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Beginning Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddle
with Chad Manning
About This Course
Learn how to get that fiddley sound by learning beginner-level fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs, with technique tips for both hands and basic theory.
Try a Sample Lesson
In the second part of this lesson, you’ll learn the B part of “June Apple” phrase by phrase, as well as the “Georgia shuffle” bowing pattern, which works well on the B part. You’ll also learn how to add drone strings to the A and B parts.
Meet the Instructor
Chad Manning
Chad Manning is a Bay Area bluegrass, old-time, and swing fiddler who plays with the David Grisman Sextet, the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, and Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands. Over the years he has toured with many bluegrass greats such as J.D. Crowe, Curly Seckler, Alan Munde, and Tony Trischka, to name a few. Chad also finds great joy in teaching and working with all levels of adult fiddle students. He and his wife, Catherine, teach more than a hundred students at their studio in Berkeley, California.
Peghead Play-Along Tracks
Peghead Nation is creating a library of accompaniment videos (and downloadable MP3s) for songs and tunes that are taught on the site, classics that you'll find at many jams and picking parties. As a subscriber, you have access to this library and can use the tracks to practice playing tunes and songs at a slow or medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. New songs will be added regularly.
The Beginning Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddle Subscription Includes:
  • 45 in-depth fiddle video lessons
  • Detailed notation for every lesson
  • Extensive technique and theory lessons for both hands
  • 34 complete songs and tunes
  • High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action.
  • Play-Along Tracks for most tunes so you can practice what you’ve learned
$20/Month For One Course
Additional courses only $10/month each!   •   Save 20% with an annual subscription
Get started now!
Use promo code ChadLand at checkout
and get your first month free or $20 off an annual subscription.

Learn how to get that fiddley sound by learning beginner-level fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs, with technique tips for both hands and basic theory.

Beginning Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddle Course Outline
Get started with these introductory technique lessons for both hands, with helpful exercises as well as essential advice on tuning and caring for your fiddle.
Care and Maintenance of Your Fiddle 
Learn key tips for taking good care of your fiddle and bow, such as loosening the bow before you put it away, cleaning your strings, how much rosin to use, and more. 

Tuning the Fiddle

Learn how to get in tune using an electronic tuner.


Holding the Fiddle

Chad shares advice on holding the fiddle, including how to hold the fiddle with and without a shoulder rest.


Bow Technique 
Bow technique is all about trying to get the tone you hear in your head into your fiddle. Chad demonstrates his approach to holding the bow, and how to find a good position that will work for you, with some simple exercises from Yehudi Menuhin’s book Violin and Viola. He also includes some call-and-response exercises that explore different bow tones.

Left-Hand Technique 
Learn how best to position your left-hand on the fiddle, the difference between playing with the tips of the fingers versus the pads, and how much pressure to use to get the best tone. Chad also delves into various pitch issues, such as the “ring” you get when you play certain notes perfectly in tune, landing notes firmly with your fingers and adjusting the pitch afterward by “rolling” your finger, and more.

Learn a bunch of great fiddle tunes, from popular bluegrass and old-time favorites to lesser-known gems, with advice on how to make them sound “fiddly.”
Angeline the Baker

“Angeline the Baker” is one of the most popular fiddle tunes at bluegrass and old-time jams throughout the world. After learning the melody you’ll learn to add the fiddle “layers” that really make you sound like a fiddler, including hammer-ons, up-sweeps, anticipation, and double-stringing.


Cripple Creek

“Cripple Creek” is a classic old-time and bluegrass favorite in the key of A that is a favorite of fiddlers as well as banjo players. You’ll learn the basic melody and how to add a shuffle bowing pattern that accents the backbeat.


June Apple

Learn the popular old-time tune “June Apple” and how to play the A part with the “Nashville shuffle” bowing pattern and the B part with the “Georgia shuffle” bowing pattern.


Elk River Blues

“Elk River Blues” is a simple, evocative old-time tune from West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter. It has “crooked” phrasing, in which some phrases have an extra measure of 2/4, and you’ll learn to add some nice hammer-on and drone notes to fill out the melody.


Old Joe Clark

“Old Joe Clark” is one of the best-known American fiddle tunes. It’s in the key of A Mixolydian, which means that the seventh step of the A major scale (G#) is lowered to a G natural. In addition to learning a shuffle bow pattern you can use to play both parts of the basic mleody, as well as some double-stringing and slides, you’ll learn a more “notey” version of the melody with variations on each phrase.


Whiskey Before Breakfast

Another need-to-know fiddle tune, “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is in the key of D and the B part includes some cool slides. You’ll also learn a few simple melodic variations.


Tennessee Waltz

A beautiful and popular waltz, “Tennessee Waltz” is played all over North America. It’s in the key of D so you’ll learn a D scale and a D arpeggio and get advice on getting the D and A notes to ring in tune. You’ll also learn a few variations that include hammer-ons and slides.


