Keep in touch by posting questions, comments, and lesson requests right here.
by Bruce Molsky
November 15, 2016
Hi to all my Peghead Nation fiddle and banjo students,
Comments and Discussion
The more I listen to old source material the more I want to add to the wish list of tunes that I hope can teach us. Now I am thinking of the French Carpenter opus, particularly modal tunes like Yew Piney Mountain, Camp Chase,and Elzik’s Farewell.
I recently rediscovered a tape I got at Augusta years ago of Delbert Hughes. He is a powerhouse, and could teach the keepers of the atomic clock a few things about keeping great time! I think his playing is equal in quality to greats like Marcus Martin and Clyde Davenport, yet I don’t hear his name mentioned much. I learned one tune off the tape, “Davey, Why Don’t Youmcome home ....”, in the unusual tuning of GEAE. I believe he has another tune called Jodie in the same tuning. Do you know any other tunes in this tuning?
Best, David Comins
This may be a hard question to answer without visuals, but I was wondering if you could explain more about your 'pulsey bouncy' technique you describe in Jeff Sturgeon, Part 3 at 8:46. I find this to be one of signature moves and absolutely love how it changes an already danceable tune into an even more danceable tune. It's a great variation. You give the basic pattern in the video, but can this same exact pattern be incorporated into other songs? I see you also use it in Red Steer toward the end of the play along (and you use it a lot in your recordings.) How do you know which songs this formation fits into nicely? Do you always keep the exact pattern for the 'pulsey bouncy' technique but put the correct notes for a tune within the pattern? Sorry, if I'm not explaining the question correctly...it's hard to describe. Thanks so much Bruce for any feedback! -Shawn
Do you know the tune Brad Walters that John Salyer plays? I thought it would be interesting to add to my “wish list”.
Just wanted to drop a line and let you know that I am really enjoying the banjo lessons. I hope there are many more to come!
Thanks for the lessons and all of the great music!
Best, David Comins
Yesterday I listened to Burl Hammons’ tape, in particular Old Sledge. I have heard you play a very elaborate version in the past. Wondering if you would consider teaching Hammon’s setting, or even more of your own at some point. I realize this also would be a complicated lesson. Also, what is the tuning for Old Sledge?
Thanks, David Comins
Some of those workshop recordings you brought with you must be REALLY old. I haven't taught at Augusta in many years. So glad you're enjoying the Peghead Nation lessons. . .
It would be fun to break down Haley's Lost Indian. That would be a very complicated lesson - I'll have to give it some thought, but the idea is intriguing. Lots of variations possible in each of the parts. And Sally Ann is totally possible. Thanks for staying in touch. Bruce
Best, David Comins
The "hahaha" tune is Grey Eagle, originally recorded by Lake Howard and Roland Cauley in the 1920s. It's become a favorite with the Mountain Drifters, kind of crazy.
Thanks for writing! Bruce
There are so many sources for old recordings readily available these days that it's really hard to even suggest where to start your listening journey. The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress is one: https://www.loc.gov/folklife/; also The Digital Library of Appalachia: http://dla.acaweb.org/. You might also check out compilation recordings put out by quite a few labels.
I hope that helps! Bruce
Nice hearing from you after quite a long time. Let's see if you can start an old time music trend in Israel! Thanks a lot for the tune suggestions . . . I'm putting together a list for the next video shoot in a few months and will put them on there. Also your idea of a "deeper dive" on bowing would be interesting, though I try to get into that a little with most of the fiddle lessons. Have you looked that the lesson on "Pickin' The Devil's Eye"? "Jeff Sturgeon"? Those are both bow-centric tunes and I think you'll find some good info in there.
Take care, and have fun with it! Bruce
Some other tunes to add to the wish list would be Sally Johnson/Katy Hill, Clyde Davenport’s and/or John Sharp’s 5 Miles From Town, Last of Callahan, Rolling Rover, Brushy Fork of John’s Creek, John Henry, Breaking up Christmas . So many tunes great tunes to choose from! Thanks for the great lessons !
A while back you did a basic tutorial for Strings Magazine where you spoke about using bowing to achieve the old time sound. Perhaps we Peghead Nation citizens could benefit from a deeper dive into this subject , with some of the mysteries unraveled of how you achieve percussive effects with the bow.
Do you have any listening suggestions apart from the tunes we're learning on peghead nation, or any particular records that have really struck you and/or your peers?
I am Jerry H from Cleveland Heights. I just started playing fiddle within the year as a retirement project, so I am not burdened by classical training (although I once knew all my scales on the bassoon). I am playing a hundred year old German no label instrument. I also play old time banjo. I like learning on the net, though of course you don't get the feedback. As an adult learner, I'm OK with that. Great to see Bruce and the band in Ohio a few weeks ago. Bruce, do you remember playing a tune where the only words were "ha ha ha"? What was that tune?
In an effort to be a more well-rounded fiddler, I've been listening to Arto Jarvela's awesome cross-tuned album. I've been wondering what is different about the general bowing patterns/accents used in the Finnish/Swedish style compared to OT. At any rate, it sounds very similar but I fear that I might be missing some details.
After a short hiatus, I'm back on your great fiddle course and I'm loving the songs added since I was away. May I request your version of "Lost Boy" from your Lost Boy Album? It just makes a person want to dance.
Looking forward to meeting you at Live Oak. My first time, and it looks to be a great event.
Glad you're enjoying the courses!!
I just sent my payment and registration for Live Oak Fiddle Camp this May. I'm so excited to hang and learn, and particularly excited to spend some time studying with you. I'm really loving the old time fiddle course, I've been working on perfecting Soldier's Joy. I learned it originally on the interview/lesson you did with Darol Anger on artist works, but there's even more detail on PHN, and alot I didn't catch at the time. I've also been hustling hard on learning how to sing and play Green Grows the Laurel, so much fun, and such a brain teaser. Thanks for everything, really having fun and loving it all. Looking forward to trying your Banjo Course too, I just started learning about a month ago via evie laden's course.
Happy Christmas, holidays and New Year, Bruce,
Vanessa ( in Cape Town Summer)
Happy holidays, Bruce
I've been listening to this Chinquapin Hunting and the version on your Instructional cd . The A parts sound the same but the B and C parts sound fairly different to me. Are these 2 from different sources?
I'll put Flowers of Edinburgh on the list of possibilities for the next video!
Thanks for the quick reply regarding the Flatwoods tune. Guess I'll try and work it out. How about your pleasantly cooked version of Flowers of Edinburg as a future lesson? Happy Holidays to you as well.
Happy holidays, Bruce
It always surprises me when you post a lesson of a song I'm already working on. Chinquapin Hunting falls into that category. Wanting to say between your excellent recording of Grandad's Favorite with Molskys Mountain Drifters and my Milliner/Koken book of fiddle tunes I have recently started playing that tune but the Flatwoods version you play eludes me. The book shows a Tommy Jarrell, Clyde Davenport, Emmett Lundy and a Jerry Lundy version but none are in AEAE or sound quite like what you play. The liner notes speak of you learning from a cassette from Eldia Barbee.
Just started on the old time fiddle lessons, incredibly excited to get started here with you. I 1st heard and of you through artist works and the interview you did with Darol and learned soldiers joy. Thank you for sharing this beautiful music.
I would love to see a video of green grows the laurel, I've been working on it and I'm interested in playing and singing more.
Thanks for the reply on the Suzanna Gal request.
Look down the list and you'll see "Susannana Gal" also called "Susanna Gals" (and "Western Country" and "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss"). Glad you're enjoying Bruce's lessons.
Editor and Co-Founder
I love the fiddle lessons. I’m a huge fan of Tommy Jarrell. How ‘bout Suzanna Gal as one of the lessons.
Let me know if you have questions about anything at all!
I've just joined the Wade Ward banjo course and spent a few hours going through the entire repertoire without my banjo in hand just to get the vibe of your teaching style and the tunes themselves. A couple of points I really like: As a person who has spent decades playing rock and blues on both electric and acoustic guitar, I have a serious ear for backbeat. I'm a big fan of Lukas Pool's banjo style, which also accentuates the 2 and 4 counts and I really want to bring that into my playing as well (I'm only about 15 months into clawhammer banjo). Also, having played a lot of twangy rock and country music on guitar I'm familiar with mixolydian mode and the b7 has always been a significant part of tunes I've played. I heard it immediately in the Wade Ward style and it's something I have naturally done in working up arrangements of old time repertoire myself. I naturally found inversions of major chords on banjo, especially in double C or D tuning, so your examples hit home for me. I also like throwing b3 and b5 into variations in old time tunes because those notes seem unexpected in the standards Thanks very much for putting this course together. Now I'm going to tackle it with a banjo on my knee!
I'm loving my lessons. I'm so relieved to be making bowing progress!
And please oh please....Chinquapin Hunting. I love that song.
