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Table of Contents Instructional MP3s Parts of a Fiddle(r) Who This Book Is For A Word to the Fiddlers What Is Old-Time Fiddling? Checking Out Your Fiddle Checking Out Your Bow Getting Equipped Tuning Your Fiddle How to Hold the Fiddle How to Hold Your Left Hand How to Hold the Bow How to Use the Bow The Fear of Reading Music Tablature or “Tab” for Ignoramuses How to Read Music for Ignoramuses Your First Scale Finger Placement Help What a Typical Page Looks Like Ida Red Say Darling Say How to Shuffle Improvising Lynchburg Town Shortenin’ Bread Run Johnny Run Cumberland Mountain Deer Chase Camptown Races Sugar Hill Polly Put the Kettle On Sail Away Ladies D Dorian Mode The Dreaded Squeaks & Squawks In the Pines Gospel Plow Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Muley’s Daughter East Virginia Darling Cory Rain and Snow How to Jam Playing in the Key of A Cripple Creek Buffalo Gals Liza Poor Gal Cotton-Eyed Joe Old Joe Clark Playing in A Minor Charlie He’s a Good Old Man Cluck Old Hen House of the Rising Sun Playing in the Key of G Amazing Grace It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’ Red River Valley Old Molly Hare Rye Whiskey Blackest Crow Wagoner’s Lad Willie Moore Groundhog Playing in the Key of C Wildwood Flower Little Birdie And Now What? Fiddle Slang More From Native Ground Instructional MP3s To help you learn the tunes in this book, visit www.nativeground.com/fiddle-files to download 73 MP3s, and enter the password 'fiddle105' . 1 Throughout the book you’ll find illustrations of an old gramophone with numbers below it. These numbers correspond to the MP3 tracks. At the beginning of most of the tracks you’ll hear a “clomp, clomp.” That’s the beat of my foot giving you the rhythm of the tune. Many tunes will have two tracks, with the first track being the basic melody played at normal tempo. Where appropriate, I’ve added a few shuffles (page 33 ) to give you an example of improvising. On the songs that have two tracks, the second track is the tu; ne played slowly and simply. The fiddle will generally be balanced to your right speaker and rhythm guitar will be on the left. You can monkey with the balance knob if you want to have more fiddle and less guitar, or vise versa. Parts of a Fiddle(r) Who This Book Is For M aybe the title says it all: Old-Time Fiddle For the Complete Ignoramus! But in case there’s any lingering doubt, let’s just poke it with a stick for a second to see if it wiggles. This book is for the total & absolute beginner. The only prerequisite to learning to play from this book is to know nuthin’. You don’t even have to suspect anything. If you don’t already own a fiddle, I’ll walk you through checking out your old hand-me-down fiddle, or I’ll make suggestions for purchasing a new one. You’ll soon learn how to tune it, take care of it and play your first scale. You don’t even have to know how to read music, because the tunes you’ll be playing are written out in a simple and unique system called “tab.” For those who read music the tunes will also be written in standard musical notation. If you don’t read that stuff, but want to, I’ll teach you that, too. Before you know it, you’ll be playing a variety of old-time, bluegrass, gospel and folk tunes. For your learning pleasure, I’ve picked out tunes that are really easy to play. Hopefully, you will have heard some of the common tunes in the book. But even if you’ve never heard of any of them, the instructional CD (see first page ) will let you know what they sound like. What age fiddler is this book for? Any age. If your young child expresses the urge to play the fiddle, let him or her try it. You may have to learn how to play too, but hey, all the better! Think you’re too old? Hogwash! Better late than never. Many of my students have carried within them the thirst to play the fiddle for forty years or more. And once they learn the basics, it all comes bursting out. Did you play the violin as a child and now as an adult you want to play the fiddle? Great! Come on in, the water’s fine. The transition will be easy. Never touched one before? Even better! You won’t have to “un-learn” anything. Do You Have What it Takes to be An Ignoramus? I can count on a hundred fingers the times I’ve told someone about my series of books for the complete ignoramus, and they say, “That’s me.” If you picked up this book when you saw the title and thought to yourself, “That’s me,” then you’ve got the right book. You are a certified and bonafide ignoramus. Congratulations! A Word to the Fiddlers I ’ve got to tip my hat to you. You’ll soon be playing the fiddle, something you’ve always wanted to do. And when you realize just how easy it is to get started, I’ll bet you dimes for donuts that you’ll soon be kicking yourself for waiting this long. But even to get to this point, you’ve had to overcome the common myth that “the fiddle is so hard to play.” What do I say to that? “BALONEY!” After teaching beginning fiddle for thirty-five some odd years, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to play one. Despite what people will tell you, the fiddle is pretty darn easy to play if it’s presented in the right way. Over the years, my students have ranged from a 4½ year-old to a gentleman well up in his eighties. Right now, I’ll tell you that the 4½ year-old, who’s now in his mid teens, is one of the top fiddlers in our area of Asheville, North Carolina, which boasts some truly heavy-hitting fiddlers. What I’ve learned over the years is that the people who have been successful on the fiddle share at least three things: They have the gumption and determination to stick with it They have a sense of humor so they can laugh at themselves during the first awkward squeaks and squawks and They are around other fiddlers, both novice and professional. You’ll notice that I didn’t list “talent” as an essential ingredient to playing the fiddle. In my opinion, most people have more than enough talent to become a fine fiddler. Let me say that a little plainer: As far as talent goes, you have what it takes to be a fine fiddler. THE NAKED TRUTH ABOUT FIDDLING: Even though I don’t take back what I said about the fiddle being pretty easy, I would like to add a thing or two. Maybe fiddling is like talking. You can say easy things, or you can say complicated things. The beauty of the fiddle is that, besides the voice, it is the most limitless of all the instruments. You can do practically anything with it. There’s never been a fiddler who believes that he or she has truly mastered the instrument. There’s always more to learn. “They ain’t nobody mastered the fiddle. There’s notes in that fiddle ain’t nobody found. There’s music in that thing that’ll be there when Gabriel toots his horn.” -Tommy Jarrell What Is Old-Time Fiddling? B efore we hoist up our trousers and wade into the deep waters of old-time fiddling, it might be useful to know a little of its history. If you’re anxious to get started, you can come back to this page while your fingers are resting. MacDonald Family of Greeneville, TN, ca.1910. Image courtesy of the Archives of Appalachia, ETSU. Throughout its long and spicy history, the fiddle has been both loved and loathed. In early frontier days fiddlers were held in the highest esteem, even above doctors, lawyers, and politicians. It was a lone fiddler who held sway at community dances, which were the most popular form of entertainment in early America. Without the fiddler, there simply was no dance. A pioneer community that could boast having a fiddler was the envy of all, and a skilled fiddler was always in demand to play for community gatherings, such as barn dances, log rollings, cornshuckings and bean stringings. Fiddle contests existed as early as 1736, when fiddlers in Hanover County, Virginia, competed against each other with the winner taking home a fine violin. In a strange twist of fate, despite their high ranking in the community, fiddle players were often among the most despised members of society. Fire-and-brimstone preachers accused fiddlers of walking hand in hand with the devil himself. From many a Sunday morning pulpit, congregations were warned that “the devil rides the fiddle bow” and that the fiddle was “the devil’s stalking horse.” Banished from the church, some distraught fiddlers were driven to burn their fiddles or bust them over a white oak stump. They didn’t call a fiddle “the devil’s box” entirely for nuthin’. In some ways, fiddlers had only themselves to blame for their sullied reputation. Their penchant for strong drink while playing for rowdy dances certainly didn’t help their standing in the community. Nor did their superstition of keeping a rattlesnake rattle inside their fiddle make them popular with the genteel set. Even worse, some fiddlers defied America’s work ethic and “fiddled their time away.” A casual look at a good dictionary will tell you that to fiddle means to trifle or to make mindless movements with the hands. So let’s get busy and start “fiddling our time away!” “Anybody can learn to play some.” -Ernie Carpenter, West Virginia fiddler (1) Checking Out Your Fiddle S o your uncle Benny up and died and left you his old fiddle. Whoopee! If the poor neglected thing has been sitting in a hot attic, or (worse!) a damp basement for any amount of time, be prepared to “invest” some cash to fix it up. But first, let’s take a peek at it. A FIDDLE OR VIOLIN: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? I get asked this question a lot, and so will you. With a straight face, I usually say, “well, a violin has strings, and a fiddle has straaaaaangs.” When they get done laughing, they still insist on knowing what the difference is. The truth be known, fiddle and violin are just two words for the same instrument. But while violinists usually play classical music by reading notes, fiddlers generally play old-time, bluegrass, folk, or country music by ear. Violins are generally set up with mellow sounding gut or nylon strings, while fiddlers usually prefer the more strident sound of steel strings. Beyond that, there are minor differences in the shape of the bridge of a violin or a fiddle. The violin bridge tends to have a pronounced arch to it, which makes it easier for the violinist to play a single string without touching the adjacent string with the bow. The fiddler, on the other hand, often prefers a flatter bridge, which promotes playing two or more strings at the same time. As you start to admire and check out your fiddle, take a look at page 5 to familiarize yourself with the names for the different parts of the fiddle. STRINGS: One of the first things you’ll notice are the strings. There should be four of them. If one string is broken or missing, you’ll need to pay a visit to your friendly music store where you bought this book to purchase a set of strings. Many music stores only sell complete sets of four strings but you might get lucky and find a store that will sell you a single string, if that’s what you need. Tuning a fiddle can be a bit tricky, so ask if your friendly music store has someone knowledgeable about fiddles who can put on your new string and tune it all up. Be warned that fiddle strings can be extremely pricey. In my experience, a brand called Super-Sensitive makes a decent and affordable string that will be plenty good to start out with. TUNING PEGS: Even under the best of conditions, wooden tuning pegs can be a royal pain, if you know what I mean. High humidity often makes them stick so tight they can’t be budged for love nor money, while low humidity sometimes makes the pegs slip. If you live in a rainy or humid place and your pegs are hopelessly stuck, I recommend cranking up the air conditioning in your car to the highest setting. Lean the fiddle with the stuck peg laying right in front of the air conditioning vent. Depending on how stubborn your peg is, you may have to leave your car running with the air conditioner on for thirty minutes or more. Be patient, and the stuck peg will eventually loosen up. If the opposite happens and your pegs slip excessively, you may not be working them quite right. Read the section of the book on tuning (page 17 ) and make sure you understand that. As you’ll read, the trick to making the pegs stay put is pushing in and turning at the same time. Getting the right amount of “push” can be tricky, and that’s what takes some getting used to. If you’ve pushed firmly in and twisted at the same time and your peg still won’t hold, drugs are needed! Seriously, violin shops sell a product that’s commonly known as “peg dope.” The preferred brand is Hill’s Violin Peg Compound. Simply remove the peg and rub the dope on the two shiny rings where it rubs on the pegbox walls. That should make your peg turn smoother and hold the string at the correct pitch. POOR MAN’S PEG DOPE: In the event you’re not near a violin shop or a peg dope dealer, there are poor man’s solutions for slipping pegs. Loosen the offending peg until you can see the slick spots where the peg turns in the pegbox. Rub a little Lava bar soap on those surfaces. Next best would be non-dust chalk. If you need a quick fix, use your pocket knife to scrape a little rosin dust from your cake of rosin onto the slick spots of the peg. “I remember when I’d go to the old-time breakdown dances, when the fiddler would lay his fiddle down, I’d grab it and he’d have to choke me loose from it.” -Fiddling Tom Freeman(2) FINE TUNERS are the little metal gizmos that you’ve seen attached to the tailpiece on some fiddles. They’re the greatest invention known to man because they’re so much easier to use than your regular wooden pegs. You just turn the knob, and presto, your fiddle is on its way to being tuned. If your fiddle has been previously used by a classical violinist, chances are excellent that it only has one fine tuner, and that will be on the E string. Now that you’re a country fiddler, I recommend that you add fine tuners to all four strings. I will warn you, however, that fine tuners tend to mute down the fiddle, so it may not be as loud. No offense intended, but at first that might be good! Note the fine tuners below the strings When you go shopping for fine tuners, bring along your fiddle and enlist the aid of the proprietor of your neighborhood violin shop to put them on for you. You might also ask to look at tailpieces that have the fine tuners already built in. They generally turn smoother than the fine tuners you buy separately. Warning: Fine tuners, though a blessing, can also be a curse. You’ll notice that as you turn the knob on the fine tuner clockwise, you are raising the pitch but at the same time, the underside of the fine tuner is going down toward the top of your fiddle. Depending on the height of your bridge, you can actually damage the top of the fiddle by cranking the fine tuner all the way down. Hold your fiddle up to eye level and make sure there’s space between the bottom of the fine tuner and the top of the fiddle. If the bottom of the fine tuner is getting perilously close to touching the top of the fiddle, loosen the fine tuner counterclockwise just before you run out of threads. Then make any necessary tuning adjustments with your regular tuning pegs. BRIDGE: The placement of the feet of the bridge is essential for getting the best tone out of your instrument. If you look closely at the F holes on the top of your fiddle, you’ll see two small notches. The feet of the bridge should be centered with the inner notch. The most common ailment of the bridge will be that it will tend to lean forward toward the pegs. Every now and then you may need to pull the top of the bridge back to its upright position. To do this, merely set the fiddle on your lap with the neck pointing away from you. Grasp the bridge with your thumb and index finger and gently pull the top of the bridge back toward the tailpiece until it’s standing up straight. You shouldn’t need to loosen the string to do this. If you neglect to straighten the bridge up every so often it will tend to warp and eventually it will come crashing down on the top of your fiddle. Not good! A warped bridge can be ironed flat with clothes iron set on “cotton.” SEAMS: When looking over a fiddle that you’re considering buying, inspect closely the joints or seams on the side and back of the fiddle where the instrument is glued together. If the fiddle has been left in a hot car, for example, the glue may have gotten brittle, and may not be holding properly. The first place to inspect the seams is just to the right of the endpin, which is at the very end of the fiddle. In the event you find a spot or two in the seams where the glue has lost its grip, don’t panic. This is an easy and relatively inexpensive job for a seasoned violin repair person. Cynthia Creasmen. Photo courtesy of Eileen Garder Galer. TAILGUT: At the same time you’re inspecting the seams near the endpin, look closely at the tailgut, which wraps around the endpin and connects to the tailpiece. Modern fiddles often use a nylon Sacconi tailgut that is threaded on each end with a nut to hold it in place. These little beauties are nearly indestructible and will last pert near forever. If your elderly fiddle has a tailgut that looks like …well, gut, it probably is! If it looks worn and frayed, its days are probably numbered and you should consider having it replaced with one of the new-fangled Sacconi tailguts. These nylon tailguts are cheap to buy, but you will need to take off the tailpiece and all the strings to change it out. If you’re new to the fiddle, I would recommend you have the tailgut inspected by a qualified violin repair person who will replace it if necessary. If you try to replace it yourself, the chances are excellent that your soundpost will fall over when you take off the strings. You’ll be in a mess then. What’s the difference between a fiddle player and a parrot? Sooner or later, a parrot will stop squawking. CRACKS are usually the result of the fiddle getting too dry. If you have a good fiddle that develops a crack, I strongly recommend you let an expert fix it. Serious cracks are repaired by taking off the top of the fiddle, not something you should attempt to do. Your job should be to keep it from cracking in the first place. In the winter, many houses tend to be overly dry because heating systems often rob the air of moisture. If your skin tends to get dry in the winter, your fiddle is probably dry too. You can add moisture to your fiddle by purchasing a little personal humidifier that consists of a rubber tube with holes in it and a piece of sponge inside. You dip the whole thing in water, dry it off with a towel and then stick it inside your fiddle. There’s at least two brands of these humidifiers, Dampit and Humitron. One or both should be available at select music stores. A POOR MAN’S HUMIDIFIER: One solution for keeping your fiddle from drying out can be as simple as drilling some holes in a plastic film can or bar soap container and inserting a damp sponge. The moisture from the sponge will quench the thirst of your dry fiddle and will probably improve the tone too. That’s because an overly dry fiddle will not sound its best. Be sure to inspect the sponge occasionally for signs of mold, which will work its own kind of black magic on your fiddle and case. Photo by Wayne Erbsen “The first fiddle I ever owned I bought off an old man by the name of Smith Shreve. I built fires in the schoolhouse and done the sweeping and paid him for the fiddle in the spring of the year when I got my check. I was 13 years old. I believe I had $15, which wasn’t very much. I’ve still got it. It’s a fine old fiddle.” -Woody Simmons, West Virginia (1) SOUNDPOST: Hold your fiddle up to the light and peer into the right soundhole. Just behind the right foot of the bridge you’ll see what looks like a stick standing straight up. The “stick” is actually called the soundpost and its exact placement can totally change the tone of your fiddle. If you don’t see it, shake your fiddle a little, and you’ll probably hear something rattling around inside. That’s your soundpost, which has fallen over. The soundpost is tapered to fit the top and back of your fiddle and is wedged in place with a tool called a soundpost setter. If you look closely at the side of the soundpost facing the right side, you’ll see a small slit or cut. That’s where the sharp end of the soundpost setter stuck into the soundpost when it was last being placed. Your soundpost was originally cut by the violin maker to fit snugly in place. With the pressure of the strings on the bridge, the top of the fiddle is pushed down slightly, which helps keep pressure on the soundpost. To keep the soundpost from falling over, you always want to keep your strings tuned up to pitch. IMPORTANT: When changing strings, always change them one at a time so that the other three strings can keep pressure on the top. If you discover that your soundpost has fallen over, immediately slacken the strings. The soundpost is an important structural part of your fiddle and without it, the top of your fiddle can be damaged. I suggest you take it to a fiddle repair person who’ll have your soundpost sitting pretty in less than a minute. However, make no mistake. It’s quite difficult to set it right, so you’ll be paying for the know-how, not how much time it takes to do it. “When you’re playing the banjo with the fiddle, you have to play loud enough, but you don’t want to drown the fiddle out. The fiddle is the leader.” -Giles Lephew, Wythe County, VA (4) Tommy Jarrell Photo by David Holt Checking Out Your Bow THE BOW: A good bow can cost you deep in the purse and run as much as a good fiddle. When examining one for purchase, tighten up the horsehair by turning the screw on the end. Usually about three full turns will be plenty. When fully tightened, the distance between the hair and the stick should be about the same as the thickness of the bow itself. Most beginners way over tighten the hair. Once it is properly tightened, sight down the length of the bow and notice if it’s straight or warped. The arch or “bow” of the bow is called its camber. When the bow is tightened, there should still be plenty of arch or camber to the stick. If the bow completely straightens out when you tighten the screw, you either have a very cheap bow, or it needs to be recambered by a qualified bow repair person. This is done by heating the bow. Don’t try this at home. Note: It’s best to cut off broken hairs with a scissor or nail clipper rather than yanking them out by brute force. When you get done playing, always loosen the screw to relax the bow. How do you know when it’s time to change the hair? A full head of hair will be about ½ inch wide. When you’re down to about 3/8”, it might be time to start thinking of changing it. This is really a matter of preference. Some people lose a few hairs and they get all freaked out. Other fiddlers get down to what seems like 5 or 6 hairs before they start worrying about it. If your hair loses its grabbing power, sometimes you can “freshen” it up by washing the hair. My old fiddle mentor Albert Hash used to wash his bow hair with Ivory soap. Avoid getting the tip of the bow or the frog wet. After the hair has air-dried, re-rosin the bow and you should be good to go. The best bows are made out of a Brazilian hardwood called pernambuco. If you can afford one of those, hey, can I borrow $100? I personally prefer a wooden bow, but there are dandy bows made out of fiberglass or carbon fiber that some fiddlers might prefer. What you don’t want is fiberglass or synthetic hair. It’s actually hard to tell the difference between genuine horsehair and fiberglass “hair.” When in doubt, ask the salesman, if you’re buying from a store. One way to tell if it’s fiberglass is to see how well it grabs the strings. If the hair still feels slick after you’ve rosined it, you might have gotten your hands on a bow with fiberglass hair. They do make a special rosin for fiberglass hair, so that might help the fiberglass hair grab. Note: It’s only a silly rumor that they kill the horse to get the hair. They don’t. BUYING A FIDDLE OR A BOW can be tricky. When shopping for a new instrument, invite an experienced fiddler to go with you to look over any fiddle or bow you’re considering purchasing. Offer to pay your fiddle instructor the price of a lesson to help you make the final decision. Who would believe that fiddling and dancing are becoming fashionable again?” -Jasper E. James, 1858 Getting Equipped O ne of the greatest things about the fiddle is that it’s so portable. One fiddle, one bow, one case, maybe a chunk of rosin…that’s it. You tuck it under your arm and you barely know it’s there. Of course, there are a few extra doodads that you might want to consider as “add-ons.” ROSIN is perhaps the single most important piece of equipment in your fiddle arsenal. Without it, the horsehair on your bow will be slick and will just slide over the strings. With it, the bow will grab the strings and will make it sound like a fiddle. If you try to play with a bow that’s never been rosined, it’ll be, as Bob Smakula once said, “like the sound