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Music Books for Fiddlers Who Don't Read Music?


fiddleD125
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We have played Cajun, Country, Irish fiddle for generations learning from one generation to another from older family members. None of these old fiddlers read music - I am looking for something similar to Suzuki that I may learn new pieces of similar music that I have learned from the old master fiddlers that I may not play presently.

I know that reading music is very important, but playing the old tunes learned from old fiddlers who do not read music is important also. Many of the tunes are unwritten and can only be carried on to the next generation from listening and observing and learning from old fiddlers - again, of the old Cajun and Country fiddlers I know, play traditional music most do not read music. I have been taught by them.

I thought there must be some new fiddle tunes that one might be able to learn from such a book and/or CD as Suzuki or something similar.

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How would you duplicate the "I learned it from Grandpa" tradition

in a book?

I think what you are looking for exists, but in DVD format.

There are several excellent "do what I do" fiddle DVD's out there,

though I couldn't tell you where to look specifically.  There

is also a small amount of such instruction to be found on YouTube,

though as with most things, you get what you pay for.

------------

I also agree with Andres that you really should learn to read.

 It doesn't take long, and it helps you to think about melody

in slightly different ways.  Well worth the effort, even if

you do get some good instructional DVD's.

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FiddleD

 I am not sure exactly what you are requesting. Suzuki

trainees are instructed to read music.  Per your request for

books for "good fiddlers who have learned to play by ear and do not

read music could use to learn new fiddle pieces from." You may want

to check out  "JCs ABC tunefind" at URL:

 http://ecf-guest.mit.edu/~jc/cgi/abc/tunefind

The value of this site is that it has a HUGE amount of fiddle

tunes, and that they have both sheet music for  those that

read, and a text form for those that don't.

The whole issue of fiddlers and reading music is quite

controversial, at least here on Cape Cod in the US. I play

predominantly classical, and when I meet with fiddling friends, I

am chided for glancing at my tune books before playing a piece.

(vibrato, positions and the 4th finger are somewhat disdained by

some as well).

From the days when I lived in

North Carolina  I learned that the real spirit of fiddling is

not just learning thhe notes, but learning the style, where to

place the stops, the lilts and the trills and other

embellishments-these are generally not recorded in the sheet music

as they are extemporaneous .

For myself at least, I have become mentally

lazy over the years and rely totally on sheet music for most

playing. I have thus found fiddling a great asset in building

memory skills. My personal opinion is that there is no harm in a

fiddler learning to read sheet music IF they persist in memorizing

all the pieces, and IF they don't loose the ability to learn

aurally from others.

Cheers

Fritz

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Being a classically trained violinist who has focused almost entirely on Celtic playing for the last 4 years, I've been in on this discussion a lot.

For resources, there are a lot of websites where you can download and print absolute MASSES of tunes in the ABC format.

However, I smirk a tiny bit remembering how I learned a large number to tunes in a short time by listening and playing what I could in open sessions, noting the names of the tunes, and then studying them with the black dots at home during the week. The trad session players marveled at how I picked up tunes so quickly, but I just told them I used the best of both worlds.

http://www.traditionalmusic.co...-folk-music/index.htm

http://www.nigelgatherer.com/tunes/abc/abc1.html

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/music/i...RTuneBk/tunebook.html

Here are some sites to get you started-

also:

www.thesession.org

I have had pretty much the same experience as Fritz. Real "violin" technique is not that highly regarded in fiddle sessions. Too bad! I had the thrill of watching Alasdair Fraser perform a couple of years ago, and HE plays with every bit as much classical technique as I do. AND he gets to have fun doing it!

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I have been very happy with the many video tapes and DVDs that I've purchased from Homespun Tapes.

I've also been more than impressed by Alasdair Fraser. I remember walking into a noisy dance hall where he was the only musician. His fiddling could be heard clearly, over the dancers, with no sound system, everywhere in the hall. I've never before, or since, heard anything like the power (in every sense of the word) of his playing. I remember standing, stock still, in awe. I even turned down some nice invitations to dance just to listen, and I love to dance.

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I taught myself to read standard notation, so it is possible. And I've learned plenty of tunes from the printed page. But I have noticed that transcriptions of my favorite tunes never seem to convey the nuances of the tune to me. Probably a shortcoming of my own, because I have seen other fiddlers play tunes from printed music just fine.