Glad you're enjoying the Wade Ward course. I'm not even sure if we're going to add lessons to it, but will think about Peachbottom Creek if we do!
Also I was wondering whether you plan to teach a lesson on "Peachbottom Creek".
One approach could be just to consider a particular phrase in a melody and listen for the accents. Those accents are likely where bow direction changes.
Just singing the phrase will often help too. Sorry I can't be more specific on this. . .
If you listen to any of Wade's recordings of 'Lost Indian,' his hammer-on is pretty quick at the top of the A-part every time. Likewise in his rendition of 'Reuben's Train,' very quick. I think of them as grace notes, but really effective.
Varying the speed of hammer-ons and also brushes are good ways to get some variation of feeling and momentum in your tunes.
I am not sure I even know how to ask this question, but I have been studying your bowing patterns. I did fairly well until you said, "OK now lets put these under the melody. I know what you mean, however up until this point, it was a note for note, stroke for stroke lesson.. There seems to be a leap of faith here. Or am I missing something? How do you match the bowing patterns to the melody? Just pick the pattern that seems to fit? does this become instinctive? Incidentally I have been fiddling for ten years, but never landed on a style until I saw your program. Thanks
I'm very excited about your lessons on Wade Ward style banjo! He's a favorite, so I look forward to your insights on his playing.
Could you comment on the timing of the hammer-ons in Mississippi Sawyers and Old Reuben? I've noticed that they're quick little things, with the first note taking up less than an 1/8th note value of time before the hammer falls. (It seems analogous to what some call a "quick slide.") Is that kind of quick hammer-on a characteristic of Wade Ward's playing?
I'll certainly consider Forked Deer for a future set of lessons. And yes, I start on the 'B' part on purpose! Always just liked the tune better that way. . .
I don't know the scale length on my Kyle Creed banjo, but it's long for sure, probably longer than your Reiter. It's a very 'tight' instrument to play, which is one of the things I love about it.
As to strings, I've been using D'Addario medium gauge phosphor bronze for a very long time.
Hope that helps. I'm glad you're enjoying the course! Bruce
Thanks so much!
Suggestion for a future lesson : your version of Forked Deer from your "Soon Be Time" album.
Does it start with the B part???
I'm taking your banjo course. Great course! I've got the framework down for Mississippi Sawyer and I'm moving on to part 3. But my question is really concerning the aDADE tuning. I have an Enoch Dobson, the scale measures about 25.75", I can tune the 5th string to A and the other strings tune up fine. No railroad spike or Capos. I'd like to play this tune on my Bart Reiter ff Professional, the scale on this measures 26.25. Again, I'd like to tune to aDADE without a spike or a call. Do you see any problems with it? Also it looks like your Kyle Creed banjos 5th string is tuned to A without a spike, is that the case? What scale length is your banjo? What strings do you recommend for this scale and tuning situation?
I think you showed similar bowing patterns in the Soldiers Joy video ...I'll have to check back.
One little suggestion , I hope you don't mind me saying , but could you perhaps not explain how to tune to AEAE each time? Maybe you could refer fiddlers to the first time you explained it in an earlier video lesson? Or, you could have a separate video for people who want help on tunings.
Thanks for considering,
Can I please second Brien's request above for a lesson on Candy Girl. I was classically trained, and find the rhythmic groove and cyclical skipping style of your bowing technique very difficult to replicate – but I LOVE it! I'm not aware there's anything like this in the classical world. The video you mentioned for Strings Magazine, is enlightening, but doesn't have the attention to detail of your Peghead lessons.
Dominic (in London).
I was praying secretly to the fiddle gods for a lesson on Cotton Eyed Joe, but you answered directly instead!
Thank You! I8 E F mF
Have been enjoying the fiddle lessons and just signed up for the Wade Ward Banjo course - glad you're doing that!
Hope you'll consider broadening your clawhammer scope at some point - realizing that one doesn't want to overstep one's tutorial turf - and maybe take a look at Tommy Jarrell's banjo style.
He's so much associated with fiddle - for obvious reasons! - but remains a favorite of mine or his banjo playing, too.
Appreciate your efforts on all our behalfs,
I'll put it and Last of Callahan on the short list of possibilities for future videos!
Firstly thank you for the great lessons! Moving over from playing classical music to folk music has been a lot of fun. I'm really interested in learning your version of The Last of Callahan and candy girl if you're taking requests.
Thanks for time and the lessons,
Love your course! Id love a lesson on how you play Cotton eyed Joe.
