Check out these songs featured in the Old-Time Fiddle course.
The old-time tune “Jenny Baker” is known in Ireland as a hornpipe called “The Boys of Blue Hill” and also as “Twin Sisters” by the great West Virginia fiddler Melvin Wine. This version is more of a square dance tune and was recorded in the 1930s by Kentucky fiddler Andy Palmer with the Jimmy Johnson String Band. Bruce talks about how, when learning fiddle tunes, it’s important to think of melodies the same way you think of spoken language.You’ll learn the melody to “Jenny Baker” as well as the bowing, which is based on a common pattern called shuffle bowing. Once you’ve learned the melody and basic bowing pattern, you’ll learn how to add embellishments—bowing variations, accented bow strokes, drone strings—that give the tune a syncopated pulse.
The version of this great old tune you’ll learn comes from West Virginia fiddler Edden Hammons. It uses an A Mixolydian scale and is played with the low G string tuned up to A. The bowing of the A part of “Fine Times at Our House” is not so much pattern-oriented as it is designed to put the accents in the right places. The B part can be played either with a straight shuffle bowing or the more-syncopated bowing that Bruce shows you. You’ll also learn where to add drones and double stops.
“The Blue Goose” comes from Kentucky fiddler Buddy Thomas. It’s in the key of G and is played in standard tuning. The melody includes some nice trills, slides, and blue notes and it has a very specific bowing. You’ll also learn where to use open-string drones and doubles stops.
“Soldier’s Joy” is one of the most popular in the fiddle tune repertoire. The version you’ll learn here comes from the great Tommy Jarrell from the Round Peak region of North Carolina. Tommy was one of Bruce’s heroes when he was starting out and has been a mentor to many a young old-time fiddle enthusiast. His playing has a unique swingy syncopated feel, with some characteristic rhythmic bowing patterns that Bruce shows you here. “Soldier’s Joy” is in the key of D, and is played in “high bass” tuning: A D A E. After learning the melody you’ll learn a couple bowing exercises so you can get comfortable with Tommy’s bowing patterns. You’ll also learn how to add a figure-eight motion to your bow arm, which gives an additional syncopated accent to the bowing.
The great old-time fiddler Lowe Stokes recorded “Katy Did” in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929. “Katy Did” is played in standard tuning in the key of C and has some nice bluesy, ragtime elements. The bowing to “Katy Did” alternates between shuffle bowing and single “saw” strokes, of which Lowe was a master.
“Georgia Horseshoe” comes from Bill Hensley, of western North Carolina. It’s a four-part dance tune in A tuning: AEAE.The bowing to the A part has a nice syncopated “hemiola” rhythm. Bruce gives you advice on using drone strings to get the whole fiddle to ring as well as how to add accents to give the bowing a more syncopated feel.
This version of the well-known old-time fiddle tune “Cumberland Gap” comes from the great North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell. It’s in an unusual tuning: ADAD, which gives your fiddle a unique resonance.You’ll learn Tommy’s bowing, along with advice on adding a circular motion to your bow arm and how to fit it into the bowing pattern, with a counterclockwise motion for the first part of the pattern and a clockwise motion for the second half.
The great dance tune “Citaco” comes from Georgia and was recorded in the 1920s by one of the most famous fiddlers of that era, Lowe Stokes. “Citaco” is in GDAD tuning, which just involves lowering the E string to D. The bowing has a nice syncopated feel, and you’ll learn a couple of bowing variations as well as drones for both parts.
“Blue Tail Fly” was recorded in the 1920s in a skit by Seven-Foot Dilly and His Dill Pickles. It’s in the key of G in standard tuning. You’ll learn the bowing and what drones and double stops work well, as well as how to punctuate the rhythm by accenting some of the drones.
Bruce teaches you one of his specialties: singing and playing the fiddle at the same time. Specifically, playing harmony parts with the fiddle. You’ll learn the traditional song “Green Grows the Laurel,” but first Bruce gives you a couple of exercises to get started thinking about singing with the fiddle. After learning the melody, you’ll learn how to play chords behind the melody, and a simple parallel harmony below the melody.
The dance tune “Jenny on the Railroad” was recorded by the Carter Brothers and Son in 1928. It uses an A Mixolydian scale and has several parts that share melodic phrases. A good approach to bowing “Jenny on the Railroad” is to think about the sense of “gallop” in the rhythm. You can achieve that by using straight shuffles and using a few early bow strokes to give it some excitement.
