Instructors: Bruce Molsky

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by Bruce Molsky
November 15, 2016

Hi to all my Peghead Nation fiddle students,

In a couple of days I’ll be recording the next round of lessons for the Old Time Fiddle Course. A few of you have written with requests for tunes, techniques and other things. If there’s anything you’d like to see, drop me a line between now and Tuesday night and I’ll do my best to include it, or something like it! Thanks for joining us at Peghead Nation - please keep writing with comments and questions, it’s always good to hear from you!
Happy fiddling,
Bruce

 


Tags: Old-Time, Fiddle
Category: Instructor Blog

Comments and Discussion

Posted by mastewart@sunflower.com on
I have lots a trouble getting phrases such as the B part of Fine Times at Our House into my head. It tends to sound like deedle deedle deedle to me and I have to really hammer at the song to learn these parts. Possibly it's because I don't come from a bluegrass background? I can get equally repetitious bebop songs into my head (for trumpet or piano, not fiddle). I study with a great old time fiddler and many of her tunes give me the same deedle deedle problem, tho I like her material (and yours) generally. Have you encountered this problem before? It's not even quite a memorization problem, more like prememorization learning/hearing.
Posted by Davide Naccarati on
I would like to see more about bowing , the pulse and some exercises on that thing because it is the most difficult part to learn and master.
For me it is very difficult to understand and recognize the direction of the bow listening to a tune.. Also playing in a group and twin fiddle are very interesting.
I have also a request for a tune... " I got my whiskey for rockingham "
Ok stop for now :D
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi mastewart,
Thanks for your note and comments/questions. I think one way to help those repetitive phrases (like B part of Fine Times) to sink in is to treat the phrases like spoken language or song. Instead of playing away at those phrases, try just singing the notes until the actual melody is clear. Don't even try them on the fiddle until you know them.That way, when you do apply the bowing, you're not trying to learn everything all at once. Let me know if that helps.
As to bebop, I can sing just about everything I've ever heard that Charlie Rouse played behind Monk (one of my jazz heroes of all time.) Not ready to try those solos on the fiddle yet. . .
Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Davide, I'll be sure to include more bowing exercises with upcoming lessons! I Get My Whiskey From Rockingham is a pretty crazy tune, even more so when played by Earl Johnson's Dixie Entertainers (I learned it from their 1920s recording.) But will certainly give it some thought.
Bruce
Posted by davgio7@gmail.com on
Great Lesson about Soldier's Joy, very useful, that is what I need and also let me discover again the beauty of that tune, Thank You very much.
Ciao!!
Davide
Posted by Glenn_Butterhorn on
Hey Bruce,
My name is glenn and I talked with you at Focal Point in Maplewood, Missouri
and I signed up for this course. I can see you are starting out with some
basic tunes that everyone will enjoy. What I am wondering is if you
can cover some of the tunes that you sing and play together so well, e.g.
Yew Piney Mountain, Drunken Hiccups, Diamond Joe, and others in that vein.
I know some of them are in cross tuning or sawmill tuning.
Also, I know it would be very helpful to me to have some more insight
into your tremendous bowing skills and some possible exercises to get
comfortable with the appalachian or southern bowing that you are so
famous for and thanks so much for doing this Bruce.
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Glenn,
Thanks for sending tune suggestions. I'm planning the next round of videos right now and happy to get these. Drunkard's Hiccups and Diamond Joe involve singing with the fiddle, and I plan to offer them as a separate topic. Still in the 'planning stages' on that, but we'll get into that for sure at some point.
I also plan to include more bowing exercises as time goes on - they're kind of embedded in the lessons right now but can be made more prominent.
Good to hear from you here; stay in touch. Bruce
Posted by mandoajc on
Hello Bruce
Just to begin, your lessons are breaking new ground in internet instruction. The bowing instruction is clear, approachable and applicable to any tune i try to learn. I am really grateful to have the ability to go over and over a lesson (many many times) and get the tune into the body memory.
One thing I would like to hear more about is how you approach a new tune especially what bowing you end up using.
I would like to second the idea of a downloadable mp3 file of the finished tune to be played in the car.
travel safe and ciao
Tony
Posted by Glenn_Butterhorn on
Bruce
Thanks for your comments and I pretty much agree with Davide
that the bowing part of this style is the most challenging
explaining the pulse, the rhythmic variations, the bits of
the song that make it more danceable would be of great help.
Here in Missouri, we use a lot of slurs and long bows in the
tunes which is a regional difference so I definitely am
looking forward to future lessons on this topic. I found
your discussion on youtube on bowing very informative. I
thank you for your time and awesome musicianship.
glenn
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Tony, So glad you're finding the lessons to be clear. Muscle memory is key to learning a style like this (or anything, really.) You can't hear yourself nearly as well if you're using all your brain power executing something you're not completely comfortable with. Once the muscle memory kicks in, that's when (to me, anyway) it starts to make sense. Impatience can be a real enemy, you just can't rush the learning process.
Thanks for your suggestions . . . I'm starting to put together ideas for the next set of videos and will keep all of it in mind.
Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Glenn,
I love the Missouri style - been a fan of Cyril Stinnett's fiddling for years. And Art Galbraith, and all the fiddlers 'gathered up' by R.P. Christeson. Had the great pleasure of meeting Bob Holt and Fred Stoneking a couple of times, great players. As you say, that more longbow style enables way notier phrases, and also way faster tempos. The tunes I'm teaching really are a different animal, and so much of that is in the right hand. I've tried to introduce some bowing patterns in the current videos; in future ones, will try to present more opportunities to drill them and show how they move the tunes.
Bruce
Posted by ruth.twaalfhoven@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce and everyone here.
I'm very happily learning a lot from the lessons, and the format is really good.
I have a question - it's about tunes. My brother lives in the South West of England (where we grew up). He's a Caller for a Celidh/Dance Band, and he sent me a book of tunes that his Band plays. I would like to play those tunes in Old Time style. To do that, I could add in the bowing and embellishments outlined in the lessons, to the bare bones of the tune, right?
Looking forward to everything. Ruth T
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Ruth,
You can certainly play those tunes in old time style, though some might fit better than others. And some of the old time bowings and ornaments will work better than others. You have to just try and see what works!
Thanks for your CD order, BTW. Hope you enjoy it.
Bruce
Posted by bstolkin@mag-cap.com on
Hi Bruce,

Really enjoying the lessons! This is my first foray into playing OT on fiddle. My background is in bluegrass (longtime guitar player, novice fiddler).

I've been listening to Contented Must Be...awesome album. I want to start learning Brushy Run and Winter Slide. What tuning are those in?

Thanks.

Bob
Posted by bstolkin@mag-cap.com on
Bruce, also what tuning for Grey Owl and Victor's #39? Thanks!
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Bob, Welcome to the wonderful, slippery slope of old-time fiddling.
Winder Slide - key of D, tuning is ADAE ("high bass"). The tune was written by Joe LaRose, I'm guessing 20 or 25 years ago. I play it the original way he wrote it, with the very short B-part. But he changed it some years later to a slightly longer B-part. You'll hear that version around too.
Brushy Run - key of A, tuning AEAE. I learned that from the old recording of Ed Haley, who played it in G in (I think) standard tuning. Try it both ways and see what you like; each has a different feel.
Grey Owl and Victor's 39, in D and G respectively, both standard tuning.

Glad you're enjoying my CDs and the lessons here. Stay in touch with any more questions!
Best, Bruce
Posted by bstolkin@mag-cap.com on
Thanks for the fast response, Bruce. Between the lesson tunes here, and these others, I'll be busy for quite some time!

It's going to take me awhile to build up a decent OT repertoire, but in the meantime, I really want to figure out how to work in more of an OT style into my bluegrass playing.

Bob
Posted by brookeelauer@gmail.com on
Hey Bruce,
I just wanted to say I'm really enjoying the lessons and am so glad you are offering these online. The structured format makes it so easy to just hop on the computer in the evening and learn something at my own pace.It's nice learning the bowing and also the chords (especially the ones that aren't open note drones, because I'm not so used to playing them, so it's something else to learn) within the context of a song.

Also, thanks for adding the mp3 download option. It's not only handy to get an ear for the tune, but also handy for those like me who have slow internet (buffering videos) when I just need to review a tune I already have under my fingers.

Lastly, I agree that some modal tunes and singing tunes would be a great addition at some point.

Looking forward to what's coming next.

Brooke
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Brooke,
Thanks for your comments; great to hear you're enjoying the lessons and finding them useful. We just added the mp3 download option recently . . .
More modal tunes and singing with the fiddle will be on the way!
Best, Bruce
Posted by ohschnap@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

Thank you so so much for adding the mp3s. And I really enjoyed the Fine Times at Our House lesson.

