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.