Brittany Haas is widely regarded as one of the most influential fiddlers of her generation. She grew up honing her craft in fiddle camps nationwide, and came to her unique sound through the old-time fiddling of Bruce Molsky and the innovative style of Darol Anger.
A prodigious youth, she began touring with Anger’s Republic of Strings at the age of 14. After studying evolutionary biology at Princeton University (and minoring in music performance and composing with Dan Trueman) she joined seminal chamber-grass band Crooked Still. She has also performed with Yonder Mountain String Band, Tony Trischka, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas (her cellist sister), Abigail Washburn, and the Waybacks. She played fiddle on Steve Martin’s Grammy Award-winning CD, The Crow, and performed in his band on Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. Brittany released her debut self-titled solo album at 17, produced by Darol Anger and featuring Bruce Molsky, Mike Marshall, Alison Brown, and others. Currently, she teaches at numerous fiddle camps and performs in a couple different trios: with guitarist Jordan Tice and Paul Kowert (bassist in Punch Brothers); Joe Walsh (mandolin) and Owen Marshall (guitar). She has also been touring with Gillian Welch and was recently named to the new Prairie House Companion house band with new host Chris Thile.
Bluegrass fiddler John Mailander is one of the most talented young fiddlers on the scene. In his playing you can hear echoes of all the great bluegrass fiddlers, including Kenny Baker, Vassar Clements, and others. In this workshop he teaches the Kenny Baker tune “Denver Belle.”With Notation
Peghead Nation is creating a library of accompaniment videos (and downloadable MP3s) for songs and tunes that are taught on the site, classics that you'll find at many jams and picking parties. As a subscriber, you have access to this library and can use the tracks to practice playing tunes and songs at a slow or medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. New songs will be added regularly.
Fiddle Styles Workshops
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SUZY THOMPSON: OLD-TIME BLUES
Old-Time Blues with Suzy Thompson, Part 1: Brittany and Suzy Play Old-Time Tunes Suzy Thompson is a master of old-time, blues, and Cajun-style fiddling, as well as one of the most powerful old-time blues singers you’ll ever hear. She and Brittany get comfortable by playing a couple of old-time favorites: “Lost Girl” and “Billy in the Lowground.”
Old-Time Blues with Suzy Thompson, Part 2: Suzy Thompson Teaches “Dickson County Blues” “Dickson County Blues” is one of the more popular and distinctive old-time fiddle blues. It comes from Arthur Smith, who was one of the most popular fiddlers on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. Suzy lays it out for you phrase by phrase.
Old-Time Blues with Suzy Thompson, Part 3: Suzy and Brittany play “Dickson County Blues” Suzy Thompson and Brittany Haas have a go at the “Dickson County Blues.”
Old-Time Blues with Suzy Thompson, Part 4: Suzy’s Fiddle Suzy Thompson talks about her fiddle, an unidentified instrument with a unique carved peghead that she got from Mike Seeger.
BRITTANY TEACHES “DUCK RIVER”
Duck River – Sample Lesson – Learn how Brittany plays the old-time classic “Duck River,” which comes from Kentucky fiddler John Salyer. Brittany teaches the tune phrase by phrase, shows you a way to rock the bow to get a real old-time feel, and includes a few variations.
Brittany’s John Silakowski Five-String Violin Brittany demonstrates her John Silakowski violin, which she purchased new about ten years ago. She tunes the five-string instrument’s low string to a C, which gives her access to the viola range.
TRISTAN CLARRIDGE: TEXAS FIDDLING
Texas Fiddling with Tristan Clarridge, Part 1This five-time Grand National Fiddle Championship winner is regarded as one of the best Texas-style fiddlers of all time. He is also a pioneering and virtuosic cellist, a member of Crooked Still and the Bee Eaters.
Texas Fiddling with Tristan Clarridge, Part 2: Tristan Teaches “Apple Blossom” Tristan teaches the Texas tune “Apple Blossom,” taking it apart phrase by phrase and demonstrating the Texas style of driving single bowing.
