Fiddle Tune Primer

Fiddle Tune Primer

Picture of Marcel Ardans

Marcel Ardans

I’ve had a lot of people asking if there is a system or suggested video viewing order buried in my YouTube channel. They ask things like, “Where do I start the program?” Well the simple answer is; there is no program. The lessons really weren’t intended to work that way. My weekly YouTube lessons are based on topics inspired from my private Skype lessons (sign up here) or new topics that the bluegrass community is excited about.  It would have been nice if I had had the foresight to create a sequential list of videos that you can work through but you know, and I know, that I’m not that smart.

However, this “playlist” of videos was brought to my attention by a student who was looking for help learning fiddle tunes and eventually steered down this path via suggestions by the YouTube algorithm. Praise be to the algorithm, that our crops may grow tall and bear many fruit. Now I will recite videos to you in an attempt to revive the articles section of the website which has been on life support for the last eight months.

Getting Started

What is a fiddle tune? How do I listen to a fiddle tune? If you’re completely new to the concept of fiddle tunes, they’re basically bluegrass instrumentals and there is a huge catalog of them to learn. This recent video called “How do fiddle tunes work!?“, explains how fiddle tunes function, what to expect, and gives lots of examples along the way.

The next thing to do is learn some fiddle tune melodies. You don’t need some article to tell you that. If you’re a beginner and some of the music in the last video seemed intimidating you might want to get started with some of the simple classics I teach in this video called “Learn 3 Easy Fiddle Tunes For Your First Bluegrass Jam.”

If you’re an intermediate player, you might enjoy starting with something a little more challenging, I’d recommend my Red Haired Boy and Blackberry Blossom lessons.

Starting To Improvise

A huge component of learning and performing fiddle tunes in a bluegrass context is improvisation. It is one of the pillars of the genre and without some degree of improvisation in your interpretations there are players that would wager you aren’t playing bluegrass at all. Improvisation is a huge topic though and a difficult place to start. I’d recommend this video called “My Favorite Beginner Bluegrass Guitar Improv Exercise.”

If you have some experience with improvisation but lack experience in what is expected of you in a bluegrass situation, you might try this video. It’s called “How To Start Improvising Over Fiddle Tunes” and it breaks down a method I have seen succeed with many students new to fiddle tune improvisation.

If improvising is very intriguing to you as a concept and you want more, you might try some of these videos that discuss further exercises and concepts.

Bluegrass Jams

If you’re feeling hot, you know a few tunes and improv is getting more comfortable. You might want to take your new skills to the local bluegrass jam and see how it goes. Take a look at this lesson I created for Bluegrass Pride called “Finding a Jam” and this video on jam etiquette called “Always do these things at the bluegrass jam.”

Have fun playing fiddle tunes and I’ll see y’all around YouTube!


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