So, when I really want to learn a particular version of a recorded tune, I turn to the recording, not a printed transcript. I need to listen to it about 1000 times, to get it into my head. Then I need to play it, and develop my version. Go back to the recording to see where I have it 'wrong'. Play some more. Still never quite get there, but maybe something recognizable.

There are some tools to help. I have used the Amazing Slow-downer (www.ronimusic.com) and find it useful for performance (non-tutorial) cd's.

For Scottish tunes, Laura Risk has a couple of 2-cd sets out that are just fiddle, no back-up, played regular and slow.

For Bluegrass tunes, Steve Kaufman has a 4-cd set (with a book) of common tunes. I believe he sells thru homespun, and I second Chris Burt's recommendation of their products.

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I also wonder why you need or want a book if you play by ear. Maybe you just need to tap into the wealth of recordings of fiddle tunes that are out there just waiting to be learned.

I currently have over 2000 recordings of fiddle tunes (not necessarily different tunes) on my iPod, and virtually all of those are by older West Virginia fiddler players. In addition to all the more commercial releases, there are a lot of old field recordings that are re-appearing now because of the ease of publishing them digitally.

Here are just a few examples:

Alan Jabbour's recordings of Henry Reed at the Library of Congress (all free downloads).

The Field Recorders' Collective has issued quite a number of interesting CD's and now DVD's. I heard many older fiddle players talk about Ward Jarvis, and thanks to these folks I've gotten to hear him for myself.

Plus lots of individual folks posting recordings to preserve the work of fiddlers they knew and admired like this site for Jehile Kirkhuff with mp3's of over 250 tunes (plus tab for some).

There sure isn't a shortage of tune, what I want is more time to play them.

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I would really like to try to learn some new tunes by book in combination with ear. What sparked my interest is when I recently saw a teacher teach some pretty good fiddle pieces in a very short time to some old fiddlers like myself by writing simple EO, E1, E2, E3, E4, ; AO, A1, A2, A3, A4; DO, D1, D2, D3, D4, etc.

Also, ABC method would work.

We were able to pick up the tines in an amazingly short time with this method. Of course, you also have to know the tune in your head to be able to fill in the spaces and give the tune your own style.

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I think that abc might be a good choice for you, since using an interpreter like BarFly you could view the "dots" while hearing midi version of the tune. Maestramusica left off both of my favorite sites for abc tunes, JC's ABC Tunefinder, which is an online index of many abc collections, and Andrew Kunz's Fiddlers' Companion website which is a tune history site covering mainly British Isles, Irish and American folk music, but also includes a number of tunes in abc. -Steve

Edit: sorry, hit the button to post before I added the links!

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fiddleD

 I you go to the site I listed in my earlier post, it has both

the ABC and a midi of the tune. (I think this site is the same as

Steve mentioned but with an alias  URL).

The interface is a bit clunky-you need to search for

the tune you are seeking-then download the txt version to get the

ABC format. The midi format leaves a lot to be desired but it will

give you the basic rhythm  so that you have the tune in your

head.

Cheers

Fritz

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Thanks you all for the information. I will look into all of them. If anyone else has any other ideas, please post.

I will try to teach myself to read music, but am still very interested in the method I saw the fiddle teacher teach to the old fidlers. The music she wrote is very easy to follow and learn - as I said, you have to know the tune in your head and fill in the ornaments, stops, etc. on your own.

fiddleD

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At the risk of shooting under the mark, fiddleD125, it sounds as if what you're looking for is tablature.

One simple method is as follows. Trying to think of a very simple tune many might know, such as Oh Susannah. This would be a way to write the first phrase ("Oh I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee...")

D 0 1 2 A 0 0 1 0 D 2 0 1 2 2 1 0 1 .....

Another method, one that allows you to better notate double stops, is like this ....

E

A 0 0 1 0

D 0 1 2 2 0 1 2 2 1 0 1 ....

G

edit: well, my type-setting isn't working here. The " 0 0 1 0" on the A-string line should follow the first "2" on the D-string line, and the second "2" should come after the last "0" on the A-string line. If this is useful to you, I can scan something in and post it as an image.