St. Anne’s Reel

“St. Anne’s Reel” is a Canadian fiddle tune that has become popular wherever fiddlers are gathered. You’ll learn the melody, of course, and also how the melody fits the chords. Then you’ll learn some simple chord double stops to play if you want to play along with another fiddler or another instrumentalist taking a solo. 


Pretty Little Dog

This pretty little A modal tune comes from West Virginia fiddler Lee Triplett and is now played by Celtic fiddlers, old-time fiddlers, and others. You’ll learn how to find the melody in the lower octave and how to add the fiddle “layers” like double stringing, slides, and hammer-ons.


Seneca Square Dance

The old-time tune “Seneca Square Dance” comes from a 1920s recording of fiddler Sam Long. In addition to learning the melody, you’ll pay particular attention to the bowing, which combines long held notes with quick bow strokes.


More Technique
Learn some exercises for developing good vibrato technique, which should not be just a shake of your finger but very deliberate changes in pitch.

Right-Hand Relaxation Exercises

In this video, Chad gives you some simple exercises to help you keep your bow hand relaxed while you play.


Left-Hand Relaxation Exercises

Chad gives you a couple of simple exercises to help you keep your left hand loose and relaxed.


To learn to improvise on the fiddle, or accompany others with chords, it’s important to learn simple music theory on the fiddle.
Scales and Chords 
In this basic music theory lesson, you’ll learn how scales and chords are constructed so you can find them in any key. You’ll also learn some handy fingering patterns for scales and some chord “shapes” that will help you remember them.

Major Scales in Bluegrass Keys 
Learn some major scale exercises in all the bluegrass keys: A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F, and G. You’ll also learn a trick for remembering how many sharps are in the keys of G, D, A, and E, and how to create minor chords by lowering the third in a major chord by a half step.

Most fiddlers concentrate on learning fiddle tunes, but if you’ve been to any bluegrass jams, you know that they include lots of songs as well as mandolin and banjo tunes, so it’s good to know how to play solos (or breaks) on songs and other kinds of melodies.
Bury Me Beneath the Willow

Put what you learned in the lessons on Scales and Chords to use in this lesson by adding double stops to the melody of the old-time and bluegrass favorite “Bury Me Beneath the Willow.”


Bluegrass Stomp

The Bill Monroe instrumental “Bluegrass Stomp,” a swingy blues in the key of D, gives you the opportunity to work on some new bow techniques, in particular, learning to stop the bow, or “bow breaks.”


Kentucky Waltz

Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz” is one of his most popular songs. Chad talks about how the notes of the melody relate to the chords that go with the tune and how some of the phrases outline the chords. You’ll also learn to add harmony notes to the melody of “Kentucky Waltz,” with advice on fingering double stops so you get two clear notes.


Clinch Mountain Backstep

The great singer and banjo player Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass banjo tune “Clinch Mountain Backstep” has become a bluegrass standard that players of every instrument should know. It’s in A Mixolydian and has an extra beat in the second half. You’ll learn how to anticipate or “jump” the beat as well as some bluesy slides and double stops.


Your Love Is Like a Flower

 Chad shows you his approach to playing bluegrass solos using this standard song with a very common chord progression. You’ll learn the melody and chords in the key of E using standard “capo” positions, the major pentatonic scale, and other bluegrass fiddle techniques. You’ll also learn some exercises to help you learn to match the melody of “Your Love Is Like a Flower” with the chords, and how you can move the “capo” position to different keys, like B, Bb, etc. And you’ll get five play-along tracks so you can practice playing “Your Love Is Like a Flower” in the keys of E, A, G, D, and C.


Down the Road

The Flatt and Scruggs song “Down the Road” is a bluegrass standard and has been recorded by many musicians, including the Bluegrass Album Band, whose fiddler Bobby Hicks inspired the first solo you’ll learn here. It’s a relatively simple tune, just eight bars long and with only two chords, but it’s in the key of B, so it’s a good song for practicing playing in B. Bobby Hicks’ solo includes some great pentatonic licks using the capo position. You’ll also learn a variation played by Stuart Duncan.


A Voice on the Wind

The bluegrass song “A Voice on the Wind” was written by Butch Waller and made famous by Tim O’Brien and Hot Rize. It’s a medium tempo song in the key of G. Chad shows you the melody and how to add some double stops and bluesy embellishments.


Blue Ridge Cabin Home

“Blue Ridge Cabin Home” is a bluegrass classic that comes from Flatt and Scruggs. In this lesson you’ll learn to play a simple solo on “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” in the key of A with drones and double stops.


In these in-depth lessons on chords, you’ll learn a couple of double stops on each string for major chords in the the keys of D, G, and C, some exercises to help you practice them, and some ways to work on transitioning between the chords.
In these lessons, Chad talks about his philosophy of improvising with lots of concrete examples and exercises for coming up with variations on the melody, improvising on the chords, etc.
Improvising on “June Apple”

To improvise on a fiddle tune like “June Apple,” the first step is to learn the chords. Chad shows you the chord progression as well as a nice backup rhythm. Then he talks about his philosophy of improvising and shows you how he distills a tune down to its most basic elements, so that you can start playing around with the rhythm, varying the melody, etc. 