of one hand clapping, only quieter!” The most popular brands of rosin include Hill Dark, Knilling Dark, and Pirastro Oliv. How much rosin to use? On a new bow, you should rub on the rosin for several minutes or until white dust falls off the bow when you play. After your bow is broken in, you should rosin the bow perhaps every other time you play. Too much rosin will produce a gritty sound, but not enough rosin and your bow won’t grab the strings. NOTE: Even though rosin dust on the top of your fiddle will make you look like a seasoned fiddler, the dust will also eat into the varnish. Wipe it off frequently. SHOULDER RESTS are contraptions that help support the fiddle on your shoulder so you don’t have to hold it up with your hand. They come in a variety of designs and any self-respecting violin shop will have many to choose from. Most violinists use a shoulder rest but fiddlers are evenly divided on the merits of using one. They certainly do make it easier to hold up the fiddle, but I personally don’t fool with it. A POOR MAN’S SHOULDER REST consists of a sponge held in place with a rubber band. Kindle the dog. Photo by Wes Erbsen MUTE: You might not think your fiddle needs to be quieted down, but your family, dog, and neighbors might. Actually, my dog, Kindle, hates my fiddling and howls incessantly whenever I start to play. He thinks it hurts his ears. How do you like that? My worst critic is living right in my own home. I’m sure he would be grateful if I’d use a mute to practice. What kind of mute should you get? There is a dandy little slide-on mute that attaches to the strings right behind the bridge. When you suddenly need a mute, it’s right there, and you simply slide it so it rests right on top of the bridge. When the mute emergency has passed, slide it back off the bridge, and you’ve got your volume back. There are a number of stand-alone mutes available that simply clamp on the top of the bridge. These work fine, but are not as handy as the slide-on mute. Someone should invent a mute with a fast-draw holster. A POOR MAN’S MUTE is nothing more than a clothes pin or two. Simply attach one on each side of the bridge and you’ll think someone let the air out of your fiddle. Tuning Your Fiddle T he first order of business will be getting your fiddle in tune. If you’ve never tuned a stringed instrument before, you might need help. Ask a friend who plays violin to give you a hand tuning it. Next best would be someone who plays mandolin, guitar or banjo. You can always throw yourself at the mercy of your local music store; they will surely take pity on you. If no help can be found, fine. You can tune it yourself. ELECTRONIC TUNER: I highly recommend you purchase an electronic tuner to help you get in tune. These are easily available at any music store, and the salesman will show you how it works. Bring your fiddle with you when you purchase one. 1 The Notes of the Fiddle 1st = E, 2nd = A, 3rd = D, 4th = G OPERATING YOUR PEGS: Start with the A string, as I’m doing in this photo. Begin by resting the bottom of the fiddle on your lap between your legs with the fiddle leaning back slightly. While holding the neck of the fiddle with your left hand, continuously pluck the A string with your left thumb and see if the string is tuned according to the tuner. If the string is low or “flat,” turn the peg clockwise with your right hand. As you are turning the peg, continuously pluck the string with your left thumb and be sure to push IN as you turn the peg. If your A string is too high, or “sharp,” you’ll turn the peg counterclockwise and pull slightly outward at the same time. When you get the A in tune, try the E. To tune the D and G strings, support the neck of the fiddle with your right hand and pluck the string you are tuning with your right thumb as you turn the peg with your left hand. To lower the pitch of the string, you will do the opposite: as you turn the peg counterclockwise, you will pull out slightly. Tuning Tip # 1: It’s important to keep plucking the string with your thumb so you can hear it changing as you are pushing in and turning the peg. Tuning Tip #2: The peg will only hold if you twist it in. It is useless to try to push it in once you’ve reached the desired pitch. NOTE: Each string should be wound so it nearly touches the inner pegbox wall, but is not jammed up against it. How to Hold the Fiddle I am often struck by the fact that violin teachers typically spend a lot of time showing their students the fine points of holding the violin while fiddle teachers spend almost none. There seems to be only one right way of holding a violin, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to fiddling. Some fiddlers position the fiddle under their chin like the classical violinists do, while others hold it against their chest at various angles. With fiddling, there seems to be no rhyme or reason, other than what suits a particular fiddler. Take a look at this classic photo of Virgil Reynolds. They certainly wouldn’t let him in the front door of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, but he was a welcome sight at a square dance in rural Virginia. Virgil Reynolds Courtesy of Mary C. Holliman and Kevin Donleavy As your instructor, I feel obligated to get you off on the right foot by showing you the accepted or “normal” way to hold the fiddle. If you stray off that and want to hold it with your nose, hey, it’s your fiddle. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, look at this snapshot I took of Tommy Hunter, the great fiddler who lived in Madison County, North Carolina. As you can see, Tommy held his fiddle in the manner of a classical violinist with the fiddle pointing slightly to the left. That’s what I recommend you should do. Tommy Hunter “Uncle Bill was a good fiddler. He had one he ordered from Sears, Roebuck. He didn’t have a case and carried it in a flour sack when he went to play for a dance.” -Alvin Horn, August 6, 1984 (2) How to Hold Your Left Hand Charlie Bowman. Courtesy of Pat J. Ahrens M any old-time fiddlers support the fiddle with the palm of their left hand in a way that would make the average violin teacher stand up and scream. Even the famed fiddler Charley Bowman, pictured here, did this. Apparently, Charley’s mother never made him take violin lessons, so maybe that’s why he continued to play the fiddle long after he left home. It’s lucky for us that his mother cut him some slack. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have gone on to form the old-time band “The Hillbillies,” which hillbilly music is named after. Am I going to be the one to tell Charley he shouldn’t be using his wrist to hold up the fiddle? I don’t think so! But I will tell you that I think there’s a better way to hold the fiddle. Take a look at the photo below and see if you can copy what I’m doing. The neck of the fiddle should be cradled between your thumb and the base of your index finger. Your wrist should be slightly bent and the palm of your hand should not be touching the neck of the fiddle. Then how do you hold it up? Thrust your left shoulder forward so the fiddle will more or less stay put by the downward pressure of your chin on the chinrest. Using your left hand, you should support the neck of the fiddle between your thumb and the side of your index finger. It’s important to keep the fiddle UP, not sagging down or pointing toward the floor. Keeping your left wrist away from the neck will allow you more flexibility in moving around the fingerboard of the fiddle. FINGERING TIPS: Use only the very tips of your fingers to play the notes. The nails of your left hand should be short. Keep your fingers arched over the strings. Make sure your fingertips are as close to the strings as possible. This will help you play in tune and increase your speed. Pay attention to how much pressure you’re using to press down the strings. Too much pressure will make your hand cramp, but not enough will produce a squawk or a whistle. How to Hold the Bow I ’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that the bow is the greatest invention since sliced bread. It can do things a pick never dreamed of. The bad news is that the bow will “seem” a little awkward at first. Curl your fingers around the bow, and try to make your fingers look similar to this photo of my hand on the kitchen table. Be sure to spread your fingers out along the stick. Just for a minute, turn your hand over so the tip of the bow is pointing to your right side. The end of your thumb should be sticking straight into that little space on the end of the frog right under the silver-looking ferrule that helps to hold the hair in. (See the photo, below). Now here’s the kicker. Your thumb should be bent. “My thumb should be bent?” I can hear you asking yourself. Yes! I put this in the box, above, so you’ll you know that I mean business about this. You can make up your own way to hold the fiddle or the bow, and you can play standing on one foot, but don’t neglect to keep your thumb bent. And why is this, you might ask? If you keep your thumb bent, your bow arm will be more relaxed. For those of you who are skeptical, let me give you a little exercise to demonstrate this. Begin by taking your bow out of your right hand. With your right thumb straight, push your thumb and right index finger together as hard as you can. As you are doing that, feel the muscles of your right forearm with the fingers of your left hand. If you are pushing with all your might, your right forearm should be hard as a rock. Now bend your right thumb and again try pushing against your right index finger. Again test the hardness of your right forearm with your fingers. It’s not as hard or tense, right? I rest my case. In order to fiddle, your right forearm and wrist needs to be loose as a goose. The only way for that to happen is to have your thumb bent. End of story. How to Use the Bow T ake your bow and draw some long strokes on the strings. Start with your bow hand up near the strings, and concentrate on using the entire length of your bow, from the frog to the tip. Go back and forth, back and forth. Try to keep your bow hair flat on the strings and play in the middle of the space between the bridge and the end of the fingerboard. Your goal should be to have your bow perpendicular to the strings, not at an angle. You might want to play in front of a mirror to confirm your bow is not cockeyed. If you can’t keep your bow stroke perpendicular with the strings, it’s because of your right wrist. When your hand is near the strings, as in the photo below, your right wrist should be held up and be bent. Try this and play a long stroke. When your arm is fully extended, your hand needs to bend upward. Take a look at this authentic photo of a Civil War soldier below and notice his right hand. That’s what you want your hand to look like when your arm is fully extended. At the risk of beating a dead horse, let me summarize the important things about holding and using the bow, adding a few important things: When gripping your bow, spread your fingers out and hold the bow as loosely as you can without dropping it. Remember, your wrist, forearm and hand all need to be loose, limp, boneless. To practice being loose, take the bow out of your right hand and just try shaking your hand and letting your hand flop. Shake it side to side and it should move at the wrist from side to side. Shake it up and down and it should move up and down. Now hold the bow and try gently shaking it side to side and up and down. Your hand should move with each shake. Having a loose wrist is like being a loose dancer. Who wants to dance with a 2 x 4? Remember that your thumb needs to be bent. You don’t need to push the bow down on the strings. The weight of the bow itself will do that job. Use as little upper arm as possible. Think of pushing and pulling the bow with your fingers. Keep your bow in the middle of the space between the bridge and the end of the fingerboard. For a softer sound, move closer to the fingerboard and when you’re ready for more volume, you can move a little closer to the bridge. Keep your bow ON the strings instead of lifting it up with each stroke, like you would a pick. Concentrate on using long, smooth bow strokes. The Fear of Reading Music W hat so innocently is called “standard musical notation” often strikes terror in the heart of many a beginning and seasoned fiddler alike. To them, reading music must be part of a fiendish plot or a witch’s brew of some demented scientist. As a matter of fact, only a small number of old-time fiddlers read music. Instead, they play “by