Again, I hope I'm not speaking below what it is you are after. I use this for some of my students who don't read music, but do need something to remind them of the tune. It is pretty quick, but you need to know the rhythm and usually the key. I use a down-arrow over the 2 to represent a low 2, and an up-arrow over the 3 to represent a high 3.

This becomes a bit of a problem if one is to shift out of 1st position as well.

You can certainly find more complicated tablature, but by that time, you might as well just use standard notation.

ABC is a similar idea, though with upper and lower case letters. I use it to produce standard notation for our dance sets. It also allows you to put in chords, slurs, etc.

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Ken,

For now you are not sooting below. The tabulation you referred to is the same way the lady taught the old fiddlers a couple of new tunes. This tabulation is what I am looking for - very easy to read and very quick to learn.

ABC would be fine too.

Do you know where someone might get such tabular written music with old fiddle tunes?

Thanks

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Ken,

For now, until I learn to read music, you are shooting on target. Your tablature examples is how the lady taught the old fiddlers a couple of new tunes. It is very quick to learn and if one has an ear for music, he can fill in the gaps and add his own ornamentation and style.

ABC would also be OK too. Tablature preferred.

Tunes like Devil's Dream, Orange Blossom Special, etc is what I am looking for in the form you described. I grew up playing the old traditional Cajun waltzes, two-steps, mazurkas that were passed down by the family through the generations. I also play some country and western swing that I have learned by ear, Civil War era tunes and some Irish.

Would you happen to know where I could get such music?

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Wayne Erbsen's "Old-Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus" has both standard notation and tab -- also a CD of recordings. You can get it thru Wayne (www.nativeground.com) or Mel Bay (www.melbay.com) if you can't find it locally.

At some of the bigger fiddle contests, vendors will have displays of homegrown books of fiddle tunes in tab-notation. It seems to me that Tony Ludiker used to sell something like that -- but a very quick look of his website, it didn't jump out.

www.fiddle.net

You could e-mail him directly.

You can also browse around the archives of the fiddle list (a great bunch of folks)

http://listserv.brown.edu/arch...cgi-bin/wa?A0=FIDDLE-L

or the fiddle hangout (which is relatively new and growing)

www.fiddlehangout.com

where some of the forums talk about tablature.

This all depends on the style that you're interested in, not to mention wide variation in tune settings -- which is, of course, a good part of the fun.

Cheers,

Ken

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Maestramusica left out those two sites because she's not familiar with them. ;-)

However, I DO use Barfly to print files that are online only in abc format.

The Tablature thing is kind of how we start the very beginners on violin. When it comes to violin/ fiddle, it seems pretty awkward for longer pieces of music, AND you still have to read rhythmic notation. I think it should be really, only a very beginning step in the learning process. HOWEVER- it occurs to me that there's a lot of tablature notation online for mandolin, which is tuned and fingered exactly the same as violin.

Try this link:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/cg...b.cgi?searchterm=sctt

And then, for more, Google "mandolin tablature" and follow a few of the links.

go for it!

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OK - I guess I may have to learn to read music to learn some of your tunes. Again, I have learned from some of the best old fiddlers in my area- mostly family and other area known French fiddlers. I broke tradition and learned old country, gospel, some Irish, and other tunes on my own.

All of the "old fiddlers" I that watched me grow up learned by ear and from observing and listening to the old fiddlers of previous generations. None of the old fiddlers read muisic. Nearly all the old French fiddlers who taught me are no longer with us. However, I am fortunante enough to still play with one of the young old time French Acadian fiddlers who is now ninety years old- probably the last of the old traditional Acadian French fiddlers.

My daughters are trained musicians, but the music of our ancestors is not taught by music teachers. I am teaching one of my daughters some of the old french music. The older daughter will only play music from reading sheet music. I know classically trained musicians who cannot play a tune without without having to read it.

