Tag Archives: folk song

Amazing Grace Fiddle Notes and Recording

The Amazing Grace fiddle notes are comments I make here, not musical notation. Fiddle notes might be tablature, but not musical notation targeted for fiddle.

Dale Morris had a very interesting approach to Amazing Grace. He talked about this when I attended the Texarkana Fiddle Camp way back when. (It was the first year of the Mark O’Connor Camp, whenever that was. I attended both.)

He said that he liked to slur notes together if they represented one word. The first word in the song is ‘amazing’. It is given one note for each syllable. Usually you hear this played with three bows. And that’s the way I’ve published the tune.

His reasoning is good and musical. If you are a beginner, though, it’s a little awkward to get the three notes together in one bow. Since I give this tune to beginners, I make it easier and more conventional.

If you are an intermediate or advanced player, you can stretch this first part out in one bow. In fact, you may choose to do a juicy shift to third position on the third note.

I’m showing the three ways of handling this beginning of the tune in the tabs below. Further along is a link to an mp3 file demonstrating the sound.

You will see an ornamented version of the song in the first fiddle tab chart. Even beginners are encouraged to push into new territory.

Fiddle tab chart for Amazing Grace

Now here is a fragment to show the beginning with the slur covering the first three notes.

Fragment of Amazing Grace with slurring

And finally, moving into third position for during first three notes.

Fragment of Amazing Grace with 3rd position move

For the best printing results, here is a pdf of Amazing Grace.

A three minute mp3 file demonstrates the comparative sound of all this: Amazing-Grace MP3.

Great Speckled Bird

A few years ago I got a request to make a fiddle tab chart for Great Speckled Bird. The request came from an online student who wanted to play this at a fiddle contest.

I must have wanted to chart this tune anyway. My result was a simple version of the tune, much like it was sung by Roy Acuff, followed by a fancier fiddle version.

Fiddle tab chart for Great Speckled Bird
Great Speckled Bird in Fiddle Tab

And the pdf of Great Speckled Bird.

Here is another Gospel song, often sung at folk gatherings, Amazing Grace.

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.