fiddelhed – yes, the Irish and also the American, and also I love some of that Jewish music [on my ‘to learn soon’ list]. You see, there’s just too much to wait for.

      Hmm. I wonder if there is great English fiddle music? I’m sure there is [??] but probably I’m just unaware of it.

      Stay safe and take care, and thanks for your reply.

    • #46085
      Mel Newton

      Hi! I think that learning multiple tunes at once is a good way to let tunes improve each other. Especially tunes in the same key – it will help you to “feel” the patterns of how the notes arrange themselves in that key. You can over do it though – learn 5 old time tunes in the key of A and sometimes they will blend together in your mind and make it difficult for them to stand out and the tunes won’t have any personality.

      You also have to consider what makes your brain happy. Plugging away at a single song until it’s “perfect” makes my brain very tired, distracted, and I don’t want to play any more. I say “perfect” tongue in cheek because like any creative process it will never quite be done – I can remember the first tunes I every learned almost 30 years ago and I am STILL adding variation of feeling to them and I play them like one might sip a good glass of wine – rolling them on my tongue and exploring the rhythms and picture of the songs. Some of that “personality” of the tune only comes after you’ve played it 10 thousand times and it’s like an old friend instead of an acquaintance.

      Everyone is going to find their own version of how many tunes and how to integrate them into their practice journeys. Here’s how I do it.

      I like to have about 3-4 turns in the queue:

      1. 1 tune that I’m actively learning the notes and structure for. I rely heavily on sheet music and play along tracks to learn tunes, so tunes at this stage I still have to use that sheet music.
      2. 1 tune that I know well enough to play along with the play along track and by myself, but can’t reliably play it with a regular rythmn yet – I can’t play it with the “quiet fiddle track” or a metronome. I’m still looping difficult portions of the tune and still fumble and lose my way, but I can generally sort it out without having to look at the music or tutorials.
      3. 1 tune that I know the basic version of well enough to play for demonstration in front of the camera, but I’m still adding some basic variation and drones. I’m learning the personality of the song – where to pull and where to push, how to drive the rhythm with the bow. I still don’t know the tune well enough that if I don’t play it regularly I will “lose” it.

      Tunes that fall off this queue I know well enough that I when play for a week or so and I still manage to pull it up by memory and play pretty well when I do. Sometimes I go back to a tune I haven’t played in a few months and I just can’t quite remember how it goes and I go through the steps again with it – but it’s usually a faster process.

      The most important thing is to keep it fun and keep your brain happy. :).

      • #46088

        Sounds good, Melinda! Somewhat familiar as well, having a few tunes cooking at once at different stages:
        (1) Learning a song or two from sheet music or tutorial,
        (2) Playing a song from memory, but needing work, and
        (3) Practicing a tune I can play fairly well.

        Unless I am working on a tutorial, I generally prefer to practice away from the computer, so I use printed sheet music for the Class (1) stuff. For Class (2), being away from the computer, I can’t turn on the play along track. But I did order the same drone from India that Jason uses. It is schedule to arrive at the end of this week! Class (3) is the fun stuff for me and I tend to play several familiar tunes in most practices.

        I also treat myself to some lazy, ‘no struggles’ practices, where I just recite familiar and favourite tunes. In warmer summer evenings, I find this is great to do outside, (often with a mute, though I have received occasional applause from neighbours!)

    • #46136
      Nick Wilkins

      Hi Kay, Melinda and Tom, and thanks for your responses. So now that I have a bit more practice under my bow, what I’ve settled into is pretty much what you’ve all said:

      A tune which I’m definitely learning!
      A couple of songs which I’m almost there with in terms of knowing all the notes
      A couple of songs which I know by heart and just play for the fun of it

      I know if I just kept going with one tune until I had it right, I’d get very bored.

      What I try at all costs to avoid is just practising to make my bowing better [I know, I know …] ;-]

      I was watching Itzhak Perlman the other day talking to Juilliard students and he said ‘Always look at the music while you are practising, even when you know the piece by heart’. Who’s to say that’s wrong? But of course, I can’t do that yet, because I’m too busy looking where my fingers are.

      I’ve given up on TAB [and my dots are about to come off] because I really need to force myself to read music, and it’s working quite well [I have all the A and E notes sorted out by sight after a few hours of ignoring the TAB and playing from the notation]. And of course, that lets me pay attention to things like note-length and bowings and loudness etc.

      Does learning by ear come after sight reading? I guess then things really start to move on.

    • #46142
      Jim Guinn


      “A tune which I’m definitely learning!
      A couple of songs which I’m almost there with in terms of knowing all the notes
      A couple of songs which I know by heart and just play for the fun of it”

      I think this is an excellent approach!


      • #46149
        Nick Wilkins

        Jim, if you think this is a good approach, then I’m happy!

        Keep fiddling!

    • #46196
      Jim Guinn

      LOL, Nick. I am barely an authority. It’s just the same approach I take.

    • #47074

      I usually have to work on limiting the number of tunes I’m trying to learn at once. I am always “greedy for tunes.” At a music camp Old Time), the instructor gave some wisdom that I try to remember. The ‘old guys’ who are the source for a lot of the tunes perhaps didn’t know a whole lot of them. They had a few, but those few they knew well, inside and out, with all the variations. The only way they learned new ones was to get them from other fiddlers they would meet. But nowadays, it’s cheap and easy to get tunes. So people grab a new tune, “learn it,” and then race to the next one.
      I still am greedy for tunes, but I try to respect a tune that I learn, to give it time to understand it, feel it, maybe see some variations. And if I don’t like a tune well enough for that, then let it go. (or just learn it well enough to get by because for some reason everyone thinks Mississippi Sawyer is the greatest old time fiddle tune out there.)

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