Welcome to my little fiddle tablature archive. This site is dedicated to the advancement of old-time stringband music, and to those who've embarked on the wondrous yet frustrating path of learning to play it on the fiddle. The tunes are below if you'd like to skip this intro and go straight to the juicy stuff.
After applying my vital energies to the old-time style for over 20 years in a somewhat uneven and intermittent fashion, and being mentored by some of the very best old-time fiddlers around these days*, I have developed the ability to pick apart the playing of advanced fiddlers and interpret their bowing patterns to a respectable degree of accuracy. And if you know anything about old-time fiddling, you know that the heart and soul of it is in the bowing.
I would not presume to hold myself up as an authority on southern old-time fiddle styles. I live in Kansas, which I often describe as a "black hole" of old-time music. I always defer to those whose playing I admire and who tend to have a much closer connection to the source. The learning style that I describe herein and offer in tablature form is an expression of the frustration I've found in trying to learn the subtleties of the style without the benefit of the regular support enjoyed by fiddle students in the southeast. If you live in an area rich with the old-time tradition, you probably have an abundance of good players and learning opportunities, and my offerings may be of limited use to you. But if you find yourself in a less supportive environment, and you can't seem to figure out how your favorite players are producing the sounds they do, these transcriptions might help.
When learning a new tune from a player who uses unfamiliar bowing, I like to seek out the very best recording and then pick the performance apart to its smallest components in order to understand what makes it tick. I'll slow the tune down with my computer and listen to some phrases many dozens of times before I'll figure out the bowing patterns.. The tiniest variations in the phrasing of the notes or bowing can make a significant impact on the way the tune sounds or feels. Ideal phrasing can make the fingering or bowing smoother or more graceful, and it can also roughen it up in a way that drives the tune harder in just the right way.
Old-time music is, on the surface, a simple and unassuming style of music. But when you make the effort to dig deep and discover what makes an advanced fiddler's playing so compelling, you start tuning into a hidden world of subtlety and nuance. If you're new at this, it's likely that you can't even hear the subtleties yet, and if you can't hear it you certainly can't incorporate it into your playing. It's taken me many years to tune into the subtleties of the best players, and I still have a ways to go. It's a building process, where one layer of understanding needs to be in place before one can advance to the next. Just trust that it will come to you, bit by bit, and know that help is on the way in the tabs you'll find on this site.
The purpose of dissecting a performance to this degree is not to make yourself sound exactly like a given fiddler. I liken it to filling my "toolbox" with a wide variety of quality tools, so that at any instant during a tune I can select the tool needed to turn a phrase in just the way I wish to express it. The more tools you have at your disposal, and the better the tools, the better you will be at matching the performance to the ideal version you have looping in your head. Learning the intricacies of someone else's playing doesn't limit you to sounding just like them -- it actually helps free you to best express your true fiddle sound!
What you'll find in this site are my attempts to dissect and annotate the subtleties of some great tunes and great performances, with emphasis on the bowing. I can't tell you how much I wish I had had access to something like this when I was starting on the fiddle -- I would be much further along by now if I had. It is in this spirit that I make this resource available to you. I hope these tabs will help to accelerate your learning and deepen your understanding of the old-time style.
These transcriptions represent my best efforts to decode the bowing of some select players. Details may vary from their source, and since fiddlers tend to vary their bowing throughout a tune, it's usually a moving target anyway. In this case I try to define their primary tendencies, or the quintessential patterns that define the sound. The bottom line, as paraphrased from your typical bill of sale: I make no warranty, express or implied, for the fitness of these transcriptions for any purpose, and I assume no liability or responsibility for their use!
And finally, I welcome comments, suggestions and corrections. I have a backlog of tabs to be added here, and will be doing so as time permits. If you would like to receive e-mail notifications of recent additions, please send me a message at: doug at oldtimefiddle dot us
*For the lessons and classes, thank you: