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The scan is pretty cool, and I stretched and printed it, and I'm

working with it for now.  (Just started last night).

 However, I intend to buy The Scottish Violinist for a

"cleaner" copy, if you will.

I guess I've been trying to find one solid tunebook.  If I buy

all of those, that will be, literally, over a thousand songs, often

with very little overlap.  The breadth contained there is

honestly overwhelming at first.  I need a starting point that

is broad but not such a crushing mass of music.  I'd never

know where to start!

I haven't been playing for very long, but I have advanced at what

my teacher says is an exceptionally rapid pace.  In fact, most

of my lessons anymore are just "jam" sessions where we share the

latest songs we've been working on respectively, and she gives me a

couple of pointers where I need them.

Despite the rapid advancement, I'm certainly no pro.  All of

those books at once are overwhelming.  If I had a book that

was just, say, the thirty or so songs on Ashley's Fine Thank You

Very Much album, I would be happy with that as something to chew on

for a while, with the obvious advantage of a recording to help me.

 Unfortunately, such a thing doesn't exist.  It had

appeared before that The Dungreen Collection was a great "starter"

text, but like we've already discussed...

I guess all these book will give me a lot of homework to do...

Thanks for all the words and help.  I do appreciate it.

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Banzai - I took a look at the tune list for Fine Thank You Very Much and it seems to be composed of mostly trad Scottish tunes plus a few more contemporary tunes written by Cape Breton fiddlers. You could probably find ABC versions of many if not most of those tunes online. In particular, I recommend JC's ABC Tunefinder which is an index that searches most of the Web's ABC tune collections; and Cranford Publications' Tunes of the Month which contains a large number of Cape Breton tunes from books and recordings published or carried by Cranford.

Hi Strung mentioned the Concertina.net ABC converter, which converts ABC tune files into standard notation; if you get further into ABC you may want to use a software program like Phil Taylor's BarFly which is a great shareware ABC converter/composer/player program (unfortunately, Mac only, but there are a bunch of others available for Windows machines). I buy tunebooks because I like browsing through them and finding new tunes that I haven't encountered before, but for finding specific trad. tunes I often go straight to the Web.

Here's one other resource you might be interested in if you're trying to determine the source of specific tunes: Andrew Kunz's Fiddler's Companion website, which has histories, sources and some ABC code for North American and British Isles tunes. I hope this helps! -Steve

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Hej Steve,

If you go to CB this summer then you should visit Otis Tomas. He's a violin maker and fiddler who lives in St Ann'a Bay some 30 kminutes from the Gaelic Collage. He's a decent fiddler if I remmeber correctly as well.

Seeing as I'm from North Sydney, I might recommend, if your interested in some good local chow, you visit the Lobster Pound resteraunt on Commercial street in North Sydney. I higly recommend the fish cakes a beans. In fact that is what they are famous for.

Form waht my folks tell me as well you might keep an eye on Rollies Wharf in NS as well. They often have fiddle sessions there and you'd be sure to pick up a tune or so.

Be seeing b'ye.

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Be aware that Scott Skinner was more a Victorian "show" violinist than a fiddler. He played a lot of the traditional repertoire, but not the way you'd ever hear it at a knees-up on CBI.

Here's a site everyone interested in trad music should know about: http://trillian.mit.edu/~jc/cgi/abc/tunefind It has the midi and the notation in various formats and settings.

The DunGreen collection, btw, transcribes Mary MacDonald's playing of Tulach Gorm and she loves drones. There's maybe 10 one-string notes in the whole thing.

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It's terrific how much attention you guys have been giving this


I've been a frequent pillager of all of those websites Steve, and

have found them to be a tremendous help.  The ABC converter

site along with JC's tunefinder have been good friends of

mine. However, for every tune I find a decent version

of, there's another I can't find at all, or one that's a poor

transcription, or the particular transcription is one I just don't

care for.

For instance, nothing remotely CLOSE to that scan of the

Tullochgorum can be found there.  That's why I'm starting to

turn to actually (heaven forbid) spending some money and buying

some no kidding good songbooks.  The kind where I can find

things like the scan you posted the link to, and more.  One of

the appealing things about the Dungreen collection is the

"academic" content to go with the printed music as well, something

that to a beginning fiddler like myself can be quite valuable.

 Especially given that I don't know anyone around me

conversant in Cape Breton or even just straight Scottish


That being said, that ABC tunefinder has been a tremendous resource

to me for a while now, and I'll continue to use it.