I enjoyed learning the tune Casey's Reel and about Missouri fiddler Dwight Lamb. Do you have any idea where the tune comes from ? I realize it is on Dwight Lamb's CD, but do you have any idea where he got it? Also, the tune has a different sound and vibe than most old time tunes I have heard, particular the southern type. I wondered since he was a master of Dutch tunes if this tune might have come from a Dutch or other European origin? The tune is a lot of fun to play, although I find it a challenge to get the pulses and double stops in smoothly and Bm and D chords. Thanks for sharing the tune.
Thanks also Bruce for your thoughts on making changes to the fiddle's set-up.
- check the string height at the nut and at the bridge to see if it's it's high. I tend to keep mine lower than average, and find it makes it easier to get around.
- flattening the bridge is a compromise, since the flatter you make your bridge, the more accurate you have to be to get nice clean single notes on the inside strings (not necessarily a bad thing). I keep mine way flatter than a standard classical set-up.
- working on posture is important, but so is just general body maintenance. Moderate physical exercise and regular stretching goes a long way. Here's an article I found with some ideas:
I hope this helps! Best, Bruce
Do you suggest getting a flatter bridge for playing this type of music -- double stops being the primary reason? I'm getting some wrist pain and am getting posture help from a teacher here but also wonder if there's an adjustment for this type of music I might make to the instrument.
It just takes awhile. Don't try to do too much all at once.
Hope you're enjoying Lost Boy! Bruce
I'll throw in my request for an intensive bowing technique/exercises lesson. I eep going back to the one you did for Strings magazine (I think that's right) and discover something new each time.
I'm working on the Red Rocking Chair. I like the suggestions for back up . A couple of questions:
1) I Can sing while playing a shuffle as long as my singing is really straight and on the beat. ..Which sounds rather dull and square...
As soon as I try to sing the melody with a little syncopation, my bow wants to do the same. Perhaps I need to slow things down and very gradually play around with the melody , while keeping the fiddle rhythm really steady...?
2) about 1 minute into the 3rd lesson, you said Norman E ended on a "D" chord. Did you perhaps mean to say C or IV chord ?
Oh and btw Audrey sent me the Lost Boy cd
Requests are good!! I really don't mind. Also, the sound of "this is my last request" is a little scary :)
I've had a few requests for bowing exercises such as you're describing. Patterns are one thing, but accenting within patterns is yet another layer, and something I experiment with a lot. I'll give all of that some thought for the next video filming and try to include some things about that.
At the risk of wearing out my welcome I will make one "last" request. As I progress past learning the basic forms of the songs and applying ornaments you show I often make poor attempts at rhythmic bowing exercises. You will add percussive accents in all sorts of places and I will freak out inside about how cool they are. Could you possibly teach some bowing exercises beyond say the figure eight bowing pattern that makes Candy Girls so wicked. I would love to learn a few cool bowing tricks but just don't even know how to approach them.
That's it, I promise no more.
I'm so glad the lessons are helping! I try to include something with fiddling and singing in every round of lessons, and will be sure to do the same in the next filming.
Happy fiddling!! Bruce
Thanks for the note back on clawhammer and consider me tuned in and ready for info when that's available! Wade and Tommy, indeed. I hear a lot of Tommy in your banjo playing and love his style. Always interested me how many old timers doubled on banjo and fiddle.
And to all my Peghead Nation students, please send ideas and suggestions for future lessons!
I don't know if you have planned next months tune but I would like to make a request for you to put Tommy Jarrell's "Jimmy Sutton" on the list of possibilities.
That's a really interesting idea - might take a while to actually get Evie's and my classes to sync up because filming schedules are different, but I'll see if there's anything we can do. How cool that you and your wife are finding music on Peghead Nation to play together!
Work on one tune at a time until you feel comfortable and can get all the way through it smoothly. I wouldn't recommend trying to work on too many different things at once.
And be sure to write back here with questions as they come up.
You asked about my favorite banjo players in tradition - that would be a pretty long list. You could start with Wade Ward and Tommy Jarrell, but there are so many others. . . Pete Steele, Matokie Slaughter, Morgan Sexton. I love the old recordings made in '59 of fiddle Jim Bowles and his wife Zelma on banjo, so beautiful and locked in.
Have a great time with it all! Bruce
And how will I know when it is time to work on a new tune?
I figured it was ok to ask here since it is still Old-Time, just Norwegian OT. :-)
By the way, Bruce, love your clawhammer style. Learned 'Cider' from your CD. Fun one.
