Chad Manning is a Bay Area bluegrass, old-time, and swing fiddler who currently plays with the David Grisman Sextet, the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, and Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands.
Over the years he has toured with many bluegrass greats such as J.D. Crowe, Curly Seckler, Alan Munde, and Tony Trischka, to name a few. Chad also finds great joy in teaching and working with all levels of adult fiddle students. He and his wife, Catherine, teach more than a hundred students at their studio in Berkeley, California.
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Beginning/Intermediate Fiddle Lessons
A Beginning/Intermediate Fiddle subscription includes:
More than 70 in-depth fiddle video lessons
Detailed notation for every lesson
Extensive technique and theory lessons for both hands
More than 45 complete songs and tunes
High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action.
New lessons added every month
Play-Along Tracks for most tunes so you can practice what you’ve learned
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FIDDLE BASICS Get started with these introductory technique lessons for both hands, with helpful exercises as well as essential advice on tuning and caring for your fiddle.
Care and Maintenance of Your Fiddle Learn key tips for taking good care of your fiddle and bow, such as loosening the bow before you put it away, cleaning your strings, how much rosin to use, and more.
Tuning the Fiddle Learn how to get in tune using an electronic tuner.
Bow Technique Bow technique is all about trying to get the tone you hear in your head into your fiddle. Chad demonstrates his approach to holding the bow, and how to find a good position that will work for you, with some simple exercises from Yehudi Menuhin’s book Violin and Viola. He also includes some call-and-response exercises that explore different bow tones.
Left-Hand Technique Learn how best to position your left-hand on the fiddle, the difference between playing with the tips of the fingers versus the pads, and how much pressure to use to get the best tone. Chad also delves into various pitch issues, such as the “ring” you get when you play certain notes perfectly in tune, landing notes firmly with your fingers and adjusting the pitch afterward by “rolling” your finger, and more.
Vibrato Learn some exercises for developing good vibrato technique, which should not be just a shake of your finger but very deliberate changes in pitch.
FIRST FIDDLE TUNES Learn a bunch of great fiddle tunes, from popular bluegrass and old-time favorites to lesser-known gems, with advice on how to make them sound “fiddly.”
Angeline the Baker “Angeline the Baker” is one of the most popular fiddle tunes at bluegrass and old-time jams throughout the world. After learning the melody you’ll learn to add the fiddle “layers” that really make you sound like a fiddler, including hammer-ons, up-sweeps, anticipation, and double-stringing.
June AppleLearn the popular old-time tune “June Apple” and how to play the A part with the “Nashville shuffle” bowing pattern and the B part with the “Georgia shuffle” bowing pattern.
Elk River Blues “Elk River Blues” is a simple, evocative old-time tune from West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter. It has “crooked” phrasing, in which some phrases have an extra measure of 2/4, and you’ll learn to add some nice hammer-on and drone notes to fill out the melody.
Old Joe Clark “Old Joe Clark” is one of the best-known American fiddle tunes. It’s in the key of A Mixolydian, which means that the seventh step of the A major scale (G#) is lowered to a G natural. In addition to learning a shuffle bow pattern you can use to play both parts of the basic mleody, as well as some double-stringing and slides, you’ll learn a more “notey” version of the melody with variations on each phrase.
Whiskey Before Breakfast Another need-to-know fiddle tune, “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is in the key of D and the B part includes some cool slides. You’ll also learn a few simple melodic variations.
Tennessee Waltz A beautiful and popular waltz, “Tennessee Waltz” is played all over North America. It’s in the key of D so you’ll learn a D scale and a D arpeggio and get advice on getting the D and A notes to ring in tune. You’ll also learn a few variations that include hammer-ons and slides.
St. Anne’s Reel “St. Anne’s Reel” is a Canadian fiddle tune that has become popular wherever fiddlers are gathered. You’ll learn the melody, of course, and also how the melody fits the chords. Then you’ll learn some simple chord double stops to play if you want to play along with another fiddler or another instrumentalist taking a solo.
Pretty Little Dog This pretty little A modal tune comes from West Virginia fiddler Lee Triplett and is now played by Celtic fiddlers, old-time fiddlers, and others. You’ll learn how to find the melody in the lower octave and how to add the fiddle “layers” like double stringing, slides, and hammer-ons.
Seneca Square Dance The old-time tune “Seneca Square Dance” comes from a 1920s recording of fiddler Sam Long. In addition to learning the melody, you’ll pay particular attention to the bowing, which combines long held notes with quick bow strokes.
SCALES AND CHORDS To learn to improvise on the fiddle, or accompany others with chords, it’s important to learn simple music theory on the fiddle.
