How to learn a new song easily

Why do I sing all the time…..?

I can only put it down to contentment and also learning new songs. I feel most at ease when I am walking around singing to myself.  And I mean walking around anywhere – shops or streets but mainly as I am wandering about with the dog and also while driving

It is actually quite rhythmic and relaxing to walk and sing because your footsteps can go in time with the song.  So depending on ones mood you can choose a song to match

My songs vary from ultra melancholy to upbeat, fast hunting/harvest songs

The latest song obsession of mine is My Bonny Boy ….. “I hollered and I whooped and I played upon my flute, but no Bonny Boy could I find…”

But when learning a new song I usually end up singing the same one over and over and over again for days on end.  This is how I have learnt so many over the years

People often ask how I learn songs and moreover how on earth do I remember all the words, especially of the long traditional folk ballads*

Well here are my top three tips to learn ANY song

1. Get the tune in your head first of all….. play, play, play the song on YouTube (or on whatever means you’re learning it from) and hum/wail along the best you can (of course you have to like the melody to do this)

2. Gradually sing the words too (whatever words you can pick out as that is not always easy)  Eventually you may have to look up the lyrics or write them out and sing ONCE through while looking at the words.  Don’t make this a habit or it impedes your memorising them

3. Once you have the main gist of the song just sing it over and over again without thinking too much while you are out and about or pottering at home – easy! (I sing in my “quiet” voice if in public!)  This is the great thing about singing – can be done anywhere and at any time, no need to be carrying an instrument about. (My sister is a harper and I don’t envy the stress that gives her to lug it about…!!)

Perfecting it

Once in a while you will need to really FOCUS and THINK while you sing the song through fully to make sure you have all the lyrics there and the verses in the correct order

When you have cracked the song then just sing constantly till it becomes autopilot really. Of course this does not want to be a forced thing – you have to want to do it.  It need not feel like practice nor hard work.  Just pleasure.  

AND there are many benefits too…

💛It passes the time when you are doing a dull job

💛Singing is good for your wellbeing/mental state

💛If you have children it is good for them to grow up around songs.  I am biased towards folk songs but I think it is good for children to hear these songs and stories that their ancestors may have sung too.  They will inadvertently pick up the songs too

💛You may even brighten someone’s day if they hear you happily singing to yourself in a shop

Good luck and let me know how you get on!

*these can take years depending on if you focus or not.  the longest ballad I know is Tam Lin or Young Tambling and it is still not fully learnt yet!

Two good versions to listen are below

Anne Briggs over 10 minutes long but brilliant!

Ian Page slightly shorter but maybe because he sings faster..

And I look forward to the day we can go and sing together again in random places such as this!

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