Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 47

Thread: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

  1. #1

    Default Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    A term I've heard all my life is, "I'm going to pick some fiddle tunes." (or, I'm going to pick ME some fiddle tunes) I never thought much about it, but why do mandolin and guitar players want to do this? And, why is it a cool thing to do? I mean, nobody says "I want to pick some banjo tunes." (although, I've heard many guitar players attempt Foggy Mountain Breakdown...) Is it just a cool way to say, "I'm going to play an instrumental?"

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Jul-25-2022 at 11:18am.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    6,754

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    We simply say we're going to play some tunes. I can see referencing to the fiddle when describing a style of music to someone unfamiliar with that style by saying fiddle music. It's more possible that they have at least heard something and can relate to it that way.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  3. The following members say thank you to pops1 for this post:


  4. #3
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    5,905

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Well, you can pick or choose...
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  5. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Charles E. For This Useful Post:


  6. #4
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    1,252

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    The term "fiddle tunes" is widespread in the English-speaking world. We often use it across Canada. The violin, generally called a "fiddle" when playing traditional dance music, was an extremely widespread and popular instrument for centuries, played either alone or with accompaniment. For a long time, in what's now the UK and Ireland and in North America, the fiddle was either a solo or leading instrument during dances and informal entertainments, with other instruments supporting. It's understandable that the music would be called "fiddle music" or "fiddle" tunes. In Newfoundland, where the accordion was the dominant folk music instrument for many years, the accordionist is often called the "fiddler," referring back to earlier times. On the other hand, I recall my mother, born in Prince Edward Island 1921, who played traditional music and often accompanied fiddlers on piano, referring mainly to this music mainly as "old time music," though she did use the expression, "fiddle music," as well. It would make sense in parts of the USA where other instruments lead and carry the melody not to refer to such tunes as "fiddle tunes" but I think you're dealing with an old usage that has established itself in the language. I think most of us have an intuitive sense of what is meant by a "fiddle tune." (French-Canadians and other European nations have a similar relationship with the "fiddle" and its music, but the word "fiddle" isn't used in French.)
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  7. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to Ranald For This Useful Post:


  8. #5
    Registered User Bren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Aberdeen, Scotland
    Posts
    839

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    "Fiddle tunes" is the dominant description used here in northeast Scotland, whether played on accordion, mandolin, whistle or whatever.

    Often as opposed to "pipe tunes" which are also played on fiddle, accordion, mandolin, whistle or whatever but limited to a certain scale and structure.

    Or just "tunes".

    Generally we only refer to "songs" if they involve singing.
    Bren

  9. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Bren For This Useful Post:


  10. #6
    Registered User Pappyrich's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
    Location
    Williamsburg, VA
    Posts
    150

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    I think the term "Fiddle Tunes" in my area of the country refers to old time music. My band, "The Playin' Possums", plays the old time Appalachian music that was typically played for dances in the early years of the US. This was the music brought to America by the Scots, the Irish, and other ethnic immigrant groups. We often just call it "Fiddle Music" as the fiddle was the main lead instrument.
    Richard

    Eastman 305
    Gibson A1 (1919)
    Martin D16 guitar
    Great Divide Guitar (Two-Old-Hippies)
    OME 11" banjo (1973)
    Pisgah 12" banjo

  11. The following members say thank you to Pappyrich for this post:


  12. #7
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    5,905

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    If it was good enough for Doc, it's good enough for me...



    At 0.17 Doc mentions that it is "really a fiddle tune" a short time later Jeff replies "it sure sounds good on the guitar too."
    Last edited by Charles E.; Jul-25-2022 at 1:24pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  13. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to Charles E. For This Useful Post:


  14. #8
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    5,204

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    I suppose in some Bluegrass circles it might be a shorthand for an instrumental tune, "instrumental" being a somewhat clumsy term, and most of those instrumentals being stolen from the fiddlers anyway.


    Other than that, it's a huge category of different genres, so your audience or band mates would have to know just what you're talking about. There is a yearly Centrum "Fiddle Tunes Festival" that's been held in my town since 1977 with a pause for the pandemic and back up this year, just concluded. I've attended it a few times, one memorable year had Tim O'Brien as an artist/instructor on mandolin.

    The festival is heavily focused on American Old Time music but each year it includes guest artists and workshops from other genres like Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Quebecois, Cajun, even Mexican. A look at the artist faculty on that link shows what they covered this year.

  15. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to foldedpath For This Useful Post:


  16. #9

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    I think "picking/pickin" is a slang term commonly deployed among "old-time" and bluegrass "pickers." Fiddle tunes just happen to be a highly prevalent form in the idiom.

