Check out these songs featured in the Advanced Bluegrass Fiddle course.
Bluegrass fiddle tunes are similar to old-time fiddle tunes, but they have a sound all their own, and often include more variations and improvising. Some lessons include the versions that bluegrass fiddle masters like Kenny Baker, Bobby Hicks, and Stuart Duncan played.
The bluegrass fiddle tune “Road to Columbus” was written by Bill Monroe and made famous by Kenny Baker on his album Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe. You’ll learn it here, including its unique intro and cool double stops. The B part to “Road to Columbus” is mostly played in third position and you’ll learn a quick vibrato that Kenny Baker uses on some of the high notes.
This version of “Cattle in the Cane” combines a Texas-style approach with a more bluegrass way of playing the tune. The tune has two parts, one low part in A minor and one higher part in A major. You’ll also learn two versions of the A part, one inspired by Texas fiddler Terry Morris and the other from bluegrass fiddler Aubrey Haynie.
Bluegrass mandolinist Herschel Sizemore’s popular instrumental “Rebecca” is in the key of B, an unusual key for old-time fiddlers but an essential key for bluegrass players to know. The tune is mostly played out of a closed position and you’ll learn some variations inspired by the way Bobby Hicks and Stuart Duncan played “Rebecca.”
The old-time fiddle tune “Bill Cheatham” has become a bluegrass jam session favorite. In addition to learning a great bluegrass version of the tune, Chad talks about his approach to improvising on “Bill Cheatham” and shows you the “target notes” in each part and how you can think about creating lines that get to those notes.
Here’s another bluegrass favorite written by a mandolinist in an unusual key: Bb. “New Camptown Races,” written by bluegrass mandolinist Frank Wakefield, moves to G minor, the relative minor of Bb, in the second part. You’ll learn the Bb major scale and how to play all the modes in Bb.
Chad shows you his approach to playing bluegrass solos using this standard song with a very common chord progression. You’ll learn the melody and chords in the key of E using standard “capo” positions, the major pentatonic scale, and other bluegrass fiddle techniques. You’ll also learn some exercises to help you learn to match the melody of “Your Love Is Like a Flower” with the chords, and how you can move the “capo” position to different keys, like B, Bb, etc. And you’ll get five play-along tracks so you can practice playing “Your Love Is Like a Flower” in the keys of E, A, G, D, and C.
Every key has its own sound and vocabulary on the fiddle, and in this lesson, you’ll learn some typical licks that sound great in C, with some seventh and ninth double stops, pentatonic scales, and raggy syncopation You’ll also learn how to vary each of the licks to create your own ideas and use the licks to improvise over a standard bluegrass chord progression.
The bluegrass and old-time classic “Train 45,” also called “Reuben,” “Lonesome Reuben,” or “Reuben’s Train,” is a great tune for working on bluesy slides and double stops as well as unison drones. Learn how to play the melody in second position and some different double stops. Chad also gives you ideas for improvising on “Train 45” and tunes like it, showing you how he shapes the melody through inflections, dynamics, and rhythmic variations.
Chad shows you how to construct a solo to the bluegrass standard “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky,” starting with the basic melody and then giving you ideas for adding double stops, fills, melodic variations, etc. He also gives you ideas on improvising on the melody with different kinds of fills.
In this lesson, Chad shows you his process for creating a melody-based solo on a bluegrass song. To illustrate this he uses the song “Uncloudy Day” as sung by bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. Chad shows you how he starts by figuring out the key notes of the melody and once he’s got that, he tries to capture the bluesy quality of how Ralph Stanley phrases the melody. He also shows you how to add bluesy licks, walk-ups to the main melody notes, double stops, and ending licks to create a complete solo.
In honor of the great bluegrass singer Mac Wiseman, you’ll learn solos to two of Mac’s songs. A lot of the solos on Mac’s recordings are played with two fiddles, so Chad shows you how you can imitate twin-fiddle breaks by playing a simple melody with double stops, using the double-stop scale. Both solos are in the key of A. The first is for the song “We Live in Two Different Worlds,” and the second is for “Four Walls Around Me.”
Learn three classic bluegrass fiddle solos to the Earl Scruggs banjo tune “Flint Hill Special,” as played by the great Benny Martin on the original 1952 Flatt and Scruggs recording. These solos include some variations of the sliding double-stop licks you learned in the lesson on G chords.