I realize it's a sidebar, but outdo enjoy learning more about your banjo influences, favorite players and such.
I finally took the plunge last night and signed up for this course after procrastinating for a couple years. I didn't see it in the curriculum, but is there a video lesson for Bonaparte's Retreat that Bruce played in the intro? Really love that tune. It was even a big part of my book, Strings of Faith. Thanks all. I look forward to finally getting seriously engaged with my fiddle.
And as far as bowing and keeping your right hand loose, just go slower than slow to start and stick with a small section of the tune. As it gets more comfortable, increase the tempo gradually. Patience is a virtue!!
I'm really glad you're enjoying the course!
Thanks for the lessons, I'm on the east coast of Canada and finding old time music through your peghead lessons has been a bright light.
I'm working on Pickin' the Devil's Eye and the variations are a real cruncher. I'm trying to keep my left AND right hand loose so they can both be busy. Any recommendations for working with the cross string and double stop styles? another similar tune that's a wee bit simpler?
Thanks again and keep'em coming,
Welcome back. Yes, having some good results with the bow hand. Playing yesterday and suddenly realized I have more control with a loose grip than the monkey grip I was using. :)
Fiddle, as it turns out, is quite the opportunity to learn about yourself.
It's certainly possible to put more bowing detail in the transcriptions, but the real point of the video lessons is to encourage learning by watching, not reading.
For tune sections that might not be clear, I'd suggest using the slow down feature. Click on the "gear" icon in the lower right hand corner of the video, then select "1X", then "0.5X" to give you half-speed playback.
I hope that helps. Thanks for subscribing!
Vanessa, yes I'm really excited to be coming to Austin with the Mountain Drifters. It's been a long time!! And we do have a few copies of Lost Boy here . . . it's out of print, so not on my website store anymore. But write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like one, and we'll figure out how to get it to you.
Dave, how's it going with your bow hold? Are you tensing up less now? Vanessa's advice was really good!!!
Keep writing, it's great to get all your postings.
The "table" analogy was brilliant and has eloped immensely. I'm still gripping
Too tightly with my right hand on bow, but am at least aware when it happens. Thanks for the tips!
PS-This discussion group sure has slowed down in activity. Where be Bruce?
I will incorporate these tips and let you know how I fare.
Appreciate your help,
Is your LOST BOY cd still available?
Glad to hear that you're coming to the Austin String Band Festival in October!
You might try this; (1) think of the fiddle being like a table, . The FIDDLE supports the weight of the bow, and your hand is merely guiding it.
2)You might try keeping your thumb bent and pinky finger curved on top. Thumb and middle finger almost making a circle. Middle two fingers hanging over the side like two legs dangling over the edge of a swimming pool. Carefull of pressing too hard with index finger. ...
3)Try to let your shoulders relax.
Not sure if Bruce will agree...
I'm enjoying the lessons and the knowledge that other folks are on the same Path. Fun!
Question for Bruce and all the fiddlers on the blog: I am trying to achieve a more relaxed hold on the bow, as I find myself gripping too hard and tensing up. Even as I am finding better tone and less tension in my overall playing, as well as less pressure on the bow (finally!), I still seem to be oversqueezing with my bow hand.
I realize the answer is "Well, Dave, don't do that," but wonder if you all who have successfully navigated this section of trail can offer tips/techniques for remediating this tense issue.
I am learning "Bury Me Not..." from your " Soon Be Time" cd.
I have listened many times, but I still can't get the lyrics in the 7th verse:
" Where the dewdrops fall and the butterfly rest,
Where the wild blossoms bloom and the ? ? ( 3 syllables)
I did Google lyric searches but could not find that verse.
I did not find any similar versions on YouTube.
I'm a big believer in practicing things slowly and increasing tempo gradually. If you feel comfortable at one speed, trying bumping it up just a little and see if you lose any of the details in your playing. If you do, slow it back down! If not, then continue to increase the tempo until you're just pushing your limit. The key is to not play faster than you can do it with all the ornaments and interesting rhythms intact. As with everything in music patience is a virtue.
Stick with just Jenny Baker for a little while until you're comfortable, then try all this on a different tune.
I hope this helps a little more!
Enjoying the course very much!
I'm tapping the bow against the fingerboard; it's something Tommy Jarrell used to do. Maybe not so good for the instrument - please be careful if you try it!
Thank you very much for sending the liner notes. Great, so I can say a little more about the background when I play the tunes at gigs.