-Ben
Posted by bruce_molsky on
You're welcome Ben!
Bruce
Posted by davgio7@gmail.com on
Wow Bruce this new tune, Georgia Horseshoe is really what I wanted to learn. It was about two weeks ago that I discoverd it on soundcloud, the version is with L7 with Rafe Stefanini e and Dirk Powell!! Fantastic tune!!
Thank you !!!

Davide
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Davide, So now you know what the L7's is (was)! That was a long time ago - it was nice to hear this recording again. Glad you liked the Georgia Horseshoe lessons. Bill Hensley played some really interesting tunes, like that one. And Grey Eagle (in C), Hoppin' John, Georgia Belle, Lady Hamilton, Boogerman, and Worn Cap (which I misheard many years ago as Warring Cats.) Many were tunes commonly known in North Carolina, and it's worth checking out versions by other local players of that time like Allen Sisson, Marcus Martin and Manco Snead.
Bruce
Posted by davgio7@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce, yes I 've just heard about L7 some years ago but I never had the opportunity to listen to something about it. Thanks to souncloud!!
I did't known Bill Hensley before you post the tune of this month and I will check the other name you quoted.
But worn cap has nothing to do with your version of warring cats, recorded on your self-titled cd "warring cats"?
I hope to see you in London on 29 may.. I am saving my money and I hope to afford it for that date!!
Ciao :)
Davide
Posted by Ginny Woods on
Hi Bruce,

I'm a lapsed classical violinist wanting to play old-time. Getting a fiddle sound has been tough, but your videos are very helpful. Quick question: Do you have a separate instrument(s) you use for cross tuning or are you constantly re-tuning a single fiddle? I'm starting to work on Fine Times as well as another tune separate from peghead that requires DDAD tuning. And then I've got a bunch of tunes in standard GDAE tuning. Will my strings get used to all the adjusting?

Thanks so much!

Ginny
Posted by julievl16@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,
Thanks so much for doing these lessons, it is incredibly helpful already, and I just signed on last night. Not sure why it took me so long, but here I am. Am learning Fine Times at Our House - great tune! Previous to joining PH, I have been working on Georgia Belles, from your version and several recordings of Manco Sneed, all in different keys. Am wondering what tuning you use? I learned it in AEAE which works but there are some awkward fingerings and curious if I'm missing something.
Thank you again.
Julie (I gave you PT advice last year at SG)
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Ginny,
Sometimes I'll travel with two fiddles so that I can spend less time tuning during concerts. But I've always been happy just tuning one instrument to all the tunings. The type of string you use is important though. Some are stable when retuned, some are not. Some will hold up well to constant retuning and others will lose their tone and just plain die. In my experience, the 'harder' the string is (as in the metal alloy used), the more stable it will be and the longer it will last. But harder strings also mean brighter/harsher tone, so it's a compromise. I've been using D'Addario Helicore medium for G, D and A, and Kaplan 'non-whistle' E for a long time, and they work great for me. (Full disclosure here: I endorse D'Addario products, but do so because I really like them.)
I hope this helps!
Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Julie,
Glad you're enjoying the lessons! Thanks for joining PN. I think you'll have an easier time with fingerings for Fine Times and Georgia Belle using ADAE, rather than AEAE. A-tunes which are modal (mixolydian) work really well in ADAE because it's so easy to get to the dominant 7th (G) on the D-string. A lot of the old-timers used that tuning.
Thanks also for the PT advice. A lot of great things about fiddling, but "ergonomic-ness" isn't exactly one of them. :)
Bruce
Posted by Ginnypwoods@gmail.com on
Thanks, Bruce. Very helpful! I love the tunes you've taught so far, and the teaching format is great. May I add my request to the mix? Greasy Coat. I'm dying to learn that one. And maybe even sing along.
Posted by steve@prattgorman.com on
Bruce, can we do Jimmy Sutton next?
Posted by Bruce Molsky on
Hey Ginny and Steve, the list is getting long but I'll do my best to get to these. Both great tunes. Thanks for writing!
Posted by cptvanier@hotmail.com on
Hey Bruce! I was wondering as someone who has studied Tommy Jarrell allot, if you could shed some light on his sound for us. As most people do, I find his playing very rhythmic and dancy. I think you emulate that part of his playing very well, and your teaching us the bowings and techniques to get that dancy sound.

The other part of his playing that I find really unique is his tone. It's very scratchy and at times almost shrill and a bit messy. Some people find this harsh and unpleasant. I mostly think its rustic and old-timey :P I suppose I'm just hoping you can give your opinion on where this sound comes from. Is it his equipment, Technique, type of strings, or the snake rattle in his fiddle? Your tone is much cleaner and very clear.

Thanks for any thoughts you may have on this.

-Josh
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hey Josh, Tommy's timing and swing were unbelievable, and I've always aspired to swing that hard in my own playing, or at least to be able to control it. Makes me happy that you can hear a little bit of him in me. As to the roughness you hear in his playing, you have to remember that he was up in years in most of the recordings that are out there. There are a very few made of him around 1950 (he would have been about 50 years old then), and they were much cleaner in tone. He also sounded more like his dad Ben.
When I knew him, his fiddle needed repair (open seams, things like that). Other folks said he just didn't want to give it up. Maybe that's contributing to the harshness you're hearing/feeling, but it's never bothered me. I played his fiddle a couple of times and it was not exactly sweet. As to the snake rattle, I really don't know. Had one in my fiddle for awhile, and had to take it out when I recorded a CD because, well, it rattled!
I'm planning on covering one of Tommy's tunes in the next set of lessons, and will try to talk a little bit about all that. Especially the idea that rough playing is somehow authentic, a notion I don't agree with.
But I'm happy to continue the conversation here in the meantime. Thanks a lot for writing - hope the lessons are helpful.
Bruce
Posted by cptvanier@hotmail.com on
Thanks so much for all of this information. I would love to hear you talk about this type of thing and your ideas on what fiddle music really sounded like when Tommy was young in one of your lessons.

Now I'm REALLY wanting to hear those older recordings. Is there any way to get my hands on them? Also I found a recording on youtube of Ben Jarrell! Really cool to hear him play Jack of Diamonds! I found his playing much cleaner but with less swing. The sound of the fiddle is similarly thin if not quite as scratchy. Could some of the thinness of the sound come from the recording equipment of the time? Very interesting.

As far as the lessons being helpful... this course is exactly what I'm looking for and exactly the type of music I want to learn to play. I have found no place else on the internet focused on teaching american old time fiddle. So thanks so much for doing this. I have been playing the fiddle for under 3 years, so this material is quite challenging for me. I'm just taking my time with it and trying to push my limits. I think your really helping to pass this music on. Especially to us less musically gifted people who would have a hard time teasing all the nuances out of the recordings.
Posted by cjonthehill@yahoo.com on
Bruce,
I recently found your lessons on this site and joined and wanted to say thank you so much for providing us with such an outstanding resource....a real gem!! This kind of information is not available elsewhere and I'm thrilled to have access to learning fiddle tunes from you.
Have learned so much already and looking forward to more tunes to come!
Best,
Cheryl
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Cheryl, you're utterly welcome. I love this music and it makes me so happy to see more and more people wanting to play it. Please write again with any specific questions - glad you're enjoying the lessons. Best, Bruce
Posted by julievl16@gmail.com on
Bruce,
Tune suggestion:
Ft. Smith Breakdown.
Just sayin'
Thanks again.
Julie
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hey Julie, you mean the Ozark Strutters one that was on the old Echoes of the Ozarks compilation? That's a great tune . . . I'll put it on the list for the next round of recordings.
Thanks for that, and for checking in. Best, Bruce
Posted by julievl16@gmail.com on
Yes, that's the one! It is a great tune. I would be thrilled if it made the cut - thanks for the consideration.
BTW, great class. Julie
Posted by cptvanier@hotmail.com on
Bruce, Green Grows the Laurel is an exceptional tune and lesson. You had me SINGING! I really want to get better at singing in general and singing and playing is a good way to do it. It keeps me in tune far better than trying to sing on my own. I'm even dabbling with the harmonies, which is very fun.