I'll be working on that scan of the Tullochgorum again tonight.

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Nice to have a fiddling topic to discuss here, for a change!

I've been wanting to learn those variations too so I think I'm going to transcribe that manuscript into Sibelius (which deals with things like straight slurs much better than ABC!). Give me a couple days and I might have something for you...

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I was able to get to it sooner than expected; you can find my transcription here. You may need to download Sibelius' Scorch software but after that it'll let you print or play the score. I've left all of Skinner's original notation, but added a few accidentals that were apparently omitted from the original printed version.

For anyone unfamiliar with Scottish fiddling notation, Skinner and others employed the straight slur, as used in the theme, to indicate a momentary stopping between the notes, taken on a single bow. If anyone familiar with his style can explain to me what his note "Feather Bowing" in variation VI means, I'd appreciate it! Anyway, I'm looking forward to working on this one over my holiday break. I'd be interested to hear how anyone else does with it. Good luck! -Steve

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Wow, thanks Steve!  I'm printing it right now...that will give

me a nice copy to stumble through for the rest of the afternoon.

 I can't wait!

With that transcript in hand, I may just delay in purchasing J.S.

Skinner's Scottish Violinist, and get one of the other books you

recommended on the list instead.

Skye and Winston Fitzgerald's are both sounding mighty appealing.

 I like Skye I think because it's a LOT of music for the

money, and "covers a lot of bases" concerning traditional tunes.

 That along with Ryan's Mammoth may form a good basis for a

"trad" library.

In reference to an earlier post about Ryan's Mammoth, I know that

O'Neills 1850 tunes is actually typically the "bible" of Irish

songs...but I'd also heard that the newer editions of it were not

so good...I don't know which edition Paul Cranford reprints, but

the recommendation for Ryan's was a good one to settle that

particular debate anyway.

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By the way Steve, I have no actual idea what "feather bowing"

really means...but listening to the CDs I have it sounds almost

like a tremolo going through those parts...really light and fast on

the tip of the bow.

On Natalie's "Live" disc during the indicated part it sounds like

the light bow tip pressure is occasionally not drawing the G string

enough, causing a bit of a metallic humming.

My recollection of her performing this piece live (which is a bit

foggy since I knew less about playing than I do now) also seems to

support my theory...

For what it's worth...

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During the last variation with the "feather bowing", Natalie plays closer to the bridge to create that metallic sound, in order to make it seem as though she's playing too quickly for the violin. It's a technique she uses consciously. If you want to see her perform it, do a search for Natalie MacMaster on youtube.com and click on the video called "Something up-tempo".

By the way, if you're interested in Winston Fitzgerald's tunebook, I can tell you that, if you want Cape Breton music, it's incredible. It will give you more strathspeys than I've ever found, a great selection of reels, and some airs and waltzes. The tunes included are fantastic...with a lot of Skinner as well. There is a lot in this book, including notes under many tunes, on their history etc.

Steve, thank you so much for posting Tullochgorum! I've been trying to get it on here for the last many days for Banzai, and have hit dead ends, so thank you.

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in regards to Skinner, there are some folks who contend that he for the most part "ruined" traditional Scottish fiddling...he was a showman, and some folks did not appreciate his financial ventures.

Yes, it's nice to have a discussion about Scottish/cape Breton fiddling here.

It all relates to classical violin in that there is a lot of the same techniques involved...off string bowings, bouncing bows, different tone colors...not just the didde diddle dee of some other styles of fiddling ; )

Robert Mackintosh, another prolific composer of Scottish tunes, wrote some chamber music too, as the musicians of the time were expected to play not only the "trad" Scottish tunes, but other popular pieces of the time for entertainment. A lot of his tunes are in teh key of F and Bb, and he has some great strathspeys!

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I realized I have a recording of Skinner playing a couple of those variations, on a CD compilation called "James Scott Skinner: The Strathspey King"; listening to it, he took those variations really quickly! I don't expect to ever match his tempos in that piece.

I've been a fan of Robert Mackintosh's tunes for a while. I just got the Highland Music Trust's edition of the 4 Mackintosh books and there's some nice stuff there. The earliest book has a lot of classically-influenced pieces, in particular a bunch of minuets for 2 violins plus continuo. One thing that initially attracted me to Scottish fiddling was feeling like I could use a lot of my classical training, what with the variety of keys and techniques used.