Texas Fiddling with Tristan Clarridge, Part 3: Brittany and Tristan Play “Julianne Johnson” Tristan switches to the cello for a duo performance with Brittany of the old-time tune “Julianne Johnson.”
BRITTANY TEACHES A SWEDISH WALTZ
Vals efter Kristian Oskarsson, Part 1 Learn a Swedish waltz Brittany learned from fiddler Anna Lindblad called “Vals efter Kristian Oskarsson.” Brittany teaches the tune phrase by phrase and shows you some ornaments and drones that help make the tune sound Swedish.
Vals efter Kristian Oskarsson, Part 2: Swedish Dance Rhythm Swedish waltzes are faster and more rhythmic than American waltzes. Brittany shows you how to play “Vals efter Kristian Oskarsson” with a Swedish dance rhythm, with an accent on the downbeat and the “lift” on the third beat.
SCOTTISH FIDDLING WITH JENNA MOYNIHAN
Scottish Fiddling with Jenna Moynihan, Part 1 Jenna Moynihan combines her background in Scottish music with a love of Appalachian fiddling and other styles. Brittany and Jenna start by playing the jig “The Rolling Waves.”
Scottish Fiddling with Jenna Moynihan, Part 2: Jenna Teaches a Scottish Reel Jenna teaches the Scottish reel “Buntata Sgadan” (“Potatoes and Herring”), plays each phrase slowly, and giving you a chance to play along with her.
Scottish Fiddling with Jenna Moynihan, Part 3: Ornamentation Jenna talks about the ornamentation used in Scottish and Celtic fiddling, demonstrating ornaments like the “birl” (a rapid triplet-like figure done with the bow) and grace-note “flick.”
BLUEGRASS FIDDLING WITH JOHN MAILANDER
Bluegrass Fiddling with John Mailander, Part 1 Bluegrass fiddler John Mailander is one of the most talented young fiddlers on the scene. In his playing you can hear echoes of all the great bluegrass fiddlers, including Kenny Baker, Vassar Clements, and others. He and Brittany get started by playing the bluegrass favorite “Road to Columbus.”
Bluegrass Fiddling with John Mailander, Part 2: John Teaches “Denver Belle” John teaches the fiddle tune “Denver Belle,” which comes from bluegrass fiddle icon Kenny Baker.
Bluegrass Fiddling with John Mailander, Part 3: John’s Jonathan Cooper Violin John talks about his violin, made by Portland, Maine, violin maker Jonathan Cooper in 2005.
DAROL ANGER: BACKUP FIDDLE
The Zen of Backup Fiddle with Darol Anger, Part 1 Darol Anger is a legend of contemporary fiddling. He is a pioneer of “the chop,” a rhythmic accompaniment style that he and Brittany discuss in this workshop on fiddle backup.
The Zen of Backup Fiddle with Darol Anger, Part 2 Darol talks about playing double stops and counterpoint in the spaces of the melody, when the instrument or voice you’re accompanying is holding a note.
LAURA CORTESE: FIDDLING IN “FIVE”
Fiddling in “Five” with Laura Cortese, Part 1 Laura Cortese grew up going to fiddle camp and spent a lot of time learning Scottish, Cape Breton, Quebecois, and old-time fiddle music. She and Brittany get started by playing her original “Tune in Five.”
Fiddling in “Five” with Laura Cortese, Part 2: Laura Teaches “Tune In Five”Laura Cortese teaches her “Tune in Five,” an original tune in 5/4 time, and shows you how to play a “chop” rhythm in 5/4.
BOBBY BRITT: OLD-TIME AND BLUEGRASS FIDDLING
Old-Time and Bluegrass Fiddling with Bobby Britt, Part 1 Bobby Britt is a young bluegrass and old-time fiddler from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, currently playing fiddle in Town Mountain. Brittany and Bobby get started by playing a couple of old-time tunes “Grey Owl” and “Ways of the World.”