    See: https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/pic...and_grinnin%27

    There is some degree of logic in the etiology, in that types of plectrums (plectra?) are generally used on the generally steel-strung instruments..

  17. The following members say thank you to catmandu2 for this post:


  18. #10
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    1,252

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    I don't hear the expression "pickin'" a great deal in Canada, though I don't generally move in bluegrass circles. On the other hand, if I said "we were pickin' some tunes," everyone would know what I meant.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  19. The following members say thank you to Ranald for this post:


  20. #11
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    5,905

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Gonna slide off topic a bit...I just discovered this recording of "Peach Picking In Georgia" by Riley Puckett that I had never heard before. It has some really nice mandolin playing throughout. Enjoy.


    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  21. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Charles E. For This Useful Post:


  22. #12

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Isn't it as simple as the fact that the tunes in question were originally composed/recorded/written/passed down for the fiddle, by fiddle players?
    It's not that life is short, but that we waste so much of it.

    --Seneca (paraphrased)

  23. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to Tighthead For This Useful Post:


  24. #13

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Fiddle and Mandolin have four strings & are tuned the same so "fiddle tunes" can always be played on Mandolin.

  25. The following members say thank you to Davey for this post:


  26. #14
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lower alabama
    Posts
    727

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tighthead View Post
    Isn't it as simple as the fact that the tunes in question were originally composed/recorded/written/passed down for the fiddle, by fiddle players?
    Exactly!

  27. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to lowtone2 For This Useful Post:


  28. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    6,754

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Before the early 1900's the string band was a fiddle and a banjo. So as has been said it was that way for decades and most likely has been used so long that it is common place. As I said before we just say play some tunes. We play old time music and here it is common to have a square dance at a party. We also have monthly dances thru the winter. Our dance has been going on for at least 30 years.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  29. The following members say thank you to pops1 for this post:


  30. #16
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    1,252

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tighthead View Post
    Isn't it as simple as the fact that the tunes in question were originally composed/recorded/written/passed down for the fiddle, by fiddle players?
    That's an oversimplification. Are you sure that some "fiddle tunes" weren't composed on harmonica, banjo, tin whistle, guitar, or mandolin? Some seem to come from folk songs, perhaps originally having no instrumental accompaniment. Other so-called fiddle tunes were written by European composers of highbrow music, eventually working their way into aural tradition. This brings us back to the OP's question: why are they called "fiddle tunes"? I think that's been pretty much answered in the posts above.

    Added: Stephen Foster wrote many songs whose melodies are now played as fiddle tunes, Angelina Baker being a well-known example. On what instrument, if any, did he compose these tunes? According to his Wikipedia article, "Foster taught himself to play the clarinet, guitar, flute, and piano."
    Last edited by Ranald; Jul-25-2022 at 7:07pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  31. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Ranald For This Useful Post:


  32. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    757

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Well certainly there are no fiddle tunes that can't be played on a fiddle.

  33. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Hudmister For This Useful Post:


  34. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    6,754

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    I was fiddling around last night. Tunes on a fiddle....
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  35. The following members say thank you to pops1 for this post:


  36. #19
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Albany NY
    Posts
    1,425

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    The tune book "Cole's 1001 Fiddle tunes" first published in 1940 actually calls them that, and is divided up into reels, jigs, hornpipes, strathpeys, much of it was taken from an earlier book of tunes called the Ryan book. Coles is all instrumental music and has no chord suggestions or notation.

    I'm guessing they were called "Fiddle tunes" earlier than 1940 in the U.S.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  37. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to tmsweeney For This Useful Post:


  38. #20
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    17,350

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Fiddle was the main melody instrument in traditional string-band music, and that music was largely, though not exclusively, based around a dance tune repertoire, derived from British Isles formats, thoroughly reworked in the American South (and Midwest, and New England as well). Fiddlers wrote the large majority of instrumental melodies, and different regional fiddle-playing styles could be distinguished by experienced listeners.

    Our iconic American string-band (bluegrass) mandolinist, Bill Monroe, always featured fiddle -- often multiple fiddles -- in his Blue Grass Boys, when he became a band leader. Tunes he wrote, for fiddle and mandolin, incorporated influences outside of the British-Celtic-Appalachian string band tradition, but could be played in that tradition, and with the skills learned there.