A popular tune in the old-time repertoire, “Shove the Pig’s Foot” comes from Marcus Martin from western North Carolina, who recorded for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress in the 1940s and who recorded this with his son Wayne in the late 1950s. The bowing in “Shove the Pig’s Foot” isn’t as pattern oriented as some tunes. The bowing, instead, responds to the phrasing and rhythm of the melody, which can be likened to speech, with punctuation, breath, etc.
“Pickin’ the Devil’s Eye” comes from Mississippi fiddler Enos Canoy, who had a bluesy, syncopated style of fiddling. Bruce’s version has evolved since he first learned it and the tune has become a vehicle for different ways of creating rhythm on the fiddle. It’s also in an unusual tuning, AEAC#, sometimes called “Black Mountain Rag” tuning.You’ll learn the bowing as well as “pulses” that emphasize the second note played with one bow stroke.
West Virginia fiddler Edden Hammons was recorded in 1947 by a collector named Louis Chappell. Hammons’ playing has a Scottish influence, with strongly detailed phrases and an old-fashioned style of intonation. You’ll learn his version of “Greasy Coat” in AEAE tuning in this lesson.Bruce shows you how Hammons often played thirds and sevenths slightly flat, and trilled the third.
Tommy Jackson was a Nashville session fiddler in the 1950s. He also recorded a series of square dance records designed for people to dance to and wrote “Acorn Hill Breakdown.” Most of the tune is played with a shuffle bowing, with a few exceptions. Bruce points out the string crossings to watch for as well as some variations in the shuffle pattern.
One of the most popular fiddle tunes in the Round Peak area of North Carolina, “Backstep Cindy” is a three-part dance tune with crooked phrasing and interesting bowing, played in a high-bass tuning with the G string tuned up to A: ADAE. You’ll learn some ways to add double stops and chords with a circular bow movement as well as some rhythmic variations used by Tommy Jarrell and others.
This ragtimey tune in the key of C comes from Corbin, Kentucky, and the playing of Alex Hood and his Railroad Boys, who recorded it in 1930. The B part of “L&N Rag” has a repeated phrase with an extra beat. It can be played with a straight shuffle, but Bruce shows you some variations, which sound especially good at the beginnings and ends of phrases.
The song “Goodbye Old Paint,” is in the Alan Lomax cowboy song books and was recorded years ago by Harry McClintock, the version closest to the one Bruce teaches here. Bruce sings “Goodbye Old Paint” in the key of A and plays it on the fiddle in AEAE tuning. He starts with an exercise to help you get used to singing with your fiddle, first by singing an A major scale in unison with your fiddle and then in harmony with your fiddle.After learning the fiddle melody, you’ll learn to accompany your singing with some basic double stops for the chords of A, E, and D, as well as how to play the melody along with your voice, and even add some harmony notes on the fiddle.
This version of “Apple Blossom” was recorded by the John Lusk String Band for the archive of the Library of Congress in the 1940s. “Apple Blossom” is in the key of D, played with the G string tuned up to A, and it has a lot of similarities to “Sally Ann.” It’s a very rhythmic tune, so Bruce spends some extra time on the bowing in this lesson.
There are a number of versions of “Fort Smith.” The version you’ll learn here comes from Luke Highnight and His Ozark Strutters, who recorded “Fort Smith Breakdown” in the 1920s. It’s in the key of G in standard tuning. Most of it is played with a straight shuffle bowing, but in the first anticipated phrase of the A part, you stretch the bow strokes out to match the rhythm of the melody, and there are a few other variations to the shuffle pattern as well. Bruce also shows you how to play the A part in the higher octave and how to add punch to the rhythm with some open string hits.
Alan Lomax recorded a lot of great fiddlers on his 1937 trip to the South, including Eastern Kentucky fiddler Luther Strong, the source for this version of “Glory in the Meeting House.” It’s in the key of E minor, but in an unusual tuning: EDAE, with the lowest (G) string tuned down to E.The first part of “Glory in the Meeting House”has a nice syncopated bowing while the B part mostly uses straight shuffle bowing. Bruce shows you some variations, including how to put an emphasis on the downstrokes of the shuffle pattern.