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Scottish fiddling is where my adventure started, and will continue.

 Just shy of ten years ago I heard my first Cape Breton

recording, and I couldn't stop smiling and tapping my feet.  I

thought it was the most wonderful music I had ever heard...

I thought to myself; what I wouldn't give to be able to do


Of course, I had a hundred excuses, and so I didn't start playing.

 And while life was busy (college, pilot training, multiple

moves) I could have found time, if I had been braver about taking

up music.

Rise the curtain on almost a decade later, and I'm in an Irish pub,

listening to a furious female fiddler tear out tune after tune

without room to breathe.  I thought to myself; what I wouldn't

give to be able to do that!

The voice of perspective and memory interrupted here, and I

realized that had I started ten years ago, maybe I could...just

maybe.  I resolved that once I returned from Iraq I would

learn fiddle, and I would attempt to learn as many Cape Breton

tunes as I could.

Now, it's one of the most rewarding pursuits I've ever embarked on.

 I have my CDs as my "session" buddies, to help me listen to

improve my own playing, and just to listen to for fun.  I have

a lovely young teacher who, while she doesn't know Scottish

fiddling, has done everything she can to help me.  And now

that I can play I have a beautiful new violin that is so superior

to my student model that it is pure joy to play for hours on end.


And now, thanks to you guys, I have sheet music to one of my very

favorite songs to chew on for a number of months.

Sorry if my personal little story there was off topic by too far.

 (But hey, I started the thread, so I can hijack it, right?


Anyhow, it's been an educational thread for me so far, and the

printout of the Tullochgorum just became a prized part of my


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I am surprized that you didn't mention Carl MacKenzie from the Sidney area. I believe that he is one of (if not the best0 Cape Breton fiddler. I know that others might feel diferentl, but I feel that he is. Also a younger fellow, Duaane cote, may be the best violinist/fiddler that I ever had heard.


Originally posted by:

Hej Steve,

If you go to CB this summer then you should visit Otis Tomas. He's a violin maker and fiddler who lives in St Ann'a Bay some 30 kminutes from the Gaelic Collage. He's a decent fiddler if I remmeber correctly as well.

Seeing as I'm from North Sydney, I might recommend, if your interested in some good local chow, you visit the Lobster Pound resteraunt on Commercial street in North Sydney. I higly recommend the fish cakes a beans. In fact that is what they are famous for.

Form waht my folks tell me as well you might keep an eye on Rollies Wharf in NS as well. They often have fiddle sessions there and you'd be sure to pick up a tune or so.

Be seeing b'ye.

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I'm not positive, but I believe that, among CBI trad fiddlers themselves, Buddy MacMaster is considered the ne plus ultra of trad CBI fiddling.

...and as far as I'm concerned, Theresa Morrison is no far behind!

In the Spirit o the Season, I'd like tae offer yez all the receipt for Traditional Scots Fruitcake, still made on CBI at Hogmanay:

Assemble the following:

1 cup water

1 cup castor sugar

4 large eggs

2 cup dried fruit, cut small

1 cup assorted nuts

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup Demerara sugar

lemon juice to taste

1 litre bottle of your favorite single malt whisky

First sample the whisky to make sure it is of suitable


Take a large mixing bowl. Check the whisky again

to be sure that it has not gone off meanwhile.

Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat.

Switch on the electric mixer; beat 1 cup of butter in a

large fluffy bowl.

Add 1 tsp castor sugar and beat again.

Mak sure the whisky is still guid. Cry another tup.

Switch aff the mixer.

Break two legs and add to the bowl and chuck in the

cup of dried fru.

Mix on the switsher. If the fried druit gets stuck in the

beaterers, pry it loose with a stewriver. Screwdriver.

Sample the whisky to check for consisssty.

Next, sift 2 cups of salt. Or sugar. Who cares.

Check the whisky.

Now sift the lemon juice an chop up the nuts.

Banage fingr an thraw oot the nuts wi the most bluid


Add a table. Spoon. Tablespoon. Of sugar or

something. Whateffer ye can find.

Grease the oven. Turn a baking tin to 350 grees or Regulo

somethin. Dinnae fergit tae offbeat the switcher.

Heave th' bowl oot thae windie. Haud onna floor a bit,

but ony til it sops spinnin. Tak anither dram.

Dinna fash yersel. Tak a resta whisky an awa tae yer

bed. Naebodie likes @#$%&! frootkeck onyway!