A SHORT HISTORY LESSON:

I am of French Acadian descent and have learned from the Old Masters of the French Acadian fiddle, (or as those who do not know any better "Cajun" fiddle.) The term "Cajun" was coined by people who are not of our culture, from the northern states, who know nothing of our culture and have used their coined yankee term "Cajun" as a marketing device to sell food, hot sauce, so called "Cajun" music , and anything they dare to associate with the French Acadian culture. What those northerners who have never experienced the true Acadian cuulture do not know is that we still speak the French language and have been playing and singing the music of our French Acadian ancestors since their arrivial in South Louisina in the early 1700's.

There is a distinct dividing line in the state between North Louisiana and South Louisiana. South Louisiana especially the southwestern and south central Louisiana praries were setteled in the early 1700's by the French. Our music has been carried on by the generations that followed - from France to Acadia and Quebec to the prairies and bayous of Louisiana.

The central and northern portions of the state were settleded much later by people from the northern parts of what was by then the United States of America. These people play a very different type of music - "Hillbilly" if you will.

The French in my part of the state called them "Les Americans" and did have much association with them.

Our music was our own and not shared with the English speaking northerners.

Today the North Louisiana musicians are trying to learn our centuries old music from our old fiddlers. All I wanted to do was to learn some of their traditional "Hill Billy" music. I was looking for easy way to learn their music.

Maybe, I should stick with the music of our ancestors - very few of us are left that can play the old French music.

Merci Beaucoup,

FiddleD

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Just a bit of clarification on maestramusica's last post -- while the mandolin and fiddle are tuned the same, mando tab and fiddle tab are different. Mandolin tab, like banjo and guitar tab, goes by fret number. Fiddle tab typically goes by finger number. Depending on the notation, fiddle tab would go: low 1, 1, low 2, 2, 3, high 3, 4; and the corresponding mando tab is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Fret-based tablature is actually a bit clearer, as it does not depend on neck position.

You certainly could train yourself to read mando tab for the fiddle, but it's a different language using the very similar 'words'.

If you want to read some sort written music, standard notation is probably the most efficient way to convey information. Tab is very limited. On the other hand, I know plenty of very good fiddlers who don't read music, and use tab for note-taking. They learn, though, by ear. The tab is a reminder: "How's that one go?" I think that's the best way to learn even if you do read. When I stock books for my shop, I always try to get those that have a corresponding CD.

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It is wonderful that you are there to learn from them. In the interests of those who come behind you, PLEASE record and archive the music you learn, and propagate it! Perhaps your daughters will help you transcribe the tunes into standard notation or abcs, and make them available on the internet for others who would like to learn from your heritage! Recording the Old-timers as they play is a "primary source", speaking in research terms.

I do NOT think less of the aural traditions of learning, but I recognize that in today's world, we are less oriented to that learning style, and may have to adapt in order to carry the traditional tunes to another generation. Today's children think of aural listening more as "background sound" than as something to listen to intently, or to learn from. So, preserving it in more than one format is the best approach. It would be great of you to take part in preserving both the Aural tradition of your musical heritage, and make it available to those of us who will not have those old-timers to hear, by putting it into a format that more can have access to.

Keep on learning the tunes- what ever way make sense for you!

Norma

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It is wonderful that you are there to learn from them. In the interests of those who come behind you, PLEASE record and archive the music you learn, and propagate it! Perhaps your daughters will help you transcribe the tunes into standard notation or abcs, and make them available on the internet for others who would like to learn from your heritage! Recording the Old-timers as they play is a "primary source", speaking in research terms.

I do NOT think less of the aural traditions of learning, but I recognize that in today's world, we are less oriented to that learning style, and may have to adapt in order to carry the traditional tunes to another generation. Today's children think of aural listening more as "background sound" than as something to listen to intently, or to learn from. So, preserving it in more than one format is the best approach. It would be great of you to take part in preserving both the Aural tradition of your musical heritage, and make it available to those of us who will not have those old-timers to hear, by putting it into a format that more can have access to.

Keep on learning the tunes- what ever way make sense for you!

Norma

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks to all for the information.

I have been teaching some of the old tunes to various fiddlers - they also play by ear.

I recently met a concert violinist who told me that he cannot play by ear - he has to rely on the written music.

I guess the way I learned from the old fiddle masters is ok - none read music either. It is good to be able to hear a piece and learn to play it without having to read it, but my next goal is to learn to read music.

I am presently learning to read basic music.

Thanks again for all your comments and the websites provided.

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