Thanks
-Josh
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hey Josh, that's really great! Once you start singing with a fiddle, it's kind of hard to stop. Glad the lessons helped; I hope you continue to have fun with it!!
Bruce
Posted by banjolovelace562@gmail.com on
I am so happy that you have done Jenny on the Railroad for this lesson. A couple of years ago I tried to figure out the bowing from the Old Time Music Party CD that you released with Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Joe Fallon, but I didn't know enough about bowing to be successful, so I was frustrated that I could not make this tune sound right. I LOVE that there are these video lessons available now for this kind of thing...isn't it grand?
Thanks!
Christine
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Christine, Figuring out bowing from audio tracks is a skill all it's own, and you can never be 100% sure you're right about what you hear. The bowings I teach are based on the best readings I've been able to make from the old recordings, but I know they're not totally the same. That said, I think the bowings I teach ought to get you at least close to making it sound right. I'm glad that having the video lessons is making it easier for you! Best, Bruce
Posted by justineshrider@knology.net on
It would help me a lot if you would put the bow direction marks on top of the notes in the written music.
Posted by Scottnyg on
Justine, All of the written music has bowing indications. Notice that there's (usually) a down bow indication at the beginning of the tune. Slurred notes (played with one bow stroke) are indicated, and you play separate bows for all notes that are not slurred.
Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by justineshrider@knology.net on
Thanks, Scott! This is very helpful!
Posted by davgio7@gmail.com on
As usually the tune of this month is amazing!! Thanks Bruce and the peghead nation crew!!
Posted by Bruce Molsky on
Glad you like it - I'm so enjoying being part of Peghead Nation. We're getting ready to record the next round of lessons, so please let me know what you'd like to see and hear!!
Bruce
Posted by roman27@mail.nmc.edu on
Step back Cindy? Fall on my knees? Maybe talk a we bit about how your playing has evoled since recording those tunes on Warring Cat's? Fall on my knees would be good for a singing lesson as well. Much thanks, Brian up in Northern Michigan. Love it all.
Posted by Shawn Huckins on
Not sure if you take requests for future lessons, but would love to see 'Hangmans Reel' (aka, Le Reel du Pendu, particularly, Jean Carignan's version). A wicked awesome tune with good pulse you can't help but tap your foot. Thanks and keep up the great work! - Shawn
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Shawn, I just recorded the next round of lessons, but will certainly put Reel du Pendu on the list for the next time. That will be a challenging one, but such a great tune! Thanks for subscribing, and please come back with any questions about the lessons. . . Bruce
Posted by rynnlamb@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

My first post... I mainly want to thank you for putting together such a wonderful resource. Being geographically challenged (South Dakota), every one of your lessons seems like a real gift. There is just no way I could learn this stuff otherwise. Have subscribed only a few months so far, but already your lessons have made a huge difference in both the fiddling and the "ear". Thank you so much.

Second... such wonderful tunes!! And coincidentally, I came to the forum page today to request Reel du Pendu. Appears that Shawn beat me to it! I agree that it would be wonderful if you could do that one. Also, is there any chance you could highlight any differences between French Canadian (Jean Carignan) vs American/OT version? I really love the Canadian version, and have heard it's quite different from the American/OT version. Any chance to learn both versions, or at least understand how they differ?

One other request - any chance for a lesson overview on playing chord backup (techniques/theory)?

Thanks again, Bruce.... -Rynn
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Rynn, I have to do a little research about the American and Canadian Hangman's Reel, and will report back, but also might be fun to teach them both in the next round of videos, since they are both different and great tunes.
Will also give some thought to presenting chord backup (I assume you're talking about guitar?)

Thanks for getting in touch, and for the nice words about my video lessons!
Stay in touch, Bruce
Posted by rynnlamb@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce - both versions of Hangman's would be fabulous!!! Love them both. :)

Regarding the chord request, I was actually thinking more of fiddle backup (don't play guitar) For example, if playing along with others or with a recording, are there any tricks to being able to quickly unlock the chord progressions for a tune, once you know the key? Perhaps this is all done by feel/ear, but sometimes I wonder if there is some underlying structure or strategy, which could make things easier. At least for generic tunes in major/minor keys?

If there are any "shortcuts" to identifying the chord progressions and/or finger mappings on fiddle (by ear), that would be so helpful to learn. Or even if there is just a good resource you can recommend on the topic.

Hopefully my question makes sense...

Thanks much! Rynn
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Yes Rynn, your question makes total sense. A great fiddler and friend Ellika Frisell once told me that she feels there are two kinds of fiddlers (both great): the ones who follow a melody lyrically around without much thought to chord movement, and then the ones who are always thinking inside the chord progression. I'm sure I'm in the second category.

There are different ways to move chords around with double stops on the fiddle. You ask about identifying the chord progressions themselves. It takes some experience to just hear the changes, but really, a good way to help develop that skill is to play a little guitar or other accompanying instrument in addition to the fiddle. I'll be sure to talk about moving chords along with a melody on the fiddle using double stops in the next round of videos. Thanks for your great questions! Bruce
Posted by rynnlamb@gmail.com on
Thanks much, Bruce. And you're right, probably the best path would be to just learn a bit of guitar - although it could be difficult to put down the fiddle these days (so obsessed...) Anyway thanks again for your answers, and also for the new tune entry (Acorn). Looks like another fun one!! All best, -Rynn

PS enjoyed your mention of Ellika Frisell... :)
Posted by usfantelope@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

Thanks for all your help. I am a beginner fiddler with about 3 months of practice. I have a couple of questions:

1. In your opinion, what is the best way to practice? My goal is just to play recreationally for myself, family, and friends. Should I practice one song until I think I master it, should I do more than one, or other?

2. When you first started playing the violin, how many years did it take you to at a fast tempo for others?

Thank you in advance for answering my questions.

Here are some suggestions for future lesson songs:

1. Carry me Back to Virginia--Old Crow Medicine Show
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlrnJMd5H3s

2. Shortnin Bread--Old Crow Medicine Show
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBp_z28ogW4

Thanks again,

Mark
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Mark, Thanks for the questions!
There's a lot to be said about the best way to practice. Here are a few thoughts:
1. Practice one or maybe two things at a time, but that's all. Don't go to the next thing until you've mastered the one you're working on. It's really important to get the parts in your hands and your muscle memory. Much better than trying to process a bunch of different things at once. You'll find your speed at picking things up improves if you hold yourself back a little.
2. It's much more effective to practice a few minutes every day, rather than cramming everything into long, less frequent practice sessions. 15 or 30 minutes a day is great if you can do it. Much better than 2 hours once a week!
3. Try to be mindful and in the moment when you practice. Don't gloss over things that don't make sense or don't sound right. Pay 100% attention to what you're doing and how it sounds - it's a lot more work if you do it right, but also much more effective than just playing and playing and playing.

It took me a couple of years to really start to get my playing up to full tempo. Stay loose when you speed up!

Have a good time with it, and write back with any more questions! Bruce
Posted by jrfaulk@dividingline.biz on
Bruce, enjoy what I'm hearing and having fun learning these tunes. Really enjoy learning the bowing to bring the rhythm in these tunes alive. Besides Peghead Nation, I have your Homespun CDs as well. I play several instruments, but find it particularly difficult to come up with variations within a fiddle tune. I would love to know how you go about creating variations within a particular tune. I would also like to second a request for "I Get My Whiskey From Rockingham". Some information about your strings, etc... would be great as well. When I cross tuned, I break a lot of strings. Would like to know how you deal with that, etc...
Posted by pegheadnation@folklifemusic.com on
I am starting to work through Jenny Baker and have a comment about the bowing in Part 3. You teach it a short-short then long with a bow crossing, but when you play it at 3:05 and then again later in the video, you are playing the first 3 notes on the A string as a slur and then another slur on the next 2 notes on the D string. I'm sure this is just a variation, but it is a bit confusing to us beginning fiddlers.
Posted by tpkeough@yahoo.com on
Hi Bruce! Hope you are well. A tune request for 2016... Last of Callahan. Such a great tune
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi everyone, Sorry I've been off-line the last few days. . . answers to your questions below.
Happy New Year! Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi jfaulk, how I create variations in fiddle tunes is a great topic for a lesson, though way too much to cover right here. So I'll plan on that for the next round of lessons. Thanks for that suggestion!
And I've put 'I Get My Whiskey From Rockingham' on the list too.
I've used D'Addario Helicore (medium) strings for G, D and A for years. They're extremely stable when changing tunings, and they very rarely break. For the E, I cycle between the Kaplan non-whistle, Pirastro Oliv Gold, and the new and very strange Warchal, which has a little pigtail when you take it out of the package that straights out when you tighten it up. I have no idea what that's supposed to do, but it sounds good at any rate.
If you're breaking a lot of strings, there are a couple of precautions you can take:
- put some soft pencil lead, #2 or HB in the bridge and nut slots so the strings can slide smoothly. If you're breaking a particular string at the nut, you may want to have a luthier check to make sure there's not a rough spot. I've also found that, even tuning a string to a higher pitch, it's good to release it slightly down before tuning it up. Hope that helps!
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Tim! Definitely will put Last of Callahan on the list. A great one!
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi pegheadnation@folklifemusic.com, sorry you found that section of Jenny Baker to be confusing. I try hard to be consistent when breaking down bowings. Not sure from your explanation exactly where the problem is, but if you're less experienced as you say, I'd strongly suggest you first play the entire tune using a 'straight' (long-short-short) shuffle. Once you're completely comfortable with that, introduce small variations and practice them very slowly, building up speed gradually.
For instance, at the beginning of the low part of the tune, replace the bowing at the beginning of the phrase with a slur of 3 notes, slur of 2 notes, then two single note strokes, and you should end up in the right place to resume the straight shuffle. I hope this clarifies rather than confuses! Thanks for taking the lessons, and please keep the questions coming. Bruce
Posted by usfantelope@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

Thank you for answering my previous questions. I have another one:

When you are playing the the b part in soldiers joy, there is long slur of B A G F E. Should you keep all of your fingers down in the proper positions, and lift them up? Or Can you slur down while playing each note with your fingers?