Old-Time and Bluegrass Fiddling with Bobby Britt, Part 2 Bobby Britt teaches the old-time tune “Goodbye Girls, I’m Going to Boston,: which has slightly “crooked” phrasing. He and Brittany also talk about the bowing of the tune and the differences between old-time bowing and bluegrass bowing.
MARK SIMOS: TUNE WRITING
Tune Writing with Mark Simos, Part 1 Mark Simos is a great tune- and songwriter, as well as an excellent old-time and Irish fiddler and guitarist. His original fiddle tunes include the tune “Pony Boy” that he and Brittany get started with, and his songs have been recorded by Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, and others. In this workshop, Mark teaches an original old-time tune and talks about some of the things he thinks about when writing tunes.
Tune Writing with Mark Simos, Part 2: Mark Teaches “Keeping the Cats Happy” A Part Mark Simos’ original “Keeping the Cats Happy” is a dance tune that he wrote with the intention of writing a “straight” tune that sounds crooked.
Tune Writing with Mark Simos, Part 3: Mark Teaches “Keeping the Cats Happy” B and C Parts In the second part of “Keeping the Cats Happy” there are some chordal anticipations that make it sound like there are some extra beats or bars in the tune. The third part of the tune is in third position, and a little tricky, but Mark breaks it down phrase by phrase.
BRITTANY TEACHES “WILLOW CREEK”
Brittany Teaches “Willow Creek,” Part 1 Brittany teaches one of her favorite tunes, a James Bryan tune in D called “Willow Creek.” She plays it through and then breaks the tune down phrase by phrase, showing you some drones and chords you can add to the melody.
Brittany Teaches “Willow Creek,” Part 2: Backup If you’ve got the melody to “Willow Creek” down, Brittany shows you how she backs up another fiddler on the tune. The foundational rhythm she uses is quarter note/eighth/eighth but with a down/down/up bow pattern. She also adds some eighth-note runs between chords and shows you how she adds harmony lines to the melody.
BLUEGRASS FIDDLING WITH PATRICK McGONIGLE
Bluegrass Fiddling with Patrick McGonigle, Part 1 Brittany’s guest is Patrick McGonigle, a classically trained violinist from Victoria, British Columbia, who discovered fiddle music and improvising at the age of 18. A Berklee College of Music graduate, he is finishing up his master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music while touring and recording with the Lonely Heartstring Band, one of the Northeast’s most popular new progressive bluegrass bands. Brittany and Patrick get started with a duet on “Whiskey Before Breakfast.”
Bluegrass Fiddling with Patrick McGonigle, Part 2: Patrick Teaches “Stoney Lonesome” The Bill Monroe fiddle tune “Stoney Lonesome” was famously recorded by Kenny Baker on his influential Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe album. Patrick plays it through slowly and then takes it apart phrase by phrase, showing you where to add double stops and drones. He and Brittany finish up by playing the tune together, with Patrick demonstrating how he would improvise a solo on the tune.
BRITTANY TEACHES “TENNESSEE MOUNTAIN FOX CHASE”
Brittany Teaches “Tennessee Mountain Fox Chase,” Part 1 Learn a great “crooked” tune in the key of C from Brittany. She plays the tune through a couple of times and then breaks it down phrase by phrase. She also shows you how you can add some nice double stops if you move up to second position, either for just the third part or the whole tune.
Brittany Teaches “Tennessee Mountain Fox Chase,” Part 2: Bowing and Double Stops Brittany shows you a few different ways to bow “Tennessee Mountain Fox Chase” in this video. She also shows you where she adds some double stops and trills, as well as what chords she would play if she were backing up another fiddler.
