Category Archives: OldTime Fiddle

President Garfield’s Hornpipe

President Garfield’s Hornpipe from Sean Ryan’s

Being an election year, and the race for President being more interesting than usual, here is a blast from the past. This tune, President Garfield’s Hornpipe was first published in Sean Ryan’s Mammoth Collection of fiddle tunes, not long after the unfortunate assassination of the man elected by the people of this country.

Later almost the whole collection was republished as 1000 Fiddle Tunes by M.M. Cole. Of the two, Sean Ryan’s has the tunes in a slightly larger format, but not much. Either one is good for tracking down the oldest usable version of a common tune, as well as finding gems that have been left behind.

This hornpipe is in the key of Bb, a good key for fiddle but not found all that often. The second part of the tune is especially melodic. The descending figure over Eb, then Bb is intriguing. Maybe it’s not easy, but then it’s a hornpipe. You don’t have to play at lightning speed.

The bar that follows those two suggests an F7 chord. To me this lick feels just a little awkward. And yet the sound is completely compelling!

For printing, I recommend the President Garfield pdf. This will print better than the jpeg image.

Remembering James A. Garfield

Three quarter profile of James A Garfield
President for about 200 days.

About President garfield, the Wikipedia article says, “[He] advocated agricultural technology, an educated electorate, and civil rights for African Americans.

My belief is that he was the last elected President in favor of an educated electorate. If you think about it, a change in our culture to be supportive of an educated electorate would be a revolutionary change.

Also, I’ve read articles online that cast President Garfield into the role of an opposition to the central banking class. That position wins no popularity contests, as you probably know.

Arkansas Traveler

 

Arkansas Traveler and Eck Robertson

 

Eck Robertson recorded Arkansas Traveller and Sally Gooden for Edison Records in 1922. These must have been the first recordings of fiddle tunes.

Sally Gooden was included in the Smithsonian Country Classics. The other side of the original recording, Arkansas Traveller, remains a very popular tune in fiddle jams.

ArkansasTravellerHere is the pdf file for the tune.

This is what Arkansas Traveller sounds like. First time, as it appears on the page, second time, a little more freely.

 

For another great hoedown in D, try Whiskey before Breakfast.

Shady Grove

One evening at a place called Ka Tiki on Sunset Beach, I was performing with the redoubtable Pete Gallagher. A man in the audience called out for Shady Grove.

It’s a short, simple tune, but that’s what he really wanted to hear so we played it as an instrumental. We didn’t know the words. It is satisfying to play: mostly pentatonic, a little bluesy, what’s not to like?

I believe we played in the key of E minor, which is easy for guitar players, and no problem for fiddlers, either. The version here is in B minor, a key that is easier, arguably, for beginners.

When I was up at the Florida Folk Festival last Memorial Day weekend, I heard a band do it in B minor. If you can sing it in that key your voice is either a little higher than average or lower. The middle range is better in E minor.

Shady Grove Fiddle TabThe fingers go where they normally would on an A scale. The notes equal the pentatonic A scale. As a minor key it would be Dorian mode. Folk fiddle tunes use that frequently for minor keys.

The 8th of January Redone

This is my second fiddle tab publication of 8th of January. This version is a little easier than the previous. If nothing else it gives you more options for playing the tune.

It’s known better as the tune for “The Battle of New Orleans” by those old enough to have heard it. It’s a great story song and a powerful melody.

When I started playing it I had the idea f using only pentatonic notes for the A part. That has been preserved in this version.

The B part of the fiddle tab chart allows the use of drones and a drum like figure along with the droning. Especially on the lower two strings, you can get a good effect.

In the key of G you will find it singable, if you wish. In D, not so much.

Later, I expanded the tune into a more complex form. I call it “The Eighth,” and used to play it in a medley with “Sevens” and “9 Points of Roguery”. Thus, it was the 7, 8, 9 medley.

Presently, I prefer playing “Sevens” to round out the medley of “Potato on the Door” and “The Golden Legs.” All three tunes are from Liz Carroll.

For right now here is “The 8th of January.”

8th of January in fiddle tab
Fiddle Tab of the 8th of January

For printing the fiddle tab chart use the pdf of the 8th of January.

Down Yonder

Down Yonder is a good old time tune that you don’t hear so much any more. My first serious exposure to it was when I listened to the “Circle Album.”

Doc Watson asked, “How does that go, Vassar?” and away they went. That version got published by Oak Publications. Alas, it is out of print.

Scotty Stoneman’s version is in the Phillips Collection. Like Vassar’s it’s advanced and rakish, a no-holds-barred music event.

What I’m offering here is quite basic. But, there are a few tricks worth noticing.

The kickoff is a particular bow technique that requires good control of the bow while playing near the frog. Here’s the tip: Keep the bow close to the string for the repeated down-bows.

Once you get going, the plan of slurs or separate bows should feel natural and easy.

Fiddle tab chart for Down Yonder

And here is the pdf of Down Yonder.

Moscow Duck

This must be the oldest original fiddle tune that I still play. A hand draw tab was published in The Florida Fiddler newsletter a long time ago.

This update is only a little different. I don’t think I had Georgia bow in the B part, as in this version.

A special observation is the use of a high fourth finger in the B part. That stretches all the way up to an F natural. You notice the slide up and down indications, too. It’s a moaning kind of sound. Very bluesy.

Fiddle tab chart for Moscow Duck
Moscow Duck in Fiddle Tab

And here is the pdf of Moscow Duck.

Liberty

With the 4th of July and Bastille Day approaching, we will be thinking of our personal liberty.

They say it’s not how much food you have on the table, or how many shoes in the closet that gives you liberty, it’s how free you are from the government poking its armed nose into your business. (Imagine a giant nose with rifles bristling from the nostrils instead of nose hairs.)

The fiddle reel celebrating personal freedom is Liberty. This is a straight ahead way to play it.

Liberty in fiddle tab
Fiddle Tab chart of Liberty
Liberty in fiddle tab

And in the printable version we have the Liberty pdf file.