Course overview

This is an overview of the mini-course called “How to Learn Fiddle Tunes More Easily”. In this lesson, I’ll suggest five strategies that will help you pick up melodies, and then go into more detail on each strategy in a series of separate lessons.

Though this is a self-paced course, I recommend that you take one lesson a week so that you can focus on one practice strategy at a time. If you like, I’ll send you an email each week with the lesson notes and links:

Five strategies to help you pick up tunes more easily

In this course:

Practicing these strategies will improve your ability to make mental representations of the music so you can learn tunes more quickly. But more important than accelerating tune learning, these strategies will develop your ear and musical perception through good practice habits.

Know your scales

The better you know your scales, the quicker you can pick up tunes. As a fiddler you’ll want to master these:

  • G, D, A major.
  • E, A minor.

I have an in-depth lesson on this called What Are The Best Scales To Learn On The Fiddle? 

Daily Listening

Listening is practice too, so try to do it on a daily basis.

Passive listening is when you listen to music with partial attention while doing another activity: driving, cleaning, eating, etc. Though your full attention is not on the music, you are still absorbing it on some level.

Active listening is when you listen to music with your full attention and you are engaged in some form of practice. Each time you practice a tune, listen to it. Even just listening to one repetition will be a big help.

Doing this will help you to form a mental picture of the music. If you sing, whistle or hum along, then you are engaged in even more active listening, and will develop a more clear mental picture of the tune.

Here’s a more in-depth lesson called on Passive and Active Listening (recently updated with exercises and video lessons). In it, I’ll give you some strategies and exercises for listening practice.

Look For Repeating Patterns

If you hear something in a tune that repeats a lot, figure that out first. If you can get that little piece, it will help you to put together the rest of the jigsaw puzzle. For example, if you can figure out the first quarter of Swallowtail Jig…


…then you pretty much know the third quarter:


I came up with two tools to help students recognize repeating patterns:

  • Color-coded tabs
  • Tune Mapping

Learn more about it in this lesson: Repeating Patterns in Fiddle Tunes.


Try to simplify tunes as much as possible. When learning a tune, play the most basic, easy-to-hear version of the tune.

Here are two great ways to simplify tunes so that you can learn them more easily:

  • Remove all embellishments.
    • Take out grace notes, slides, double stops, etc. You can add them later after you’ve learned the tune well.
  • Discover hidden repetition.
    • Look for similar parts that are not quite identical, and then if possible, make them the same. This is how I arrange the tunes on FiddleHed so that they are easy to learn.

Here’s a more in-depth lesson on this: How To Simplify Tunes.

Sing, hum, whistle

If you can create a clear mental map of a tune you will have an easier time learning it on the fiddle and remembering it later on. Singing, humming and whistling the tune will help you form a more solid mental map. The great thing about this practice is that you can do it anywhere. Sing along with a recording, or just see how much of a tune you remember.

Here’s a more in-depth lesson (updated with play-along tracks): Singing and Playing

To sum up, these strategies will help you learn tunes more easily. But the goal is not to consume as many tunes as possible. The main benefit of these six strategies is that they are just good practice habits. And if you have good practice, I’m pretty sure you will enjoy playing the fiddle for a long time to come.


Lessons complete in the How To Learn Fiddle Tunes More Easily module: