Wait Till You Hear This One

Old-time fiddle tunes and sources

Archive for the category “dance tunes”

Tune diary: “Turkey in the Straw,” Bob Walters

Hi gang, I’m back. I thought I’d try something different and post a tune I just learned, while it’s still at the exciting stage, even though I’m still working on it. “Turkey in the Straw” is a common, fairly simple tune, but Bob Walters’ version in A really grabbed me when I was listening to the The Champion the other day. If you don’t have the CD, you should get it. But you can hear a rough version of the same recording at the 5-minute mark in this audio-only video, part of the Gordon McCann series at Missouri State University Library. And here’s a slowed-down version, with the pitch corrected.

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Back to my Roots: Tommy Jarrell’s “Susanna Gal”

I freely admit, my roots are in Southern California, and I never met Tommy Jarrell. But this is one of the first tunes that made me want to play the fiddle, so it does take me back to my roots in that sense. I made two videos this time, one of me playing the tune, and one of me analyzing a video of Tommy playing it. Tuning in both is ADAE. Here’s the entire video of Tommy. Thanks to James Stiltner for permission to use it. (See below for a less shaky version of the video, created by friend of the blog, Josh L.)

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Playing fast: Bob Holt’s “Tomahawk” & the 2-point bow hold

So I admit, I got a little bit carried away with the post below. It’s about how to play fast for dances, and in the process of writing it I made a discovery that really helped me play up to dance speed in a more relaxed way. But it was so exciting I couldn’t stop writing about it!

In the video, I use Bob Holt’s “Tomahawk” as an example. It’s a fun, simple tune, and a great one for practicing playing fast, or for learning to play in standard-tuned A, if you’re more used to playing in cross-A. I don’t have a public-domain recording of the source I used, so I’ll link you to the preview on amazon and encourage you to buy the track or, better, the whole album. The video starts with me and my wife Martha playing the tune through twice fast, with the Missouri turnaround chord progression, then I demonstrate the two-point bow hold and play it through once slowly, stopping for a few pointers. Enjoy! And read on if you want to know more, and you have some time on your hands… 🙂

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“Joseph Won the Coated Fiddle,” Cyril Stinnett

Here’s a link to the version I learned this tune from, played by the great Cyril Stinnett with, I think, Bob Christeson playing backup on field organ. More info below. Enjoy!

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“Old Dubuque,” Bob Walters

Key of D, standard tuning. Learned from the 2-CD set, “Bob Walters: The Champion” and used with permission. The tune can be played fairly simply and still sound close to the source—that’s how I played it when I first learned it. But trying to capture the nuances makes it more difficult, and lately I’ve been working on adding those in. Here’s a slowed-down version of the source recording:

And here’s a video of me playing the tune, first with piano backup (by Martha Thompson), then once slow, then with some comments about style. Sorry that my voice is a little quiet at points: I shot this all on my new ipad with no external mic. I’ll either use an external mic next time, or shout.

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“Zack Wheat’s Piece,” from George Helton

Key of D, ADAE tuning, although it works fine in standard, too. I learned it from this recording on Slippery Hill. Here’s my slowed-down and pitch corrected version:

In the video below, I play it once at medium speed with Martha’s fine piano back-up. Listen for that Missouri Turnaround chord progression that I talked about last time in the “Dark Haired Girl” post. It sounds great on this tune, too. Next I play it once through slow. I’ve decided to stop including a separate section where I separate the slow version into phrases, unless I hear from folks who like that. Finally, I talk through the tune, giving some pointers on phrasing and bowing. As I say in the video, in the piano/fiddle version there are a couple of tiny differences from the source, but I tried to correct those in the teaching parts.


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“Dance all night”: a sure-fire dance tune

Tuning: GDAE. Source: “Dance to the Music and Listen to the Calls.” Here’s a link to the movie, cued right to where the tune starts.

In the video below, I play the tune once at a moderate speed, then I break into short phrases (starting here) so you can pause if you want, then I play it once slowly all the way through (here). Near the end I give some tips on style (here).

This a simple, accessible tune I love to play at dances, and one that other fiddlers often ask me about.  Read more…

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