The Battle Hymn of the Republic

In an effort to make my practice more interesting and fun, I ditched learning nursery rhyme songs and looked for a tune that is more interesting to me. I found the The Battle Hymn of the Republic on String Club and decided to teach it to myself.

After copying the sheet music, I transposed it into tabs. Memorizing the notes took me a few days, and I have been playing it for the past few days. My problem with it, as with other simple songs I have learned, is that I reach a point where I can play it over and over, but I don’t see any improvement beyond a point. Tomorrow is my first lesson with my teacher after three months on my own, and I am hoping she can help me begin to unlock why I don’t seem to be able to progress with a tune beyond the “OK” point.

Everyone knows The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a very popular tune from the Civil War. This stirring anthem was written during the American Civil War by Julia Ward Howe, a leader in women’s rights and an ardent foe of slavery. Julia toured a Union Army Camp in Virginia and heard soldiers singing this tune. The music was rousing, but the words needed improvement. Julia’s pastor, who accompanied her, asked her to consider writing new and better verses. That night, after the Howes retired to their room at the Willard Hotel, the words came to her.

So, here is my current rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, or should I say one of my many renditions because each time I record it I make mistakes at different parts of the song.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Here’s something else I taught myself this week. Bile’ Em Cabbage Down – Nashville Shuffle style (long-short-short). It’s getting there.

Bile ‘Em Cabbage Down


  5 comments for “The Battle Hymn of the Republic

  1. old cowboy
    May 13, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    I am no expert. I been at it for going on 9 mos. The first songs I learned were Cottoneyed Joe and Old Joe Clark. After I reached the point you are at now I tried to add longer bow swings to give it a more smooth sound. I am now trying to introduce double stops and shuffle bowing into them.

    • May 14, 2019 at 6:44 am

      I agree! I have started using longer bow strokes to sound better, i.e. smoother. The day I recorded the above, I was frustrated. I just wanted to get the darn thing recorded and move on. It seems at some point I can play a tune fairly well, but I turn on the recorder, and I play like I just started learning it…almost like a stage fright. I also have to get over, but haven’t yet, wanting to wait until I can play a tune well before I record it. After all, the purpose of this section is to have a place for my recordings that I can listen to later on to hear my improvement. Since the Battle Hymn of the Republic, I have worked on Angelina Baker, Oh! Susanna, Amazing Grace, and Yankee Doodle, but when I get ready to record them, I hesitate…just my own insecurity and idiosyncrasy.

      • old cowboy
        May 28, 2019 at 4:23 pm

        Jason on fiddlehed had a video about playing your practice songs real slow like one note at a time. He said it teaches your brain and fingers where each note is at. then later when you try playing them at their normal speed it will sound much smoother. I routinely do this even with songs I know fairly well and I have found it truly works. I too get discouraged with the way I sound. Last week I had a good practice session and came away all smiles! This week I am wondering what the heck I was smiling about!

        • May 29, 2019 at 5:30 am

          When I get frustrated learning a song or playing a song I previously learned because I start skipping/forgetting notes, crossing strings, poor bowing, etc., I always go back to playing one note at a time very slowly, and that helps to bring everything back real fast for me. I think one of my problems…no, I know one of my problems…is I try to move through a song and play it at tempo too fast. Once I learn a phrase, I move onto the next phrase rather than playing the first phrase to the point I can do it in my sleep before I move on. I have always been an impulsive, impatient person, and that is not helpful when learning the fiddle.

          • old cowboy
            May 30, 2019 at 3:52 pm

            I agree with you. Take one section of a song at a time like you say and learn it to where you can play it without thinking about it before moving on. Great advice. I know from my guitar playing, once these songs are truly learned you never forget them. I can go back and play songs I haven’t played for years and still remember them. Have to brush them up, but I can still play them.

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