Paul Warren’s fiddle solo on the Flatt and Scruggs’ recording of the bluegrass standard “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” is a bluegrass fiddle classic. It’s in the key of F, but “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” has a circle-of-fifths progression that starts on the D chord. The solo starts with some cool sliding double stops on the D chord and then moves to a quick D augmented chord on the way to the G chord.
Most people consider the September 1946 Bill Monroe recording sessions with Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, and Chubby Wise to be the first bluegrass recording sessions. One of the songs recorded at that session was “Will You Be Loving Another Man,” on which Chubby took two classic fiddle solos. By learning both of his solos you’ll see how Chubby used two-note slurs to give his playing a swing feel and you’ll learn some of his sliding double stops and other licks that have become bluegrass fiddle classics.
Flatt and Scruggs’s recording of Earl Scruggs banjo tune “Pike County Breakdown” includes a classic solo by little-known bluegrass fiddler Benny Sims. It’s a great solo to play on “Pike County Breakdown” and it’s been quoted by numerous bluegrass fiddlers on all sorts of fast bluegrass tunes.
Bobby Hicks’s fiddle solo on the original recording of Bill Monroe’s “Dark as the Night, Blue as the Day” is a great bluesy solo using the E capo position, which means you can use the licks you’ll learn in this lesson in other keys. Chad walks you through the solo phrase by phrase, showing you some of the many ways you can do bluesy slides and add double stops. You’ll also learn a cool alternate intro/ending lick Bobby played in his second solo.
The bluegrass standard “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” comes from Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and has become a jam session favorite. In this lesson you’ll learn a fiddle solo to “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” that Bobby Hicks played on the Bluegrass Album Band recording of the song. The solo is in the key of Bb, and it has some classic bluegrass fiddle licks in the key of Bb.
The recording of the Bill Monroe classic instrumental “Rawhide” on True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe earned a 1997 Grammy nomination for Country Instrumental of the Year and helped propel the tribute to the music of Bill Monroe to a win for Bluegrass Album of the Year. It’s an amazing version of the tune, led by mandolinist Ronnie McCoury, and it features a blistering and inventive solo by fiddler Stuart Duncan that you’ll learn in this lesson.
Chubby Wise’s solo on Bill Monroe’s original 1949 recording of “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” is a classic, and a great example of bluesy bluegrass fiddling in the key of G. Chad plays the whole solo through and then breaks it down phrase by phrase. He also shows you a cool variation Chubby plays on his second solo.
Country singer Jimmy C. Newman’s song “Cry, Cry, Darling” is a bluegrass standard, having been recorded by Bill Monroe, Dolly Parton, Chris Thile, Laurie Lewis, and many others. The solo you’ll learn here comes from Johnson Mountain Boys fiddler Eddie Stubbs. It’s in the key of E and uses the double-stop scale in E, mostly in the E capo position.
The fiddle solo on Bill Monroe’s recording of his song “Highway of Sorrow” was played by a young Vassar Clements. You’ll learn that solo and, since his kickoff solo is only on half of the tune, Chad constructs the rest of the solo, so you’ll have a full Vassar Clements–inspired fiddle solo on “Highway of Sorrow” to play.
Chubby Wise played a great solo on Bill Monroe’s original recording of “Footprints in the Snow.” It’s in the key of E and features some nice double stops and classic Chubby Wise syncopation and phrasing.
Fiddler Richard Greene’s solo on Tony Rice’s recording of the bluegrass song “Don’t Give Your Heart to a Rambler,” is a classic. It’s in the key of Bb and is mostly played out of the Bb “capo position” using the pentatonic scale with some bluesy thirds and sevenths.
In this lesson, you’ll learn Bobby Hicks’s solo to the Flatt and Scruggs song “We Can’t Be Darlings Anymore” from the Bluegrass Album Band recording. Chad learned this directly from Bobby, and like many of Bobby’s solos, it includes some great double-stop licks and a nice long tag.
Vassar Clements’s solo on “Troubles ’Round My Door,” from the Red Allen album Family and Friends, is a great example of his idiosyncratic bluesy fiddling. It’s in the key of B and includes some B minor pentatonic scale lines in different positions as well as some of Vassar’s trademark chromatic licks.
“Bluegrass Special” is a Bill Monroe instrumental in the key of A with a 12-bar blues form. In this lesson, you’ll learn Chubby Wise’s original fiddle solo, as well as a couple of Kenny Baker’s solos to “Bluegrass Special.”
