Wait Till You Hear This One

Old-time fiddle tunes and sources

Archive for the category “harder tunes”

Manco Sneed’s “Old-Time Grey Eagle”: polishing up a hidden gem

“Old-Time Grey Eagle” is a fun C tune with a crooked, but glorious, third part that always gets people’s attention. I’ve probably been asked about it at sessions more often than any other tune I play. Here’s how I played it in 2005 with my old band Uncle Wiggily, featuring Bill Martin on cello, Martha Thompson on guitar, Maggie Lind on banjo, and Charlie Hartness on ukelele (from An Old-Time Portland Potluck, now out of print). I’m really fond of this recording, because it reminds me of all the fun I had with those wonderful people. But my version there isn’t really very accurate. So if you want to learn it “right,” use the video.

The problem with the tune is that the source recording is very poor quality, so until now I’ve always felt like my version was just a shot in the dark. Joseph Decosimo puts it perfectly in the video I link to below: he says it requires “reconstructive surgery.” That’s what this post is about. I’ll start with this strange little video where I try to interpret the source. It’s a first attempt at something I’ve been puzzling over how to do ever since I started the blog—to actually show the process of working with a source recording. Hope you like it!

Read more…


“Cuckoo’s Nest” and the old-time bow shake

A cuckoo chick, in its nest.

“Cuckoo’s Nest” is one of the most mysterious and archaic sounding Bob Walters recordings I’ve heard. It’s also a great example of what I call the “bow shake” ornament. A lot of old-time fiddlers think of this as an Irish thing, but it was actually very common in earlier American fiddle styles and can be heard on many great old recordings.

My source recording is The Champion, used with permission (you can buy the CD here). The Soundcloud clip is at actual speed, with the pitch corrected—key of D, standard tuning. In the video, as usual, I play the tune up to tempo, then slowly. At the end I do my best to give some useful pointers on how to play the tune and do the bow shakes. But the tune has plenty going on and can easily be played without the bow shakes, too. About the video, I have to say I’m really unhappy with the sound quality, and with the balance between voice and fiddle. I’m planning on getting a good USB mic for my next post—promise! Read more…

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