I also have a suggestion for a tune. I would love to learn how to play it. If you can't do a video lesson, is there any way you can send me a copy of the sheet music?

Thanks again, Bruce!

Mark
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Mark, I tend to put down each finger separately in that slur (the one at the end of the B-part that's all on the E-string). You don't need to plant your fingers all at once and then start the slur. It would be near impossible to put them all in the exact right place at once.
What's your tune suggestion? I probably don't have sheet music for it, but if it's appropriate I can try to get it in the next round of lessons when we film them.
Bruce
Posted by dameron@nilenet.com on
Hi, Bruce. I signed up in late August or so and have been working through lessons up to Georgia Horseshoe so far. Still can't play anything close to "dance speed" but shuffle bowing, drones and pulses are getting easier. Progress.
Question: On the pdf's of the tunes, would it be possible to add the chord names above the staff? Then I'd have a shot at knowing when it makes sense to drone the adjacent open string or play a chord without relying so much on waiting for you to tell me in the final lesson for a given tune. I play in a small "advanced beginner/intermediate" jam weekly -- it's more bluegrass but they're fine with me playing OT. For songs (as opposed to tunes) we play there, we have sheets with just words and chord names. I find I can add a drone while taking my turn to play a melody, etc., because I know if the adjacent string is in the chord or needs a finger down on it to work. I can hear the basic 1, 4, 5 chords because that jam has a guitarist; I reference the sheet or ask if it's something else.
For a lesson tune, I could just experiment until I get to the lesson where you tell us. But some tunes are not the chords I might expect (which makes them more interesting) and we're not hearing a banjo or something else playing along to guide us re the chords. I'd like to start hearing for myself where drones could fit and then use your later guidance as a check against my attempts.
I don't know if that made sense. I hope so.
Ruth D, Denver, CO
Posted by dameron@nilenet.com on
Here's a suggestion for you to consider in the next round of filming. I have seen a few fiddle-teaching videos on YouTube where the cameraman is to the left of the fiddler, where the fiddler would poke his eye out with an upbow if the cameraman got too close. From this angle, one can see each of the fiddler's left hand fingertips as they come down onto each particular string position while also seeing when the bowing hand makes circles, figure 8's, etc. With the current camera angle, it's easy to see the right hand motions when you play at a teaching speed but the left hand's fingers obscure what the finger tips are doing. Thanks for considering it, at least for some shots.
Ruth D
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Ruth,
I'll start adding chord names to the PDFs of Bruce's music. You'll see that the latest lesson, "L&N Rag," has them. And that's a good suggestion for a camera angle for Bruce's videos. We've tried something like this in one of the other fiddle courses, but not with Bruce's most recent video shoots. We'll try it for his next round, which won't be for a few months, though.
Best,
Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by dameron@nilenet.com on
Thanks, Scott! I know I started behind and any changes will be in the upcoming lessons; I really appreciate your willingness. The question posted just before mine about whether Bruce places all of his fingers on the E string for the slur is the sort of thing that would be easier to spot with the camera angle I requested.
By the way, I'm the one who won the year of Peghead Nation lessons at Colorado Roots Music Camp last summer. See? I really am using this site for the Appalachian fiddling lessons from Bruce, just as I said I would. In the Denver metro area, there are all kinds of fiddle instructors ... except old-time Appalachian; lots of O.T. fiddlers but the nearest O.T. teacher I found was outside of Boulder, about 20 miles away. So ... THANKS for this offering on Peghead Nation!
Posted by Scottnyg on
So, we've added chord changes to all the PDFs of the tunes Bruce has taught so far and will do so with all future tunes as well.

Glad you're enjoying Bruce's course, Ruth.

Best,
Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by ardwolf@comcast.net on
Hi Bruce, thoroughly enjoying your lessons. I picked up the fiddle about 5 years ago after coming across your transatlantic session set where you were playing Blackest Crow. Anyway, I notice that when trying to copy your bowing pattern,I inevitably lose it as I pick up speed and end up with something that is totally my own or basically what just naturally happens during the course of playing the tune; where your bows going up, mine is going down.. If I go slow, I can mirror your pattern but as I pick up speed drift into something that is totally random. What is your approach to determining your bowing pattern for a particular tune and being able to consistently hit the down bow at the beginning of each measure. It's something that I have struggled with.Hopefully I am making sense. Finally, what are the steps you take to learning a new tune once you have it in your head. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks again. Jeff
Posted by Bruce Molsky on
Hi Jeff, I don't mean to give the impression that you *have* to start each phrase with a downbow. That's just how I play, and it's a good reference point for putting bowing together for a tune.
Your question about losing the bowing when bringing the tempo up, all I can really suggest is to make very small tempo increases as you go. If you feel like you're losing it, slow down! It's great that you're trying to learn to that level of detail, but if you're already dug into other habits, it makes things harder.
I learn tunes all different kinds of ways, just depends on the situation. When there's time, I'll usually just sing or whistle it while visualizing a bowing. Sometimes just one part at a time, sometimes the whole thing. It always seems different when I finally pick up the instrument, and then I start making adjustments.
The point is to not rush. Learning by ear to the level of detail you're shooting for is a skill in itself.
I hope that helps. Thanks for writing, and write back with any more questions! Bruce
Posted by ardwolf@comcast.net on
Bruce,thanks for getting back to me. I have been in the habit of making cd,s of fiddle tunes I want to learn and playing different versions of the same tune over and over on my commute to the office,listening to every note,stroke etc. But I wasn't in the habit of singing or humming the tunes. After listening to you mention singing the tune into your muscle memory,I began incorporating it into my routine.It has helped me to understand the nuances ,and has improved my playing and visualizing a tune. Seeing my bow as a percussion instrument has also been of great benefit.Thanks for that. I'm also trying not to be so literal or rigid and have moved away from my dependence on sheet music ,using it more as a reference. This has allowed me to take more creative risks. I've recently become the fiddle player in a jug band "crazy eights jug band"( we have a performance posted on you tube under our name) .We have fun, and it's requiring me to improvise by ear which is giving me more confidence to venture out. Your videos have played a big part in my being able to step out at 65 and actually have fun playing music. Thanks again!
Posted by alex.macleod@gmail.com on
Hey there Bruce -- thanks so much for the great online content. Working my way through the lessons and finding them to be both challenging and achievable. I was at the dance you played last night in Conway, WA with Jason, Pharis, John, and Charmaine. A great show! And fun to see your fiddling in action at a square dance. Hope Oly Old Time proves to be a fun weekend.
Warm regards,
/alex
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hey Alex, Really great times at Conway and Oly! Thanks a lot for coming. . . Warm regards to you too, Bruce
Posted by melissa.j.hutson@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,
Thanks for doing this, it makes it a lot easier to keep up with my fiddling when I can't drive an hour for lessons. I'm happy with the tune selections and have plenty to work on, but some that might be fun:
Geese Honking (Bob Carlin/Clyde Davenport)
Boatin' Up Sandy (Snake Chapman).
Piney Woods on your Poor Man's Troubles CD (would be really good droning practice).
So many tunes, so little time!
Thank you,
-Melissa
Posted by usfantelope@gmail.com on
Bruce,

Would it be okay to practice all the songs in standard tuning regardless of the suggested tuning (ex. AEAE) because I do not want to put excess stress on my string changing the tuning on each song?

Also, my suggestion was for Drunken Hiccups and Shortnin Bread.

