Category Archives: Beginner Tunes

Huntsmans Chorus-Fiddle and Suzuki

The Huntsman’s Chorus in Fiddle Tab

Have you ever heard a fiddle tune for the first time and said, “Whoa! That’s a fiddle tune?” That was me sitting up quickly as I head Lissa Schneckenburger play The Huntsman’s Chorus on her CD album, Dance

Before going on with the Huntsman’s Chorus I need to say that I listened to this album a lot! Then, I gave it to another fiddler. It is very well produced with some of the best arranging I’ve ever heard.

I knew the tune from Suzuki Violin Studies Vol. 1. I had been through the piece many times with students. Who knew it  was a fiddle tune? The video below is a segment of the opera that features this chorus. It’s the very thing Suzuki adapted for his violin students.

Originally it comes from an opera by 19th Century composer Carl Maria von Weber. Der Freishutz, (The Free Shooters), is the opera and this piece, whether fiddle tune or Suzuki piece, is adapted from a chorus number.

The Huntsman’s Chorus on Fiddle

Below is a clear video of a fiddle instructor showing how to play the tune. She plays it much like Lissa Schneckenburger.

The Huntsman’s Chorus on Mandolin

is another tutorial video. This time mandolin. And yet so clear I could easily follow it on the violin.

And, finally, just as you would expect, here is the fiddle tab chart for Huntsman’s Chorus.

huntsmans_chorus

A couple of bar lines at the end got chopped. Oh well, I’ve put off this project long enough just to get this far. Perfection will have “Take a Cold Tater and Wait.”

And, as always, here is a nifty pdf file for good printing. huntsmans_chorus Don’t hesitate to draw in the two missing bar lines!

Pop Goes the Weasel

A Child’s Song, a Jig–Pop Goes the Weasel

Looking over my list of tunes in the Fiddle Tune Directory, I see a shortage of real beginner tunes. Pop Goes the Weasel is a tune requested by my younger students. It’s a jig, it’s a children’s song, but it isn’t easy. And yet, because it is so well known, it can be approachable by beginners.

Pop Goes Weasel

Let me toss in the link to the pdf file. And now continue with a little background for the song.

All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought that it was a joke
Pop! goes the weasel.
A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle—
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Jimmy’s got the whooping cough
And Timmy’s got the measles.
That’s the way the story goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

It goes something like that, right? Unless you are in the United Kingdom. Their version is mostly like the way I first heard the song as sung by Anthony Newley in Stop the World I Want to Get Off.

Half a pound of tupenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel

Every night when I get home
The monkey’s on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Up and down the city road,
In and out the Eagle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

The Wikipedia article tells us that the song was originally a dance tune written in the early 1850’s. It was hugely popular. Words were added later. And the meaning of them has not been totally agreed on.

Just think about the cost of “half a pound of tupenny rice.” A penny, right. Rice going for two cents a pound. Talk about low prices!

Treacle is either molasses or a mixture of molasses and corn syrup. If the rice is cooked and mixed with the treacle, it’s a kind of rice pudding, I suppose.

Further into the song it gets a little more obscure. The “weasel” is part of a thread spinning machine. As the article writes, “The weasel is usually built so that the circumference is six feet, so that 40 revolutions produces 80 yards of yarn, which is a skein. It has wooden gears inside and a cam, designed to cause a popping sound after the 40th revolution, telling the spinner that she has completed the skein.”

We are not told the price of 80 yards of yarn. Do you suppose it’s a penny? Or in barter, you give me 80 yards of yarn, I’ll give you half a pound of rice. Now, those were the good old days.

As to getting up and playing the song as a jig, and why not, that’s what it was originally. The plan in the tab chart includes a left hand pluck on the E string for the “Pop” of the Weasel. I usually use my pinkie.

Jingle Bells

This Jingle Bells is in the key of G. That’s a better key for singing than A. On the other hand, A would allow easy use of the open E string for drones.

Then again, maybe F would be the best key for singing. I like F for fiddle tunes, but beginners are not familiar with the finger positions for this key.

This is an example of how choices always leave something behind.

Jingle Bells in Violin Tab

For printing the tune out here is Jingle Bells as a pdf.

This tune is as happy and upbeat a Christmas song as you can find. For a more devotional song, here’s a link to O Holy Night.

Red River Valley for Beginners

Red River Valley is a beginner tab. It’s a well known folk song. The notes are not hard.

There are two aspects that make it a little challenging.

1. The counting, to be accurate, requires holding notes for several counts, or beats.
2. The tune is repeated an octave higher.

Here’s a brief discussion of these two challenges.

1. The feel of the song, for me, is a slow two. But, when I’m teaching it, I count it in four. Each descending stem gets one count. The circled fingering numbers get two counts. A fingering number that is circled and dotted gets three counts. A number that is circled and has no stem gets four counts.

Some of the notes are longer because of the ties. That’s the curved line that goes from one finger number to the same finger number. This notation system only intends to make the counting completely accurate.

The first such indication is in the third full bar. (The very first bar with two notes is not a full bar.) The third finger note, a C on the G string, gets five counts. They way to count it accurately is to start on the second beat where it begins: two, three, four, one, two.

We keep repeating our count of four constantly. In the seventh bar the note gets four counts and ties to the same note getting two counts.

Fortunately, the song is well known and can almost be played with sufficient accuracy by feel alone. And perhaps some beginning to intermediate fiddlers could easily play by heart and just nail it.

2. Repeating the song an octave higher creates additional interest. It also doubles the learning time and effort. You might as well consider you are learning two tunes.

But this device of playing a tune an octave higher or lower is used commonly. One of the members of our local fiddle group, the Bay Area Fiddlers Association, will play some tunes an octave lower than the rest of us, as a variation.

Getting used to the changes in fingering that must be done to accomplish this trick is part of the gain in expertise on your way to mastery.

Fiddle tab chart of Red River Valley for beginners

Red River Valley as pdf.