Wait Till You Hear This One

Old-time fiddle tunes and sources

“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…

Why I hold my bow on the frog

In my last post, “Old Dubuque,” the camera angle of the video happened to show how I hold my bow with my thumb directly on the bottom of the frog. That’s kind of unusual, among fiddlers I know anyway, and it’s something I’ve thought about a lot, so I thought it might be an interesting subject for a blog post. Here’s a short video where I show how I hold the bow. The tune I’m using to demonstrate is “Art Wooten’s Hornpipe,” and I’m planning on doing a full post on that soon.

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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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Unboxing the new Cyril Stinnett DVD

Photo on 2013-08-22 at 20.43

Hi again, everyone. Thanks for all the nice comments on the blog in the last few weeks, and sorry for the long silence. Let’s call it summer hiatus. It was also partly that I keep changing how I play the next tune, Bob Walters’ “Old Dubuque,” and couldn’t quite get my mind around committing it to posterity. But it’s a-coming.

Anyway, no new fiddle tune today, but I’m posting because my copy of Cyril Stinnett: Legendary Missouri Fiddler finally arrived yesterday, and boy am I excited. Bill Peterson and Dwight Lamb have been working hard on this for quite awhile, and it was worth the effort, and the wait. Apparently Dwight was one of the early adopters of home video recording technology in the 70s, and he used his camera to capture these great performances of one of the great fiddlers. I hear there’s more where these came from.  Read more…

“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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