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Intermediate Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddle
with Chad Manning
 
 
About This Course
 
Learn classic bluegrass and old-time tunes and improve your playing with fiddle techniques like unison drones, slides, pulses, and more advanced bowing patterns, as well as advice on improvising and soloing on bluegrass songs.
 
 
Try a Sample Lesson
 
The second part of “Salt Creek” moves up into third position on the E string, so Chad starts by giving you advice on shifting into third position, with an exercise to help you practice the shift. Then he walks you through the A part, finishing by giving you an example of how he makes up variations and improvises on the second part of “Salt Creek.”
 
 
 
Meet the Instructor
Chad Manning
 
 
Chad Manning is a Bay Area bluegrass, old-time, and swing fiddler who 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.
 
 
 
Peghead Play-Along Tracks
 
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.
 
 
The Intermediate Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddle Subscription Includes:
  • 48 in-depth fiddle video lessons
  • Detailed notation for every lesson
  • Extensive technique and theory lessons for both hands
  • More than 36 complete songs and tunes
  • High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action.
  • Play-Along Tracks for most tunes so you can practice what you’ve learned
 
 
$20/Month For One Course
 
Additional courses only $10/month each!   •   Save 20% with an annual subscription
 
 
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Use promo code ChadLand at checkout
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Intermediate Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddle Course Outline
 
BLUEGRASS AND OLD-TIME 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.

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

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.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

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. Then, when learning the double stop version, you’ll get some great advice on sliding the double stops from first to third position.

 

“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.

 

 
TECHNIQUE Review
 

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 reviews 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
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.
 

Arm Extension

Chad gives you advice on holding the fiddle and extending your bowing arm in this technique lesson. He starts by demonstrating that if you hold the fiddle parallel to the ground, the bow can rest on the strings. Then he breaks down some bow mechanics, showing you that, when bowing to the tip of the bow, if you extend your arm from the elbow, your bow will stay parallel to the bridge as it moves across the strings. He also shows you how to bring your bowing arm in when you're bowing to the frog.

 

 
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.
 
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.

 

Nine Pound Hammer

In this lesson, you’ll learn a solo to the bluegrass standard “Nine Pound Hammer” in the key of A. Chad starts by showing you the basic melody and then how to add variations, including unison drones, blue notes, and an ending lick, to create a bluegrass fiddle solo.

 

Bluesy Bluegrass Vocabulary in G
Chad shows you some typical bluesy bluegrass fiddle vocabulary in the key of G that you can use in solos and in your backup. Starting with a pentatonic scale “G run” and a couple of bluesy sliding licks, he shows you how to build on simple licks to create longer phrases. Then he demonstrates how he uses those licks to play backup by playing along to a recording of Ricky Skaggs singing the bluegrass standard “Another Night.”
 

Don’t Give Your Heart to a Rambler

Fiddler Richard Greene’s solo on Tony Rice’s recording of the bluegrass song “Don’t Give Your Heart to a Rambler,” is a classic. The recording is in the key of Bb but in this lesson, you’ll learn a solo in the key of A based on Richard Greene’s solo, which uses the pentatonic scale along with some bluesy thirds and sevenths.

 

Dark Hollow

The song “Dark Hollow” is a bluegrass standard that is often played in the key of C.  In this lesson, you’ll learn a solo based on the melody that includes double stops and bluesy slides. As “Dark Hollow” is a standard, it’s been sung by many people, of course, but Chad recommends listening to Larry Sparks sing it. Chad starts by showing you the basic melody and words and then shows you how you can turn the melody into a solo with the addition of double stops.

 

 
More Fiddle Tunes
 
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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Sail Away Ladies

There are a lot of versions of the old-time fiddle tune “Sail Away Ladies,” but the one recorded by Uncle Bunt Stephens in the 1920s is a great way to learn some Southern-style old-time bowing. It’s a simple melody, but the bowing and rhythm of the phrases can be tricky.

 

The High Road

The fiddle tune “The High Road” was written by fiddler/mandolinist/singer/songwriter Tim O’Brien many years ago, and has become a bit of a bluegrass standard. It combines sounds from a lot of styles: old-time, bluegrass, Celtic, blues, and even Klezmer. It’s in the key of E minor and the second part has a couple of unusual chords and note choices.

 

Tennessee Mountain Fox Chase

“Tennessee Mountain Fox Chase” is a three-part “crooked” old-time tune in the key of C. “Crooked” means that the parts aren’t an even eight-bars long. In this case, the first and second parts each have an extra half measure. The third part has some typical old-time bowing patterns with more slurs and bow sweeps.

 

Margaret’s Musical Mecca

You’ll learn one of Chad’s original tunes, “Margaret’s Musical Mecca,” in this lesson. It’s a fun tune in the key of A, with some old-time bowing and drones.

 

Rabbit Hash

Chad learned the six-part old-time tune “Rabbit Hash” from the fiddling of Tricia Spencer and Howard Rains, who recorded it on their album The Old Texas Fiddle, Vol. II They recorded it in the cross tuning of GDGD, but you’ll learn it here in standard tuning in the key of A.

 

“Rabbit Hash” Harmony

In this lesson, you’ll learn a harmony part for the fiddle tune “Rabbit Hash,” which you learned in a previous lesson and which comes from the fiddling of Tricia Spencer and Howard Rains.

 

Dance All Night

Chad’s version of the old-time fiddle standard “Dance All Night” comes from John Lusk, who was the fiddler with the African American string band Gribble, Lusk, and York. The trio were recorded in the 1940s for the Library of Congress, and “Dance All Night” is from their first 1946 recording.

 

Green Valley Waltz

Chad learned the old-time fiddle waltz “Green Valley Waltz” (also called “Green Valley Trot”) from the playing of bluegrass fiddle legend Chubby Wise. It’s in the key of G, using mostly the G major pentatonic scale, with some bluesy thirds. Chad walks you through the each part of “Green Valley Waltz” in this video, showing you the bowing and bluesy phrasing, and giving you advice on bowing and attack.

 

“Green Valley Waltz” Harmony

Chad shows you a harmony part to the “Green Valley Waltz.” Like a lot of bluegrass harmony parts it doesn’t harmonize each note of the melody, but mirrors it with bluesy licks and double stops.

 

Over the Waterfall

The old-time fiddle tune “Over the Waterfall” comes from West Virginia fiddler Henry Reed, who was recorded by fiddler Alan Jabbour, whose band the Hollow Rock String Band recorded many of Reed’s tunes in the 1970s. It’s in the key of D and has the standard AABB form.

 

 
 
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