Thanks again,

Mark
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Melissa, Glad the lessons are helping (and saving you some gas.) I've put your suggestions on the list for the next filming and see if I can work at least one of those tunes in. They're all good ones!
Best, Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Mark, The alternate tunings really change the sound of the instrument. You can certainly play most (but not all) of the tunes in standard tuning, but IMO you'll lose a whole lot of their character.
Tuning into alternate tunings will make some types of strings wear out faster, but some are really not bad at all. I've used D'Addario Helicore on both of my fiddles for years with really great results. They last a good long time, and they're stable when you change them. I'd suggest light or medium (but not heavy) gauge if you want to give it a try.
Bruce
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Hi Bruce: just started these lessons. They are great. You gave a sampler of Midnight on the Water. Will you be doing this one in depth. Love it.
Anne
Vancouver, BC
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Anne,
I'll put Midnight On The Water as a possibility for the next round of recordings. Can't get 'em all, but I'll do my best to cover it at some point.
Glad you're enjoying the lessons!
Bruce
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Thanks so much!!!
Anne
Posted by wyofootcomfort@gmail.com on
Hello Bruce and Scott. I have been enjoying the tune lessons for several months and want to say that you are doing a fine job. They are very well done. I printed out the sheet music for Jenny Baker and found that the chords listed seem to not 'fit' my ear. Could you take a look at it and tell me if it is correct?? Thank you, Mitch
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hey Mitch,
Oops, you are right. Not sure how those chords got in there. It's been corrected. Thanks for catching that and letting us know.
Best,
Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Hi Bruce
I have only played in standard tuning.
When you do play in a different tuning, how long do you need to stay in that tuning to learn it. I had an instructor tell me that i need to play in one tuning for a year to really learn each cross tuning?
Could you please let me know what you think?
Thanks
Anne
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Anne, If you're new to a particular cross tuning, I'd suggest first practicing just scales for a few minutes to get more comfortable with where the notes are. It may feel a little unnatural to play out of standard tuning, but then start to practice the fingerings for short phrases until they're in your muscle memory. Just go slow and take your time. Every tune you learn in that tuning will be easier as you get grounded in where the notes are.
Thanks for writing, I hope you're enjoying the lessons!
Bruce
Posted by steve@prattgorman.com on
Bruce,
Apple Blossom just kills, it's a board busting - foot stomping - freight train of a song. I found the Altamont CD you mentioned and like how you have brought this tune back into our musical consciousness. The slide down to D in the A part puts a gritty,sticky feeling in there that makes me want to play this tune all day long, literally. I have really enjoyed your lessons and often think how lucky our music is that the internet came to be. If it were not for the internet I would not be able to get essentially, one-on-one lessons with you. Long live the electron!
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Haha, thanks Steve! I guess the electron will outlive all of us. Yeah, Apple Blossom is one of the greatest.
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Hi Bruce:
With learning cross-tuning, it sounds like it may be easier to say learn ADAE as there is only 1 string different. Are there a lot of tunes in this tuning?
Thanks
Anne
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Anne, LOTS of tunes in ADAE, both in keys of A and D! From the Peghead Nation tunes I've taught, there's Apple Blossom, Soldier's Joy, Fine Times At Our House, Backstep Cindy, and Jenny Baker. But that's really the tip of the iceberg.
Best, Bruce
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Thanks Bruce
Anne
Posted by billchamberlain@hotmail.com on
Hi Bruce,
Here's another tune to add to the pile of requests. Ed Haley's Dunbar. Would that be a piece you would enjoy breaking down? I'm sure we could all use the help on the low part in trying to figure out just what the horsehair drumstick is doing.

Thanks for everything so far. The variety of the set list. Your insight regarding the source musicians. And especially bowing ideas. After 10 months the muscle memory is kicking in for me. Great lesson design and format and a tremendously enjoyable and rewarding challenge thus far.
Hope to see you in the Adirondacks some day. Bill
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Bill, I'll certainly put it Dunbar on the list for the next round of filming. Another great one from Haley.
I'm always open to suggestions for improving the lessons - really glad you're enjoying them!
Thanks, Bruce
Posted by judykent@aol.com on
Hi, Bruce. I subscribed to your lessons one year ago, and I'm about half way through the tunes. I'm really enjoy using the bowing techniques that I have learned from you; so I renewed my subscription last week. Today I'm downloading the listening files for the next few lessons. I'm thinking that I can listen to those tunes to get the tunes in my head in advance of watching the videos. I don't see a listening file for Apple Blossom. Has that file been posted?
I'm excited that you have posted the lesson on Fort Smith. That tune was on my list to learn in the near future. I've heard that tune many times. I'm going to jump ahead to that lesson to see if having the tune in my head makes the learning process quicker.
Here's a piece of trivia for you. I'm from the Ozarks in Arkansas. The locals here say that Luke's name was misspelled on the Echoes of the Ozarks album. They say it's Hignight. Pronounced HIG nite.
Thanks again for the great lessons.
Judy
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Judy,
There are now audio files up for Apple Blossom and Fort Smith.
Thanks
Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by Bruce Molsky on
Hi Judy, thanks for that piece of trivia. I've never heard a name like Hignight. I just surfed around the internet for a minute and found a lot of folks with that name!
So glad you're enjoying the lessons. Write again if you have any questions about Fort Smith!
Bruce
Posted by ohschnap@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce and all,

Just want to say thanks very much for so many new tunes! Also some feedback that it's great when you post a performance video with accompaniment/other instruments on the front page outside course paywall like you did with L&N Rag. I love playing these tunes, but since many are obscure to other musicians and fiddle-focused I find I'm always playing them by myself. However, my brother (who is in a mandolin course on this site) saw the L&N Rag video, loved the song, and learned to play it. I know these tunes don't always fit with all instruments, but it's nice that exposure to that video directly led to me being able to play the L&N Rag with my brother instead of alone.

Many thanks!!
Ben

PS - I know you have a million requests, but I'd really like to see just how you play Allen Sisson's version Rocky Road To Dublin like on Live from the Powerhouse.
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Ben, thanks for your comments. We're trying to present a good balance between less-known tunes and some old chestnuts. There are so many great tunes that haven't become part of the common session repertoire, and I'm really enjoying putting some of my own favorites out there on Peghead Nation.
I'll put Rocky Road to Dublin on the list. In the meantime, you can find Allen Sisson's recording on YouTube!
Best, Bruce
Posted by ohschnap@gmail.com on
Thanks for writing back! And I love the less-known gems you dig up for us, just wish it was easier to get my music pals to learn'em!

-Ben
Posted by kinaidos@hotmail.com on
Do you ever play exercises? If so could you do a quick lesson on some exercises one could work on to develop both more rhythmic bowing and less monotonous rhythm. When I first learned to play I learned the basic shuffles easily enough, but without much of a sense of how to make them work rhythmically. Some sort of 10 minute a day prescription for fixing that seems like it might be a helpful part of daily practice.
Posted by bruce_molsky on
I'll give some thought to presenting rhythm exercises. But I'd also suggest you think more about the unique rhythm in each individual phrase of a tune, rather than trying to find a pattern to fit the melody into. Think about what notes should be accented, and try and let your bow change direction at those points. Bow rhythms are helpful to have in your muscle memory, but also dangerous - they could cause the monotony you're trying to avoid!
Bruce
Posted by usfantelope@gmail.com on
H Bruce,

Will you please expound on the embellishment you put on the beginning of the B part of Soldier's Joy. When you play the "play along track" there is a bluesy sound when you play the more faster version. It is during the 3rd or 4th phrase of the opening B part. I didn't recall seeing that embellishment in the other videos you posted.

Also, I have a suggestion for the already increasing list of subscriber suggestions. It is Sally Goodin. I would love to learn how to play that song, as it is one of my favorite.

There is a version by Frank Fairfield, which is fantastic. Have you heard of Frank's version. Here is the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkOzx1043E4

Thanks again,


Mark
Posted by krausel36@yahoo.com on
Hey Bruce,

Want to start by saying that I'm watching "Can't Stay Here This a-Way" and it is such a treat. Those of us starting down the fiddlin' road are lucky to have great resources such as those with which you've provided us here on Peghead Nation and elsewhere. Keep it up!

I had a quick question about your bridge. Did you flatten it or anything? If so, do you have an idea what the dimensions are? I've recently had mine altered and would be curious to know what yours is sitting at.

Also, I wouldn't mind seeing Tommy Jarrell's Sail Away Ladies in a future lesson. And those of us in Minnesota would love to see a Molsky on the Mississip show, if ever you are in our neck of the woods!

Thanks,

Liam
Posted by cjonthehill@yahoo.com on
Bruce,
Just wanted to pop in and say that I found the end of the bowing video for Fort Smith to be incredibly helpful....a big lightbulb went off in my head regarding using the drones in a more rhythmic and pulsing way! That idea is a huge idea for me.....as I think in general I use drone strings is a more sort of sloppy way (or maybe just more for tonal harmony) rather than as a rhythmic adjunct. I'm going to play around with that idea a lot more.
Second....Love your new recording!! What a treat!
Cheryl (see you at Swannanoa....we're all excited you are coming out our way!!)
Posted by cjonthehill@yahoo.com on
Correction to the above......should be melody adjunct. So using drone strings as a rhythmic piece rather than just as tonal thing.
Sorry for the additional post.....there's no way to edit what you've written in this blog format. A bit cumbersome.
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Mark, I just listened through the Soldier's Joy play-along track and can't hear anything particularly 'bluesy' in the first phrases of the B-part. Maybe what you're hearing is the quick trill (F#-G-F#) at the end of the first phrase? If you can give me the time code on the video where it happens, then I'll check it again.

