Body Large (20/130%/14)
Body Large (20/130%/14) #2
abc Codexx
Tune Links (16, indented)

Learning Fiddle Tunes by Ear & from Written Music, & Combining Methods Effectively

Learning Fiddle Tunes by Ear & from Written Music, & Combining Methods Effectively

Learning by Ear: You Really Can Do It!

Many people learn from written music because they just don't think they can learn by ear.

  • Imagine as a fairly beginning musician going to a jam session. Everyone starts playing Fisher's Hornpipe or maybe the Ligntning Hornpipe or Hull's Victory. You try to pick it up by ear, but you just can't get beyond what key it's in and maybe a couple really major notes. How discouraging!
  • Obviously that's not the way to do it if you want to be successful. But what can you do?
  • One good way is to start with some tunes you already know, and try playing them. See how far you can get without written music.
    • Try an easy Christmas carol (e.g. Silent Night or Jingle Bells), or an easy  song that you know well (perhaps Mary Had a Little Lamb, Frère Jacques or Amazing Grace), or something else really familiar. Not something difficult, very possibly something you have no real interest in playing; the goal is to learn how to learn by ear.
    • Play it in an easy fiddle key: D or G most likely.
  • I bet you'll be able to figure out how to play one or more of these songs by ear without much trouble. Success; off to a good start!
    • It may not be what you want to play, but you've demonstrated clearly that you can learn by ear under the right conditions.
  • One of the most important principles of learning is to go gradually. Try slightly more difficult tunes (e.g. When the Saints Go Marching In, Good Night Irene, Will the Circle Be Unbroken). If you get stuck, go back to something a bit easier. After a while you'll be more experienced and be able to do something you couldn't previously. Progress!


Learning Tunes III ~ Learning By Ear

It's interesting how for some people the idea of learning by ear and not using written music is scary, and to some seems downright impossible, whereas to others it seems to be the natural method of learning tunes. Well, everyone can learn by ear, although some people may have to work at it a bit more. Here we look at the issue in more detail.

The Evening Dance at Maine Fiddle Camp
August 2016

Those fiddle tunes we play are mostly dance tunes, and I don't think there's anything a whole lot more fun than playing for a contra or square dance! We have a dance nearly every evening at Maine Fiddle Camp, with some of the finest music around. Campers are welcome to sit in with the staff.

The NH Old-Time Fiddle Website covers a variety of topics related to traditional music and dance of New Hampshire and surrounding areas.

Designed & Edited by Peter Yarensky


Contact & About Page + Site News

Use the Menu (upper left) to navigate. Here are the main topics covered on this web site.

  • Fiddle Tunes! Tunes in abc notation and in PDF format.
  • abc Notation . Music written out in text form that can be displayed as standard notation and played back for proofreading or tune learning. Section includes:
    • abc tutorial on basics of using abc notation & links to web sites that document/teach abc, sources of music in abc, & to abc reader/converter software.
  • Learning tunes by ear and from notation, a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each, differences in what is learned, combining the use of both kinds of learning with relevant links.
  • About Fiddle Music. General discussion of fiddle-related topics, starting with choosing chords for a tune.
  • Lamprey River Band. About the transition from the Dover dance to the Durham dance with schedule information.



Learning by Ear, from Written Music & Combining the Two