ear.” It’s hard to pinpoint where this fear originated. Perhaps reading music is a left brain activity, while playing by ear feeds off the right side of the brain. Or maybe it’s that most fiddlers have such a small brain that it takes every bit of it just to play the fiddle, not to mention reading the notes. All seriousness aside, it is likely that the penchant for playing by ear goes back to the very roots of American old-time fiddle music. If we were to peer through the window of some ancient Irish pub, we’d witness all kinds of incredible fiddle playing, ale drinking, dancing and carrying on. What we wouldn’t see would be fiddlers reading music. Even hundreds of years back, no self-respecting Irish fiddler would be caught reading music. Instead, they all played by ear. And when they taught a tune to a fellow fiddler or to a willing son or daughter, it was by ear, not by note. When the Irish potato famine sent thousands of Irish immigrants to America in the 1840s in search of a better life, the Irish fiddlers always brought along their instruments. Even for those who read music, it is doubtful that many had the space or the inclination to bring their music to America. Instead, they carried the music in their heads and in their hearts. Little wonder that old-time fiddling in America is “ear music,” not “note music.” To be sure, written music does have a place in old-time fiddling. Notes can “capture” a tune, or some fiddler’s version of it, to preserve it for future generations to learn. While this can be valuable, there is also danger lurking here. Some who read the music will think that the version they learned on paper is the last word on that tune. Instead, they should realize that fiddle music is a living thing that is constantly evolving. The beauty of old-time fiddle music is that it’s never the same. Each fiddler puts their heart and soul into the tune to make it theirs. This process adds richness and variation to the music. When every fiddler plays the same version of every tune, the music must officially be pronounced dead on arrival. As if this isn’t ominous enough, for many people musical notation is a curse. Without the music in front of them, they can’t play a note. Apparently, once you’re “paper trained,” it is difficult to wean yourself off it and make the transition to playing by ear. For this book, I’ve arranged the tunes both in musical notation and in my unique and easy tab system. When combined with the enclosed instructional CD, hopefully you won’t get too addicted to reading from the paper. After you’ve learned a tune from the book, you’ll lay the book aside and just play. When that happens, you’ll be an old-time fiddler. “If reading music starts bothering your originality, then you have no business fooling around with that.” -Fiddler Ralph Blizzard (3) Tablature or “Tab” for Ignoramuses F or those of you who don’t read music, all the tunes are written out in an easy-to-read tab system that I designed for this book. A line of tab will be right above a corresponding line of music, so if you sorta read music, you can look both at the tab and the music. The tab consists of four horizontal lines which represent your four strings on the fiddle. The E or highest string is toward the top of the page and the G or lowest string is toward the bottom of the page. You’ll notice in the example below that each string is marked on the left with its name. A letter on the string tells you the name of the note to play on that string. TIMING: The timing in the tab matches the timing of the music. If you don’t read music, here’s all you need to know. Each measure gets four beats, or four taps with your foot. The tab is written out using just four kinds of notes: eighth notes, quarter notes, half notes and whole notes. In the example below is the first line of our old favorite, “Red River Valley.” The two notes tied together at the beginning are both eighth notes. Your foot would go DOWN on the first eighth note and UP on the second. Then you’ll see three notes with a single line hanging down. Those are quarter notes and they get one beat each. For each quarter note, your foot would go “down up.” At the end of the word “going,” you’ll see a G with two lines sticking up. That means the G note gets two beats, which is the same as two quarter notes. For this half note, your foot will go “down up, down up.” Above the tab is a “G,” which stands for G chord. Chords are provided as a little present for your future guitarist or band to play along with you. We fiddlers can ignore them. How to Read Music for Ignoramuses T his section is ONLY for those who want to brush up on reading standard musical notation or perhaps learn it from scratch. Since each song will be written out in both tab and music, you can read the tab, the music, or look at both. Total Ignoramuses should read only tab, so skip ahead to the next section . For many of you, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for, or dreading. The monster under the bed. Let’s see if we can’t tame this beast and put him to work helping us to play the fiddle. An old-timer once said that musical notation looks like tadpoles climbing up a rail fence. Our musical fence or “staff” has five rails and every so often there’ll be a fencepost that’s called a “bar line.” The pasture between the fenceposts is known as a “measure.” At the beginning of each staff will be a squiggly-looking shape called a “G treble clef” that resembles a dollar sign. That’s to remind you of all the big bucks you’re going to make playing your fiddle on national television and at personal appearances. The placement of the tadpoles (or “notes”) on or between each rail (or “line”), tells you the name of the note. If a note is on the first space between the bottom line and the next line up, it’s called an F. A note on the second space from the bottom is an A. The third space is C and a note in the fourth space is an E. Some clever person came up with the word F A C E to help us remember it. The notes on the 5 lines starting from the bottom look like this : As if that’s not enough to chew on, here are ALL the notes you’re likely to find. Don’t panic! For any given song, you’ll only use a small handful of them, which we’ll go over for each tune in the book. Relax! Now we’ll take up the delicate subject of timing, everyone’s bugaboo. The most common note you’ll be playing is called a quarter note. Each quarter note will get one beat, or one “down-up” with your foot. Try saying “My dog has fleas” while you tap your foot down-up for each note. The next most commonly played notes are eighth notes, which have a beam connecting them. You will play each eighth note twice as quick as a quarter note. On the first eighth note your foot will go “down,” and on the second eighth note, your foot will go “up”. Try saying the word “pickle” as you tap your foot. Practice saying, “pickle” four times. Let’s test your massive knowledge of quarter and eighth notes by saying a favorite childhood ditty while tapping your foot at the same time. Right after the treble clef in your music is what is called the “time signature.” If it says 4/4, and you’re a true ignoramus, it means it’s in “regular” time. Say no more. If you’re a music major, the 4/4 means there are four beats in every measure and each quarter note gets one beat. Every now and then we’ll use a half note. You can recognize a half note because it’s hollow inside but has a stem or “stick” pointing up or down. You’ll hold it for two beats, or two “up-downs” with your foot. Here’s part of “Amazing Grace” showing several half notes. Here’s a song that uses eighth notes, quarter notes and half notes, “Row, Row Your Boat.” Sing it while you tap your foot at the same time. On each quarter note, your foot will go “down-up.” On the eighth notes, your foot will go “down” on the first eighth note and “up” on the second. At the end of each line is a half note. For each half note your foot will go “down-up, down-up.” Now the going gets slightly hairy. If you see an innocent-looking dot after a note, that’s the fly in the ointment. The “fly” increases the value of the note by 50%. So a quarter note with a dot will get 1½ beats. Here’s the first line of “Careless Love,” showing the dotted quarter note at the beginning of the line. In the last two measures is a whole note, which gets four beats. What Key Is This In? Y ou may have eavesdropped on the conversations of musicians and heard them mutter under their breaths many mysterious things such as, “What key is this in?” You’ve often wondered what they’re talking about. Here is what you need to know. Every tune and song you’re likely to play is set in a certain key, like D, G, A or C. Knowing the key the song is in gives you such powerful information as what notes of the scales to play for a particular song. For any key there are only seven different notes. How do you tell what key a song is in? If you’re playing with other people, simply utter these words, “What key is this in?” However, if, God forbid, you’re using this book as your lone fount of wisdom, here’s the “key” to telling the key of a song. First off, 99% of the time the last note of a tune is the key it’s in. If the last note is an A, for example, the song is in the key of A. If you’re trying to read music, you’ll notice that after the treble clef at the beginning of the first line of music, you may see a symbol which reminds me of a tick-tac-toe board: #. In fact, it stands for “sharp,” which means one half-step higher in pitch. Its placement on a line or in a space between the lines will tell you if a note of the scale is played one half-step higher or not. In the example above, there’s no sharp sign, so you play all the notes as written. An A will be played as an A, and so on. In the example above, you’ll see two sharp signs. Remembering E G B D F (page 24 ), you’ll know the first sharp sign is on the F line, so all the Fs in the key of D will be played one half-step higher, or F#. The next # is on the first space from the top. Remembering F A C E (page 24 ), you’ll know the second # is on the C space. That means all the Cs will be played as C#. Any time you see two #s, the song is in the key of D. When there are no #s, it’s in the key of C. For the key of G, above, there’s one sharp, an F#, but in the key of A (below), remember that there are three sharps: F#, C# and G#. Your First Scale E nough music theory! It’s time to play your first scale, the D scale. 2 D Scale D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D Before we start, take a look this fingerboard diagram which shows you where to find the notes you’ll be playing. Begin by playing the D string open (no fingers). Play a nice long stroke. Next you’ll play a low E note with your index finger. On the same string, you’ll then play the low F# with your middle finger. The last note you’ll play on the D string will be the G, which you’ll play with your ring finger. Try these four notes over and over: D, E, F# and G. Georgia Department of Archives & History After you’ve practiced the 1st four notes of the D scale, you’re ready to tackle the rest of the D scale: A, B, C#, D. As you can see on the chart above, all four of these notes will be on the A string. First, play the A string open. Then play a B on the A string with your index finger. Following the B will be a C# with your middle finger. Finally, you’ll play the D with your ring finger. Keep in mind that you’ll finger the B, the C# and the D in the same place on the fingerboard as you played the E, F# and G, only you’ll be on the A string. 