I'll certainly keep Sally Goodin in mind for future filming. There are so many great versions of that tune to dig into; of the old ones, IMO, Eck Robertson's is the most virtuosic and inventive. But other renditions have a mournful beauty and all those blues notes I think you're looking for. Check out Joe Birchfield (of The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers), John Sharp Sr. on the newly released CD set of his recordings, Santford Kelly - the list goes on.
Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Liam, Glad you're enjoying my new CD/DVD!
I do flatten my bridge. Used to keep it very flat, but I'm come to a compromise that makes double-stopping easier without losing the ability to play single notes well. It's a compromise!
We'll put Sail Away Ladies on the list.
Thanks for writing, Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Cheryl,
Using the drones/double stops for both chord movement and rhythmic accents has been an obsession for me for a long time - glad you're noticing that, it's a fun (and sometimes mind-bending) road to go down when playing tunes solo.
And I'm so happy you're enjoying the new recording.
See you at Swannanoa!
Best, Bruce
Posted by vanessagordonlenz@gmail.com on
Hello Bruce,

I have just recently started singing and fiddling. I am really enjoying working on this!
I learnt "Blackest Crow" from your youtube video, I took it down a 5th . I also sing "Pretty Saro," with fiddle tuned ADAE which I learnt from the "Songcatcher" movie.Have come up with versions of "Barbara Allen" and "Hard Times." So I was happy to find this Peghead nation course through your website, and see that you have a couple of singing/fiddling tunes.

Because I'm "new" to singing, I prefer to find tunes that don't have a big range. I learnt Drunken Hiccups from your youtube video. I'm not comfortable on the high note (C# on the world "old,") . At first I thought the problem was the key, but I'm reluctant to tune my fiddle down to GDGD. Actually I think it's just the range. I'll have to work on getting better at that (or playing really loudly on the fiddle at that part!)Another solution might be to just sing on the verses , but not on the chorus.

So I would welcome some more ideas of tunes with melodies that are basically within an 8ve range.
I have been doing some of the scale exercises and tried it 2 ways ; once with the singing a 3rd above the fiddle, and then with the fiddle a 3rd above the voice. I THINK it's a little easier the first way for me, because one's ear tends to hear the upper voice more easily, and my fiddle playing is more "trained" than my voice.
I also experimented with other intervals.
Another thing that I've found helpful is to practice with really easy, familiar tunes even "Skip to My Lou" and "Old McDonald" and "Three Blind Mice"....one can do really fun harmonies on the E I E I O part!

I would really like to learn some of the tunes from your old CD "Poor Man' Trouble" that I 've had for years. I am missing a few of the words. Would it be possible to list the lyrics for "Rove, Riley, Rove,", "Peg and Awl", and "The Poor Cowboy" on this site? I have got about 90% but there are a few I'm just not sure of.

Also, I would love to hear a slower version of the fiddle tune "Poor Man's Troubles" that you play on that cd. I Worked with the Amazing Slow Downer...and have got pretty close.(Nice to read that Jess Johnston also played blues piano!)

So THANK you SO much. I am loving this course that I joined 2 days ago!

Hope to hear you again in Austin, Texas before too long,

Vanessa Gordon
Posted by vanessagordonlenz@gmail.com on
Liam,
Just FYI,
There is a version of Sail Away Ladies, on Bruce's instructional cd " Southern Old Time Fiddle Tour" volume 2 (with the brown cover,) but the source is Bunt Stephens, not Tommy Jarrell

Vanessa
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Vanessa, that's great you've found a way into singing with the fiddle, and you've created some exercises based on what you feel is comfortable now. But I wouldn't leave off the high note in the chorus of Drunkard's Hiccups. Why not work the fiddle part out in a key that's better for your singing?
Years ago I recorded an instructional DVD for Homespun called Southern Old Time Fiddle Tour (not the CD), and it included Fiddlin' John Carson's 'Do Round My Lindy.' That has a one octave range and straightforward melody that's pretty easy to harmonize. You might give that one a try.

You also asked about lyrics. The ones I sing to Rove Riley Rove are very different from my source, Thaddeus Willingham - you should check him out. Mine are more like Get Along Home Cindy. But which verses of the three songs you mentioned are giving you trouble? Let me know the spots and I'll fill in the blanks. There isn't really a good place to post complete lyric sets here.

Finally, about Sail Away Ladies: the one on my Southern Old Time Fiddle Tour CD is not only from a different source as you say, but a completely different tune that just happens to have the same title!!
Best, Bruce
Posted by Shawn Huckins on
Hello Bruce,

I received Peghead's email blast today and saw your new video 'Train on the Island.' Love it! Will you be teaching this tune or is this video for demonstration only?

If it's not a lesson, could you tell me what tuning you are using?

Thank you!

Shawn
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hey Shawn! I wasn't planning on teaching Train On The Island, but will think about that. In the meantime, I play it in GDGD.
Have fun with it!
Bruce
Posted by ashleyturner@iprimus.com.au on
Hello Bruce, just writing to say how very much I'm enjoying your OTF course. Great selection of tunes and wonderfully presented.

Thanks
Ashley
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Thanks Ashley!! Please write here with any questions about the lessons. Glad you're enjoying it.
Bruce
Posted by ashleyturner@iprimus.com.au on
Hi Bruce, working on The Blue Goose, I see that you always play an open E string in the 4th bar of the B section, and 4th finger E on A string in the previous running passage two bars earlier. The extra resonance of the open E is clear especially when it's up to speed, but of course an open E would also add resonance in the running passage, as it does when you play open E in the Fine Times at Our House shuffles. I'm wondering if there is a stylistic rule or does it come down to individual choice?
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Ashley, I can't really explain why I play some of those E's on the open string and some on the A-string. Just my own personal evolution of the tune over many years of playing it. Sorry I can't explain it any better than that!
Best, Bruce
Posted by jenna.b.cook@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

Thanks for these great workshop style lessons. I appreciate your overarching advice on how to learn the fiddle and the stories behind the tunes as well! Do you have any advice on improving intonation? Do you think a student should just practice it within the tunes or are there any other exercises you would recommend for old time style fiddle?

Much thanks!

Jenna
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Jenna, Intonation is a tough one. I'd suggest a couple of things. . . having a consistent and comfortable way of holding the instrument is key. I taught myself to play and to hold the fiddle, and my hold is anything but standard, but I've put a lot of thought into make the fiddle part of my body, so that when I go to grab a note I can be accurate and the same every time. If the instrument is slipping down or moving around, it makes things a lot harder. It might be useful to take a couple of lessons with someone who can assess your position.

Another thing you might try is practicing scales or triads or simple melodies very slowly using an electronic tuner, and really checking in to see that your notes are in tune. Really good for muscle memory.
I hope this helps. We all struggle with intonation, you can't ever let your guard down!
Best, Bruce
Posted by jenna.b.cook@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

Thank you so much for your advice! You are such a great player and have so much experience that I really trust your approach. I will keep at it! :-)

Jenna
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Thank you Jenna! Keep at it for sure!! Bruce
Posted by Bob Stone on
Bruce: Where can I get the sheet music for "I Get my Whisky Down in Rockingham"?
Bob Stone
Posted by Scottnyg on
Bruce will be recording the next round of lessons for the Old Time Fiddle Course in a couple days. A few of you have written with requests for tunes, techniques and other things. If there’s anything you’d like to see, drop him a line here between now and Tuesday night.
Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Bob,
I don't know of any sheet music for "I Get My Whisky From Rockingham." Sorry about that.
Best, Bruce
Posted by Scottnyg on
Here's a message from Old-Time Fiddle student Chico Converse:

On FB today Bruce asked for requests for new music. Mine is 3-part fiddle tunes and twin fiddle. BTW, I love the course. Thanks.
Posted by b7dorian@gmail.com on
"Brushy Fork of John's Creek" or "Flannery's Dream". I'd love for your take on either of these great tunes, Bruce. Thank you for the fabulous teaching, my playing has never improved so well since joining two months ago. Keep up the great work!
--Carlos Benavides.
Posted by Eric B. on
I'm enjoying the videos very much. I'd like to learn Tommy Jarrell's "Say Darlin' Say."
Posted by kathydavies21@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce!

I enjoyed hearing you live at Nimblefingers this year. I could't take your course on week 2 though. But hope to catch you live again!

I would really love a lesson on Squirrel Hunters. Love the tune, but I can't get a good bowing pattern or old tyme feel to it. Ill bet you have a long list of tunes to do, but that would be a bonus.

A couple other options: Jonny don't get drunk or Sugar Hill.

Keep up the amazing videos - I am loving them
Thanks Bruce,
Kathy
Posted by cjonthehill@yahoo.com on
New lessons email!

