Fiddle music for violin. Becoming a bluegrass fiddler. Fun songs and traditional tunes so you can play along.
This book comes to you from Northern Minnesota, U.S.A. where fiddlers young and not- so-young are sprouting up in the Crescendo Orchestra. We like to perform serious classical music all winter (and our winters are LONG), but then in the summer we love
to take our fiddles outside and play ʻneath the evergreens in a circle of friends or just for the birds and sky.
The pages here reflect the needs of a classically trained violinist who wants to fiddle but perhaps hasnʼt had countless hours learning tunes by ear as people in Arkansas or Missouri might have had. I highly recommend memorizing the tunes you enjoy playing and teaching them to others to help the traditions of fiddling stay alive.
People often ask me what the difference is between a violin and a fiddle and Iʼve found interestingly enough that there actually are differences in the instrument although of course you can play just about any fiddle tune on any violin. I say “just about” because a fiddle player actually typically prefers the bridge of their instrument to be a little flatter across the top than a classical violinist. This helps make the fancy string crossings and double stops or drones (two strings played at the same time) cleaner and easier to play. A fiddle often has an interesting story that travels with it (sometimes written on the inside of the back of the instrument).
The fiddle in my family was my great-great grandfatherʼs instrument that was built on a back porch and then carried through the Civil War. We learned all this when it was repaired and refurbished in about 2005. An instrument that was built on a back porch often had to compromise some of the standard construction practices used by trained luthiers and subsequently youʼll notice the corner blocks absent (if you get a chance to look at it when the top is off), the top and back carved crudely with whatever tools were handy, glue seems joined with inexpert ability and a finish that just looks “porchy” (maybe it was in fact the same finish that was used on the porch….who knows). In whatever case, it has character and charm that is impossible to reproduce in mass quantity so every fiddle Iʼve ever seen is a “one- of-a-kind” gem that is valued highly by its owner.
In addition to the other non-standard construction practices, you might visually notice that the body is a little different shape and size than any factory or luthier-made violin. Perhaps the body is flatter and wider or the whole instrument is a little shorter. These “fiddles” are what our roots of music in these following pages were born of and weʼre proud to call them our ancestors.
Please donʼt be upset that there are very few finger numbers in the book. I value music reading very high and I believe that students who have to look up their own finger numbers every time will very quickly learn to read music on their own. Iʼve provided a finger chart in the front of the book, with a corresponding note on a staff to show you each and every note in the book and where to play it on your fiddle. If you are a brand new beginner, then you will find this task of looking up finger numbers a little tedious, but I assure you this stage will pass quickly if you spend a little time studying the notes on your own and perhaps even taking the book to your back porch (with no instrument) and just reading the letters out loud to yourself. Youʼll be reading music in no time!
Take a look at the Table of Contents below, and below that a sample page of music.
“Cotton-Eyed Joe” is a country song, it has become popular many times over the years. This song predates Civil war (1861) Harper & Brothers published a version in 1882, a version that was heard on an Alabama plantation in the 1850s, The origins of this song are unclear, but American folklorist Dorothy Scarborough (1878–1935) noted in her book On the Trail of Negro Folk-songs – (1925), that several people remember hearing the song before the war and her sister, Mrs. George Scarborough, learned the song from a man who had known the song during his earliest childhood from slaves singing it on plantations in Louisiana.
* Cotton-Eyed Joe came alive again when recorded in 1994 by the Swedish band Rednex and has became popular worldwide yet again.
“Cotton-Eyed Joe”, on occasion is referred to as “The South Texas National Anthem”, was often played for minstrel-type jigs, and it has long been popular as a square dance hoedown and a couple dance polka.