Improvising on a Blues

Learn how to improvise on a blues tune like “Bluegrass Stomp.” You’ll learn the D major pentatonic scale and how you can flat the third of that scale to play over the G (IV) chord, as well as a simple chord position to play on the A (V) chord and ideas about using seventh chords and singing along with your playing.


Improvising in B Modal

Learn a great way to improvise or play solos on bluesy bluegrass songs in the key of B. Chad starts by showing you the B minor pentatonic scale, which has the same notes as the D major pentatonic scale, and then shows you how, by just changing the D natural note to D#, you get a great blues scale in the key of B major.  



Learn the melody to the swing tune “Summertime” in the key of E minor and work on learning to improvise on the melody. Chad gives you an example of how to improvise on the melody without thinking about the chord changes, and then how to improvise just using the E minor pentatonic scale. You’ll also learn how to practice improvising with the app/software program iRealPro. 


More Fiddle Tunes
Blackberry Blossom

Learn the old-time and bluegrass fiddle standard “Blackberry Blossom,” along with the bowing pattern Chad plays, which is primarily the “Nashville shuffle,” with a couple variations. You’ll also learn a short bluesy variation on the B part.


Red-Haired Boy

The jam-session favorite “Red-Haired Boy” is in the key of A Mixolydian. You’ll learn Chad’s bowing along with the melody as well as a more “notey” version of “Red-Haired Boy” and how to combine the two versions.


Ookpik Waltz

The beautiful “Ookpik Waltz” has become popular in old-time and bluegrass circles. It sounds traditional, but was written by Canadian fiddler Frankie Rodgers. In addition to learning the melody to “Ookpik Waltz,” you’ll learn a great warm-up exercise with open strings, designed to help you get even, consistent tone with your bowing arm. 


Soldier’s Joy

“Soldier’s Joy” is a must-know fiddle classic. It has a fairly simple basic melody that everyone elaborates on in their own way. You’ll learn the most basic melody as well as a few variations. Chad also gives you some bowing tips and advice on string crossings and getting a solid tone on each note.


Star of the County Down

In this lesson, you’ll learn something a little different: the beautiful Irish waltz “Star of the County Down.” It’s not only a fun tune to play but, since it has a fairly simple melody, is a good chance to work on your tone and intonation. You’ll learn the melody, a few variations and embellishments, and how to play the melody in the lower octave. 


Cluck Old Hen

The fiddle tune “Cluck Old Hen” is an old-time classic. It uses the A minor pentatonic scale, so Chad starts by making sure you know that scale, and then breaks down the melody of “Cluck Old Hen” phrase by phrase. After you’ve learned the melody, Chad shows you some layers to add, including hammer-ons, double stringing, double stops, and a bow sweep. He also gives you advice on giving a nice attack with your bow to the hammer-on and shows you how to anticipate the beginnings of phrases. 


Midnight on the Water

The beautiful waltz “Midnight on the Water” was written by Luke Thomasson, father of Benny Thomasson, one of the major innovators of Texas-style fiddling. “Midnight on the Water” is played in a cross-tuning, with the G and E strings tuned down to D: DDAD. Chad shows you how to tune to DDAD, how to add a steady pulse with the bow to the melody of the A part, which drone strings and double stops to play, and a few variations on the melody of the A part.



“Scotland” is a three-part fiddle tune in the key of A written by Bill Monroe. It has a simple melody played mostly on the A and E strings, and it can be played with A or E drones to imitate the Scottish bagpipes.


Ora Lee

“Ora Lee” is a great old-time fiddle tune in the key of G. Chad walks you through the melody and shows you the bowing he uses to play “Ora Lee,” including pulses, three-note slurs, and slurred string crossings.


Eighth of January

“Eighth of January” may be the only old-time fiddle tune that made it to the top of the pop charts— as “The Battle of New Orleans,” sung by country singer Johnny Horton in 1959. But, of course, it’s also a popular tune at bluegrass and old-time jam sessions.



Arkansas Traveler

The old-time fiddle tune “Arkansas Traveler” is one of the most popular fiddle tunes and is played at jam sessions everywhere. You’ll learn a basic version of the melody and then a version with fiddle layers, shuffle bowing, and variations. Chad also gives you ideas about improvising rhythmically on the basic melody.



Goodbye Liza Jane

“Goodbye Liza Jane” is a fiddle jam session favorite popular in old-time, bluegrass, traditional jazz, and western swing circles. It was published as a song in 1916, but likely dates back to the mid-1800s and minstrel shows.  Chad teaches you a basic version of the melody and also shows you some more elaborate variations on the A part.


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