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Thread: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

  1. #26
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I guess what I am really asking is what would Doc Watson would have meant by it?
    Doc Watson was a gifted and skilled musician who probably never thought much about the meaning of "I'm going to pick some fiddle tunes." As I said before "fiddle tunes" is a common term in the English-speaking worried, besides which "picking" is a common term in much of the USA. If Doc grew up using these terms, they'd just slip out of his mouth. The best way to understand what Doc or others meant by "picking fiddle tunes" is to listen to what they play after saying "I'm going to pick some fiddle tunes." Similarly, you can read tomes explaining what is meant by "playing the blues," without really understanding what is meant by "playing the blues". On the other hand, if you listen to a few people who are regarded as outstanding blues musicians, you'll soon develop a sense of what "playing the blues" means. I'm a scholar, and we're fixated on definitions, but I've found that with music, observation often works far better than explanation.
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    [QUOTE=
    Doc was one of the early pickers to play melody lines on guitar for tunes like Soldiers Joy or Arkansas Traveler.

    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.[/QUOTE]

    When Ralph Rinzler "discovered" Doc Watson, Doc was playing fiddle tunes, in a band, for local dances on an electric guitar plugged into an amp.
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  5. #28

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    ...the guitar was for chords and rhythm.
    That might be part of what Doc was thinking. Before Doc and maybe later with Norman Blake and Clarence White the guitar was just a rhythm instrument in a Bluegrass band. Flatt had the "G run" that he threw in and then back to rhythm.

  6. #29
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Yea, but the Stanley Brothers had George Shuffler playing some mighty fine lead guitar on their recordings.
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Yea, but the Stanley Brothers had George Shuffler playing some mighty fine lead guitar on their recordings.
    Sure, there were others but Doc is the one who gets credit for flatpicking because he first took it to New York City and performed it to a new audience who had never heard it before and was written up with rave reviews, which led to an even wider audience.

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  10. #31
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Fair point. Not to hijack the thread but what always confused me about the history of flatpicked guitar is that when it happened people were so amazed and impressed.

    Jazz guitarists were playing amazing leads since the 20's.
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  12. #32
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    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.
    I'm a tad confused by the question. Are you asking why mandolin and guitar players would want to use the term "fiddle tunes" or why we would want to play them? For the latter, I pretty much play and compose "fiddle tunes" cause I have to regardless of whether or not there is a fiddler present. When I hear a good one, it runs so deep into my Scots Irish heritage that I can't not do it.

    This reminds me of the old joke, Q:Why do people learn a new fiddle tune? A: To get the previous one out of their head. haha
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Fiddle tunes translate well to the mandolin and it gives us a chance to show our chops.

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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Am I the only one who feels that most people posting in this thread are wa-a-ay overthinking this?
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny View Post
    Am I the only one who feels that most people posting in this thread are wa-a-ay overthinking this?
    No, you're not the only one. But that's what threads like this are for, and in the process, we're hearing how different people use language for the same thing.
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  17. #36
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    When Ralph Rinzler "discovered" Doc Watson, Doc was playing fiddle tunes, in a band, for local dances on an electric guitar plugged into an amp.
    Yup. And that's where Doc was playing a lot of fiddle tunes, for one reason or another. It's explained in the biography entitled Blind But Now I See.

    Also interesting that I usually don't hear folks use the term fiddle tunes in Nordic music. Possibly due to tunes being played by nyckelharpa or sackpipa (Swedish small pipes) or hardanger fiddle.
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  18. #37

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Obviously, a lot of this is down to regional and idiomatic expressions.

    I've pretty much exclusively heard the term "fiddle tune" refer to instrumental music, generally fairly uptempo... and I always took it to mean that it had been composed on or for the fiddle. I don't think i've ever heard it generalized as an idiom for old time music or bluegrass.

    But, then again, I'm sure it has been generalized in some places. The do call all kinds of fizzy pop "coke" in some areas.

  19. #38
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    I am also a fiddler but I don’t usually refer to them, as fiddle tunes maybe because it is redundant especially if I have a fiddle in my hand. More likely I would preface the word with the genre I would like to play like “that is a great old time tune” or “that Québécois tune sure is crooked.”
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  20. #39
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny View Post
    Am I the only one who feels that most people posting in this thread are wa-a-ay overthinking this?
    That';s what I was trying to say in my long-winded, overthought way.
    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.

