Learning a new tune

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    • #13622


      Just curious about how folks on this site go about learning/practicing a new tune. Methods that work for you etc. Do you learn the tune the best you can before going on to another.



    • #13623

      I work up one tune at a time. Generally it is easy for me to learn the notes, but it takes lots of practice to get up to speed. This means I usually go over one phrase at a time and work through the piece.

      By that point I don’t need further instruction and I tend to overwork my bow hand to the point of causing repetitive strain injury, so I often, as like now, pause my membership until a new tune catches my interest. This is a feature of the site that I really appreciate, because money is tight and I rarely sign up for a site that has automatic billing.

      BTW, Kevin Burke is giving a workshop in Qualicum Beach this week, just three quarters of an hour from my home. I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve been a big fan for years and fairly recently learned Morrison’s Jig from him on this site. Great site with great instructors.

      • #13624

        I’m envious of you folks in Qualicum! Enjoy your workshop. It’s a bit too far to travel down from Smithers, or I’d be there. I love learning the notes for new tunes but I have to really push myself to work on the advanced lessons. So I tend to move on a new tune before I’ve really got a handle on the first. Not ideal, but my goal is to keep enjoying it. So many tunes, not enough time…


    • #13629

      Hi Uncleted,

      I did reply, but for some reason it’s not showing up on the forum, so I will try and repost it below here…

      Hi Uncleted,
      I Was thinking about asking a similar question. I was curious how other people go about it too. I’ve only been playing for just under 4 months so still very early days. Because of this, my finger speed and coordination simply isn’t there yet to get tunes up to session speed while being clear and understandable! There are a couple tunes that I am close, but I play them a lot. I assumed it’s mainly down to just not having all the muscle memory yet. So I tend to start learning a new tune when I feel that I can play something at the best of my ability.

      I practice on average probably 3 hours a day and seem to be progressing nicely. I don’t have any problems learning basic melodies, but the ornamentation, variance and speed is where I’m much slower (getting that useless little finger to do what I want it to do!)
      I probably have about 15 tunes (basic melodies) under my belt so far. What works for me is to always try and have a new tune I’m working on. My logic behind this is by getting my fingers playing as many varying melodies as possible, I’m building finger control and independence.
      So I dedicate a portion of my daily practice to this (maybe an hour or so) but I also dedicate about the same time each day to reviewing one or two of the tunes I’ve already learnt, (I only look at one or two a day to really get in a lot of repetition) working on ornamentation, speed, clarity etc etc, I will also dedicate an hour ish to working on specific techniques, like rolls, tone, arpeggios etc, or building speed through playing scales or phrases with a metronome. I put a lot of work into this because i personally need to, but I guess others who are more advanced might not need to.

      But to cut a long story short, I always try to have a new tune I’m working on so as to improve dexterity etc, and when I feel I have the basic melody learnt to the best of my ability, i will then put it into my bank of tunes, and play it most days for a while, working on ornamention etc, while learning a new tune.

      Not sure if this is the most efficient way to go about it, but it seems to work for me. It might change as I become more proficient.

      All the best


    • #13630

      Hi Oliver:

      Sounds to me like you have a great system figured out. I don’t practice for that long each day anymore. But I always try to have a new technique I’m working on, plus a review of the tunes I know. I always try to play a bit each day.

      One of my main efforts these days is to learn to improvise licks while other play and sing, so I try to get as much playing in as I can while others perform. But when I’m working on the actual fiddle tunes, I’m concentrating on things like being able to throw in double stops and drones, or a bit of spiccato bowing to give the tunes variety.

      For me, the beauty of the fiddle is that notes are more than just notes. They have attack. They can begin hard or soft, and can swell in the middle or stay even. This is what gives them such expressive quality. And then of course there are slurs and slides and ornaments, not to mention regional styles. Someday I may be able to impress beginners, but I’ll never master the instrument. It just goes on forever, and just when I think I’m getting good I hear somebody who is a master. It’s humbling.

      I’d like it if this site could bring in a gypsy jazz instructor. That’s a style of fiddle I find really attractive.

      Anyway, Oliver, way to go. I’m sure you are making amazing progress with that much practice and dedication.

      • #13631

        Hi Zale,

        Thanks, it seems to work for me. I don’t have much to compare it to but I’m happy with how it’s going anyway.

        I really look forward to the point where I can start to focus more on the expressive details of a tune like you say. For the moment if I try to include double stops in a tune I usually get all sorts of whistles happening from touching the drone with my fingers. But I am loving seeing things getting better and better. I know it’ll come!

        I was studying a bit about the whole world of improvisation and the theory involved (scales, modes, chords etc), but I tend to play more Celtic stuff, and there seems to be less call for Solos etc than in bluegrass and similar styles. Something else I’m really looking forward to diving into more at some point!

        I completely agree about the gypsy jazz, such a passionate genre!

        I suppose “Mastering” the fiddle is only a relative term. Like you say it goes on forever. As long as I can get to play with others and make people dance I’ll be happy!

        All the best


    • #13632

      Good to hear other folks methods regarding learning tunes. I tend to bounce around a bit much going from one tune to another. One thing I have done that seems to work when it come to polishing a tune is to put it on the shelf, so to speak, for a while and when I come back to it, the tune seems to flow easier.
      Thanks Zale, Oliver, and Andrea

      Wouldn’t mind attending a workshop with Kevin Burke, bit far.

      Casey/Roland: Do you have any tips regarding this subject?

      Kind Regards


    • #13640
      Roland White

      Nice to hear all these great comments on focused practice techniques. Thanks all for sharing in a nice convo thread and I’m sure other FV members will benefit as well.

      As for my two cents when it comes to practice is to do 3 things per practice under the format:
      1. Warm ups, Bow, Fingers and Ears.
      2. Specific Technique or New Tune Practice.
      3. Practice new,old or review & Fun.

      Keep up the good fiddling and practicing out there.Roland

      • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Roland White.
      • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Roland White.
    • #13643
      Casey Willis

      Great thread. I feel like I need a “like” button…

      Zale – would agree with your approach above.

      Oliver – if I was starting out, I think I would approach as you describe…getting basic melodies under your fingers and then moving on to new tunes….

      So my 2c is:
      If you’re a beginner player, focus on getting to a point where you can play the melody cleanly before moving on to a new tune or adding in advanced ornamentation….the more tunes you learn and can play cleanly, the more experience you have to pull from when playing other tunes…to me, it’s much better to play a melody cleanly before challenging yourself with adv licks….all this work adds up and pays dividends in the future! If you’re not happy with your execution at a particular speed or technical level, you sure won’t be happy if you try to speed up/enhance your version.

      If you’re a more advanced player, I would recommend really focusing on learning one new tune at a time. Be intentional about your goals. Listen closely as you play…record and listen back to your playing. Are you happy with your executions of every lick? If not, which lick/passage do you need to polish? Work on that until you’re happy.

      When I learn a new tune, my personal rule is that if I miss a lick/passage, I have to get it right 4 TIMES to negate the one mistake. This may or may not work for you, but if you find yourself in a situation where you consistently miss something, force yourself to get it right 4 TIMES before you move on…

      I will say that this approach can be frustrating and also result in stagnant playing…that’s when you mix it up and take a break from learning a tune. Sometimes I’ll have a breakthrough after working really hard on a tune and then putting the fiddle down for a day or so…or switching to another tune for a bit.

      Anyhow, those are my rambling thoughts. I’m looking forward to learning/teaching some new tunes for his site this year.

      At the end of the day, all of the instructors in this site are just students of the instrument; just as all of the members are!!

      Here’s to a great 2018!!! Good question/thread, UTed.

      Fiddle on!!! I will do the same!


    • #13649

      I agree with Roland and Casey. I generally warm up with scales, arpegios in the key of the tune that I am working on. Generally do about 15 minutes of this. I will work on my bowing at this time, and rythum of the tune I am working on. I will then start slowly if i am not familiar with the tune and gradually build up speed. This does not take place in one day. It is great if you have the tune you are working on, on your mobile device so you can listen to it over and over and over. This way it is in your head. My reading skills are slow, but I am getting better. I learn better by ear, so sometimes when I look at the music some of what I am reading does not jive with what I am reading. I agree with Casey, do not play the mistake over if you are aware you made one. By doing this it will be embedded in your mind and you will keep doing it. Back up play it slow right, over and over and over. It may take more than 4 times, but get it right. Yes it is time consuming, but as Casey says, each and everyone is still a student of the instrument, even the very best are and will continue to learn. We are just on different levels in time. Do not get discouraged. Perserve.

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