The old-time favorite “Susananna Gal” is known by a few other names, including “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” and “Western Country.” The version Bruce teaches you here, in ADAE tuning, is from the Round Peak area of North Carolina, home to great fiddlers like Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, and others.
“New Money” comes from Kentucky fiddler Doc Roberts, who recorded it in the 1930s. It’s a lyrical tune in the key of C in standard tuning and has a bit of a ragtime flavor. The bowing for the A part mostly uses shuffle bowing, but with a couple variations for the syncopated “raggy” parts of the melody. The B part has a few more variations on the shuffle pattern, including a syncopated bowing Doc Roberts often used.
This great old tune is from Fiddlin’ Bob Larkin, who played with a band called the Melody Makers in the 1920s. It’s played in AEAE tuning and the bowing is mostly a shuffle pattern, with some variations to match the phrasing of the melody.
The version of “Blackberry Blossom” you’ll learn in this lesson is not the tune common in the bluegrass world and which comes from Arthur Smith. This tune is much older and is sometimes called “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom” to differentiate it from the bluegrass fiddle tune. There are a number of great recordings of this version of “Blackberry Blossom” by Ed Morrison, Snake Chapman, and Ed Haley.
The beautiful old love song “Old Virginia” is a great song to sing with the fiddle. You’ll learn a few different ways to accompany your singing in this lesson, starting by just doubling the melody on the fiddle. Once you’ve learned to play and sing the melody together, Bruce shows you some simple double stop chords and how to add them to the melody.
“Jeff Sturgeon” comes from John Morgan Salyer of Salyersville, Kentucky. It’s a “crooked” three-part tune in A E A E tuning, and uses the major and Mixolydian scales. In addition to the melody and a fairly straightforward bowing, you’ll learn some of Bruce’s favorite variations to “Jeff Sturgeon,” many of which involve taking straightforward rhythmic phrases and syncopating them, as well as adding open strings to get counter rhythms. You’ll also learn some cool double stops as well as a bow triplet and how to add a pulse to the bow pattern.
“Going to Town” comes from the great Arthur Smith, who was one of the innovators on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930s and very influential on old-time and bluegrass fiddlers and all who heard him. “Going to Town” is a happy, bright, uptempo tune in the key of G. The bowing starts with straight shuffle bowing, and then Bruce varies it with some longer bow strokes. You’ll also learn some things Bruce does to flesh out “Going to Town,” including double stops and syncopated rhythmic accents.
“Grigsby’s Hornpipe” comes from the Texas fiddler Eck Robertson. It’s in AEAC# tuning (also called “Black Mountain Rag” tuning or the Devil’s tuning) and has lots of parts, many of which are very similar. The bowing uses a lot of “pulses” and drones. You’ll also learn an alternate E part, one of Bruce’s variations with some cool syncopation.
Tommy Jarrell’s “Rockingham Cindy,” a distant cousin to the kids song “Get Along Home, Cindy,” is a great showcase for Tommy’s fiddle style. It’s a two-part tune in the key of D, played in “high-bass” with the G string tuned up to A: ADAE. You’ll learn the bowing Tommy Jarrell used on “Rockingham Cindy,” including how he “rocks” the bow on some phrases and uses a circular figure-eight motion on others. You’ll also learn a bowed triplet that Tommy Jarrell often used at the ends of phrases.
The lovely “Peeler’s Creek Waltz” comes from a fiddler named Oscar Wright, but Bruce learned it from the great Highwoods String Band, a popular old-time string band in the 1970s. “Peeler’s Creek Waltz” is in the key of G in standard tuning and is a great tune for dancing. You’ll also learn the bowing Bruce uses in “Peeler’s Creek Waltz” to give accents and a pulse to the tune and some drones, double stops, and ornaments you can add.
The Texas fiddle waltz “Midnight on the Water” has become popular with all sorts of roots musicians. The version you’ll learn here comes from Texas fiddle icon Benny Thomasson, whose father, Luke, wrote “Midnight on the Water.” It’s in an unusual tuning, DDAD, and, Bruce shows you how to use the open strings to create beautiful drones and double stops.
Midwest fiddler Dwight Lamb is the source for this great old tune. Lamb comes from the Missouri fiddling tradition, though he was born in Iowa, in 1934. “Casey’s Reel” is a straightforward tune in the key of D, played in standard tuning. It can be played with straight shuffle bowing, but there are some phrases that benefit from accents created by bowing tailored to each phrase. The contrast between those phrases and the phrases played with straight shuffle bowing is really nice.