3 As you practice the D scale over and over, here are some tips to remember: Use long SLOW strokes at first. Make sure you’re using the correct finger. When you’re going from F# to G or C# to D, your fingers should be right next to each other with no space in between. Keep your bow ON the strings. Practice the D scale both forwards and backwards. Finger Placement Help H aving trouble knowing where to place your fingers? In that case, here is a handy chart to help you. We’ll call this finger placement “standard position.” We have uploaded a drawn to scale PDF of the print version of this diagram on our website at www.nativeground.com/finger-placement-fiddle . I suggest you print out that page and cut out around the finger chart with a pair of scissors. Be sure to trim off the A and D on the left side. Lay the cut-out on top of your fingerboard, and tape it lightly in one or two spots under your strings. This should help you become accurate with your finger placement. Since you certainly don’t want to keep the paper cut-out on your fingerboard, you can take a dull #2 pencil and lightly make three lines on your fingerboard where your fingers would go. If you find it hard to see the pencil lines you can lay a narrow piece of white tape across the fingerboard in the appropriate places, as in the photo. One piece of tape will work for each of the three finger positions: index, middle and ring. 4, 5 Let’s put your D scale to work. Begin by playing the D scale (bottom of page 28 ) backwards, starting on the high D using your ring finger. Play it over and over until you can play the scale backwards without looking at the book. Now, change the timing to sound like the first line of “Joy to the World” but keep the notes the same. Since you already know the tune, don’t even look at the confusing tab or music below. Just play the first line of “Joy to the World” so it sounds right to your ears. Now you’re playing by ear! What a Typical Page Looks Like O n each page of the book that has a tune written out there are a number of common elements. Above the tab will be a gramophone with one or two numbers below that represent the track numbers on the instructional CD (instructions to download are on the first page ). When there are two numbers, the first number is the track number of the melody played at normal speed. This will help give you the flavor of the tune. On this track, I’ll first play a simple version and then I’ll play it again adding some shuffles (page 33 ). On the next track, I’ll play the tune very slowly to allow you to play along. I’ll begin each track with my big foot tapping on a hardwood plank to let you know the tempo. IMPORTANT: I strongly recommend that you listen to MP3 of each tune before attempting to play the tune using the tab/music. Click HERE to for instructions to download the MP3s. Next to the gramophone on each tune page will be a chart of the notes you’ll need for that particular tune. Before you play the tune, practice the notes that will be used. On the chart for “Ida Red,” for example, you’ll be using A, B, D, E and F#. Below the name of the tune on each page it will tell you the key of the song. If it’s the key of D, for example, you will use the D scale. Marcus Martin Of course, the main thing on each page is the tune presented both in tab and standard musical notation. Any strange symbols in the tablature of a tune will be explained at the time as it applies to a particular tune. To help you get the phrasing of each song, the lyrics have been included under the notes. As you play through the tunes in the book, you’ll soon realize that most of the tunes have been simplified down to the bare-bones melody. Many of the nonessential notes have been left out and all that remains is the skeleton of the tune. Beneath each tab/music, you’ll find the lyrics for that song. In the first verse or two you’ll notice that some of the words are underlined. The underlined words were omitted form the tab/music when the tune was simplified. Any tune in the book that has more than one part will be labeled “A,” “B” or “C” for the various parts. Most of the tunes will have two parts. On these tunes you generally play the A part twice and then play the B part twice. Each tune is arranged in the book by the key you will play it in. The first few tunes in each key tend to be the easiest, and they gradually get a bit harder as you go along. Above each line is a letter like D, A or G. These are chords for other instruments to play along with you. Ignore them. If the tab is too small for you to read, make sure to adjust the settings on your device so that you can rotate into 'landscape view'. The tab will then appear larger. Ida Red Key of D T he tune “Ida Red” is similar to the bluegrass song “Down the Road,” as done by Flatt & Scruggs, and it resembles the old-time tune called “Over the Road I’m Bound to Go.” You’ll find this tune easy to play because the first line is played entirely on the A string. Line two starts with the high F# and then goes easily down the scale. Before you try the tune, listen to the recording and go over the notes on the chart below. As you play the tune, use nice long strokes on each quarter note. The notes connected with a “beam” are 8th notes and should each be played with a different bow stroke. On “Ida Red” you will ONLY be using your ring and index fingers. 6,7 Lyrics Ida Red, Ida Red, I’m going crazy about Ida Red. Ida Red, Ida blue, I’m going crazy about Ida too. I’d a listened to what she said, I’d a been living with Ida Red. Ida Red, Ida Red, Can’t get a letter from Ida Red. Ordered me a horse, gonna make me a sled, Ride around with Ida Red Put on the skillet, put on the lid, Gonna cook a hoecake for Ida Red. Order of the Tunes to Play The tunes that are the easiest to play tend to be the ones you’ve heard before, so feel free to play them in any order that works for you. Say Darling Say Key of D B etter known as “Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word,” this simple and snappy version was first recorded by Ernest Stoneman & the Sweet Brothers on July 9, 1928, in Richmond, Indiana. Before you begin, listen to this tune on the instructional CD (see first page for download instructions) to get familiar with it. Then take a look at the chart below and practice the notes you’ll be using in the tune. You can start with the high F# and then the E, D, B, A and low F#. As you play these notes, try to memorize the names of the notes and where to find them with your fingers. After you’ve gone over the notes in the chart, you’re ready to try the tune. The tune begins with three pairs of 8th notes. On the first of each pair of 8th notes your foot will go down, and it will go up on the second 8th note. The last note of measure one is a quarter note, so that one note will get a down-up with your foot. In the last measure of the song you will see two notes that each have a flag. Those are 8th notes. On the first 8th note, your foot will go down. Then you’ll play a quarter note or up-down with your foot. After that, you play another 8th , which will get an “up” with your foot. The last note of the song is a half note, which gets two down-ups with your foot. In the tab, you’ll see two lines hanging down from the D, to show you it gets two beats. This all sounds much harder than it is, so be sure to listen tracks eight and nine of the CD. 8, 9 Lyrics Hush ‘lil baby, don’t say a word, I’m gonna buy you a mockingbird, Say darling say. Starch and iron will be your trade, I can get drunk and lay in the shade, Say, darling, say. Mockingbird if it don’t sing, I’m gonna buy you a diamond ring. Say, darling, say. Diamond ring turns to brass, I’m going to buy you a looking glass, Say, darling, say. Looking glass if it gets broke, I’m gonna buy you a billygoat, Say, darling, say. Things to Remember Are the fingers of your bow hand spread out evenly along the bow? Thumb bent? Make nice long strokes, keeping your bow ON the strings. Are you using your left index finger to play the high F# and your ring finger to play the D? How to Shuffle O ne of the things that may have attracted you to old-time music in the first place was the rhythm. Old-time tunes are generally lively and the infectious rhythm makes you want to tap your foot or get up and dance. The element that gives old-time music its characteristic rhythm is called the shuffle. The shuffle has three parts, which we’ll call long-short-short. Begin by playing one long open D note with one stroke of the bow. Then play two short D notes with a bow stroke for each. The rhythm you want is long-short-short. Play that over and over. You’ll notice that you’ll have to keep changing directions with your bow. In other words, you’ll start with your bow hand near the strings and you’ll pull the bow (the “long”). For your short stokes you’ll “push” then “pull” the bow. The next time you play the long, you’ll push that note. 10, 11 As you play the shuffle, make sure to keep your bow on the strings. Your goal is to make it sound like “long-short-short” or “ham-bur-ger.” Here it is in tab/music. 12,13 Now practice the shuffle on two open strings, the D and the A. Play D shuffle then A shuffle. Play it over and over, alternating between the open D and the open A strings. USING YOUR BOW. When you first begin to play a tune, your bow hand will be close to the strings and you’ll pull the bow. Once you get to playing the shuffle, most of your bowing should be done in the space between the arrows. If you stick to playing between the arrows, you’ll have more control over the bow and will tend to exert less pressure on the bow, which is good. Of course, when playing long notes, you’ll use the entire bow so you can play BIG. Improvising I t’s time to fire up the creative juices and begin improvising. Maybe you assumed that once you learned a tune, that’s the way you’d play it for the next fifty years. Yikes! That would be your worst nightmare. Instead of being stuck playing a tune the same old way over and over, let’s learn the art of finding creative new ways to play a tune, or improvising. Here is your old friend, the D scale. 14,15 When you first learned it, you played it with just single long bow strokes. Now I want you to play each note of the scale using the shuffle. From the beginning, it would sound like D-shuf-fle, E-shuf-fle, F#-shuf-fle, etc. 16,17 When you can play the D scale backwards and forwards using the shuffle, you’re ready to improvise. All you’ll do is combine the two ways of playing it: the quarter note and the shuffle. On any of the quarter notes, you can either play a shuffle or just a regular quarter note. You may want to play every other note as a quarter note or a shuffle. Or you can really get wild and play two quarter notes with one shuffle. The possibilities are practically limitless. Play the scale forwards and backwards, over and over, mixing up the quarter notes with the shuffle in different ways. There! You’re improvising! Ralph Blizzard Courtesy of Phil Jamison You may be happy to know that this entire book is built on improvising. On all the songs that are 4/4 time, whenever you see a quarter note, you can shuffle that note instead. If you see a D quarter note, for example, you can substitute a D-shuf-fle. Or if you see an F#, you can play an F#-shuf-fle. It will sound like long-short-short, with the long being the melody note. 18,19 Let’s try improvising on “Ida Red,” on page 32 . You can shuffle any of the quarter notes. In tab, the quarter notes have a single stem. For contrast, alternate a shuffle (long- short- short) with a melody note played as a quarter note. Mix it up each time you play it. The only notes you can’t shuffle are the 8th notes, which are tied together. The photo above is the great old-time fiddler, Ralph Blizzard. Ralph loved to improvise so much that his friends kidded him that he never even played a tune the same way once! Lynchburg Town Key of D T his tune goes back to the Civil War era and was a favorite of Uncle Jimmy Thompson (1848-1931), the first performer on the Grand Ole Opry. Before you play the tune, familiarize yourself with the chart below to get used to the notes you’ll be using for this tune. Remember to use your middle finger for the F# and your ring finger for the G, and that the placement of these two notes are right next to each other. After you can play “Lynchburg Town” as written, throw in some shuffles. For example, on the first F# at the beginning of the song, you can play long-short-short or F# shuf-fle. At the end of measure one you’ll see a D half note over the word “town.” If you like, you can play D-shuf-fle, D-shuf-fle. You can substitute the shuffle for any quarter note in the song. 20, 21 Lyrics Who’s going down to town, Who’s going down to town, Who’s going down to Lynchburg town, To carry my ‘baccer ‘round. Once I had an old blind dog I wished they’d bring him back. He run them big hogs over the fence And the little ones through the cracks. I married me a little gal And I brought her from the South. She balled her hair so doggone tight She couldn’t shut her mouth. Possum up a ‘simmon tree Raccoon on the ground. Raccoon said, “You son of a gun, Shake them ‘simmons down.” Possom shake the tree ‘Simmons start to fall. Raccoon said, “You doggone fool, I didn’t want ‘em all!” Johnson had an old grey horse His name was Martin Brown. Every foot old Martin had Would cover an acre of ground. “Oh we play the old traditional tunes, but we’ve got ‘em greased up a little bit.” -Fiddler Benny Thomasson Shortenin’ Bread Key of D Y um! Let’s play a little “Shortenin’ Bread.” This delicacy had been played (and eaten) since the mid-19th century. The first commercial recording was by Henry Whitter who played it on the harmonica on February 26-7, 1924. We’ll be playing “Shortenin’ Bread” using six notes: D on the A string, B on the A string, A string open, low F#, low E, and the D string open. Practice finding these notes and memorize the names of these notes and where to find them on your fiddle. Most of the notes for “Shortenin’ Bread” will be 8th notes, so you’ll be playing a lot of short strokes. Make sure you are using the part of your bow between the arrows, as we saw on page 33 . At the end of each line are two fenceposts with two eyes looking at you. Those are repeat signs to remind you to play each part twice. 