CAPE BRETON FIDDLING WITH KATIE McNALLY
Cape Breton Fiddling with Katie McNally Katie McNally grew up in Boston playing Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle, learning from Hanneke Cassel and attending Celtic music camps. She won the New England Scottish Fiddling Championship in 2009 and has studied Scottish music and literature at the University of Glasgow. She and Brittany get started with a traditional medley of tunes, and then Katie teaches an old Scottish strathspey, “The Fir Tree.” She takes the tune apart phrase by phrase and shows you some of the ornaments she plays, including “flicks” and “warbles.”
NORWEGIAN FIDDLING WITH ELISE BOEUR
Norwegian Fiddling with Elise Boeur Elise Boeur’s diverse style of fiddling is a reflection of her many musical passions. She grew up playing Irish music in Vancouver, Canada, but became interested in Norwegian and Swedish music a number of years ago. She and Brittany get started by playing a Norwegian tune called “Griffinfeld” and then Elise teaches an unnamed “springleik,” a dance tune in 3/4. She plays the tune through and then explains the feel of the tune, which is not a regular waltz feel. The first and third beats are regular but the second beat can come a little early. Elise walks you through the tune phrase by phrase and shows you some of the ornaments she uses, including a kind of backwards hammer-on, as well as where to add drones.
BRITTANY TEACHES A SWEDISH POLSKA
Brittany Teaches a Swedish Polska In this lesson, you’ll learn a traditional Swedish polska, “Brännvinspolskan,” which Brittany learned from Lena Jonsson and is featured on Brittany and Lena’s duo album. Brittany plays the tune all the way through a couple times and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase. She also shows you where to play double stops and explains the slurs and trills she uses throughout the tune.
IRISH FIDDLING WITH OISIN McAULEY
Irish Fiddling with Oisín McAuley, Part 1: “The Road to the Glen” Oisín McAuley is one of today’s premier Irish fiddlers. A member of the band Danu, he recorded his solo debut, Far from the Hills of Donegal in 2007. He and Brittany get started by playing the reel “The Spey in Spate” and then Oisín talks about his background learning traditional fiddle in Donegal, where he was born. He teaches Ed Reavey’s “The Road to the Glen,” taking it apart, phrase by phrase, and talking about the “wave” bowing characteristic of Irish fiddling. You’ll learn the basic melody of “The Road to the Glen” in this video.
Irish Fiddling with Oisín McAuley, Part 2: Ornamentation Oisín shows you some of the typical Irish ornamentation he uses on “The Road to the Glen,” including simple slides as well as “rolls,” “cuts” (grace notes), bowed cuts, bow triplets, and more. He also talks about improvising when he’s playing traditional tunes.
BRITTANY TEACHES “FAREWELL TRION”
Brittany Teaches “Farewell Trion” In this lesson, you’ll learn the beautiful three-part old-time tune “Farewell Trion,” which Brittany learned from the playing of James Bryan. She plays it through a couple times, and then breaks it down, phrase by phrase. Then she plays it through at a slow tempo, so you can play along when you have the melody under your fingers. She also shows you some double stops and drones to play in the key of C.
LAURIE LEWIS ON SONGWRITING AND FIDDLING
Laurie Lewis on Songwriting and Fiddling, Part 1 Laurie Lewis is one of bluegrass music’s great songwriters and often incorporates her fiddle playing into her songs. Her song “Burley Coulter’s Song for Kate Helen Branch” is a setting of a Wendell Berry poem that Berry asked her to write music for. Laurie did and also wrote a fiddle tune that fits the song. She and Brittany play the whole song through and then Laurie plays the fiddle part slowly, so you can learn it.
Laurie Lewis on Songwriting and Fiddling, Part 2 Brittany and Laurie play another fiddle-oriented song of Laurie’s, “The Bear Song.” Then Laurie Laurie talks about her fiddle, which was made by Jerome Bonaparte Squier in Boston in 1893.