    I've very seldom heard an old-time jam, that didn't include fiddle as lead instrument. And the tunes played are nearly always "fiddle tunes" in a variety of meters and styles. It's our instrumental tradition, at least in that genre.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  39. The following members say thank you to allenhopkins for this post:


  40. #21
    Stop the chop!
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    europe
    Posts
    1,542
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    A term I've heard all my life is, "I'm going to pick some fiddle tunes." (or, I'm going to pick ME some fiddle tunes) I never thought much about it, but why do mandolin and guitar players want to do this? And, why is it a cool thing to do? I mean, nobody says "I want to pick some banjo tunes." (although, I've heard many guitar players attempt Foggy Mountain Breakdown...) Is it just a cool way to say, "I'm going to play an instrumental?"

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    A fiddle tune is a tune conceived for or traditionally played on the fiddle.

    Banjo tunes -- at least bluegrass banjo tunes -- are so highly idiomatic that they don't really work on other instruments. They are more like song tunes surrounded by notes without melodic significance. One exception would be Crossing the Cumberlands (by Bill Monroe who worked it out with Lamar Grier). I play it on the mandolin. The A part is note for note what Vic Jordan played on the original recording; I play it in 3rd position, locking my index finger on the fifth fret. I play the B part in 1st, adding a low g drone.

  41. The following members say thank you to ralph johansson for this post:


  42. #22
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    3,303

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    As an aside, there are certainly tunes that are playable on the mandolin/fiddle but come from different base instrument repertoire, including "flute-y" tunes, pipe tunes and occasionally box tunes. it's not that you can't play them on other instruments, but they seem to be geared toward the special sounds/ornamentation of those specific instruments.
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

  43. The following members say thank you to Randi Gormley for this post:


  44. #23
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    5,204

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    As an aside, there are certainly tunes that are playable on the mandolin/fiddle but come from different base instrument repertoire, including "flute-y" tunes, pipe tunes and occasionally box tunes. it's not that you can't play them on other instruments, but they seem to be geared toward the special sounds/ornamentation of those specific instruments.
    Right, sometimes it's obvious that it wasn't written on a fiddle like Scottish pipe tunes, which tend to sit on just the A and E strings on a mandolin due to the limited range of the scale.

    Octave jumps that go back and forth within the tune might be an indication that it was written on whistle or flute because that's easy. Just blow into the second octave and keep your fingering the same. Those jumps can be trickier on a mandolin or fiddle where you have to change to a different string.

  45. The following members say thank you to foldedpath for this post:


  46. #24

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Thanks everyone for your responses. It seems the term is interpreted many different ways. I probably first heard the term from a Doc Watson record 50+ years ago or read it on a Doc Watson record or review. I've heard many bluegrassers say it. I've read it here on this forum as well. There are many online videos of "how to flatpick fiddle tunes on the guitar" I guess what I am really asking is what would Doc Watson would have meant by it? Maybe, it is a reference to the musical prowess required to play fiddle tunes on a guitar? (something not everyone would be able to do?) Doubtful, Doc would be familiar with Scottish pipe tunes, Irish folk music, or Cape Breton or Quebecois styles of music. I'm guessing his reference was probably Roy Acuff or his father-in-law Gaither Carlton, who may have been familiar with those styles as they trickled through the mountains on the radio or traveling medicine shows, not sure....

  47. #25
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Albany NY
    Posts
    1,425

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    Thanks everyone for your responses. It seems the term is interpreted many different ways. I probably first heard the term from a Doc Watson record 50+ years ago or read it on a Doc Watson record or review. I've heard many bluegrassers say it. I've read it here on this forum as well. There are many online videos of "how to flatpick fiddle tunes on the guitar" I guess what I am really asking is what would Doc Watson would have meant by it? Maybe, it is a reference to the musical prowess required to play fiddle tunes on a guitar? (something not everyone would be able to do?) Doubtful, Doc would be familiar with Scottish pipe tunes, Irish folk music, or Cape Breton or Quebecois styles of music. I'm guessing his reference was probably Roy Acuff or his father-in-law Gaither Carlton, who may have been familiar with those styles as they trickled through the mountains on the radio or traveling medicine shows, not sure....

    "Doubtful, Doc would be familiar with Scottish pipe tunes, Irish folk music, or Cape Breton or Quebecois styles of music."
    I don't see why he wouldn't have been familiar with at least some of those traditional styles.
    I'm pretty sure he just meant tunes that are commonly played on a fiddle.
    Doc was one of the early pickers to play melody lines on guitar for tunes like Soldiers Joy or Arkansas Traveler.
    He does talk bout being influenced by Clarence White there.
    Norman Blake talked of learning music at home and there you did not play the melody line from a tune like "Red Haired Boy" on guitar, the guitar was for chords and rhythm.
    I also think there was a volume thing before amplification where it just wasn't practical to play a melody line on a guitar with a band, you just wouldn't be able to hear it, so it just wasn't that common.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  48. The following members say thank you to tmsweeney for this post:


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •