To learn melodies

Overview| Next

We will now discuss how to learn melodies




After having finished this course

I will not put a lot of melodies into this course. If you want to learn more I can recommend the melody collection at the home page of Folkets Hus in Nørrebro, Copenhagen where you may find more than 1300 Scandinavian folk tunes.

If you are interested in playing jazz, I can recommend Band-in-a-Box. I have put some examples of jazz music exported to mid format from Band in a box here.

There are some videos that you can whatch and especially listen to the special sound of scandinavian music.





Using note sheets

It is a good thing to know how to read music sheets for examples if you are going to Folkets Hus collection of notes.


It is not the best way of learning how to play a melody.

The sheet music tells you something but not the full story. It does not tell you how to put feelings into the music. You will experience that although it is fast to be able to play after a music sheet. It takes longer time to learn a melody by heart, if you started reading it. It is much faster to learn the melodies by ear if you want to remember them. The coupling from sight to fingers (when reading sheet music) is more difficult for the brain to make than the coupling from your ear (when hearing a melody) to your fingers. When playing it. Therefore you will experience that a melody learnt by ear requires less work in terms of practicing in order to remember. When you have learnt a melody by ear, it is like "your fingers are remembering the melody".

For learning how to read music I can recommend Band in a box, here you get the melodies in both by ear and by sight.

Always start playing slowly

When you are learning a new piece of music start slowly and increase the speed slowly. Do not make accelerando as you are playing, but increase the speed from the start of the melody and play in the speed you have chosen. If there is a place that is hard to play repeat that place only.


We have a good collection of Scandinavian folk music at folkets hus, but the music sheets and the midi files does not tell the full story.

Playing recorded music

It is a good idea to listen and play together with records. Especially listen for the phrasing. Don't hesitate to copy what you hear. The ability of copying other people is a good ability to have when you play together with other people and you want to unify your sound.

Today you may get software that can slow down the music without changing the pitch.


By a teacher

You will often be in a situation where you are going to learn a melody from other people or where you are teaching other people

  • First the teacher plays the melody. The pupils should not play now, only listen.
  • It is a good idea to sing the melody. Singing is often easier than playing for most people
  • The teacher should split the melody into short strophes which are learnt by heart. It is a challenge to put the right strophes in, and to repeat them until everybody have them under their skin.
  • Work especially on the difficult ones.
  • You can go on before everybody have learnt the strophe 100%. But people should be somehow confident before you go on.
  • Play the strophes in a slow tempo. The teacher should tell the pupils every time he plays faster, so you do not train accelerandos.
  • When you have learnt a full repetition you should play this repetition more than twice. Discuss the endings if they are different.
  • When you have learnt the full melody, repeat it many times. Put up the speed slowly. You do not have to reach full speed in a session. If their are ornation, put on the ornation as the last thing. If there is special phrasing, this should be discussed at this point.

Just playing along

Most Scandinavian music is quite easy to learn, when you have learnt the style it is quite easy to pick up a new melody. Since all melodies contains repetitions and dance music is repeated many times, it is possible to pick a melody up while playing. Make sure that you play very softly so the total music does not get destroyed by your learning efforts!! Often you may during a melody be aware of where you have difficulties, and pick the problem notes up one by one for every repetition.



Just playing a melody that you have heard

Sometimes you may just play a melody you have heard. This ability should be a goal, then you can play anything at any time. And you have become a fast learner.