1.)Lost Girl (Salyer)
2.) The Devil in Georgia (Doc Roberts)
3 & 4)Hawks Got a Chicken or Chicken Reel (Doc Roberts) Okay, so I'm on a Doc Robert's kick and I like chicken tunes. There are worse things than Doc Roberts and chickens. :)
Posted by cjonthehill@yahoo.com on
Oh I second Carlos' suggestion of Brushy Fork of John's Creek
Posted by richevehardy@gmail.com on
Hello Bruce

Thank you for sharing your expertise and musical knowledge with those of us out in cyberspace. I find your tune choices and teaching method very helpful and clear. As far as tunes to recommend, I would suggest your versions or Half Past Four, Yellow Barber and Tennessee Wagoner.

Thanks again for your efforts,

Richard
Posted by krausel36@yahoo.com on
Hey Bruce,

Well, you asked for it, so here goes.

1) At the risk of sounding like I know more than I do, I'll ask if you would mind explaining the role colle vs wrist movement plays. I'm sure it is mostly a matter of preference, as every fiddler does it differently, but I'm wondering what you think about it. You seem to use finger movement to accent the bite on a downbow, are there good exercises to practice this? I'm only a few years into fiddling with no classical experience and I feel as if I'm relying a little too heavily on wrist movement. Could you delve into the right hand a little more?

2) As far as tunes go, Elzic's Farewell or Cotton Eyed Joe. Or, alternatively, I doubt I'd be the only one excited to learn some of your favorites from your forays into Scandinavian fiddle.

Thanks, looking forward to the next lesson, these have been extremely helpful.

Liam
Posted by Timothy Moran on
Hi Bruce,
I echo my friend Kathy Davies' request for a lesson on Squirrel Hunters, and would add a suggestion for lessons on Half Past Four and Jeff Sturgeon.
Loved our Nimblefingers course, and your lessons here!
Thanks,
Tim
Posted by Chico Converse on
Hi Bruce,
I would love it if you posted some 3-part fiddle tunes. Additionally,perhaps some twin fiddles repertoire?
I really like your couse.
Posted by Amy Lounder on
Hi Bruce,
Been following your lessons for almost a year. Thank you so much for the instruction, particularly on bowing style. Would you do an instructional on Julianne Johnson? It's a pretty tune but I've come across some conflicting renditions.
Thanks again for everything, I've so much to learn and yet I've come so far.

~Amy
Posted by andrew.dean@g.austincc.edu on
Hi Bruce,

I'm really enjoying and learning a lot from the lessons, I was wondering if there was any possibility of an Eck Robertson's "Say Old Man" lesson, it's a tune I've always wanted to play and I've looked for some music or lessons on it and it's mostly done in a contest style, I'd love to have some help going through it how Eck played it.

Andy
Posted by jennyejones@gmail.com on
Bruce! I'm Gene and Marynell Young's daughter and have really been enjoying your lessons. It's one of the only ways I can spring new tunes on them -- like Jenny Baker, which we have enjoyed playing in jams. Here are some things on my "list:".
Tunes:
Going to Town, Arthur Smith
Your favorite Ed Haley tune....???
Red Bird, 3 parts, Clark Kessinger or your favorite CK tune
Eck Robertson's Sally Johnson and There's a Brown-Skinned Girl Down the Road Somewhere

Techniques:
Clark Kessinger "triple bow hop" on Durang's Hornpipe

Best,
Jenny Young Jones
Posted by vanessagordonlenz@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,
In response to your email re new tunes, I would love to hear you playing " Poor Man's Troubles" , the first tune on your cd of that name.
I've gotten pretty close , but would like to see how you bow it, especially the second part.

Btw I am really enjoying singing and fiddling and have worked up "I truly Understand" and several other songs , ( in my own keys, of course.)

Thanks for the ideas and motivation,

Vanessa
Posted by amethystcrystal0214@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

Please consider recording lessons of:
Grigsby's Hornpipe
Old Blue Sow
Piney Mountains

I'm really enjoying your lessons! Your method of teaching is straightforward and easy to follow. It is exciting to learn these great old tunes at my own pace! I've discovered that it really helps to listen to your lessons with wireless headphones (I invested in a pair after the cord of my earbuds kept getting caught on my bow). The stereo effect of the headphones is especially helpful with the play-along tracks.

Thanks,
Crystal
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Wow, what a great bunch of tune suggestions and teaching ideas!! Thanks to everyone for sending - I can't do it all, but will try my best to pick a cross section of tunes that allows us to explore different styles, rhythms and related techniques. And also some singing with the fiddle.

Thanks for all your comments. I love presenting this music and am always open to suggestions or specific questions about the lessons. I'll always do my best to respond as quickly as I can.
Best, Bruce
Posted by Ashley Turner on
Hi Bill, I'd really love to see a lesson on Chinquapin Hunting and also Sugar Hill.

Best, Ash
Posted by Shelley Eves on
Hi Bruce
I love your videos on singing while playing fiddle. Tutorials on fiddle singing are hard to come by and yours are excellent. It would be lovely to see more of those!
Shelley
Posted by Jennifer W on
Hi Bruce! As an advanced violinist and a fiddler with about a year of OT experience, I'd love to see a lesson or two showing bowing techniques spanning several tunes. So the lesson isn't about learning the notes to a whole tune but bowing and how it applies, using example phrases over multiple tunes. I feel there might be many fiddlers in my boat, who want to get more targeted bowing instruction to apply globally. Enjoying these lessons so much!
Jennifer in Brooklyn
Posted by Jim Maurer on
Hi Bruce,
Ditto to all the requests centered around bowing, my weakness. Also, how about a few words and pointers about waltzes. I have never had any classical violin training and I find that my long, slow notes have a less than competent sound. Thanks gor all your wonderful music.
Jim Maurer
Posted by judykent@aol.com on
Hi, Bruce.
Several good tunes have already been suggested for the next round of videos.
My request is for a particular technique. I have trouble with rocking the bow.
Any tune that teaches this technique would be helpful to me (for example, Ragtime Annie).
Thanks again for all of the work that you put into making these exceptional videos.

Judy
Posted by Paul Sungaila on
Hi Bruce

I was in your course at Nimblefingers in August (I'm the the guy with the overly-long questions). I've been at NF for several years; every instructor I've had has been great, but I think you take the cake. Great range of knowledge to impart, but you listen even better than you speak. I've been working on your Homespun video on Singing w Fiddle, and my vote is for more of that.

How 'bout Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie? I think your recording is in F so to play it in standard you'd have to tighten up the screws a tone... Also, I have a video of your workshop where you did Train On the Island. Like Bury Me Not, incredibly poignant songs... in major keys!

So many tunes...
Paul
Posted by steve howkins on
As a novice in bluegrass I would like some exercises in how to put that 'swing' into the tunes you are teaching.
Thanks
Steve
Posted by rynnlamb@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

Maybe too late for your next round of lessons, but below are a few more requests for future consideration:

- Three Forks of Cheat
- Say Old Man
- Hangman's Reel
- 3 Marks Polska (not OT, but might be fun?)
- perhaps an overview comparison/demo of some of the "iconic" regional styles, techniques, or musicians?

Meanwhile... I have loved every one of your lessons thus far, with so many new/old tunes and unfamiliar territory. Enjoying the surprises, and thanks so much Bruce.

Best, Rynn
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Thanks once again for all these great suggestions. We did the filming this past Wednesday, and I tried my best to incorporate everyone's ideas and tune suggestions in the limited amount of time we had. I'm really happy with the result, and hope you like the lessons! Please stay in touch right here - I'll do my very best to get your questions answered.
In the meantime, check out the live Facebook video with Jenna Moynihan, Greg Liszt and me, which we recorded at the end of the filming day: https://www.facebook.com/brucemolsky/videos/10154174632100345/
Regards, Bruce
Posted by vanessagordonlenz@gmail.com on
Hello Bruce,
I've often wondered why Jigs ( from Ireland and Scotland,) did not survive in Old Time Appalachian music. Do you think it's because they don't transfer well to the banjo ?......Or perhaps because Jigs are more prominent in Irish than Scotch fiddling, and perhaps the Irish stayed more in the urban areas while it was mostly the Scotch people who settled in rural places , like North Carolina?
But , there are plenty of jigs in Canadian , Cape Breton and New England contra dance music, where there is Scotch influence....
Perhaps it's the banjo's fault?
What do you think?
Posted by vanessagordonlenz@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,
I know it's a bit late for more requests, but perhaps at some point you can demonstrate some more ideas of rhythm playing / backup to do while singing?
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Vanessa, I'm really not sure why jigs disappeared. They're mostly gone from the southern mountains, but still alive (at least some) in midwestern repertoire, and much more so in Canada. They're definitely not clawhammer friendly, though Allison de Groot in our Mountain Drifters can play them great.