Chubby Wise’s solo on the original Bill Monroe recording of “Travelin’ This Lonesome Road” is a classic. It’s in the key of F and has some great double stops and bluesy slides. You’ll learn Chubby’s short kickoff to the song as well as his complete solo.
Bill Monroe’s mournful “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz” is one of his most distinctive tunes. It’s in the key of Dm and has an unusual chord progression. You’ll learn the melody here, along with some cool bluesy slides and double stops, and get ideas for how to improvise over the “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz” chord progression.
“Big Sandy River” was recorded by Kenny Baker on the classic bluegrass fiddle album Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe. You’ll learn Kenny’s version along with a variation on the A part that includes some cool descending double stops.
Bill Monroe’s bluegrass fiddle tune “Big Mon” is a jam session favorite. It’s usually played as a two-part tune in jam sessions, but there’s a third part often played by the fiddle that you’ll also learn.
“Brown County Breakdown” is a three-part tune in the key of E, so it’s great for working on playing in the key of E, using the first finger “capo” position. You’ll also learn a great warm-up exercise with open strings, designed to help you get even, consistent tone with your bowing arm.
Bill Monroe’s classic tune “Jerusalem Ridge” is associated with his greatest fiddler, Kenny Baker. The version of “Jerusalem Ridge” that Kenny recorded on Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe has become the standard version and that’s the version you’ll learn here. It’s in the key of A minor and has four parts.
The bluegrass fiddle tune standard “Gold Rush” was written by Bill Monroe and fiddler Byron Berline. The version you’ll learn here is based on the way Monroe’s longtime fiddler Kenny Baker played it. You’ll also learn a version of the B part in the upper octave and get advice from Chad on how he improvises on “Gold Rush.”
Bill Monroe wrote the song “Uncle Pen” about his uncle Pendleton Vandiver, a fiddler whose influence inspired Monroe to create bluegrass music. The song begins with on a classic fiddle solo that gets repeated after every chorus. The first part includes a lot of unison drones and double stringing, while the B part has some cool sliding double stops.
Bill Monroe’s tune “Ashland Breakdown” was recorded by Kenny Baker on his classic Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe album. It’s in the key of C and has three parts, the first two of which are mostly played in second position. Chad walks you through the melody, phrase by phrase, showing you a couple different ways to bow some of the phrases and add drone notes and giving you advice on shifting positions.
This great Bill Monroe tune is a fast one in the key of C with lots of long double stops. Although it’s basically a two-part tune with the same chord progression in each part, there’s a variation that is usually played by the fiddle, making it functionally a three-part tune for fiddlers.
Bill Monroe’s fiddle tune “Wheel Hoss” is one of his most popular, a fast, galloping tune in G Mixolydian with some extra beats at the end of the second part that are usually filled with a guitar run. Chad walks you through the melody and talks about some different bowing patterns you can try, including single bows, the Georgia shuffle, and Nashville shuffle.
“Land of Lincoln” is a four-part Bill Monroe tune that Monroe’s great fiddler Kenny Baker recorded on his Dry and Dusty album in the early 1970s. The tune moves between the keys of A major and A minor, sometimes even in the same phrase, with C♮s alternating with C#s and G♮s alternating with G#s
Bill Monroe’s instrumental “Old Ebenezer Scrooge” has four parts and is in the key of A minor, although the chords go to A major in the second part. Chad’s version is based on the way Bill played “Old Ebenezer Scrooge” on the mandolin.
“Northern White Clouds” is a three-part Bill Monroe tune in the key of E major. Monroe recorded it with Tater Tate playing fiddle on the album Live from Mountain Stage.
The old-time fiddle tune “Big Sciota” entered the bluegrass repertoire through a recording by Russ Barenberg, Jerry Douglas, and Edgar Meyer in the early ’90s. It has since become a jam session favorite. You’ll learn Chad’s version and his bowing, which includes a few consecutive three-note slurs, as well as a variation on the B part that comes from fiddler Billy Contreras.
Randy Howard’s beautiful “Golden Fiddle Waltz” is in the key of F and is a great tune for working on double stops in F. In this multi-part lesson you’ll learn the melody without double stops, double-stop scales in F (one with the harmony below the melody and one with the harmony above), and the complete version with double stops.