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We studied Mackintosh at Jink and Diddle this past summer. I have ordered the book from Highland Trust, and was hoping it would have been here by Christmas.

Buddy is certainly considered to be the epitomy of Cape Breton fiddling, but saying that he is the best is like choosing strings...everybody has their own favorite flavor.

merry Christmas

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Buddy is the grand old man of CB fiddling; a true gentleman as well as a great player. I missed out on seeing him when I was there last Summer; he only played once during the time we were on the Island and it was on a night we had something else scheduled. I'm kicking myself for not changing my plans to see him, as that may have been my last opportunity... We did get to Rollie's Wharf, though! One highlight for me was attending a session at The Bridge historical society in Mabou; not knowing what to expect I got out my fiddle and sat in with the musicians there, and was totally outclassed--I think I knew about every 10th tune that came by! The musicians there included two great old traditional fiddlers: Willie Kennedy and Kenny Joseph MacDonald (RIP--he passed away in the Fall. I feel fortunate to have heard him play). We heard a number of other great fiddlers during our time on the Island, including Brenda Stubbert, Kinnon Beaton, Glenn Graham, Jennifer Roland, and Lucy MacNeill. I would not want to choose who is the "best!"

Sunnybear, are you familiar with Fiddler's Crossing in So. California? They have one of the best inventories of Scottish tunebooks in the US, and stock the Highland Trust books. I highly recommend them. fiddlerscrossing.com.

Happy holidays, all! -Steve

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thanks Steve, I'll look into that..I ordered mine surface shipping from Scotland!! It may get herre in a month or 2...

THe funny thing about sessions in CB, and Scottish sessions in general, seem to be like they are a series of short little mini recitals that may lst for only a set or 2...it's ok if you don't know the tune...just sit happily and listen to the other players...in an Irish session, the goal seems to be for the sound to meld and everybody to sound alike. With the Scottish tradition, everyone may play a strathspey with a little different rythym, so it would just sound like a train wreck. If you could even join in on some of the sets with the company you listed, you're doing great!

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What I saw in the Cape Breton sessions that surprised me was that they went around the circle and each fiddler was expected to lead a set (generally a march or air, one or more strathspeys, and one or more reels; or a bunch of jigs). Not what I'm used to with Scottish sessions, where either we just agree what we're going to play ahead of time, or we "free-associate" where someone will start a tune and at the end someone else will start something else similar. They tend to have standard sets of tunes, most of which I wasn't familiar with. I was lost most of the time, but people were kind! -Steve

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While I'm grilling you guys for tunebook info...

What's your take on Paul Cranford's own Lighthouse Collection?

 I know that it's all mostly new stuff of his own


Have any of you played any of the tunes?  What do you think?

 I may add it to my shopping when I buy my other books.

 I intend to start with Skye, now that Steve has kindly

supplied Tullochgorum to Sibelius...thank you for the effort though

Hi Strung, and with Winston Fitzgerald's.  From there maybe

Ryan's to shore up the "Irish" side of my fledgling reference


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I thought I should make it clear that Tullochgorum or Tulaich Gorm (Blue-Green Hill) is much older than implied by association with James "Scott" Skinner (August 5, 1843 - March 17, 1927).

Neil Gow was playing it to Robert Burns in October 1787 during his visit to Dunkeld. Burns called it "the first of sonngs". It was published in Rev. Patrick MacDonald's collection in 1784 but had been referenced more than twenty years earlier by Robert Fergusson (1750-1774) in "Daft Days":

Fiddlers! your pins in temper fix

And roset weel your fiddlesticks;

But bannish vile Italian tricks

Frae out your quorum;

Nor fortes wi' pianos mix -

Gie's Tullochgorum!

Robert Bremner first published a version in 1757 unless anyone knows of an earlier version

It was apparently Traditional with words written by John Skinner (1721 - 1807), historian.

The reel tune Tullochgorum is, of course, even older than [John] Skinner's day. A Mrs Montgomery of Ellon, whom John Skinner happened to be visiting, pointed out that this famous reel tune had no words, asking him to supply them. A political argument having broken out in the house at the same time, Skinner seized the opportunity and composed the Tullochgorum - in a rather longer form [than the four verses printed by Buchan: Come gie's a sang; Tullochgorum's my delight; There need na be; Let worldly minds]. (Norman Buchan, Weekly Scotsman, May 21 1959)

Tune was known previously as "Jockie's Fou (drunk) and Jennie's Fain (keen)"

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