The traditional favorite “Red Rocking Chair” has been recorded by many people and has some alternate titles (“Honey Babe,” “Ain’t Got no Honey Baby Now,” etc.). Bruce’s version, which you’ll learn here, is a combination of a fiddle version by Norman Edmonds and lyrics culled from different sources. You’ll learn to play the fiddle version and sing the song with your fiddle providing accompaniment in Bruce’s inimitable style.
This great old square dance tune comes from John Dykes, who recorded it with his group Dykes Magic City Trio in 1927. “Red Steer” is a three-part tune in GDGD tuning, which is similar to AEAE tuning, but down a step. Bruce shows you how to get into GDGD tuning by lowering the A and E strings down one whole step to G and D and then shows you the melody and bowing, which has a lot of pulses. The bowing to the B part is straight shuffle bowing and Bruce shows you how to emphasize the backbeat with shuffle bowing.
As one of the most popular of old-time fiddle tunes, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” has probably been played by every old-time fiddler, so there are lots of versions. The version you’ll learn here is Bruce’s own, developed from hearing many great versions over the years, including some by Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, and other Round Peak fiddlers. You’ll learn the basic tune in AEAE tuning as well as a characteristic syncopated Round Peak bowing pattern and a couple variations. Bruce also shows you how to “rock” the bow and add pulses to the basic pattern as well as how to play the melody with a straight shuffle pattern.
There are a lot of versions of “John Brown’s Dream,” and a few tunes, like “Little Rabbit,” that are very similar to it. Bruce’s version, in AEAE tuning, is a four-part tune largely influenced by Tommy Jarrell, with a lot of the rhythmic syncopation and bluesy pulse characteristic of the Round Peak fiddling tradition.
“Big Scioty” (also called “Big Sciota”) comes from West Virginia fiddler Burl Hammons, and it has evolved into a version that has made its way in the last few decades into the bluegrass and festival jam session worlds. Bruce breaks down the melody and bowing of each part, giving you advice about fingering and pointing out the rhythmic similarity of the phrases as he goes. Bruce also talks about different ways of fleshing out and making “Big Scioty” your own, including adding double stops to fit the chords that may be played by an accompanist. He finishes by playing a tune with a similar melody, John Salyer’s “Kentucky Winders.”
The dance tune “Chinquapin Hunting” comes from Virginia fiddler Norman Edmonds though it has evolved a bit from Norman’s version, as tunes often do. It’s a three-part tune in AEAE tuning. The A part is crooked, with an extra half measure, and all three parts are short. The melody of “Chinquapin Hunting” calls for a fairly syncopated bowing. Bruce shows you a syncopated pattern he uses for the A part and then shows you how it fits the melody. He also shows you how to drone the open A and E strings against the basic melody and how to play the melody on the bottom two strings.
The Southern mountain ballad “Pretty Saro” is well-known and probably originated as an English folk ballad. Bruce’s version, influenced by a recording of Gaither Carlton, has no consistent time signature, but rather a “broken” meter that follows the lyrics of the song. Bruce starts by teaching the fiddle melody and then shows you how the fiddle melody relates to the sung melody. You’ll also earn some different ways to add chords and double stops to the fiddle part you play behind your singing.
Robert Sykes is one of the lesser-known fiddlers from the Round Peak area of Virginia. He’s probably best known for a unique version of “Black-Eyed Suzie” as well as his tune “Robert’s Serenade,” which is in AEAE tuning and closely related to “Clinch Mountain Backstep.” It’s a crooked tune with a number of syncopated five-beat phrases, and Bruce starts by getting you to feel those phrases, before walking you through the melody. You’ll also learn a bowing exercise that will help give the bowing in “Robert’s Serenade” a nice pulse.
Kentucky fiddler William Hamilton Stepp was recorded in 1937 by Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress, and this great square dance tune “Stump-Tailed Dolly” (or just “Dolly”) was part of that recording session. Bruce’s bowing of “Stump-Tailed Dolly” is based around three patterns: the straight shuffle, a syncopated variation of the shuffle pattern, and single bow strokes. Bruce shows you how to play the tune with a straight shuffle and then how to vary it.
