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10 Favorite Old Time Fiddle Tunes

favorite fiddle tunnes

This blog was written by ArtistWorks fiddle student Jannetto. Click here for free fiddle lessons from Darol Anger!

When Eck Robertson made the first recording of "Sally Goodin" in 1922, the violin’s popularity as a musical instrument soared. After all, with only four strings, this little gem could not only play rhythm, but could also tow two melodies at the same time. And, it’s portable!

Fiddle tunes soon spread throughout the world, and the different styles reflected the regions they came from. What better way to learn and understand more about this music than to hear it? Here are ten of my favorite fiddle tunes, many of which have become standards in bluegrass.

 

1. OLD JOE CLARK

This is a classic tune which every fiddler learns - it’s a good beginner's way of getting to sound fiddley. You play the melody on one string, and use the open string next to it as a drone, which creates a double stop. (A double stop means playing two different notes at the same time.) 

There are various ideas who Joe Clark was - some say a preachers son, some say a moonshiner... either way, the legend of Old Joe lives on. There are a lot of great Video Exchanges® on "Old Joe Clark" at ArtistWorks, so be sure to sign up as a student! Click here for free sample lessons.

2. ARKANSAS TRAVELER 

Composed in the 19th century by Colonel Faulkner, this was once heralded as Arkansas’s state song. This is a great rendition because it features several legendary fiddle players, hosted by the great Marc O’Connor. Just goes to show you how individuals can put their own unique style into the song.

3. SOLDIER’S JOY

Originating from Scotland, this classic melody it is played by nearly every fiddle player, and is one of the oldest tunes with many variations. Here we have Bruce Molsky playing it, with his classic old time style. 

Interesting Note: Soldiers Joy actually refers to a concoction of whiskey, beer, and morphine they drank during the civil war.

4. SALLY GOODIN

This is the tune that put fiddling on the map in America through Eck Robertson’s original recording, which is documented in Nashville as one of the first exhibits in the Country Hall of Fame. This tune also has a lot of different variations.

5. ST. ANNE’S REEL

Originating from the French Canadian area, “St. Anne’s Reel” has become one of fiddler’s favorite tunes to play. Here it is played in a Cajun rhymic style.

6. WHISKEY BEFORE BREAKFAST

Originating out of Canada, the song is referring to those hearty players who play until the wee hours of the morning, which were often fueled by whiskey.

This is a modern rendition by ArtistWorks instructors Darol Anger and Mike Marshall. After playing through their interpretation of this classic fiddle tune, they discuss their technique and the structure of how they go about collaboring as a duet. They've been friends since their time together in the David Grisman Quintet and have amazing playing chemistry together. 

7. BILLY AND THE LOWGROUND

This fiddle tune is is known as “Billy in the Lowland,” and is thought to be originally from a Scottish Reel. Here we see it played in the Texas fiddle style.

8. BLACKBERRY BLOSSOM

This very popular bluegrass tune, and has a lot of fun notes to play. This is the popular "Garfield version," although there are many other variations of course. You can read more about the history about Blackberry Blossom here. 

9. BILL CHEATUM

Here's a classic recording of the great fiddlers Kenny Hall and Ron Hughey from 1974. The original composer is unknown, and this tune also is known as “Rabbit in the Grass.” It was made popular in 1928 by Luke Hignight’s Ozark Strutters, a string band from Arkansas.

10. COTTON EYED JOE

This is an folk tune dating back to pre civil war, it has become a favorite among musicians. This version features Bruce Molsky playing old time fiddle style and singing at the same time.

SO YOU WANT TO LEARN FIDDLE? 

fiddle jam

Take it from me as a fiddler, this has got to be the most enjoyable music to play - especially with others. Playing fiddle is a deep coordination exercise, as well as a punctual brainteaser. And FUN! 

fiddle lessons with darol angerI started to learn how to fiddle with Darol Anger here at ArtistWorks. Darol’s online fiddle lessons are extremely well thought out and comprehensive. Even if you’re a total beginner, you’ll gradually learn the foundation for everything you need to progress. He covers everything, and goes into great detail on all these classic fiddle tunes and a whole lot more. 

The Video Exchange® program here is an extremely beneficial learning tool. Darol’s personal responses guide you to the next step, and he offers areas for improvement and further inspiration. You also get to listen to the advice he gives other students as well. 

Overall, it's been a great experience. Fiddling is a magic medicine, providing copious amounts of joy to both musicians and listeners alike. You literally cannot hold still around fiddle tunes, it just makes you want to move!

Click here for free sample fiddle lessons!

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