How many songs have you learned in the last five years? If you’re like many fiddlers, the count may be high. How many tunes can you sit down and jam on? Unfortunately, we often find that this number is a lot lower. Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day?

Perhaps I’m reading your mind, or perhaps this is a common plight of musicians. Either way, here are some tips on how to create a solid repertoire.

  • Create a playlist of the tunes you play. It doesn’t matter if it’s your exact version or another version you enjoy listening to. Wake up in the morning and put on your playlist. Remember, this isn’t a chore. Find the enjoyment in listening to your music.
  • Fix your trouble spots. When you’re playing through your tunes, find a solution for spots that are giving you trouble. You can simplify the section, take notes or double stops out, or determine what else you can do to make the spot feel easier.
  • Maintain a list of your tunes. You’re not going to play every tune every day. Which tunes do you need for an upcoming event? Prioritize those. Which tunes can you play once a week?
  • Play certain tunes daily just because they make you feel good. Every fiddler should have at least 3 of these.
  • Take one day a week to play through your repertoire with backup tracks. Even play songs that feel far from your mind. Again, remember to enjoy playing and listening to yourself. This is fun.
  • Remember that the point of fiddling isn’t always to learn new tunes; it’s to have a repertoire of tunes you can play comfortably and use to connect with other musicians. When you maintain old tunes, you increase your capability for musicality.
  • Jam with people as much as you can. Jam sessions are the single best way to keep your tunes fresh. You’ll even surprise yourself and pull out ones that you completely forgot about. Set up a consistent weekly jam and plan to play whether you’ve practiced or not. The benefits of doing this are so extensive it’s hard to measure. This is how Celeste and I learned to play. Do it!
  • Come to Fiddle School’s virtual jams. We host four of these on Zoom per year—maybe more in the future. We know that many people don’t have folks to jam with, so we want to give everyone the opportunity to play through common material together. You may not know all of the songs, but you’ll get them in your ear for later. You can even pick up an accompaniment instrument and keep jamming along.
  • Get together with a friend and play through songs together. Playing with another fiddler who knows the same tunes can be very valuable to help you keep your footing through tricky sections. If you don’t have another fiddler close to you, you can still get together virtually with another Fiddle Schooler in our online community.
  • Notice when jamming shows you small parts that still need work and songs you may need to revisit. Let jams be your teacher. And again, let me remind you—jamming is fun!

You might notice me frequently emphasize enjoyment in these tips. That’s because keeping your tunes alive is a really fun process. You already did the heavy lifting when you learned the tune. Now you get to enjoy the benefits of that work and play those tunes with joy and confidence. Happy fiddling!