Bruce’s version of the square dance tune “Christmas Eve” is a combination of a couple of different recorded versions. It’s in the key of D and played in ADAE tuning. The bowing for “Christmas Eve” is pretty straightforward, combining shuffle bowing with a more regular quarter note bowing pattern. Bruce also shows you how to add a drone and double-stop accents to the second part.
“Martha Campbell” is a well-known dance tune in the key of D. Bruce’s version is taken in part from the great Kentucky fiddler Doc Roberts and it includes some of Doc’s signature rhythmic phrases. “Martha Campbell” is very notey but is glued together rhythmically by a very regular shuffle bowing. Bruce shows you how the melody fits with the shuffle bowing and how you can make shuffle bowing exercises out of the melodic phrases and give the shuffle pattern some syncopation by accenting the downstrokes.
The version of the great Kentucky fiddle tune “Flannery’s Dream” you’ll learn here comes from fiddler Santford Kelly, who was recorded by Peter Hoover in the 1970s. The second part of “Flannery’s Dream” is crooked, with an irregular number of beats, but Bruce suggests that you not try to learn it by counting beats but rather listening to the phrases of the melody. The A part can be playing with shuffle bowing, and Bruce also shows you an alternative syncopated variation on shuffle bowing, while the bowing of the B part is related to the phrasing of the crooked melody.
Missouri fiddler Art Galbraith had a very soft, sweet style of fiddling. “Waverley” comes from him. It’s in the key of G, played in standard tuning, and has a nice vocal quality. Bruce walks you through the melody of “Waverley” and then shows you the bowing, which has a lot of saw strokes. He ends by playing Art Galbraith’s version of “Flowers of Edinburgh.”
Kentucky fiddler Clyde Davenport’s tune “Five Miles from Town” is what’s known as a “crooked” tune, with an uneven number of measures and an unusual structure. It’s in the key of D in ADAE tuning. The A part has two identical phrases followed by a different phrase, while the B part has a couple of five-beat phrases followed by an ending that’s almost identical to the ending of the A part. The bowing on “Five Miles from Town” combines shuffle bowing with some single strokes and three-note slurs to fit the melody.
“Shaking Off the Acorns” (sometimes called “Shaking Down the Acorns”) comes from the great West Virginia fiddler Edden Hammons, who was recorded in 1947. “Shaking Off the Acorns” is in the key of A, but is in ADAE tuning, which is usually used for tunes in D. You’ll learn the melody and basic bowing for “Shaking Off the Acorns” as well as some different ways to embellish the bowing and punctuate the rhythm with double stops and drones.
This version of the classic old-time fiddle tune “Bonaparte’s Retreat” comes from Tommy Jarrell. It’s a two-part tune in DDAD tuning, with the highest and lowest strings tuned down to D and used primarily as drones. “Bonaparte’s Retreat” has a march feel, and the bowing matches the rhythm of the melody.
“Roscoe’s Waltz” is a beautiful waltz that comes from fiddler Roscoe Parrish, who was born in the late 1800s. Bruce walks you through the melody and bowing and and shows you some double stops and drones you can add to accent the chords as well as a bow trill, a common ornament in the Virginia/North Carolina region.
Lost Boy” comes from the great eastern Kentucky fiddler John Salyer. It’s a bit like the tune “Lost Girl” that has become popular in old-time circles. Salyer’s “Lost Boy” is in G, like “Lost Girl,” and has some similar melodic phrases, but it’s not “straight” like “Lost Girl,” it has an extra half measure in the A part, and some of Salyer’s distinctive phrasing. The bowing is based on a shuffle pattern with some modifications to fit the melodic phrasing.
The great Kentucky fiddler Ed Haley has his own version of the traditional “Lost Indian” played in AEAC# tuning, which some people call “Black Mountain Rag” tuning. Bruce explains the tuning and then shows you the melody, which has three parts. There are a lot of rhythmic possibilities in Ed Haley’s “Lost Indian.” It can be played in a straight shuffle bowing, but Bruce also shows you some more syncopated ways to bow “Lost Indian” and gives you ideas for punctuating “Lost Indian” with double stops. He also shows you a variation on the C part that uses some syncopated pulse bowing and different chords.
