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Performer Guides: Fiddle

Use this guide to find resources for music performance, including LC call number browsing ranges for repertoire, books, and journals..

Selected Fiddle Tune Books and Techniques:

The Fiddler's Fakebook

(Music Sales America). This book has become the industry standard for fiddlers due to its comprehensive amount of instruction and great songs that it packs into one convenient collection. Contains nearly 500 jigs, reels, rags, and hornpipes from all the major fiddling traditions. It also includes extensive information on regional styles, bowing, ornamentation, and even record companies that specialize in folk and fiddle music. It also includes an exhaustive discography as well as a standard song index along with an index of "alternate titles" that some of the songs may be recognized as. The enormous wealth of material in the Fiddler's Fakebook makes it more than a reference book to be left on the shelf. You will find it helpful in any playing situation from a square dance to an informal gathering of friends. Songs include: Another Jig Will Do * Apple Blossom * Arkansas Traveler * Bill Cheatham * Bitter Creek * Bonnie Kate * Cotton-Eyed Joe * Cripple Creek * Fiddler's Dream * Fisher's Hornpipe * Flop-Eared Mule * Flowers of Edinburgh * The Girl That Broke My Heart * The Irish Washerwoman * Magpie * Old Joe Clark * Stoney Creek * Woodchopper's Reel * and more.

John Hartford's Mammoth Collection of Fiddle Tunes

"John Hartford's Mammoth Collection of Fiddle Tunes" contains 176 of John's original compositions, most never before available, taken from the sixty-eight handwritten music journals he kept between 1983 and 2001. Interspersed with stories, quotes, rare photos, and his own personal artwork, this is a fiddle anthology unlike any other. A peek inside the unique mind of a prolific musician and composer, "Hartford's Mammoth Collection" will inspire musicians, artists, music historians, and anyone who loves the creative process.

The Old-Time Fiddler's Repertory

Fiddle music is a firm part of the American folk tradition, yet little has been available in formal notation. This collection, based on recordings and notes made by R. P. Christeson over three decades, offers reliable scores for 245 traditional fiddle tunes as played by artists in the Midlands and the Southwest.             In this volume Christeson presents the scores for traditional tunes as played by thirty-three different fiddlers from nine states. Many of the tunes, divided into categories of breakdowns, waltzes, quadrilles, and "pieces," have never been published nor appeared on commercial recordings. 

A Hundred Favorite Fiddle Tunes

One hundred great fiddle solos and duets on reels, waltzes, jigs, hornpipes, two-steps, breakdowns, clogs, and schottisches by well-known Canadian fiddle Bill Guest. This book was compiled mainly for the violin student who is interested in learning to play old-time fiddle music. Suggested bowings are marked in some tunes. Chord symbols are included for accompaniment

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Method Books:

Mark O'Connor, Gillian Gallagher, and Rieko Aizawa, O'Connor Method: A New American School of String Playing (New York: Mark O'Connor Musik International, 2009 -) - violin, MT761 .O266 2009; viola, MT282 .O18 2009; cello, MT786 .O266 2009.

Crystal Plohman, Renata Bratt, and Bob Phillips, Fiddle & Song: A Sequenced Guide to American Fiddling (Van Nuys, CA: Alfred, 2017) - violin and piano accompaniment, MT279.5 .P56 2017; viola, MT282 .P56 2017; cello/bass, MT302 .P56 2017.

Online Resources for Fiddle:

Traditional Celtic, Old Time, & Bluegrass Tune Book, compiled by Glenn Weiser, updated 24 June 2017.

The Session - A free website dedicated to traditional Irish music. You can find tunes, sessions, events, and discussions about music. 

Books on the Fiddle and Fiddlers:

The Devil's Box: Masters of Southern Fiddling

A unique and illuminating overview of the traditions of Southern fiddling, covering the key performers and compositions that defined that genre during its golden age--from the 1920s to the 1950s--and that continue to influence popular music today. It was called "the devil's box" because the instrument was thought to be sinful to play. Yet in spite of (or perhaps partially because of) that stigma, the fiddle has long been one of America's favorite instruments. Easily portable, stylistically versatile, and possessing an enchanting timbre, it accompanied the European settlers across America. In the 1800s, the fiddle entertained on the battlefield and on the campaign trail. When country music made its first appearance on records in the 1920s, fiddlers called the tune. To this day, the fiddle remains a distinctive element of country music, and fiddlers like Alison Krauss and Mark O'Connor are among the music's biggest stars and most innovative artists. The key players and favorite tunes in the commercial emergence of Southern fiddling in the first half of the twentieth century are the focus of this lucid and engaging study. 

Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman: An East Tennessee Old-Time Music Pioneer and His Family

This new book tells-for the first time-the story of Charlie Bowman, a musician from East Tennessee, who was a major influence on the distinctive fiddle style definitive of country music of the 1920s and 1930s. Charlie, along with three of his brothers and two of his daughters, were part of the Columbia Records Johnson City Sessions of 1928 and 1929. The farmer-turned-musician was one of the pioneers who helped shape and develop a vital American musical genre. Bowman was acquainted with many musical luminaries of that colorful era, including the legendary Carter Family. But this is not simply the biography of one man. Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman is the portrayal of a large colorful family, a close-knit mountain community, a geographic area, and a specific musical variety defined as old-time traditional Appalachian music. This volume explores Bowman's musical life - his work with various bands, including the Hill Billies (the first group to use that name to characterize old-time music), his years on the road touring, and his association with other performers. Beyond that, it chronicles the experiences of Bowman's large family left behind in Gray Station, Tennessee and details the many hardships caused by his departure and prolonged absence. Written by Bowman's great nephew Bob L. Cox, this biography provides an insider's perspective on an important but often overlooked musician. For his research, Cox drew on his family's records and memories. In addition to published books and articles, his resources included the family Bible, scrapbooks, diaries, photographs, and taped interviews with family members and friends.