Randy Howard’s “Golden Fiddle Waltz” has a complicated chord progression, and if you want to improvise on it, you’ll need to know the arpeggios for each chord. In this lesson, Chad walks you through the progression chord by chord and arpeggio by arpeggio, making sure you know the names of all the notes in the chords and giving you some exercises to practice the arpeggios in different ways. He also shows you how he improvises on the chord progression by just using chord tones.
“Cherokee Shuffle” is one of the all-time great bluegrass jam tunes. You’ll learn Chad’s version of the melody and how he bows each part, as well as a cool variation on the B part that adds the seventh note to some D chords and includes some cool slides up to the high C and C#.
Texas fiddler Eck Robertson’s 1922 recordings were probably the first country music recordings, and his version of “Sally Gooden,” with around a dozen variations on the melody, became a classic and a favorite of fiddlers everywhere. In this lesson, you’ll learn Chad’s Texas-style version of “Sally Gooden,” which was influenced by Oklahoma fiddler Orville Burns and Texas fiddlers Terry Morris and Benny Thomasson. It’s an elaborate version that presents some technical challenges because it relies on a lot of consecutive three-note slurs as well as drones using your pinky. You’ll learn two A parts and two B parts in this lesson.
You’ll learn three “high parts” to “Sally Gooden” in this lesson, including one in which you stretch your pinky up to get a C natural on the E string, and two that go into third position. Chad walks you through each variation, giving you advice on reaching the C natural with your pinky while staying in first position and showing you the bowing he uses in the first two variations. He also gives some ideas for different ways you can bow the third high part, including with Texas-style consecutive three-note slurs, the Georgia shuffle, and a more old-timey “train shuffle.”
You’ll learn Chad’s final six variations on “Sally Gooden” in this lesson. The variations include licks and phrases from Texas fiddle legends Terry Morris and Major Franklin, as well as some of Chad’s own variations.
This old-time tune has been making the rounds of the bluegrass fiddle world. Chad’s version of “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom” is based on the playing of Ed Haley, Stuart Duncan, and John Hartford. You’ll also learn some variations and how to tweak the tonality by making the C slightly sharp or playing C#s instead of C naturals.
Bob Wills’ western swing fiddle instrumental “Maiden’s Prayer” is also popular at bluegrass jam sessions. As well as learning the melody in this lesson, Chad gives you lots of ideas about improvising on “Maiden’s Prayer,” showing you how to use the arpeggios of the A and E chords as jumping-off points for improvising. He also shows you how to use the pentatonic scale on each of the chords, as well as how to add the seventh and ninth to the A and E (V) chords.
Traditional music master Jody Stecher calls “Billy in the Lowground” the “mother of all C tunes.” You’ll learn Chad’s version in this lesson, as well as how he approaches improvising on “Billy in the Lowground.” Chad walks you through the melody and bowing phrase by phrase and then talks about his approach to improvising on tunes like “Billy in the Lowground,” which involves breaking the tune down to its essential elements. He shows you his skeletal version of “Billy in the Lowground” and then gives examples of how he improvises on that basic melodic structure.
The fiddle tune “Paddy on the Turnpike” is popular in the bluegrass, old-time, and Texas fiddling worlds. Chad’s version comes from some of his favorite fiddlers, including Benny Thomasson, Terry Morris, Gene Goforth, Vassar Clements, and others. You’ll learn two A parts and two B parts in this lesson.
In this lesson, Chad shows you some of the things that Stuart Duncan and Vassar Clements played on “Paddy on the Turnpike,” starting with part of a solo from a live recording of Stuart Duncan playing “Paddy on the Turnpike.” The solo from one of Vassar Clements’ recordings of “Paddy on the Turnpike” features some of his signature licks.
Vassar Clements’ “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” is a bluegrass fiddle classic, one of the few in the key of D minor. Vassar played it differently every time, and the bridge doesn’t have a melody, just a set of chord changes to improvise on (the form of the tune is AABA). Chad shows you a version of the A part melody and a bridge that uses some of Vassar’s licks and some of Chad’s own. You’ll also learn some variations to the A part that include a couple classic Vassar licks.
Kenny Baker’s epic tune “Bluegrass in the Backwoods” has five parts and an intro. You’ll learn the first three parts in this lesson. It’s in the key of D minor, and uses the D harmonic minor scale as well as the D natural minor scale, so Chad starts by showing you the D harmonic minor scale in two octaves, and also runs through the arpeggios you’ll use in the tune: D minor, A dominant seven, and G minor. Then he shows you the melody to the first three parts of “Bluegrass in the Backwoods.”