“Bunch of Keys” (also called “Old Bunch of Keys”) comes from North Carolina fiddle legend Tommy Jarrell. It’s in the key of A in a cross tuning that Tommy called “sawmill tuning”: AEAE. Before he shows you the melody, Bruce shows you one of Tommy’s distinctive syncopated bowing patterns, which you’ll use to play the A part. He also shows you how to add drones and double stops and put a pulse into Tommy’s bow pattern.
The source for the three-part D tune “Indian Ate the Woodchuck” is the great fiddler Ed Haley, who was from the eastern Kentucky/western West Virginia area, and whose playing was documented on home disc recordings made by his son in 1946 and 1947.
The first recorded version of the popular old-time song “Train on the Island” comes from J.P. Nestor and Norman Edmonds, and many people have put their own stamp on it since. Bruce talks about the evolution of the song and some of the people he’s been influenced by and then plays his fiddle-and-voice version, which is in GDGD tuning. As Bruce does with all his Singing and Fiddling lessons, he starts by giving you a scale exercise for learning to sing with the fiddle. After showing you the basic melody of “Train on the Island” (for fiddle and voice), Bruce shows you some simple double stops you can play along with your singing and demonstrates other chordal substitutions he uses.
“Julie Ann Johnson” comes from fiddler Emmett Lundy, who was recorded for the Library of Congress in the 1930s. Lundy was from the Galax, Virginia, area and his style, especially some of the things he does with the bow, harks back to Scottish fiddling.
“Pretty Little Shoes” is a straight-ahead square dance tune that comes from fiddler Ward Jarvis. It’s in AEAE tuning and is standard fiddle tune form, AABB, with two regular-length parts. In addition to the melody, Bruce shows you the bowing he uses to play “Pretty Little Shoes,” which is more lyrical than on some tunes, starting with a long down bow and following the contours of the melody rather than sticking to a specific pattern.
The crooked G tune “Muddy Creek” comes from Eastern Kentucky fiddler John Salyer. It’s a lyrical tune with odd phrase lengths that don’t repeat in the regular way that square dance tunes do. Bruce walks you through the melody phrase by phrase, showing you how to hear the individual phrases. You’ll also learn Bruce’s bowing and some of the things he does to punctuate the unusual melody.
The fiddle tune “Sandy Boys” comes from the great West Virginia fiddler Edden Hammons, who was born in 1875 and recorded in 1947 for the archives of West Virginia State University. “Sandy Boys” is played by most people these days much differently than the way Hammons played it, but in this lesson, Bruce gets deep into the way that Hammons originally played “Sandy Boys.”
“Kennedy Rag” is in the key of F and was recorded in the 1920s by the Stripling Brothers, Charlie and Ira, who were from Alabama. Much of their music has a ragtime influence and reflects the popular music of the time, and “Kennedy Rag” is no exception, with syncopated phrases and a song-like melody in the B part.
“Streak o’ Lean, Streak o’ Fat” was recorded in the late 1920s by Seven-Foot Dilly and His Dill Pickles, led by guitarist John Dilleshaw. The fiddler in the band when the recording of “Streak o’ Lean, Streak o’ Fat” was made was most likely Harry Kiker. “Streak o’ Lean, Streak o’ Fat” is similar to a tune by Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers called “Hell Broke Loose in Georgia,” but “Streak o’ Lean” has some extra parts, four in all.
Learn to sing and play Bruce’s arrangement of the Stephen Foster song “Hard Times Come Again No More.” Bruce starts by singing and playing the entire song through in the key of D, and then talks about and demonstrates the three different ways of accompanying a song with the fiddle: unison melody, chords, and harmony.
The old-time fiddle tune “Laughing Boy” comes from Texas and is in AEAC#, which some people call “Black Mountain Rag” tuning. It also has some pizzicato (plucking) in the B part, with the bow droning the lower two strings and your fingers plucking the upper two strings.
“Wild Hog in the Woods” was recorded by Lonesome Luke and His Farm Boys in 1931 in Kentucky. It’s a straightforward square dance tune in the key of F, so it’s a good tune for practicing playing in the key of F.
“Broken Down Gambler” comes from the rollicking 1920s Georgia string band Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers. It’s a straight-ahead dance tune in the key of G, in standard tuning. You can play most of the first part with a straight shuffle, while the bowing of the second part matches the phrasing of the melody.