Music in the Air Somewhere: The Shifting Borders of West Virginia's Fiddle and Song Traditions

Music in the Air Somewhere is a study on conventions that many West Virginians hold dear: fiddle music and folk traditions. It is also a look into the broad influences that folk music has on fiddlers' compositions and their practices. By exploring the oral histories and music of seven celebrated, life-long West Virginian musicians, Erynn Marshall illuminates the diversity of these music traditions and the culmination of fiddle song genres. These vocal and musical pieces have transformed into various forms of the art, and each can be independent of the other. Four song pieces are analyzed and contrasted in seven studies through instrumental and vocal interpretation. Characteristics such as rhythmic elaboration, melodic variation, increased ornamentation, reduced fluctuation in key and tempo, the imitation of vocal ""dwells"", and the addition of ""ending tags"" are all analyzed to explain these phenomena in fiddle-song tradition. Through the studies of these musicians' lives, oral transmission, social contexts, and analysis of various genres within the contexts, Marshall expresses how the instrumental and vocal tradition has merged and transformed over time, blurring the present boundaries and perceptions of the art. Included with this intense survey of Appalachian tradition is a CD of Marshall's field and archival recordings of West Virginia musicians Warren Cronin, Rita Emerson, Lela Gerkins, Leland Hall, Phyllis Marks, Lester and Linda McCumbers, Woody and William Simmons, Melvin Wine, and the Sandy Valley Boys.

Fiddling Way Out Yonder: The Life and Music of Melvin Wine

From a small mountain town in West Virginia, elder fiddler Melvin Wine has influenced musicians and music enthusiasts far beyond his homeplace. Music, community, and tradition permeate all aspects of life in this rural region. Fiddling Way Out Yonder: The Life and Music of Melvin Wine shows how in Wine's playing and teaching all three have created a vital and enduring legacy. As a musician, Wine has been honored nationally for his musical skills and his leadership role in an American musical tradition. A farmer, a coal miner, a father of ten children, and a deeply religious man, he has played music influenced by the hard lessons of his own experience and shaped a musical tradition even while passing it on to others. Fiddling Way Out Yonder examines the fiddler, his music, and its context from a variety of perspectives. Many rousing fiddlers came from isolated mountain regions like Wine's home stomp. The book makes a point to address the broad historical issues related both to North American fiddling and to Wine's personal history. Wine (b. 1909) has spent almost all of his life in rural Braxton County, an area where the fiddle and dance traditions that were strong during his childhood and early adult life continue to be active today. Utilizing models from folklore studies and ethnomusicology, Fiddling Way Out Yonder discusses how community life and educational environment have affected Wine's music and his approaches to performance. Such a unique fiddler deserves close stylistic scrutiny. The book reveals Wine's particular tunings, his ways of holding the instrument, his licks, his bowing techniques and patterns, his tune categories, and his favorite keys.

Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from The 1930s

While in the Mississippi State Archives tracking down Abbott Ferriss's beautiful photographic portraits of musicians from 1939, author Harry Bolick discovered, to his amazement, a treasure trove of earlier fiddle tunes in manuscript form. Since then he has worked to understand how this collection came to exist and be set aside. With Stephen T. Austin, Bolick has transcribed the subsequent 1939 audio recordings. Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s presents the history of the collecting work, with over three hundred of the tunes and songs and a beautiful selection of period photographs. In the summer of 1936, over one hundred fiddle tunes, many of them unique, along with thousands of songs, were collected and notated throughout a large part of Mississippi. Roughly 130 novice field workers captured beautiful tunes and tantalizing fragments. As a body of work, it is an unparalleled and fascinating snapshot of vernacular music as heard in Mississippi in the early part of the recorded era. However, this music was unpublished and forgotten. In 1939, building on the contacts made three years earlier, Herbert Halpert led one of the last and best executed of the WPA folklore projects which recorded audio performances in Mississippi. Some, but not all, of those distinctive fiddle tune recordings have been published. Additionally through cassette tape copies passed hand to hand, some of these distinctive tunes have regained currency and popularity among contemporary fiddlers. In Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s, this great music is at last widely available. Selected tunes in this book are available from Document Records. Get Harry Bolick's CD with 22 tunes from the book, more information, a video, and free downloads of the sound files at

North American Fiddle Music: A Research and Information Guide

Beisswenger’s North American Fiddle Music: A Research and Information Guide is a 560 page annotated bibliography on the fiddle traditions of the United States and Canada (including traditions in specific provinces and states), with reference to traditions from outside the United States and Canada that have influenced traditions in this region (including Europe, Africa, and Latin America). The purpose of the reference source is to aid researchers of fiddle music and American music in locating research sources. The sources included in this bibliography are mainly related to particular individual fiddlers or groups of fiddlers, their music, and their performance style. The focus is specifically on traditional styles, especially older traditional styles, and fiddle type instruments similar to the violin. The author compiled the bibliography by exploring archival holdings, newspaper clippings, CD liner notes, and unpublished papers related to folk fiddling traditions. Because the book only provides brief overviews of fiddle traditions, this source could be useful for researchers who already have some background in the subject area and in ethnomusicological research in general, but is not recommended for casual readers or inexperienced researchers. - Reviewed by Sally Schaefer