Scales and Chords In this basic music theory lesson, you’ll learn how scales and chords are constructed so you can find them in any key. You’ll also learn some handy fingering patterns for scales and some chord “shapes” that will help you remember them.
Major Scales in Bluegrass Keys Learn some major scale exercises in all the bluegrass keys: A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F, and G. You’ll also learn a trick for remembering how many sharps are in the keys of G, D, A, and E, and how to create minor chords by lowering the third in a major chord by a half step.
BLUEGRASS SONGS AND TUNES Most fiddlers concentrate on learning fiddle tunes, but if you’ve been to any bluegrass jams, you know that they include lots of songs as well as mandolin and banjo tunes, so it’s good to know how to play solos (or breaks) on songs and other kinds of melodies.
Bury Me Beneath the Willow Put what you learned in the lessons on Scales and Chords to use in this lesson by adding double stops to the melody of the old-time and bluegrass favorite “Bury Me Beneath the Willow.”
Bluegrass Stomp The Bill Monroe instrumental “Bluegrass Stomp,” a swingy blues in the key of D, gives you the opportunity to work on some new bow techniques, in particular, learning to stop the bow, or “bow breaks.”
Kentucky Waltz Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz” is one of his most popular songs. Chad talks about how the notes of the melody relate to the chords that go with the tune and how some of the phrases outline the chords. You’ll also learn to add harmony notes to the melody of “Kentucky Waltz,” with advice on fingering double stops so you get two clear notes.
Your Love Is Like a Flower Chad shows you his approach to playing bluegrass solos using this standard song with a very common chord progression. You’ll learn the melody and chords in the key of E using standard “capo” positions, the major pentatonic scale, and other bluegrass fiddle techniques. You’ll also learn some exercises to help you learn to match the melody of “Your Love Is Like a Flower” with the chords, and how you can move the “capo” position to different keys, like B, Bb, etc. And you’ll get five play-along tracks so you can practice playing “Your Love Is Like a Flower” in the keys of E, A, G, D, and C.
Clinch Mountain Backstep The great singer and banjo player Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass banjo tune “Clinch Mountain Backstep” has become a bluegrass standard that players of every instrument should know. It’s in A Mixolydian and has an extra beat in the second half. You’ll learn how to anticipate or “jump” the beat as well as some bluesy slides and double stops.
Down the Road The Flatt and Scruggs song “Down the Road” is a bluegrass standard and has been recorded by many musicians, including the Bluegrass Album Band, whose fiddler Bobby Hicks inspired the first solo you’ll learn here. It’s a relatively simple tune, just eight bars long and with only two chords, but it’s in the key of B, so it’s a good song for practicing playing in B. Bobby Hicks’ solo includes some great pentatonic licks using the capo position. You’ll also learn a variation played by Stuart Duncan.
CHORD INTENSIVES In these in-depth lessons on chords, you’ll learn a couple of double stops on each string for major chords in the the keys of D, G, and C, some exercises to help you practice them, and some ways to work on transitioning between the chords.
IMPROVISATION AND SWING In these lessons, Chad talks about his philosophy of improvising with lots of concrete examples and exercises for coming up with variations on the melody, improvising on the chords, etc.
Improvising on “June Apple” To improvise on a fiddle tune like “June Apple,” the first step is to learn the chords. Chad shows you the chord progression as well as a nice backup rhythm. Then he talks about his philosophy of improvising and shows you how he distills a tune down to its most basic elements, so that you can start playing around with the rhythm, varying the melody, etc.
Improvising on a Blues Learn how to improvise on a blues tune like “Bluegrass Stomp.” You’ll learn the D major pentatonic scale and how you can flat the third of that scale to play over the G (IV) chord, as well as a simple chord position to play on the A (V) chord and ideas about using seventh chords and singing along with your playing.
Improvising in B Modal Learn a great way to improvise or play solos on bluesy bluegrass songs in the key of B. Chad starts by showing you the B minor pentatonic scale, which has the same notes as the D major pentatonic scale, and then shows you how, by just changing the D natural note to D#, you get a great blues scale in the key of B major.
Summertime Learn the melody to the swing tune “Summertime” in the key of E minor and work on learning to improvise on the melody. Chad gives you an example of how to improvise on the melody without thinking about the chord changes, and then how to improvise just using the E minor pentatonic scale. You’ll also learn how to practice improvising with the app/software program iRealPro.
MORE FIDDLE TUNES
Blackberry Blossom Learn the old-time and bluegrass fiddle standard “Blackberry Blossom,” along with the bowing pattern Chad plays, which is primarily the “Nashville shuffle,” with a couple variations. You’ll also learn a short bluesy variation on the B part.
