Gospel songs go best in the key someone can easily sing. For How Great Thou Art that key is Bb, in my opinion. This is a good key on violin, too. You can easily use the open strings, except for E. The third note of the scale is D, and that tunes in to the D string, helping your intonation.
If you haven’t played much in the key of Bb, review the scale. Start with the low first finger on the A string. Work your way through the steps of the scale, listening carefully.
You will ned to use your fourth finger for the Eb note on the A string and the Bb note on the E.
Then, start with the second finger in the low position on the G string. From there, you can use the open D and A strings in the scale.
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.
The 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.
Pardon me if you have heard this from me before: I like hornpipes to have a swing rhythm. Many fiddlers play some hornpipes with a swing feel, and others they play like a reel or hoedown.
Consider Sailor’s Hornpipe. I hear no one playing it as a swing rhythm hornpipe. Same with Fisher’s Hornpipe. Most fiddlers just blast it out as a fast reel. Well, I’m not comfortable with that.
The hornpipe you find here is usually played with a swing feel to it. In other words, it’s treated as a fiddle hornpipe. I often include it in a medley with Drunken Sailor. Now that I put these words to print, I’m thinking of including Sailor’s in the same line up. Let’s just keep it very nautical!
One morning not long ago I woke up with a head ache. Maybe it was from staring at those little dots of music at orchestra rehearsal. Or peering at the little screen on my lap top.
I took some ibuprofen, (my drug of choice), and made coffee. As I waited for the coffee to brew I was trying to remember a Liz Carroll tune. There was something about it that haunted me. But, I wasn’t remembering exactly how the tune went or what album it was on.
As I continued trying to focus through my achy head and morning bleariness, suddenly a new tune popped into my head. I’m saying it was an instant download from the Grassapelli influence. It was just there.
I got out my fiddle and Edirol. By that time the coffee was ready, so I poured a cup. By the time I had played through the tune two times and recorded it, my headache was gone. Hence. Quick Fix.
This is more of a devotional song at Christmas than a Christmas Carol. Usually it’s sung by a singer with real chops.
I got a request for this one by email. I hope I can find the message in my piles of messages so I can reply. This tune is not in my new ebook, 25 Christmas Carols in Tab. More about that is posted on the Fiddle Violin blog.
The song takes two pages. As a pdf file it’s just one file: O Holy Night pdf. Here are the images:
This has plenty of violin techniques. If you know the song, you can probably decipher the symbols. It’s a satisfying song to play. I hope you enjoy it.