“Cranberry Rock” comes from West Virginia fiddler Burl Hammons. It’s in the key of C and has some phrases familiar from other C tunes. Bruce’s bowing on “Cranberry Rock” combines shuffle bowing with bowing that matches some of the phrases of the tune.
Bruce’s version of “Last of Callahan,” a three-part tune played in AEAE tuning, mostly comes from Kentucky fiddler William Hamilton (Bill) Stepp, who was recorded by the Lomaxes in 1937. In addition to the melody, Bruce shows you the bowing he uses on each part of “Last of Callahan”: a syncopated Round Peak–style pattern on the A part and a shuffle with syncopated accents and minor variations for the B and C parts.
“The Devil’s Nine Questions” is an old English folk ballad that was recorded by Texas Gladden, a great singer who was recorded by the Library of Congress in 1942. For this song, Bruce tunes the fiddle down a whole step to FCGD, but fingers it as if he’s in the key of G. Bruce starts with an exercise to get your voice and fiddle working together. Then he shows you how to sync up your bowing of the melody with your voice, and how to create an arrangement by adding chords and harmony notes.
In this recording of his Facebook Live workshop, Bruce answers student questions, plays some great tunes (including “Walter Hooker’s Tune”, “Piney Woods,” “Drunkard’s Hiccups,” “Smith’s Reel,” “Cherokee Shuffle,” “Rockingham Cindy,” and “Pick in the Devil’s Eye”), demonstrates some common old-time bow patterns, and talks about how he learns fiddle tunes, the fiddles he plays, the strings he uses, and more.
“Robinson County” is a great old-time dance tune that was recorded in the 1920s by Sharp, Hinman, and Sharp. Bruce walks you through the melody of each part and shows you his bowing, which combines shuffle bowing with some three-note slurs and a few other variations that match the melody.
The dance tune “Old Dad” was originally an Irish tune called “Pigtown Fling,” but in the US it goes by many names, including “Old Dad,” “Wild Horse at Stony Point,” “Buck Creek Girls,” and more. It’s a two-part tune in the key of G, and Bruce’s version owes a lot to the way fiddler John Rector played it. In addition to the basic melody, Bruce also shows you a variation on the A part that John Rector played.
Alan and Elizabeth Lomax recorded Kentucky fiddler William Stepp playing “Ways of the World” for the Library of Congress in 1937. It’s a three-part tune played in AEAE tuning, and the B part is crooked, with an extra bar of 2/4 in the middle. Bruce walks you through the melody and his bowing, and also talks about William Stepp’s ornamentation and intonation.
The song “The Blackest Crow” has a number of different titles, including “As Time Draws Near” and “The Lover’s Lament.” It was first published in 1906 with lyrics supposedly taken from a Civil War diary. Bruce’s version, in GDGD tuning, is influenced by the singing and playing of Tommy Jarrell. In addition to showing you the basic melody of “The Blackest Crow,” vocally and on the fiddle, Bruce shows you some double stop chords (and variations) you can use to accompany the song and how to combine melody and harmony on the fiddle in your accompaniment.
There are a number of different versions of the old-time fiddle classic “Dusty Miller,” but this one comes from the pioneering Texas fiddler Eck Robertson. It’s in the key of A, played in standard tuning and has two parts. Bruce walks you through the melody of both parts of “Dusty Miller” and shows you his bowing, which combines shuffle bowing with some three-note slurs, saw strokes, and pulses that fit the melodic rhythm.
There are a couple of sources for the fiddle tune “Booth” (also called “Booth Shot Lincoln”), but the one you’ll learn here comes from western North Carolina fiddler Marcus Martin. These days “Booth” is usually played in AEAE tuning, but Bruce shows you the way Martin played it: in GDGD tuning.
Bruce’s version of the song “Lazy John” has evolved from a western swing recording by Johnny Lee Wills (brother of Bob Wills) in 1947 through Kentucky fiddler Clyde Davenport into Bruce’s hands. Bruce plays and sings “Lazy John” in the key of G, in standard tuning, and the song has two parts, verse and chorus.
“Half Past Four” comes from the great fiddler Ed Haley, who wrote the tune to commemorate the passing of his newborn son at 4:30 in the morning. It’s unclear from listening to Haley’s recording of “Half Past Four” whether he played it in standard tuning or AEAE but Bruce plays it in AEAE. “Half Past Four” is a standard 32-bar AABB fiddle, but the A part of “Half Past Four” has almost no repetition while the B part repeats the first syncopated phrase three times.
