Here's my approach to learning tunes, I hope this may help some people, and perhaps other people have a different approach that could help myself and others, so please chip in.


1/ I hear a tune that I would like to learn (at a session, youtube, internet, somewhere)

2/ I try to find the name of the tune, not to find the ABCs (in general the ABCs are just a rough notion of how the tune is played) I look for the name in order to find a recording and listen to how good players play the tune.


3/ To find the name I will typically use and by listening by ear I will note down the first 15 - 20 notes, 9 times out of 10 tunepal will get your tune, you can verify by listening to the midi files from the search results.

This week I discovered to my amazement that I could play any tune into tunepal and using the record function it would find the name of the tune, this week I took the recordings from my weekly session and used tunepal to look for the names it found about 25 out 28 tunes... (I had been doing this part manually before, but doing it manually is not a bad idea either, it's great for training you ear and more satisfying when you find the name)


4/ Once I have found the tune name, I look for recordings, youtube, amazaon CDs etc.. in France I use which has loads of Irish trad CDs and has the full tune..


5/ I then decide which recording I would prefer to learn from, and start to learn by ear from that recording, sometimes I will take the ABCs and change them to what I have learned from the recording.


6/ in learning by ear, I sometimes slow the tune down, in order to find the exact notes, but once I have the notes, I will go back to full speed listening, as listening to something slowed down for too long is not great as you will tend to copy it.


7/ Also when you are learning it's important to keep listening to the recording, because if you listen to yourself too long you will tend to copy yourself.


8/ I then try and play along with the recorded version.


9/ I then try and get to a session and play with others.


Oh yeah, I don't have a teacher, the best way would be to learn with a real live person.

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great info there...handy way to work a tune out John F.

Since still some people seem to read this thread:

I use a fantastic App on my smartphone (Android): Audio Speed Changer 

(I use the Pro-Version). It has nearly the same features as Transcribe and a fantastic search function for music on your mobile. Absolutely great!

Cheers, David 

Hi John,

I like to keep it as simple as possible.  I can learn from either a teacher/mentor breaking down the tune for me or from a slow recording. From there, I gradually revise the tune to add ornamentations and increase speed. If I have a professional recording of the tune available, I will listen to it repeatedly.  I can sometimes play most of the tune notes just from hearing the professional recording many times, but of course it still requires lots and lots of refinement.  I think any musician at any level will always be refining and redefining what they have learned, building upon the basic notes as a foundation. I could read sheet music if I wanted to, but I never do it that way.  Eventually, I may try to learn tunes from some of the internet sites.  There are so many clever ways to learn tunes these days!


I downloaded it David and it is fantastic. I have the Amazing Slow Downer on my PC but that leaves me dependent on the PC. I have all the Waltons 110 Fiddle Tunes + Session Tunes CD's and have loaded them onto the Phone as well so now I walk around and learn the tunes by ear.

Only problem is an ad keeps flashing up on the bottom of the screen saying "Flirt with sexy singles" which I can't seem to get rid of. Sent a message to the developer. Don't know if you encountered the same problem. Then this morning a message appeared that "Elaine wanted to chat with me" She hardly wants to talk about Tommy Peoples? Don't know what to do. Any suggestions folks.?

Hi Tony,

I don't have any "sexy single flashes" :-) on my mobile. But I use the "Pro"-version. It costs 2,70 Euro or so. 

Cheers, David 

I can read music, so if it's available, ( generally has some version of tin whistle tunes)  I'll read the music to get the basic frame to hang the tune on, then go to a session or find a CD for the variation on that tune that I like.  I'm not particularly good at adding decorations yet, but I'm getting there.  I have a hard time learning pipe tunes any other way, since they seem to be a little more rigid in their decorations than Irish traditional music.

That being said, the first two dozen or so session tunes I picked up, I learned entirely by ear.  My husband taught me this.  First, you listen to the tune over and over until you can hum every note, then translate what you are singing onto what you want to hear on your instrument.  For me, this is my whistle.  I've heard from some of the old-school pipers I've had workshops with that there is a vocabulary of syllables for most decorations that was developed for teaching and passing down tunes before most people could read music.   That would be very cool to learn...if my life wasn't getting in my way so often.

I learn tunes by ear, I can't read ABCs or music. I only ever learn tunes I love. Life is too short to learn tune that don't interest me! 

For me one of the most important things is if the tune has a "hook", or a part of the tune that captures my imagination.  So for me sheet music or midi's don't cut it unless I'm reviewing them to get precise.  Most often I'll hear a tune and get fired up about it.  Usually the group that played the tune did a good job of finding that part I like so I'll make sure when playing it I emphasize that part.  Often I can pick stuff off from an album but sometime with off chord stuff (Dm or Gm tunes) I'll grab the sheet music and follow along.  After banging out the phrases from slow to fast I put them together.  Oh, one tip I learned was to start the tune then as soon as possible learn the last phrases.  The middle of the tune is the last part I'll work on.  As you play it you'll start it out fine, maybe struggle a bit early on but when you get to the end you'll have it solid once again.  One last note, I don't like slow jam sessions.  I find too many people will learn the tune then keep it at that slow pace loosing any chance to get to speed and to find that "hook". 

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