BRITTANY TEACHES A NORWEGIAN TUNE
Brittany Teaches the Modern Norwegian Tune “Fløteren” The great Norwegian fiddler Annbjørg Lien writes a lot of great tunes, and you’ll learn one in this lesson: “Fløteren” which can be heard on her recording Prism. Annbjørg plays the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, which is usually tuned higher than standard. So she plays “Fløteren” in the key of E, but fingers it in a different way, because her fiddle is tuned up. But you’ll learn “Fløteren” in the key of E here. Brittany plays it through and then starts taking it apart phrase by phrase. The main melodic and rhythmic motif is in 5/4, with some connecting 3/4, 2/4, and 6/4 measures. Brittany walks you through each part and then plays them each slowly so you can play along with her. She also shows you which double stops and drone notes to add to imitate the sound of the hardanger fiddle, and the basic bowing you’ll use for the 5/4 phrases.
FRENCH-CANADIAN FIDDLING WITH ADRIANNA CICCONE
French-Canadian Fiddling with Adrianna Ciccone Adrianna Ciccone grew up in Northern Ontario, in the Ottawa Valley, which has a strong fiddle tradition. She started playing fiddle at a young age, studying Ottawa Valley fiddle music and playing at Ontario fiddle contests and camps. The Ottawa Valley being next to Québec, she also learned a lot of French Canadian fiddle tunes. In this workshop, she teaches a French-Canadian tune called “Le Talencourt,” which comes from the repertoire of the accordion/fiddle duo of Albertine Villeneuve and Philias Bouchard. She plays “Le Talencourt” through and then takes it apart phrase by phrase, talking about the bowing and the drones and double stops she adds.
BRITTANY TEACHES “DOWN THE HATCH”
Brittany Teaches “Down the Hatch,” Part 1: Melody and Bowing Brittany recorded her original tune “Down the Hatch” with guitarist Jordan Tice and bassist Paul Kowert on their debut recording, You Got This. The tune has an old-time feel but more of a song or march–like melody than the regular stream of eighth notes of many old-time fiddle tunes. It has two parts but the parts have irregular bar lengths. Brittany starts by playing “Down the Hatch” with guitarist Scott Nygaard and then breaks down the melody of each part phrase by phrase. She also shows you the double stops she uses to highlight the chord progression, and talks about her bowing.
Brittany Teaches “Down the Hatch,” Part 2: Improvising In this video, Brittany talks about how she improvises a solo on “Down the Hatch” and tunes like it. She starts by playing it with guitarist Scott Nygaard and improvising a solo. Then she and Scott talk about how they approach improvising melodically and rhythmically.
BLUEGRASS FIDDLING WITH BLAINE SPROUSE
Bluegrass Fiddling with Blaine Sprouse, Part 1 Blaine Sprouse was one of bluegrass music’s premier fiddlers in the 1970s and ‘80s. Through gigs with Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, the Osborne Brothers, and many others, as well as a series of influential albums for Rounder Records, he proved he was the heir to Kenny Baker’s formidable legacy. He and Brittany get started by playing “Angeline the Baker” and Blaine talks about getting his start on the fiddle growing up in West Virginia, meeting Kenny Baker as a teenager, playing with Bill Monroe, etc.
Bluegrass Fiddling with Blaine Sprouse, Part 2: Blaine Teaches “Indian Springs” In this video, Blaine teaches “Indian Springs,” a tune he wrote with Kenny. He plays it through at medium speed and then plays each part slowly. He also talks about using a “Georgia shuffle” bowing pattern to keep the rhythm and emphasize the backbeat. Brittany and Blaine finish up by playing Kenny Baker’s “Denver Belle.”
BRITTANY TEACHES “CROW MOLLY”
Brittany Teaches “Crow Molly” The “new old-time” tune “Crow Molly” was written by Peghead Nation guitar instructor and co-founder Scott Nygaard, who joins Brittany for this workshop. They play the tune through and Scott talks about his inspirations for writing the tune. Then they take the tune apart phrase by phrase, Scott demonstrating it on the guitar and Brittany showing how she’s adapted parts of the melody to fit the fiddle.
Fiddle Styles Source Material
Check out these tunes and artists featured in the Fiddle Styles Workshop.