What are you doing , about 2 1/2 min into Cotton Eyed Joe? It sounds like a tap with the wood of the bow, or are you tapping / knocking on the fiddle with your left hand?
The easiest way to speed the track up would be to use the software Amazing Slow Downer. You can also use open source Audacity. Both programs will change the speed without changing the pitch. Hope that helps. Sorry if I failed to play it up to speed in the lesson!
I'm glad you're enjoying the lessons!
About tuning your E-string from E to C#, it really does change the sound. It's nice having that major third ringing open. You can play it in AEAE though. I'd suggest you give C# a try, just to see. You can always go back!
And yes, I played Forked Deer in ADAE. Still do. . .
I can't find the " informative piece written by Kerry Blech " on your website.
(as mentioned in the liner notes of your " Soon Be Time" cd....)
Is it still on your website?
I have been enjoying learning several more tunes from your recordings, using Amazing Slow Downer to try to really hear details... ( Three Forks of Cleat, Callahans, Gringsby Hornpipe, Cotton Eyed Joe...)
I play Gringsby in AEAE , as I am reluctant to retune my high E string. I have no problems getting to and from std to ADAE or AEAE. I am aware of the different results using AEAE tuning, but think it works ok...
I like to slide up to an A harmonic for the high note....is this totally out of character?
And while you are still here, did you play "Forked Deer" in ADAE tuning? ( On Soon Be Time cd)
Been working on it and love the chord voicing support. Just can't quite figure out some of the inversions by ear. Would be such a treat to spring that one on my music-loving in-laws who live out on the prairie. :)
Loving the course and really glad I signed up.
Couple of suggestions for the future - Silver Lake and Washington March
Caught your show last night at Barking Legs Theater in Chattanooga. What a great time and a pleasure to meet and talk with you for a few minutes. You asked if I had been on the blog so here I am!
Thanks for writing, Bruce
Nice work here on the PegHead Nation!
Well, yes, it took me long enough to get here, but I've found another fiddle for all those wonky tunings, so looking forward to lots of fun!
Best to you,
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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!
Glad you're enjoying Jeff Sturgeon!!
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.
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
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
Benny Thomasson's Midnight on the water is beautiful. What key and tuning is it please?
Hope that helps! Bruce
It's Anne from Vancouver returning again. Any chance of Midnight on the water yet?
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:
Thanks for your help!
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
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?
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?
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/
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.
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...
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.
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.
Jennifer in Brooklyn
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!
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.
Please consider recording lessons of:
Old Blue Sow
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.
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,
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
Clark Kessinger "triple bow hop" on Durang's Hornpipe
Jenny Young Jones
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.
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.
I would love it if you posted some 3-part fiddle tunes. Additionally,perhaps some twin fiddles repertoire?
I really like your couse.
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!
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.
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,
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. :)
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
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.
I don't know of any sheet music for "I Get My Whisky From Rockingham." Sorry about that.
Editor and Co-Founder
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! :-)
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!
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?
Have fun with it!
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?
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!!
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
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,
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!
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
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.
Sorry for the additional post.....there's no way to edit what you've written in this blog format. A bit cumbersome.
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!!)
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!
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:
I'll put Rocky Road to Dublin on the list. In the meantime, you can find Allen Sisson's recording on YouTube!
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.
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.
So glad you're enjoying the lessons. Write again if you have any questions about Fort Smith!
There are now audio files up for Apple Blossom and Fort Smith.
Editor and Co-Founder
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.
I'm always open to suggestions for improving the lessons - really glad you're enjoying them!
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
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?
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!
Thanks for writing, I hope you're enjoying the lessons!
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?
Oops, you are right. Not sure how those chords got in there. It's been corrected. Thanks for catching that and letting us know.
Editor and Co-Founder
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!
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.
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 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!
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
Glad you're enjoying Bruce's course, Ruth.
Editor and Co-Founder
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!
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.
Editor and Co-Founder
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
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.
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!
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
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!
Happy New Year! Bruce
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
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
2. Shortnin Bread--Old Crow Medicine Show
PS enjoyed your mention of Ellika Frisell... :)
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
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
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
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
Editor and Co-Founder
BTW, great class. Julie
Thanks for that, and for checking in. Best, Bruce
Ft. Smith Breakdown.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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!
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)
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!
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!!
Thank you !!!
Thank you so so much for adding the mp3s. And I really enjoyed the Fine Times at Our House lesson.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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. . .
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
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