“Happy Hollow” comes from the great western North Carolina fiddler Marcus Martin. It’s a two-part tune in the key of A, played in AEAC# tuning, which has a few different names: “Black Mountain Rag” tuning, calico tuning, etc.
“Flying Indian” comes from the fiddling of Jesse Shelor, who was recorded by Victor Records in the historic 1927 Bristol Sessions in Bristol, Virginia, with the Shelor Family and Dad Blackard’s Moonshiners. This tune comes from some 1970s recordings made by his family at his home in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. It’s a straightforward, lyrical dance tune in the key of G.
“Duck Creek” comes from Texas fiddler Peter Tomlinson (P.T.) Bell, who was recorded in 1941 at the age of 74. “Duck Creek” is a bright, happy square dance tune in the key of A, played in AEAE tuning.
“Bull at the Wagon” comes from the Lewis Brothers of San Antonio, Texas, who were recorded in 1929. It’s a three-part tune in the key of A, played in standard tuning.
“Possum on a Rail” is a fun, syncopated dance tune in the key of G that was recorded in 1930 by the Mississippi Possum Hunters, with fiddler Lonnie Ellis, guitarist Pete Herring, and cellist John Holloway.
“Logan County Blues” is a bluesy dance tune in the key of D. There’s no specific origin for the tune but fiddlers Fred Cockerham and Greg Hooven each have recorded great versions. It’s a two-part tune (AABB), but the first part follows 12-bar blues form, while the second part returns to standard eight-bar fiddle tune form.
The four-part dance tune “Hangman’s Reel” comes from Virginia fiddler Albert Hash and is played in AEAE tuning. Bruce plays it mostly with shuffle bowing, using the open strings to punctuate the melody rhythmically.
“Evelina Two-Step” was probably written by the man who recorded it, Tennessee fiddler John Sharp, Sr., whose daughter’s name was Evelina. Sharp called it a two-step, but it also can be played as a schottische, if you’re playing for dancers who request a schottische. It’s a straightforward, lilting tune in the key of D that includes an interesting bowing pattern often called “rocking the bow.”
“Lonesome John” comes from eastern Kentucky fiddler John Morgan Salyer, who was recorded in the early 1940s. It’s a standard two-part dance tune in AEAE tuning and alternates between Mixolydian and major scales, though Salyer played his thirds and sevenths a little flatter than tempered tuning.
“The Devil’s Waltz” comes from Canada and the Métis fiddle tradition, which is a beautiful confluence of French, Scottish, and First Nations music. “The Devil’s Waltz” is played in “the Devil’s tuning” (also known as Calico tuning and “Black Mountain Rag” tuning): AEAC#.
“Crockett’s Honeymoon” comes from Crockett’s Kentucky Mountaineers, who made some recordings in the 1930s. It’s a straight-ahead dance tune in the key of G and it likely comes from the Irish “Honeymoon Reel.”
“Rocky Road to Georgia” comes from fiddler Frank Reed of Randolph County, Missouri. It’s a straight-ahead square dance tune in the key of D with some nice chordal movement in the second part. Bruce plays it in high-bass tuning (ADAE).
“Grey Owl” is an old-time fiddle tune from the Canadian prairies written by Métis fiddler John Arcand. It’s in the key of D and has some interesting bowing as well as an extra half measure in the A part.
“Devil in the Strawstack” was recorded by Tommy Jarrell, who learned it from Zack Payne, a Civil War veteran who died in 1930. It’s in the key of A minor, played in standard tuning, and has the strong, syncopated feel of Round Peak fiddling.
The dance tune “Nancy Dalton” comes from south central Kentucky fiddlers such as Jim Bowles, Isham Monday, and Pat Kingery. It’s a straightforward tune in the key of D, in standard tuning, with pretty backup chords.
“Indians Over the Hill” comes from West Virginia fiddler John Hannah, who was born in the 1920s and recorded in the 1980s by fiddler Jeff Goehring. Bruce’s version is based on Jeff’s version and is a bit more straightforward than John Hannah’s. It’s a three-part tune in the key of D and can be played in ADAE tuning, though Bruce teaches it in standard.
“Cowboy Waltz” is a beautiful fiddle waltz in the key of D that was composed by folk music icon Woody Guthrie.