In this lesson, you’ll learn the rest of “Bluegrass in the Backwoods,” starting with the intro and the fourth part. The intro is played “rubato” or without a beat, while the fourth part is a long 16-bar part with no repeated phrases. The fifth part of “Bluegrass in the Backwoods,” like the fourth part, is a long part (12 bars this time). It starts on a C chord, and is mostly in the key of F major, finishing out Kenny Baker’s epic fiddle tune with four bars in the original key of D minor.
The old-time fiddle tune “Stony Point” has become a favorite of bluegrass players. It’s in G and E minor and has three parts. Chad starts with the E minor part, although some fiddlers play one of the G parts first.
“Old Gnarly Oak” is one of Chad’s original tunes, a fast bluegrass fiddle tune in A modal that includes some cool bow crossings and rhythmic punctuation.
The melody of “Goodbye Liza Jane” has been around for at least a hundred years. The 1940s recording by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys is probably the source for bluegrass versions of the tunes. It’s a great tune for creating variations and improvising on. Chad walks you through his version of both parts of “Goodbye Liza Jane” and gives you ideas for creating variations.
The bluegrass standard and jam-session favorite “Dixie Hoedown” was written by mandolinist Jesse McReynolds. It’s in the key of G and has a second part that features some beautiful double stops as well as a long line with chromatic neighbor tones. In addition to showing you his version of “Dixie Hoedown,” Chad gives you ideas about creating variations on the melody by focusing on the underlying chords.
“Two O’Clock in the Morning” is a fast breakdown that Chad learned from the fiddling of the great bluegrass fiddler Benny Martin. The first part is in the key of D, while the second part modulates to the key of A and begins with pizzicato.
“Back Up and Push” is another bluegrass barnburner. It’s in the key of C and features “hokum bowing” and some great sliding double stops.
In this lesson, you’ll learn Eddie Stubbs’s backup (and solos) on the Johnson Mountain Boys recording of “Teardrops Fell Like Raindrops,” a great example of midtempo bluegrass backup in the key of E. Chad starts by showing you Eddie’s kickoff to the song, which he also uses as the basis of his solo. Then Chad walks you through the backup to the first verse and chorus, the solo, and the backup to the second verse and chorus, as well as the ending.
Chad shows you a backup part for “Tennessee Waltz” in the key of D that includes lots of great double-stops and some chordal moves you can use in backing up other tunes in the key of D. Most advanced-level bluegrass fiddlers will know “Tennessee Waltz,” but Chad starts by playing the melody of “Tennessee Waltz” before walking you through his backup part.
Bobby Hicks plays some great backup fills on the Bluegrass Album Band recording of “We Can’t Be Darlings Anymore” and in this lesson, Chad shows you his backup behind the second verse of the song. He walks you through the backup part, and then shows you how to take some of the individual licks and vary them.
In these next lessons, you'll learn a few "lick series" and how to combine then in different ways to create new and interesting ways to back up bluegrass songs.
In this backup fiddle lesson, you’ll learn a series of bluesy licks that you can use in your bluegrass backup playing. Chad shows you two series of licks and then how to use them to play over a 12-bar blues.
Chad continues with another series of bluesy licks (Lick Series #3) that he learned directly from the playing of the great bluegrass fiddler Bobby Hicks.
Chad shows you how to combine the licks you’ve learned in the three Lick Series in different ways and how to connect them more seamlessly. He demonstrates how he practices jamming with the licks on a 12-bar blues progression and the bluegrass song “I’m Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail.”
In this lesson, Chad teaches you the melody to the bluegrass song “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On?” and then shows you a solo that combines the melody with licks in the lick series.
Chad shows you a Bobby Hicks solo to the bluegrass song “Letter from My Darling,” which contains some of the licks in the lick series.
Chad shows you how to play the licks in Lick Series #1 in capo position so that you can move them to other keys. You’ll learn Lick Series #1 in the key of G in capo position as well as the series in the key of A in open position.
Chad shows you how to use the licks in Lick Series #1 in the context of a song: Bill Monroe’s “My Little Georgia Rose.” He starts by showing you the fiddle solo from Travis Tritt’s recording of “My Little Georgia Rose” on the album Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe. Then he shows you how to use each of the four licks in Lick Series #1 to fill the holes in the vocal melody.