You also asked about backing up singing with the fiddle. I've never done a singing/fiddling lesson that focuses on rhythm, but will think about that for the next round of lessons.
Thanks for writing! Bruce
Posted by usfantelope@gmail.com on
Hi All,

Does anyone know where I can find the three part version of Cumberland Gap? Bruce taught the AB (two part). I cannot seem to find it anywhere. I am not proficient enough to learn it by ear at this time ;).

This is the version I am talking about:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxaRov3Bmwg

Thanks for your help!

Mark
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Hi Bruce
It's Anne from Vancouver returning again. Any chance of Midnight on the water yet?
Thanks
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Mark, Joe Walsh's new CD (which I produced) has a beautiful version of the three-part Cumberland Gap you're talking about. The CD is called Borderland. You really should check it out. Brittany Haas is playing fiddle - I'd suggest you put the track into Audacity or the Amazing Slowdowner to slow it down and loop the parts.
Hope that helps! Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Anne, I won't be recording new lessons for another few months, but will be sure to put Midnight On The Water on the list of possibilities. In the meantime, listen to Benny Thomasson's beautiful straightforward version on his CD 'Say Old Man Can You Play That Fiddle' on Voyageur Records.
Bruce
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
thanks Bruce
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Hi Bruce
Benny Thomasson's Midnight on the water is beautiful. What key and tuning is it please?
https://youtu.be/VoIZWBkzxHg
Thanks
Anne
Posted by bruce_molsky on
It's in key of D, and the fiddle tuning is DDAD from bottom to top. Enjoy, and thanks for sending the YouTube clip!
Bruce
Posted by sowthewheat@gmail.com on
Bruce,
First of all thank you so much for these really great lessons. I am originally from Kentucky but now live in Austin, Texas and we don't have any old-time fiddle teachers here and so your lessons are my only opportunity to learn the bowing and style of old-time fiddle.

Secondly, I wanted to ask if you would consider doing a lesson on Big Scioty? I have tried to learn it from recording but haven't really had much success. Also, have you ever recorded Big Scioty? I have looked but haven't found one.

Thanks again for the great lessons. Sharon Isaac
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Sharon, that's great to hear you're enjoying the lessons!
Big Scioty would be a fun one to cover in the next set of lessons, and I'll put it on the list. Could be fun to follow it's progression from being a twisty, crooked old West Virginia/Kentucky tune (see John Morgan Salyer's 'Kentucky Winders' for example) to the current, very pretty version that people like to play at festivals and dances.
Thanks for writing! Bruce
Posted by sowthewheat@gmail.com on
I had no idea of that tune's journey nor it's relation to a John Salyer tune. Funny you should mention him because I was born about 5 miles from Salyersville, Ky and my aunt was married to his son. So I will definitely have another listen to Kentucky Winder!
Posted by rynnlamb@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

First of all... I can't thank you enough for your latest lesson (Jeff Sturgeon). What a fantastic tune, and your detailed bowing/phrasing ideas (as always) are exactly what's needed from my corner. Already it's become one of my all-time favorites... just so fun to play! Thank you so much for sharing that one.

Also I have a general question... is there a good open tuning that you would ever recommended for C tunes, or is it best to just stay in standard GDAE? I've looked around online, but haven't found much info on that.

Thanks much,
Rynn
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Sharon, that's amazing about your connection to J.M. Salyer! One of the greats of old time fiddling, IMO. And his son Grover's quirky guitar playing always gets me.
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Rynn, With all the alternate tunings out there, I've never run across one for playing in C. Even if there was, I'd really recommend staying in standard GDAE when playing in C.
Glad you're enjoying Jeff Sturgeon!!
Best, Bruce
Posted by sowthewheat@gmail.com on
Well then - Grover's guitar style matched his personality perfectly.
Posted by cjonthehill@yahoo.com on
Hi Bruce,
I just wanted to leave a tune suggestion for the next go around.......Red Steer (J. Dykes Magic City trio).
Still loving all the lessons here!
Cheryl
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Cheryl, I'll put it on the list - great tune!!
Thanks, Bruce
Posted by b52carr@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,
Yes I agree with Cheryl on Red Steer; a friend told me about it recently but I've not been able to find a good version online. Also "Hell Broke Loose in Georgia" is a good one. I have to tell you what a breakthrough your instruction has been for me, thank you so much for your clear teaching on bowing especially. Saw you at Bernuzios Music in Rochester recently, what an inspiring show! Best wishes for a great 2017! Hope to see you at Ashokan!
Beth Carr
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Beth, As Cheryl mentioned, Red Steer came from John Dykes - I first learned it from Jeff Goehring (of the Red Mules), probably around 1990. A really great band - they had a cassette on Merrimac Records. I'll definitely cover that in the next round of videos.
I did a Peghead Nation lesson on Katydid some time ago. Katydid is not all that different from Hell Broke Loose in Georgia, and really close to Seven Foot Dilly's Streak O'Lean Streak O'Fat. You should check them out.
Thanks for subscribing to Peghead Nation, it's always great to hear that the lessons are working!
I won't be at Ashokan in '17, but Debra Clifford and I going to host the Old Time Rollick weekend there in late March.
Happy new year! Bruce
Posted by markino.snowboard@hotmail.de on
Hi Bruce, thanks for your workshop. All the lesson are well explained,and just fun to learn.

Digging in the internet I've found the Berklee College of Music, which I found interesting. I play different kinds of instruments (Guitar,Banjo,Fiddle and Accordion) and I'd like to study mainly Traditional Folk Music from all over the world. (Old Time,Irish,Appalachian,Bulgarian,Bluegrass ecc.) Traveling to all these places would be the best thing to do. But before doing so, I'd like to have a good musical preparation in order to really understand all these kinds of music. What would be your advice?

Thanks a lot
Marco from Italy
Posted by vanessagordonlenz@gmail.com on
Hello, Bruce,
I got a few of your cd's for my birthday...Warring Cats, Soon Be Time and the one with Anonomous 4. I' m enjoying the first two a lot and I've been playing a few of these tunes with my banjo player.
Also learnt "Shaking off the Acorns" from Mike Seeger's 3rd Annual Farewell Reunion recording. ...Great cd...

Think I've got the "Poor Man's Troubles " tune pretty much worked out...( I had put that on a request list last year.)

I would love to see an instructional video on " John Brown's Dream" fiddle & vocals, and /or "cotton eyed Joe". Your fiddling on Forked Deer is amazing, it sounds like 2 Fiddler's...sounds really difficult to do....

Are you coming to Austin Tx anytime?

It is very nice to turn off the news these days and play fiddle instead.
Posted by meekdav@gmail.com on
Hi Bruce,

I really love this system, and am finding the videos incredibly helpful. One suggestion moving forward: it would be great if there was a banjo back-up track that was available for download. Given the pairing of the banjo and fiddle, having it to play along to would be awesome.

Also, I'd like to make a request for "Big Black Cat", "Say Old Man", "Jerusalem Ridge" in future recordings.
Thanks again,
David
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Marco, The Swannanoa Gathering in western North Carolina has 'theme' music weeks with great instruction. You really should consider coming to their 'Fiddle Week,' which overlaps their Mandolin and Banjo weeks in 2017. I don't know who the instructors are yet, but they always offer bluegrass, Celtic, old-time, swing and other styles, and the instructors are always great.
The website is swangathering.org.

Berklee College of Music, where I teach, is a fantastic place but a little less folk oriented, and also more geared toward degree programs.
Hope that helps! Best, Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi Vanessa, Glad you're enjoying all those CDs. I really need to get back to Austin sometime. Would love to bring the Mountain Drifters there.
John Brown's Dream and Cotton Eyed Joe are both classics. I'll see if I can get to one of them in the next round of video!
Best,
Bruce
Posted by bruce_molsky on
Hi David,
Evie Ladin is teaching the banjo track at Peghead Nation - maybe there's a way to coordinate our efforts to offer some of the same tunes. Will check into that.
Jerusalem Ridge is more in the world of bluegrass than old-time. But Eck Robertson's Say Old Man is a definite possibility!
Thanks for writing - I'm glad you're enjoying the videos.
Best, Bruce
Posted by bilzbooks@hotmail.com on
Diggin' the learnin' here, hoping to learn your approach to Cotton-Eyed Joe. Went to the Shasta String Celebration at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley a couple years ago, and the night ended with everybody in the show throwing down on your version (to my ear) of Cotten Eyed Joe. They played it through a few times onstage, and then filed outside, into the streets, and just continued to play to the traffic for a half hour or more. So, yeah, I'm hopin' to learn your version of CEJ. Gotta get through the bowing on Jenny first, of course. That's where the rubber meets the rodeo.
Posted by bruce_molsky on
The rubber meets the rodeo!! I have to remember that one . . . Cotton Eyed Joe is on the list for the next filming. Stay tuned, and thanks for writing! Bruce
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