Have you ever heard a fiddle tune and wondered what it was? Or have you ever wanted to try your hand at fiddling, but weren’t sure where to start?
If so, this beginner’s guide to fiddle tunes is for you! Keep reading to learn all about the world of fiddling and how you can get started.
What is a Fiddle Tune?
A fiddle tune is a type of traditional song that is usually played on a stringed instrument known as a fiddle:
- It is usually characterized by an upbeat tempo and notes played in rapid succession.
- These tunes are often passed down from generation to generation, giving them an evocative quality that transports the listener back to earlier times.
- While some are used for traditional dancing, others are made popular by modern renditions.
- In either case, the sound of a fiddle tune offers up a unique take on many of our classic melodies and provides us with a wonderful source of nostalgia and entertainment.
Are you ready to learn how to play fiddle tunes? Sign up for lessons today! Not only will you learn how to play the unique style of fiddle tunes, but you’ll learn other techniques for playing your violin as well, like what you see in the video below:
Everything You Need to Know About Playing Fiddle Tunes
The term “Fiddle Tune” is very broad, and can be defined several ways. It could be simply: a tune that is played on the fiddle. It could also be defined more specifically as: a short piece of traditional music with a repetitive form of at least two parts. This article will answer the question, “what are fiddle tunes?” We’ll talk about what fiddle tunes are, where they’re found, and other important information about how to learn and play them.
So, Just What Are Fiddle Tunes, Anyway?
In order to better understand the term, it’s important to have an idea of what both words, fiddle and tune, mean. Firstly, the fiddle is the same instrument as the violin, but the word fiddle is usually used when referring to traditional music. And next, a tune is a piece of music that is played instrumentally, as opposed to a song, which has lyrics. There are also pieces of music called “tune songs”, especially in the American old time tradition, which are tunes that have words, and can be played instrumentally or with a singer.
There are several traditions that use the term fiddle tune to describe the instrumental music in their style. These include Bluegrass and Old Time, which are traditional music styles from the United States, Irish, Scottish, English, French Canadian, and many, many more.
Each of these styles also has sub-genres that classify the music that was written in a specific time period or region. For example, within the Old Time tradition, tunes can be classified as “West Virginia tunes” if their author was from there, or “Civil War tunes” if they were written in that time period.
Written by Fiddlers, Meant for the Fiddle
Fiddle tunes are generally written by fiddlers, and meant to be played on the fiddle. That being said, they can be – and often are – played on other instruments. In every tradition that has fiddle tunes, there is an ensemble that surrounds the fiddle, and depending on the genre, may take turns playing the melody as well. There are also tunes written for other instruments, including banjo, guitar, and mandolin. In the same way, these tunes are written for their respective instruments, but can be played on any.
Something that distinguishes fiddle tunes from other pieces of music is their relatively consistent structure. This can vary from tradition to tradition, but in general, fiddle tunes have two or three parts, which are each played twice, and then the entire tune is repeated multiple times. Each part of the tune is conveyed with a letter, so in a standard, two part tune, the structure would be expressed as AABB. There are also many tunes that have three parts, although it’s less common. Although rare, there are tunes that have 5, 6, or more parts.
Common Keys for Fiddle Tunes
There are a few common keys that fiddle tunes are in, which are usually the most comfortable keys to play in on the fiddle. The most common keys are G, D, A and C. The next most common keys after that are E, F, Bb and B. There are some tunes in these keys, but not many. In the keys of F#, Eb, Db, and Ab, there are almost no tunes.
The setting in which fiddle tunes are usually learned and taught is quite unique compared to other types of music. Fiddle tunes are most often learned by ear, and almost never learned by sheet music. One reason for this is the flexibility it gives the player. Although fiddle tunes do have a “skeleton melody” which is relatively consistent, most players will play each tune slightly differently, and even change the melody each time they play the tune.
Sometimes tunes are taught in traditional music lesson settings, but more often they are passed from person to person at music festivals, jam sessions, and through families. In these settings, It’s really common to find people giving each other impromptu lessons where the teacher and student role are much more ambiguous, with the purpose being less about a certain educational track, but more about sharing knowledge for fun, and to keep a tradition alive.
Fiddle Tunes Tend to Be Regional
Fiddle music is very regional, in the sense of repertoire. If someone went to a jam session in Maryland and learned all the tunes they play, they might know only a few at a similar jam session in Virginia. In the case of old time music, style is also very regional. The musicians in New England play a different style than in the south or the west, although it’s still all considered old time. The reason for this is probably the history of the music.
Before the internet existed, or even means of long distance travel, people didn’t have access to many other musicians or their music. So if someone was learning to play the fiddle, they could only learn from the other two or three fiddlers in their town, hence they developed a similar style. Nowadays people have access to more resources and can pick and choose how they want to develop their style, but the regional styles have largely remained.
Where to Find Fiddle Tunes Sheet Music
If you are looking for sheet music for your favorite fiddle tunes, you can find an abundance of song sheets from a variety sources.
Online music retailers have vast catalogs of published and recorded sheet music available for purchase as single songs or complete collections. Library websites often include free downloadable sheet music, so be sure to check out your local library archives. If you are looking for more obscure or traditional tunes, consider searching through vintage sheet music dealers on websites like eBay that specialize in hard-to-find music sheets.
With so many options out there, you can easily get started playing your favorite fiddle tunes with just a few clicks!
Some Easy Fiddle Tunes to Get You Started
Ever wanted to learn how to play the fiddle? It’s never too late to start. Here are four classic fiddle tunes that you can use to get comfortable with your instrument and get a feel for the basics of playing traditional American, Irish, and folk tunes.
Classic Old-Time Fiddle Tunes
Let’s start off with some classic old-time tunes. The most popular ones include “Orange Blossom Special,” “Cotton Eyed Joe,” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” just to name a few. ‘
These fiddle tunes are great for beginners because they are all played in the key of G major which is considered one of the easiest keys in music. Additionally, these songs use simple melodies and chord progressions which make them easier to learn and master.
Irish Fiddle Tunes
If you want something with a bit more of an upbeat tempo, then Irish fiddle tunes might be up your alley. Some popular ones include “The Blackthorn Stick,” “The Galway Reel,” and “The High Caul Cap.”
These tunes are fun and lively and feature intricate melodies that will keep you playing for hours on end. Plus, there is something special about playing Irish fiddle music—it has an almost magical quality that transports you back in time to when it was first composed hundreds of years ago!
Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance
Finally, if you want something even more challenging yet still easy enough for beginners, then folk tune and fiddle dance may be just what you need! Popular folk tune dances include “The Spanish Two Step,” “The Red Haired Boy Jig,” and “Old Joe Clark Waltz.”
These dances incorporate traditional footwork patterns as well as intricate bowing patterns which will challenge your skills while still being attainable for beginners who are eager to take their playing to the next level.
Traditional American Fiddle Tunes
If you want to play something patriotic, here are some great options:
- “Turkey in the Straw” – This is one of the most popular American fiddle tunes out there and it’s easy enough for even beginner players to learn quickly. It has a fun and lively tempo, so it’s great for getting used to playing with speed.
- “Irish Washerwoman” – This traditional Irish tune is a great one for beginners because it has a simple melody with an easy rhythm. It also has some great variations that are more complex than the basic melody, so you can work on them as you become more comfortable with the instrument.
- “Fisher’s Hornpipe” – This classic English-American dance tune is perfect for those who want to practice their bowing techniques and work on their intonation skills. The short phrases allow you to focus on each element of the tune before moving onto the next section.
- “Wildwood Flower” – Originally written by American singer-songwriter A.P Carter in 1928, this beautiful melody is perfect for those who want to practice their vibrato technique or just enjoy some lovely old-time music. The slower tempo also allows you to really focus on your intonation, pitch, and dynamics while playing this classic tune.
How Do I Learn to Fiddle Tune?
If you’re interested in learning how to play fiddle tunes, there are plenty of resources available online. YouTube tutorials are great for learning the basics of playing the violin and getting some practice with popular tunes such as “Turkey in the Straw” or “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”
You can also find books and tutorials specifically devoted to teaching beginners how to play traditional fiddle tunes. Of course, nothing beats learning from an experienced instructor—so if you have access to one, don’t hesitate to ask them for help!
For those looking for more structure in their studies, there are even online classes dedicated solely to teaching traditional folk music like fiddle tunes. Here students will learn how to read sheet music as well as how to improvise their own solos using popular scales and ornamentations.
Plus, these classes typically include helpful tips on playing technique so that students can improve their sound quality over time.
Play Some Famous Fiddle Tunes Today!
Fiddling is an incredibly fun hobby that anyone can enjoy—regardless of skill level or musical experience! By following this beginner’s guide to fiddle tunes you’ll be ableto get up and running quickly with your new instrument so that you can start having fun with it right away.
So go ahead—grab your bow and take the plunge into the wonderful world of fiddling today! Ask your violin instructor for tips on how to best get started.