Red-Haired Boy The jam-session favorite “Red-Haired Boy” is in the key of A Mixolydian. You’ll learn Chad’s bowing along with the melody as well as a more “notey” version of “Red-Haired Boy” and how to combine the two versions.
Ookpik Waltz The beautiful “Ookpik Waltz” has become popular in old-time and bluegrass circles. It sounds traditional, but was written by Canadian fiddler Frankie Rodgers. In addition to learning the melody to “Ookpik Waltz,” you’ll learn a great warm-up exercise with open strings, designed to help you get even, consistent tone with your bowing arm.
Soldier’s Joy “Soldier’s Joy” is a must-know fiddle classic. It has a fairly simple basic melody that everyone elaborates on in their own way. You’ll learn the most basic melody as well as a few variations. Chad also gives you some bowing tips and advice on string crossings and getting a solid tone on each note.
Star of the County Down In this lesson, you’ll learn something a little different: the beautiful Irish waltz “Star of the County Down.” It’s not only a fun tune to play but, since it has a fairly simple melody, is a good chance to work on your tone and intonation. You’ll learn the melody, a few variations and embellishments, and how to play the melody in the lower octave.
Lost Girl The old-time tune “Lost Girl” is in the key of G and comes from Kentucky old-time fiddler John Salyer. Chad talks about how he firms up the wrist of his bowing arm a bit to better fit the rhythm and feel of the tune. You’ll also learn double stops to play on each part of “Lost Girl,” mostly by droning the string that’s lower than the string the melody is played on.
Fisher’s Hornpipe The traditional fiddle tune “Fisher’s Hornpipe” probably has Celtic origins but it’s played in old-time and bluegrass circles throughout the US. You’ll learn the bowing Chad uses, including a number of three-note slurs in the B part, and a couple of cool slides.
Midnight on the Water The beautiful waltz “Midnight on the Water” was written by Luke Thomasson, father of Benny Thomasson, one of the major innovators of Texas-style fiddling. “Midnight on the Water” is played in a cross-tuning, with the G and E strings tuned down to D: DDAD. Chad shows you how to tune to DDAD, how to add a steady pulse with the bow to the melody of the A part, which drone strings and double stops to play, and a few variations on the melody of the A part.
Salt Creek The melody of the B part of the jam favorite “Salt Creek” moves up into third position. After learning the melody to the A part, including Chad’s bowing and a few variations, like some bluesy slides and unison drones, you’ll learn how to move into third position on the E string, with an exercise to help you practice the shift.
San Antonio Rose Bob Wills’ western swing classic “San Antonio Rose” is a great tune to work on playing double stops in third position. Of course, it’s also a great tune to play without venturing up the fingerboard, so you’ll start by learning the melody in first position without double stops.
“San Antonio Rose” Arpeggios To learn to improvise on a melody it’s good to know the arpeggios of the chords that are used to backup a tune. In this lesson, you’ll learn arpeggios for each of the chords to “San Antonio Rose.” Chad shows you the root, third, and fifth of each arpeggio, making sure you know the names of each of the notes in the chords, and gives you a number of exercises that combine the arpeggios in different ways over the chord changes of “San Antonio Rose.” He also shows you how to use simple arpeggio-based lines to create a simple solo.
Cluck Old Hen The fiddle tune “Cluck Old Hen” is an old-time classic. It uses the A minor pentatonic scale, so Chad starts by making sure you know that scale, and then breaks down the melody of “Cluck Old Hen” phrase by phrase. After you’ve learned the melody, Chad shows you some layers to add, including hammer-ons, double stringing, double stops, and a bow sweep. He also gives you advice on giving a nice attack with your bow to the hammer-on and shows you how to anticipate the beginnings of phrases.
MORE TECHNIQUE In the midst of learning tunes, it’s always good to review your technique and make sure you're addressing any technical deficiencies you may have. In these lessons, Chad answers some student questions about technique and gives advice about various issues that may come up.
Bow Technique: Using Your Thumb Chad begins by reviewing the proper fiddler’s bow hold and introduces a new exercise that involves moving the thumb and hand in almost a jellyfish-like motion.
Bow Direction and String Crossings Chad uses the tune “Ookpik Waltz” to show how the bow direction at the beginning of each measure is usually a down bow, how to make the downbeats target notes for your bowing, and how to adjust your bowing to play down bows on all the downbeats. He also gives advice on string crossings: how to think about bowing from the inside of the strings instead of the outside and keeping your eye on your bow.
Bow Tilt, Patterns, and More Chad demonstrates how he turns the bow to keep his wrist loose and talks about using a slur to return to a down bow. He also gives advice about staying in position with the left hand and reaching with your fingers to get notes rather than moving out of position.