22, 23 Lyrics Mama’s li’l baby loves shortenin’, Mama’s li’l baby loves shortenin’ bread. Mama’s li’l baby loves shortenin’, Mama’s li’l baby loves shortenin’ bread. Put on the skillet, put on the lid, Mama’s gonna make a little shortenin’ bread. That ain’t all she’s gonna do, Mama’s gonna make a little coffee too. Three little boys, lying in bed, Two was sick, and the other most dead. Sent for the doctor, and the doctor said, Feed them babies on shortenin’ bread Slipped in the kitchen, slipped on the lid, Slipped my pockets full of shortenin’ bread. Stole the skillet, stole the lid, Stole the gal to make shortenin’ bread. Fiddle, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse’s tail on the entrails of a cat. -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary Run Johnny Run Key of D T his Civil War era tune has been known by a number of names. My favorite is “A Bee Hunt on Hell-Fer-Sartin Creek,” as recorded on November 4, 1929 by Lowe Stokes, Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett. The word “pattyroller” mentioned in the B part refers to the slave patrols that looked for runaway slaves in the pre-Civil War south. The six notes you’ll need to play “Run Johnny Run” are found in the chart below. A good place to add some shuffles is on the B part of the tune. Remember, your shuffle (long-short-short) can replace any quarter note. Mix up quarter notes with shuffles, perhaps playing every other quarter note as a shuffle. On the word “hornet’s” on line one you’ll see two 16th notes followed by an 8th note. Don’t be scared. Listen to the CD and you’ll get it fine. 24, 25 Lyrics Johnny run, run so fast, Stove his head in a hornet’s nest. Run Johnny run, pattyroll get you, Run Johnny run, you better get away. Johnny run through the field, A black snake caught him by the heel. One had a bushel, one had a peck, One had a roasting ear around his neck. Say Mr. Pattyroll, don’t catch me, Catch that man behind that tree. “I really think I’ve learned a little something from every fiddler I’ve ever heard play.” -Fiddler Ernie Carpenter (1) Cumberland Mountain Deer Chase Key of D U ncle Dave Macon is best known for his June 6, 1929 recording of this song, which originated as “Holka Modrooka” (“Blue-Eyed Girl”) from the Czech Republic. You’ll find this an easy and fun tune to play that uses just seven notes and is a great tune for adding shuffles. 26, 27 Lyrics Away, away we’re bound for the mountain, Bound for the mountain, bound for the mountain, Over the mountain, the hills and the fountains Away to the chase away. Rover, Rover, see him , see him , Rover, Rover, catch him , catch him . Over the mountains, the hills and the fountains Away to the chase away. Now we’re getting right for the race The hounds and the horses all in the pace Over the mountain, the hills and the fountain Away to the chase away. All night long till the break of dawn Merrily the chase goes on Over the mountain, the hills and the fountain Away to the chase away. Camptown Races Key of D S tephen Foster wrote this tune in 1850 and earned a whopping $101.25. After you play the first measure, try playing the rest of the tune without looking at the book. The F#s with flags are 8th notes. 28, 29 Lyrics Camptown ladies sing this song, Doo-dah, doo-dah. The camptown racetrack five miles long, Oh! do-dah-day! Gwine to run all night! Gwine to run all day! I’ll bet my money on the bobtail nag, Somebody bet on the bay. I come down there with my hat caved in, Doo-da, doo-da, I go back home with a pocketful of tin, Oh! Do-dah-day! The long tail filly and the big black hoss, Doo-da, doo-da, They fly the track and they both cut across, Oh! Do-dah-day! The blind hoss sticken in a big mud hole, Doo-da, doo-da, Can’t touch bottom with a ten foot pole, Oh! Do-dah-day! Old mulley cow come onto the track, Doo-da, doo-da, The bobtail fling her over his back, Oh! Do-dah-day! Then fly along like a railroad car, Doo-da, doo-da, Runnin’ a race with a shootin’ star, Oh! Do-dah-day! Sugar Hill Key of D T his rowdy tune was first collected in 1912 in the area near Galax, Virginia. Once you get this tune going with shuffles on some of the quarter notes, the people who hear you won’t be able to keep their feet still. Remember to play each part twice. 30, 31 Lyrics If you wanna get your eye knocked out, If you wanna get your fill, If you wanna get your eye knocked out, Go to Sugar Hill. Jay bird and a sparrow hawk, Had a little fight together. They fought all around the briar patch And never jerked a feather. If I had no horse to ride, I’d be found a-walking. Up and down old Toe Nail Gap To hear that woman a-talking. If you want to get your head bashed in. If you want to get your fill. If you want to get your head cut off Go to Sugar Hill. Polly Put the Kettle On Key of D G id Tanner and His Skillet Lickers recorded this tune as “Molly Put the Kettle On,” but it originated in England in 1797 as “Polly Put the Kettle On.” This is a slightly more difficult tune than we’ve had before and it is our only tune that has three parts. If you’re a struggling ignoramus, you may want to conquer some of the easier tunes in the book and come back to this one. It’s a very fun tune to play, so don’t put it off too long! The main thing that’s tricky about the tune is the timing, which looks harder than it is. On line one you’ll see three notes that are tied together, such as over the words “kettle on.” That’s two 16th notes and an 8th note. As your foot hits the floor you’ll play the two 16th notes and when it comes up, you’ll play the 8th note. You can play shuffles on any of the quarter notes. The second verse, below, is sung to the A part. 32, 33 Lyrics Polly put the kettle on, Molly blow the dinner horn, Polly put the kettle on, We’ll all take tea. Sukey take it off again, Sukey take it off again. Sukey take it off again, They’ve all gone away. Sail Away Ladies Key of D C redit for the popularity of “Sail Away Ladies” goes to Uncle Dave Macon, whose lively recording on May 7, 1927, made it an instant classic. Strangely, the chorus makes no sense whatsoever. We don’t even have a clue what Uncle Dave had in mind when he sang, “Don’t you rock ‘em die-dee-o.” The tune lends itself nicely to playing a shuffle on some of the quarter notes. On the half note at the end of measure two, you can play the D-shuffle twice. When you get to the B part you’ll need to use your pinky to play the B’s. Your finger WILL stretch up that high, but it will take some practice. 34, 35 Lyrics When I get my new house done, Sail away ladies, sail away . Give my old one to my son, Sail away ladies, sail away . Don’t she rock ‘em diedeeo, Don’t she rock ‘em diedeeo, Don’t she rock ‘em diedeeo, Sail away ladies, sail away. Children don’t you grieve and cry, Sail away ladies, sail away. You’re gonna be angels by and by, Sail away ladies, sail away. Come along girls and go with me, Sail away ladies, sail away. We’ll go back to Tennessee, Sail away ladies, sail away. I got a letter from Shiloh town, Sail away ladies, sail away. Said Saint Louis is burning down, Sail away ladies, sail away. I chew my tobacco and I spit my juice, Sail away ladies, sail away. I love my own daughter but it ain’t no use, Sail away ladies, sail away. “Before sunrise for five mornings, take a fiddle and go into the country ‘til you come to the end of one of the main roads or to a crossroads, and on the fifth morning you will meet a man also carrying a fiddle. He will teach you to play. He is the devil.” North Carolina folklore D Dorian Mode U p to this point we’ve been playing all the tunes using the D scale, which has made the tunes sound bright and sprightly. Lest we sink into a deep pit of utter gaiety and light, let’s balance all that happiness by getting lonesome. We can create a wonderfully dismal mood just by changing a few notes of the scale we use. We’ll start with what is called the D Dorian mode. A mode is nothing but a fancy word for a lonesome sounding scale. Below you’ll see the notes we’re likely to play when we use the D Dorian mode. You’ll notice that in place of the F# that we’ve been playing, there is an F. Instead of the C# we’re used to, there is a C. These notes are slightly lower in pitch than the F# and C# you are used to. You’ll need to place your middle finger slightly lower (further from your nose) on the fingerboard from standard position. We’ll use the D modal scale in the following seven tunes. 36 The Dreaded Squeaks & Squawks N o doubt your fiddling has been bedeviled with occasional squeaks and squawks that sound like someone is torturing a cat. Every fiddler has to deal with this, so you are not alone. In fact, one time I was jamming with the legendary fiddler Jim Shumate when his fiddle inadvertently let out a loud squeak. He blushed and I assured him, “Jim, that squeak was the prettiest note I’ve ever heard you play.” He cocked his head and asked, “Why is that?” “Because if you can squeak like that, then it’s OK if the rest of us squeak and squawk once in a while.” The E string is the mostly likely string to squeak because it is the only string without winding. You can purchase a wound E string, and that may help solve the squeaking problem. Some brands of strings tend to squeak and whistle more than others, so you may need to experiment. Rosin often builds up on a string and causes it to squeak. In that case, you can take fiddle maker Larry Brown’s advice and run your fingernail lengthwise along the string to remove the rosin that a rag will not. Sometimes squeaks are simply caused by the way your bow plays the string. Too much bow pressure on the string will sometimes cause an awful squawk, but too little pressure will produce a squeak. If you manage to figure out the secret of avoiding the dreaded squeaks, whisper it to me so we can bottle it and get rich! In the Pines Key of D Dorian Dock Walsh D ock Walsh, a three-finger banjo player from North Carolina, was the first to record “In the Pines” when he traveled to Atlanta, Georgia on April 17, 1926. After recording four songs, Walsh walked all the way home from Atlanta to Wilkes County, North Carolina, a distance of some 300 miles! “In the Pines” is a well-known song that originated around the time of the Civil War. This is my favorite version, but it may be slightly different from what you’re used to. You’ll find it’s an easy tune to play on the fiddle, once you find the notes. This arrangement uses six different notes, and five of them are on the D string, as you can see from the chart below. The thing that’s quirky about this arrangement is that it uses both an F and an F#. Use your middle finger to play both Fs. When you go from E to F on line two, remember that your index and middle fingers should be right next to one another. Since this is a waltz, the rhythm should be ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three. Normally, you don’t play a shuffle on a waltz. 37 Lyrics The longest train I every saw, Went down that Georgia line. The engine passed at six o’clock And the cab went by at nine. In the pines, in the pines where the sun never shines, And I shivered when the cold winds blow. Little girl, little girl, don’t lie to me, Tell me, where’d you stay last night? I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines And I shivered when the cold winds blow. I asked my captain for the time of day, He said he throwed his watch away. It’s a long steel rail and a short cross ties, I’m on my way back home. The train run about a mile from town And it knocked my fair girl down Her hair was found in a driver’s wheel And her body has never been found. “Fiddlers have more fun than anybody.” -Fiddler Howdy Forrester Gospel Plow Key of D Dorian T his old spiritual makes a fine lonesome piece on the fiddle. Notice on the chart that you’ll be using your middle finger to play Fs, not F#s. For variety you can play a shuffle on the A quarter notes. The timing on the B part is tricky until you get used to it, so I recommend listening to the instructional CD (directions to download the audio files are on the first page of this eBook). 