To reiterate, the purpose of this blog is to share my experiances learning to play the fiddle. New fiddlers can hopefully benefit and learn what to do and what not to do.
Learning new tunes is great fun and can be done a lot of different ways. When I started to play the fiddle, I had the basic knowledge of reading music, or as the say " the dots". However at first I found it hard to play from the dots and make a tune. I had to hear the tune in order to play it. I needed to learn the notes and then hear the tune. I guess this is mixture of reading music and playing by ear.
I found some great books by Gordon Stobbe that had matching CDs. He plays each tune once through only, so there are a lot of tunes on each CD. The books follow the CDs exactly. I listened to the CD and picked out a tune I liked. I then learned the tune from the sheet music in the book. Having done that I went back the CD and tried and imitate. I learned a lot of tunes this way.
To learn a tune from the sheet music, I had to break the tune down into parts. I started by learning the first half of the first bar usually four quarter notes of a reel. Then I learned the second set of 4 notes. When I could play the first bar from memory, I would go on to the second bar. I practised until I could play the first two bars from memory. I continued like that learning a bit at a time. Luckily most tunes repeat, so the third bar is exactly the same as the first. Usually the forth bar is the same as the second bar or with a slight variation. At first it would take a week to learn a tune in this way. Now I can do it in a few hours.
Taking lessons of course is a great way to learn tunes. There are many ways to bow a tune. I believe that this can only be learned from other fiddlers. From teacher or other fiddlers you can learn different variations on how to play a tune
Now when every I hear I tune that I like, I search for the sheet music. I good place is thesession.com (see link on sidebar), to find lots of tunes with matching midi files.
I was never any good at learning a tune by ear. However, I have always heard that this is the best way to learn. I found it hard to find the right notes and even after I had figured out a tune, the next day I would have to figure it out again. I had decided that I was a lost cause and I must not possess the right skill or talent to be able to learn by ear. I just recently came across an article about learning by ear, that changed my perspective. This is a great site to visit. My goal now is to learn to play by ear.