Wait Till You Hear This One

Old-time fiddle tunes and sources

Archive for the category “easier 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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“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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“The dark-haired girl,” Bob Walters

Key of G, standard tuning, as played by Bob Walters. Here’s the recording I learned it from, on Larry Warren’s Slippery Hill site (used with his permission). And here’s a slowed-down and pitch-corrected version I made of that same recording. It starts off very quiet, but the volume comes up quickly:

I strongly associate this tune with festival season, and as I was packing for Weiser a couple of weeks ago, it was constantly running through my head. It’s one of those that’s easy and hard at the same time: most fiddlers will be able to come up with a satisfying version pretty quickly, but once you start trying to get all the details right, it can seem more and more elusive. The video below is my best shot at it, with backup by my wife, Martha. There are four parts, and the links will take you directly to whichever ones you’re interested in:


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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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