38 Lyrics With my hand on the plow, I don’t mind my journey now, Keep your hand on the plow, hold on. Hold on, hold on, Keep your hand on the plow, hold on. Mary wore three links of chain, Every link was Jesus name, Keep your hand on the plow, hold on. Paul and Silas down in jail, Had no one to go their bail, Keep your hand on the plow, hold on. Some of these days about four o’clock, This old world’s going to real and rock, Keep your hand on the plow, hold on. Haven’t been to heaven but I’ve been told, The streets of heaven are paved with gold. Keep your hand on the plow, hold on. Courtesy of The University of Louisville Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Key of D Dorian Tony Alderman & Charlie Bowman Courtesy of Pat J. Ahrens C harlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers were the first to record this song on July 27, 1925, but my fiddle arrangement has evolved over the last forty years after hearing it played by the likes of Fiddlin’ John Carson, Mike Seeger, Mac Benford and many others. Before you deal yourself into this tune, check out the chart below and notice the tune uses your middle finger to play a C not a C#. When you go from C to B, make sure your fingers are right together. Your middle finger will also play both the F and the F#. You can add a shuffle on the quarter notes and two shuffles on the half-notes. Notice the whole notes (4 beats) at the end of each line. 39 Lyrics I’ve been all around this whole wide world Down to Memphis, Tennessee. Any old place I hang my hat Looks like home to me. Don’t let your deal go down, little girl. Don’t let your deal go down. Don’t let your deal go down, little girl, ‘Til your last gold dollar is gone. Now I left my little girl crying Standing in the door. Throwed her arms around my neck Saying, “Honey, don’t you go.” Now I’ve been all around this whole wide world Done most everything. I’ve played cards with the King and the Queen Discard the ace and the ten. Now where did you get them high top shoes? Dress you wear so fine? Got my shoes from a railroad man And my dress from a driver in the mine. Who’s gonna shoe your pretty white feet? Who’s gonna glove your hand? Who’s gonna kiss your lily white cheeks? Who’s gonna be your man? Now Papa may shoe my pretty white feet Mama can glove my hand. She can kiss my lily white cheeks ‘Till you come back again. “When we started to play for the dance, the sun was going down and when we finished, the sun was coming up. And we never played the same tune twice.” -Selmer Halvorsen, fiddler (5) Muley’s Daughter ©1974 by Wayne Erbsen, Fracas Music Co. (BMI) Key of D Dorian W hile traveling in Germany back in 1974, I wrote this song because I missed the hills of southwest Virginia, where I had been living at the time. It didn’t hurt that I had just finished reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath , which had a character in there named Muley Graves. You can play “Muley’s Daughter” without using your index finger at all. The melody of line one is entirely on the A string with one exception. In the middle of the line the tune goes up to an open E for just one note. Although you can certainly change strings to play that one E note, there is an alternate way to do it using your pinky. PINKY POWER . Reach up with your pinky on the A string past the D note until you come to the E. You’ll know you’ve found it when it sounds like the E string played open. This will take some practice, because most people rarely use their pinky for anything. If you put your pinky to work, it will get strong and will do what you want it to do. There are several advantages to using your pinky to play the E note up on the A string. It’s actually awkward to switch to the E string for just that one note. Every time you switch strings like that you have a good chance of having your fiddle squeak, which you want to avoid. Playing the E on the A string will prevent the squeaking. Another reason for playing the E note with your pinky on the A string has to do with tone. The E string has a thinner tone than the A string, so you can have more consistent tone if you play all of line one on the A string. 40 Lyrics Goin’ down to the spring, fetch a pail of water, Goin’ to old Muley’s house, Gonna marry his daughter, gonna marry his daughter. Throw a stone out in the pond, let the ripples show, When I find that girl of mine, Some flowers we will sow, love, flowers we will sow. Take my love by the hand, to the mountain far, Lay there on a summer’s night, Countin’ all the stars, love, countin’ all the stars. Way up on the mountain there, gonna build a house so fine, Look down over the valley fair, With that girl of mine, love, with that girl of mine. Fifteen turns in her braid, daisies in her hair, Angel dust upon her face, And her feet are bare, love, and her feet are bare. East Virginia Key of D Dorian T he melody of this version of the popular old song “East Virginia” sounds very much like the song “Little Maggie.” You can shuffle once on any of the quarter notes and twice on the half notes. 41 Lyrics I was born in East Virginia, North Carolina I did go. There I met a fair young lady, And her name I did not know. Oh her hair was dark in color, And her lips were ruby red, On her breast she wore white linen, There I longed to lay my head. Papa says we cannot marry, Mama says it’ll never do, But if you’ll only say you love me, I will run away with you. I’d rather be in some dark holler, Where the sun don’t ever shine Than to see you with another, And to know you’ll never be mine. “If you are going to play this old-time music, you’ve got to put the power in it.” -Fiddler Clark Kessenger Darling Cory Key of D Dorian W hatever you do, don’t let the revenuers catch you hanging out with the likes of Darling Corey when she’s running off a fresh batch of moonshine. This version of “Darling Corey” was collected from Jack Wallen, from Madison County, North Carolina. It uses an F note, which you’ll play with your index finger just above the nut on the E string. Although you can certainly add an occasional shuffle on the quarter notes, I wouldn’t suggest playing too many, because you wouldn’t want to disturb the mournful tone of this song with undue happiness, now would you? The timing of the song is a little tricky, especially on the word “Corey” on line one and on the “comin” on line three. Once you listen to the instructional CD (directions to download are on the first page ), the timing will make perfect sense and you’ll find this tune pretty easy to play. 42 Lyrics Wake up, wake up darling Corey, What makes you sleep so sound? The revenours are a comin’, Gonna tear your still house down. Don’t you hear them bluebirds a-singing’? Don’t you hear their mournful sound? They are preachin’ Corey’s funeral In some lonesome graveyard ground. The last time I saw darlin’ Corey She was sittin’ on the banks of the sea, With a 44 strapped around her And a banjo on her knee. Dig a hole, dig a hole in the meadow Dig a hole in the cold, cold ground Go and dig you a hole in the meadow Gonna lay darlin’ Corey down. Go away, go away, darlin’ Corey Stop hangin’ around my bed Bad liquor destroyed my body, Pretty women’s gone to my head. “Keep it down to earth, boys.” -George D. Hay, Grand Ole Opry Rain and Snow Key of D Dorian Courtesy of Rita Wilkins O brey Ramsey, the great banjo player from Madison County, North Carolina, was my source for this song. On this type of mournful tune you don’t need a band to back you up; it sounds just fine as a solo fiddle piece. Again, be sparing with the shuffles on “Rain and Snow,” because you certainly wouldn’t want to take away from its mood of doom and despair. This song shouldn’t be played too fast. 43 Lyrics Well I married me a wife, She gave me trouble all my life, Ran me out in the cold rain and snow. Rain and snow, She ran me out in the cold rain and snow. Well she came down the stairs Combing back her long yeller hair And her cheeks were as red as a rose. Well I did all I could do To try to get along with you And I ain’t gonna be treated this a way. Well she came in the room Where she met her fatal doom And I ain’t gonna be treated this a way How to Jam P laying unaccompanied fiddle is a great and glorious thing, but there’ll come a time (like right now!) when you’re itching to join with other musicians and jam. A jam is nothing more than informal music making for the purpose of having fun. Jamming happens at festivals, music stores, private homes or wherever two or more musicians gather. If you’re like most beginners, you can’t imagine the day when you’ll be good enough to play with other musicians. The fact is, there are many pickers in your area who would love to play music with you right now. If you can play even some of the tunes in this book, you’re pert near ready to jam. Your first job will be to find people of about your same skill level. Ask around or post a note on a music store bulletin board saying that an intermediate fiddler is looking for a guitar picker to play back-up chords. Believe it or not, there are countless lonely guitar players out there who are bored to tears just playing chords by themselves and who would love to play those same chords behind a fiddler like you. What chords should they play? For each song in this book the chords are written above each line of the tab/music. Next time you go to an old-time or bluegrass music festival and your fingers are twitching to jam, remember that there are some rules of jam etiquette that you should know about. Sidle up to a music session and scope it out. Is it an informal jam where anyone might be welcome, or a band practicing to go on stage? If they’re all dressed in matching outfits that don’t match yours, you might refrain from getting out your fiddle. But if people are smiling, having fun, and it looks like they wouldn’t bite your head off, that’s the jam for you. If it’s an outdoor jam, you can always start playing thirty or forty feet back from the other musicians, and slowly work your way up to the edge of the jam. Or if you’re brave, you can pull up a chair and ask if they’d mind if you join them. Just before the jammers start a tune, ask one of them, “What are the chords to this song?” Even if you’ve never heard the songs being played, you can jam anyway by playing any of the three notes of the chord. What is a chord? A chord consists of two or more notes: the root, the third and the fifth. Most old-time and bluegrass songs have no more than three chords. Learn to recognize what these chords look like on the guitar (G, C, D, A, E, and F) and watch the guitar player like a hawk. When he/she changes chords, you should play one or two of the notes of that chord that you see in the chart below. Play long bow strokes, change notes when the guitarist changes chords, and you’ll be jamming! Playing in the Key of A T he key of A has long been the favorite key for many old-time fiddlers. For us ignoramuses, the good news is that the placement of the notes and the fingering in the key of A is exactly the same as playing in the key of D. The only difference is that everything is moved over one string. Instead of starting your scale on the D string open, you’ll start your scale on the A string open. Try it. 44 A Scale A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A 45 Most of the tunes you’ll be playing in the key of A can be played entirely on the E and A strings. But sooner or later you will need to know how to find the A scale on the lower strings, so here they are. For variety, you can actually play any of your A tunes on the lower strings. CROSS TUNING: Many old-time fiddlers frequently re-tune their fiddle in what is often called cross tuning. This just means they tune the strings to a chord or partial chord. It’s actually quite fun to play in cross tuning because the fiddle seems to resonate more and sometimes the fingering is easier. You can experiment with tuning to cross A by raising the D string to an E and the G string to an A. Your strings are then tuned EAEA, from 1 to 4. Any tunes you normally play on the E and A strings, you can now play on the lower E and A strings an octave lower. Nuthin’ to it. Cripple Creek Key of A A t least three states have argued that the creek and the tune named “Cripple Creek” belong to them: Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina. Since I live in North Carolina, I