  21. #40

    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    I think we all know the truth here. Fiddle tunes is the popular descriptor because most of them were composed on and for fiddle. All fiddle tunes can be played on mandolin, and vice versa, but mandolin is invisible in popular culture. There aren’t even any disparaging jokes about the instrument or it’s players.

    Oh well. I Got a once-in-a-lifetime gig as a musician on an adventure-cruise round Atlantic Canada, because they thought I was a fiddle player. I was the third-or-fourth-pick call to make up a duo; fiddle players here are busy in September and can’t jump on a ship for two weeks on short notice. I could. No one hears the end of the sentence when you say “I play fiddle tunes on mandolin.” That’s how the “Fins and Fiddles” cruise ended up with TWO mandolin-tenor banjo players. I’m sure if I said “I pick fiddle tunes on mandolin” it would have registered exactly the same way.

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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    I think we all know the truth here. Fiddle tunes is the popular descriptor because most of them were composed on and for fiddle. All fiddle tunes can be played on mandolin, and vice versa, but mandolin is invisible in popular culture. There aren’t even any disparaging jokes about the instrument or it’s players.

    Oh well. I Got a once-in-a-lifetime gig as a musician on an adventure-cruise round Atlantic Canada, because they thought I was a fiddle player. I was the third-or-fourth-pick call to make up a duo; fiddle players here are busy in September and can’t jump on a ship for two weeks on short notice. I could. No one hears the end of the sentence when you say “I play fiddle tunes on mandolin.” That’s how the “Fins and Fiddles” cruise ended up with TWO mandolin-tenor banjo players. I’m sure if I said “I pick fiddle tunes on mandolin” it would have registered exactly the same way.

    I don’t care. I got to walk the dunes of Sable Island. And I got paid for it.
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    The real question Bill, is there or is there not money above the 7th fret?
    Not on a fiddle. Proper question: "Is there any additional money in second position?"
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    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.
    It may simply be a way to say, “I’m going to play something that’s outside the conventional or expected genre(s) for my instrument.”
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  26. #44
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny View Post
    It may simply be a way to say, “I’m going to play something that’s outside the conventional or expected genre(s) for my instrument.”
    Probably not, since most people play more fiddle tunes on mandolin than anything else.

  27. #45
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Doc Watson was a gifted and skilled musician who probably never thought much about the meaning of "I'm going to pick some fiddle tunes." As I said before "fiddle tunes" is a common term in the English-speaking worried (sic),
    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    Probably not, since most people play more fiddle tunes on mandolin than anything else.
    Interesting; I guess "fiddle tunes" is a term used more so by English-speaking musicians in the UK and the USA.

    I've never heard the term used in context of Italian music (and the violin was invented in Italy! as was the mandolin), jazz, classical music, salsa (like in charango), and even Klezmer music, where the violin was the main lead instrument for centuries before the clarinet became prominent.

    Come to think of it, when I play with English Country Dance (ECD) musicians, I have not heard either term commonly used.

    Likewise, I've never heard musicians in those genres refer to "picking" a tune on mandolin or guitar.

    Just an observation from a mandolinist that mostly plays music that is not considered "fiddle tunes".

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  29. #46
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Thanks David, I don't know enough about folk music practices around the world, (ethnology-musicologist being my dream job) but I wonder if "limited musical function" was placed on instrument and instrument classes in other parts of the world,
    such as "you don't play melody on guitar" or "you don't play rhythm on a melody instrument"
    I am thinking certain drums or bells are only used in certain ceremonies, but that has religious overtones, where as I think the American "limitation" was based more on anticipated "style".
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  31. #47
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    Default Re: Picking Fiddle Tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    ..... I wonder if "limited musical function" was placed on instrument and instrument classes in other parts of the world,
    such as "you don't play melody on guitar" or "you don't play rhythm on a melody instrument"
    .
    Interesting point - from my armchair ethnomusicology research, many genres of music do indeed have set musical functions for specific instruments. In old-school Klezmer, for example, certain instruments like the fiddle, clarinet, flute and such would play melody, while the trombone, bass, 2nd fiddles would play the rhythm parts.

    Of course modern versions of many genres do expand these musical functions.

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