Practice Techniques In this lesson, Chad gives you advice about practicing and improvising. The first thing he talks about is the importance of practicing with a beat or groove in mind, tapping your foot or using a metronome, or finding some way to establish a tempo whenever you practice. Chad also talks about hearing what’s coming next, hearing a little ahead of where you are, whether you’re improvising or playing a melody.
THE PHYSICS AND PHYSIOLOGY OF FIDDLING In this lesson on bow technique, Chad shows you that fiddling is a very natural thing for the human body to do, and that the motion of the arms, in concert with the bow and violin, is designed to match what the body naturally wants to do. He talks about the physics of fiddling—the balance and momentum of the bow—and shows you that by following the natural physiology of the human body and the path of least resistance in arm movement, you can make your bow motion smooth and natural.
FEELING THE PHYSICS OF FIDDLING Chad continues his lessons on the physics and physiology of fiddling with more bow work, giving you a series of awareness exercises that will help you connect more deeply with the balance, momentum, and weight of your bow and the tension of the strings. In addition to helping you feel the physics of fiddling, these exercises are also great warm-up exercises. He also gives you a series of expressive bow exercises that will help you apply the awareness exercises to actual musical phrases.
EVEN MORE FIDDLE TUNES
The Cuckoo’s Nest The Irish tune “The Cuckoo’s Nest” has become a jam session favorite and has been recorded by numerous people, including Nickel Creek. Chad starts by showing you the chords to “The Cuckoo’s Nest” and then walks you through his version of the tune, including a couple of variations
The Butterfly “The Butterfly” is an Irish slip jig, which means it’s in 9/8. It has an unusual melody that was written by Irish fiddler Tommie Potts, who meant it to mimic a butterfly that he was watching in his garden. It’s in the key of E minor and has three parts. Chad walks you through each part slowly, showing you the bowing as he goes. He also shows you some ornaments you can use once you have the basic melody down.
East Tennessee Blues A fun and popular old-time tune played in the key of C, “East Tennessee Blues” has a bit of a ragtime flavor. You’ll learn to play it by alternating single bow strokes with the Georgia shuffle bowing pattern. The B part of “East Tennessee Blues” has a lot of held notes that begin with slides, and you’ll learn how to attack the beginning of the slides to really give them a bluesy feel.
Farewell Trion The old-time fiddle tune “Farewell Trion” is in the key of C and has three parts, the second of which has an extra half measure. The tune has become popular in old-time music circles lately, and Chad learned it from the fiddling of James Bryan. You’ll learn the melody and bowing and get advice on using short bow strokes on some of the quick single-bow notes.
Swannanoa Waltz Rayna Gellert’s “Swannanoa Waltz” has a beautiful and simple melody. In this lesson, you’ll learn to add layers like double-stringing, hammer-ons, and pulses to the “Swannanoa Waltz” to give it a nice waltz rhythm. Chad also talks about getting an old-time tone by adding a little pressure to your bow and slowing it down a bit. He also shows you how you can play the tune in ADAE tuning, and how to adjust your fingering on the lowest string when you do.
Red Wing “Red Wing” is a fiddle standard that all fiddlers should know. It’s commonly played in the key of G, which is the key you’ll learn it in this lesson. Chad walks you through the melody of each part phrase by phrase, showing you his bowing as he goes. You’ll also learn some double stops you can add to the basic melody as well as a couple of swing-style variations to the A part that use augmented and diminished chord arpeggios.
Squirrel Hunters The old-time fiddle tune “Squirrel Hunters” was introduced to the bluegrass world by John Hartford and has become popular at jam sessions. It’s in the key of A Mixolydian and has an unusual chord progression, with each part ending on a D (IV) chord. Chad walks you through the melody of both parts of “Squirrel Hunters” showing you some drones and slides you can add to the basic melody. He also shows you some different ways to improvise on “Squirrel Hunters,” including varying the bow patterns and using target notes in the melody.
Hawks and Eagles The old-time fiddle tune “Hawks and Eagles” is a one-part square dance tune in the key of D that has some interesting syncopation and bowing. Chad shows you the syncopated phrase at the heart of the tune it before he walks you the melody and bowing, which includes some cool “pulses” and double stringing. He also shows you the melody in the lower octave.
Kentucky Mandolin This Bill Monroe instrumental is in the key of G minor, which means you’ll mostly use the Bb major scale to play it. Chad shows you the Bb scale without the sixth step of the scale (Eb), since the melody doesn’t use an Eb or E. Then he walks you through the melody, phrase by phrase, showing you his bowing as he goes.
Milk Cow Blues A medium tempo western swing blues in the key of A, “Milk Cow Blues” mostly uses the A major pentatonic scale, along with some blue notes and a couple of cool triplet licks. Chad walks you through the melody, showing you how he articulates the bluesy slides and bows it with a swing phrasing. You’ll also learn a couple simple variations, using unison drones and double stops.
The Old North Woods Sam Bush’s beautiful waltz “The Old North Woods” is in the key of G minor, and mostly uses the G natural minor scale. Chad starts by reviewing the G natural minor scale in two octaves and playing the whole tune through. Then he walks you through the melody of both parts of “The Old North Woods.”
Josie-O Chad learned the old-time tune “Josie-O” (also called “Josie Girl”) from the fiddling of the great bluegrass and old-time fiddler Art Stamper. It’s a three-part tune in the key of G, and the third part goes to E minor. Chad walks you through the melody, phrase by phrase, showing you his bowing and how to add double-stringing below the melody. The second part has some long stretches up to the B note on the high E string, so Chad gives you advice on making the stretch.
Quail Is a Pretty Bird The fiddle tune “Quail Is a Pretty Bird” comes from Missouri old-time fiddler Gene Goforth, by way of John Hartford (the melody is also very similar to Edden Hammons’ “Sandy Boys”). It’s in the key of A, with two parts, and the scale uses a couple different versions of the seventh, sometimes the G# and sometimes a note in between G# and G.
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss The old-time fiddle tune “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” is a popular square dance tune in the key of D. It includes some typical old-time anticipations and bow pulses (or pushes). Chad walks you through the tune, phrase by phrase, showing you his bowing and some of the ways he accents the melody and attacks notes in different ways.
MORE BLUEGRASS SONGS AND TECHNIQUES
True Life Blues Bill Monroe’s classic bluegrass song “True Life Blues” does not follow the classic 12-bar blues form, but rather, the chords are the same as the common “bluegrass chord progression #1.” The fiddle solo you’ll learn, played by Chubby Wise on Monroe’s original 1945 recording, includes some great bluesy licks in the key of A that you’ll be able to use in lots of songs. You’ll also learn a variation on the solo that Chubby plays at the end of the recording.
Bluegrass Fiddle Backup In this lesson, Chad talks about playing backup fiddle on bluegrass songs and building your vocabulary of backup licks. You’ll learn some great backup fiddle licks in the style of Bobby Hicks using the Bluegrass Album Band’s recording of “Letter from My Darling” in the key of G. Chad shows you a series of classic licks, giving you advice on using dynamics and fading out the last note of your lick as the vocal comes back in.
Letter from My Darling In this lesson, you’ll learn a solo to the bluegrass classic “Letter from My Darling” based on the solo fiddler Bobby Hicks played on the Bluegrass Album Band’s recording. Chad walks you through the solo phrase by phrase, giving you advice on bowing and phrasing as he goes. He also shows you a version of the solo with some drones and double stops.
Backup Fiddle in Bb Chad uses Tim O’Brien’s recording of Hazel Dickens’ song “A Few Old Memories” to show you some ways to play backup on a slow song in Bb, using capo positions and simple melodies that outline the chords of the song. He starts by showing you a pentatonic scale in capo position that you can use to play backup lines on the Bb, Eb, and F chords, and then gives you examples of the kinds of lines he would play in those positions. He also shows you how to embellish simple melodies with slides, hammer-ons, etc., and how to listen to the singer and play backup between their vocal phrases.
Blue Ridge Cabin Home The bluegrass standard “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” comes from Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and has become a jam session favorite. In this lesson you’ll learn a fiddle solo to “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” in the key of A that is based on the solo that Bobby Hicks played on the Bluegrass Album Band recording of the song.
The Chop In this lesson, Chad shows you how to play the primary accompaniment technique used in bluegrass fiddling: the chop. You’ll learn the simple version, played on the backbeat, that is essential to know for playing in a bluegrass band, as well as a more complicated version, developed by Darol Anger and other contemporary fiddlers.
Someone Took My Place with You The fiddle solo, played by the great Benny Martin, on Flatt and Scruggs’ recording of “Someone Took My Place with You” is a classic, with some cool double stops, slides, and must-know bluegrass fiddle licks in the key of A. Chad walks you through the solo, phrase by phrase, first without double stops and then with them.
Faded Love Bob Wills’s “Faded Love” is a Western Swing fiddle classic, a great tune that is often played in harmony with one or more other fiddlers. Chad starts by showing the basic melody before showing you some of the fourth finger unison drones that give the tune its distinctive sound.