naturally think that’s where the tune originated. But regardless of its origin, “Cripple Creek” was a popular tune even before it was first recorded by Sam Jones on August 8, 1924. You’ll find “Cripple Creek” quite easy to play. This peppy tune needs lots of shuffles to give it that lively bounce. “Cripple Creek” would be a good one if you want to be brave and try cross tuning your fiddle to cross A. You will raise the D string to an E and the G string to an A. Then you can alternate playing the tune first on the high E and A strings and then on the low E and A strings. By the way, it’s not a good idea to keep your fiddle tuned in cross tuning for days on end because tuning two of the strings to a higher pitch puts more strain on the neck of the fiddle. Many banjo players play “Cripple Creek,” but they usually play it in the key of G. You can politely ask them to play it with you in the key of A by using a capo on the second fret. If they don’t have a capo, you’ll have to play it in the key of G if you want to play it with them. All you do is substitute these notes: A=G, E=D, C#=B, D=C, F#=E, B=A. 46, 47 Lyrics I’ve got a girl at the head of the creek, Go up to see her ’ bout twice a week. Goin’ up Cripple Creek, goin’ in a run, Goin’ up Cripple Creek to have a little fun. Cripple Creek’s wide and Cripple Creek’s deep, I’ll wade old Cripple Creek before I sleep. Roll my britches to my knees, I wade old Cripple Creek when I please. I went down to Cripple Creek, To see what them girls had to eat. I got drunk and fell against the wall, Ole corn liquor was the cause of it all. Cripple Creek’s wide and Cripple Creek’s muddy, I’m so drunk I can’t stand steady. Girls on Cripple Creek ‘bout half grown, Jump on a boy like a dog on a bone. Buffalo Gals Key of A Y ou’ll find “Buffalo Gals” fairly easy to play because the tune starts out like the A scale. The B part starts with the high A on the E string and is much like the A scale played backwards. 48, 49 Lyrics As I was lumbering down the street, Down the street, down the street, A handsome gal I chanced to meet, She was fair to view. Buffalo gals won’t you come out tonight, Come out tonight, come out tonight, Buffalo gals won’t you come out tonight, And dance by the light of the moon. I asked her if she’d have a talk, Have a talk, have a talk. Her feet took up the whole sidewalk, As she stood close to me. I asked her “would you want to dance,” Want to dance, want to dance, I thought that I would have a chance, To shake a foot with her. Oh, I danced with the gal with a hole in her stockin’, And her hip kept a-rockin’ and her toe kept a-knockin’, I danced with the gal with a hole in her stockin’, And we danced by the light of the moon. Liza Poor Gal Key of A A ll the old fiddlers around Asheville, North Carolina used to play this catchy tune, which they apparently learned from a fine old man named Tommy Bell. The first part resembles the song “Cindy,” but the second part is unique. To look at the timing of the tab/ music, you would think this tune is really hard, but it’s not. If you listen to the instructional CD (refer to download instructions on first page ), you’ll catch on to it pretty quick. 50, 51 Lyrics Hardest job I ever done , Working on the train, Easiest job I ever had , Loving Liza Jane. Oh Liza poor gal, Oh Liza Jane, Oh Liza poor gal, She died on the train. Goin’ up on the mountain, Sew a little cane, Raise a barrel of sorghum, Sweeten old Liza Jane. Went up on the mountain, Gave my horn a blow, Thought I heard a pretty girl say, Yonder stands my beau. I asked her if she loved me, She said she loved me some, Throwed her arms around me I thought my time had come. ‘Traditional old-time music is authentic and if you maintain the authenticity of it, it is played by ear. And it is played from the feelings and the character of the person.’ -Fiddler Ralph Blizzard (3) Cotton-Eyed Joe Key of A W hoever wrote “Cotton-Eyed Joe” did a darn good job, because it’s been a popular tune for over a hundred and fifty years. There are actually two distinct versions of the tune, but credit for this version goes to Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, whose November 4, 1946 recording helped make it a classic. “Cotton-Eyed Joe” has a unique lope to it, but it’s not hard. Listening to the instructional CD should work miracles (refer to download instructions on first page ). 52, 53 Lyrics Way down yonder a long time ago, Daddy worked a man called Cotton-Eyed Joe, Daddy worked a man called Cotton-Eyed Joe. Where’d you come from , where’d you ? go, Where did you come from Cotton-Eyed Joe? Cornstalk fiddle and a shoe string bow, Couldn’t play nothin’ but Cotton-Eyed Joe, Couldn’t play nothin’ but Cotton-Eyed Joe. Woulda been married a long time ago, Hadn’t a been for Cotton-Eyed Joe, Hadn’t a been for Cotton-Eyed Joe. Chicken in the bread pan peckin’ out dough, Grannie will your dog bite, no child no! Daddy cut his biter off a long time ago. Fourteen feet of rain and snow, The roof caved in on Cotton-Eyed Joe, The roof caved in on Cotton-Eyed Joe. Old Joe Clark Key of A N o self-respecting fiddler would admit they couldn’t play “Old Joe Clark,” so you better learn it! On line one and two, you’ll play a G, not a G#, but on line four, you will play the G#. 54 Lyrics Wished I had a nickel, Wished I had a dime. Wished I had a pretty girl, To kiss and call her mine. Fare thee well, Old Joe Clark, Fare thee well I say. Fare thee well, Old Joe Clark, I’m a goin’ away. I will not marry an old maid, I’ll tell you the reason why. Her neck is so long and stringy, I’m afraid she’ll never die. I asked my girl to marry me, And what do you think she said? “Time enough to marry you, When all the rest are dead.” Old Joe Clark did take sick, And what do you think ailed him? He drank a churn of buttermilk, And then his stomach failed him. Old Joe Clark did get drunk, And not a word could he utter. He fell down on the supper table, And stove his nose in the butter. I won’t go home with old Joe Clark, I’ll tell you the reason why. Blowed his nose in a cornbread crust, And called it pumpkin pie. Old Joe Clark he had a house, Sixteen stories high. Every story in that house, Was filled with chicken pie. Playing in A Minor T he A minor scale produces a wonderfully spooky sound that’s perfect for certain tunes. When you practice this scale, keep in mind that all the Cs, Fs and Gs are natural, not sharp. Be sure to use your index finger for the F and the B. 55 A Minor Scale A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A Here’s the complete A minor scale, starting with the low A. 55 Photo by Wayne Erbsen Charley He’s a Good Old Man Key of A Minor S ome tunes are so old they sprout whiskers. This two hundred year old song is so old it has a long beard! The lyrics refer to Bonnie Prince Charlie of England and it makes a fine fiddle piece using the A minor scale. Remember that all the C and G notes are natural, not sharp. This song shouldn’t be played too fast. 57 Lyrics Charley he’s a good old man, Charley is a dandy, Charley he’s a good old man he Feeds them girls on candy. Over the river to feed my sheep, Over the river Charley, Over the river to feed my sheep, And measure up my barley. I don’t want your weevily wheat, I don’t want your barley, But I want some of the best old flour, To bake a cake for Charley. The higher up the cherry tree, The riper grow the cherries, The more you hug and kiss the girls, The sooner they will marry. My pretty little Pink, I suppose you think, I care but little about you, But I’ll let you know before you go I cannot do without you. “Grandpa used to play for all the dances around here - sometimes two or three times a week. For weddings, he would walk nearly ten miles there, and ten miles home. He’d leave in the afternoon and wouldn’t be home ‘til noon the next day.” -Manda Morteson (5) Cluck Old Hen Key of A Minor W hile country singers are fond of songs of lost love and pick-up trucks, old-time musicians prefer songs about chickens. Go figure. “Cluck Old Hen” is the most popular of all the chicken songs, and when you start to play it, you’ll find out why. You should play this tune at a fairly lively tempo, putting in numerous shuffles on the quarter notes. Be sure to play each part twice. 58 Lyrics My old hen’s a good old hen, She lays eggs for the railroad men. Sometimes one, sometimes two Sometime enough for the whole dang crew. Cluck old hen, cluck and squall. You ain’t laid an egg since ‘way last Fall. Cluck old hen, cluck and sing You ain’t laid an egg since ‘way last Spring. My old hen, she won’t do, She lays eggs and taters too. First time she cackled, she cackled in the lot, Next time she cackled, she cackled in the pot. I had a little hen, she had a wooden leg, Best darn hen that ever laid an egg. Laid more eggs than any hen around the barn, Another little drink wouldn’t do me any harm. Cluck old hen, cluck and tell you, If you don’t cluck, I’m gonna sell you. The old hen cackled, she cackled for corn, The old hen cackled when the chickens all gone. My old hen’s a good old hen, She lays eggs for the railroad men. Sometimes eight, sometimes ten, That’s enough for the railroad men. “I think the old-fashioned music is the greatest music that’s played.” -Ernie Carpenter, West Virginia fiddler (1) House of the Rising Sun Key of A Minor F ew songs have enjoyed such wide popularity as “House of the Rising Sun.” The first old-time musicians to record it were Tom Ashley and Gwen Foster, who waxed it in New York on September 6, 1933. Since this is a waltz, I wouldn’t try shuffling it, but you can use some vibrato. (See below ) 59 Lyrics There is a house in New Orleans They call the Rising Sun, It’s been the ruin of many a poor girl And me, oh God, was one. My mother was a tailor, She sewed them new blue jeans. My father he was a gambler, Oh Lord Gambled down in New Orleans. My husband, he was a gambling man He went from town to town; And the only time he was satisfied Was when he drank his liquor down. Now the only thing a gambling man needs Is a suitcase and a trunk; And the only time he’s ever satisfied Is when he’s on a drunk. Go and tell my baby sister Never do like I have done, But to shun that house in New Orleans That they call the Rising Sun. With one foot on the platform, And one foot on the train I’m goin’ back to New Orleans To wear the ball and chain. I’m going back to New Orleans My race is almost run; I’m going back to spend the rest of my life Beneath that Rising Sun. VIBRATO is the quavering sound made by wiggling your fingers as you press down the strings. I must warn you that many old-time fiddlers frown on using vibrato, since it tends to give a sound more associated with bluegrass fiddling or even classical. I personally like to add a little vibrato here and there, especially on sentimental songs or on waltzes. How do you do it? You’re basically trying to wiggle your finger so the string waves in pitch. The faster you wiggle, the greater the vibrato. Here’s what I tell my non-vegetarian fiddle students. Pretend an ant is walking across your leg and in a moment of meanness, you smoosh it with downward pressure and a slight wiggle of your left index finger. Try it on a pretend ant on your leg. That will get you started with vibrato. Playing in the Key of G T he G scale will be your new best friend as there are lots of great tunes you can play with it. You start the scale with the G note on the D string. Remember that for the B and C and the F# and G, your fingers should be right next to each other. 60 G Scale G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G Here is the complete G scale, starting on the open G string. Play it forwards and backwards. 61 Amazing Grace Key of G Y ou’re familiar enough with this venerable old hymn that you should barely have to look at the book to play it. In fact, let’s try that. Take a peek at the chart and you’ll quickly see where all the notes are. To play “Amazing Grace” you’ll only need two fingers. Before you try to play it by ear, you can fudge a little by looking at the first nine notes over the words, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound.” Play that line over and over until you can play it without looking at the book. Then try to figure out the rest of the tune by ear. How do you find the notes? Play the first nine notes of the song while humming or singing along with it and try to find those notes on the fiddle. Decide if the note you’re trying to find is higher or lower. If you need to, consult the chart to see where to find a higher or lower note. Struggling to play “Amazing G